Posted July 2, 2019
Purpose-driven writing is more powerful than that which has no clear objective. That said, there's more to purpose than most writers realize. It's not enough to throw out a superficial reason for writing the piece with no further consideration.
We’ve discussed this principle before, in our article "Goal-driven writing: ensure that everything you write gets results." There, we note that writers often fail to think about what they're trying to accomplish with their work, which can "leave the reader unsure, unprepared, or even outright unable to do anything with what they just read."
How can writers avoid that trap?
First, identify the purpose for writing
This is the first step: writers need to clarify their own reasons for writing. Further, this reason should be investigated. For example, a writer might say a document is "to inform" the reader, but that superficial purpose glosses over whatever business objective the writer has, or whatever real-world outcomes she wants to drive. It helps to craft a “Purpose Statement,” which declares “what the document will cover and what [the reader] can gain from reading it,” according to a guide from the University of Washington.
Second, identify why the reader is reading
Writers need to understand that readers have their own reason for reading. Yes, sometimes it's simple information acquisition. But often, they have their own specific goals in mind, like reading through proposals to find a vendor who can meet their needs. If nothing else, as we’ve noted in our article on “Purpose in scientific and technical writing,” the purpose could be to assess the writer's ability to think, organize, and solve problems. If that’s the case, the writer needs to understand that before he starts writing. If the document can’t satisfy the reader’s purpose, it’s unlikely to have any lasting effect or to bring about the writer’s desired outcomes.
Third, articulate a clear walk-away message
Ideally, the writer will be able to align the two purposes and construct a document that can satisfy both. To do this, the writer should craft a "walk-away" message that complements the purpose statement. This walk-away message is the key impression or action that the writer wants to impress upon the reader. We strongly recommend writing this message down; that makes it real.
The key is to avoid a situation where the reader gets to the end of the document and has no idea what they're supposed to do with what they just read or, worse, doesn't understand the point of the document and feels they just wasted their time reading it. By writing down a walk-away message, and using it to plan the document, writers can ensure that readers find value in the document and, better yet, take the desired action.
About Hurley Write, Inc.
Hurley Write, Inc., a certified women-owned small business (WBENC and WOSB), Historically Underutilized (HUB), and Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE), has been designing and teaching customized onsite and online technical, business, and scientific writing courses for over 30 years. We also develop and teach specialty courses, such as how to write proposals and standard operating procedures (SOPs) and deviation and investigation reports, and how to prepare and give great presentations.
Sources: The University of Washington (Seattle). Other links: Hurleywrite.com.