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Choosing How to Organize Your Writing: Task, Purpose & Audience

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  • 0:01 Why Should We Organize?
  • 0:38 The Writing Process
  • 4:22 Purpose & Audience
  • 9:04 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: J.R. Hudspeth

Jackie has taught college English and Critical Thinking and has a Master's degree in English Rhetoric and Composition

By following a series of tasks, making sure to decide upon our purpose for writing and tailoring the paper to our audience, we can write stronger essays and reports. Watch this lesson to find out how to do these things.

Why Should We Organize Our Writing?

Most people would not build a house without a blueprint, but all too often students try to build a paper without a blueprint. This leads to late nights sitting in front of a blank document, trying to fight the urge to play video games or watch television instead. You can avoid this problem by organizing your writing in advance. You should use the writing process in order to help you generate, organize, write about, and review ideas for your essay. Furthermore, during an early point in the process, you should decide on what you are writing and for whom you are writing it.

The Writing Process

Completing a writing project of high quality typically takes more than just sitting down in front of a computer for a couple of hours. In order to make sure that you give yourself enough time to write a strong paper, you should break down your work into a series of tasks. These tasks are also known as the writing process. The writing process includes four steps:

  1. Brainstorming
  2. Outlining
  3. Drafting
  4. Revising and Editing

Brainstorming means that you figure out what your topic is and what you might want to say about it. Use a blank document or a pen and paper to write down ideas for your paper. You may want to set a timer and give yourself four to five minutes to write ideas down. Don't stop writing or worry about if your ideas are perfect! Just let all of the ideas on your head spill out onto the paper - some teachers call this 'mental vomit.' After your brainstorming session, go back through what you wrote down and highlight ideas that you are interested in writing about. If you do not find a topic to write about in your brainstorm, take a short break, and then come back and do another four to five minute brainstorming session.

If you have already been assigned a topic by your instructor, you can just brainstorm some of the things you will want to research or talk about. You might also brainstorm some questions that you will need to answer about the topic. For example, if your topic is 'The American Civil War,' you might write questions such as 'What are the biggest causes of the Civil War?' or 'How did the Civil War begin?'

Outlining an essay is the step that comes after you brainstorm for ideas or a topic. In this part of the writing process, you should arrange your ideas into the order that you want to present them in your essay. This means that you can use some of the ideas that you highlighted in your brainstorm directly in the outline. If you are doing research for your essay, you will want to put the information from your research into the outline as well. You will want to use an outline format that you are comfortable with. The outline is a blueprint for your paper, so this means that if you put all of your ideas in the right order, you can use the outline to help you keep track of what you need to say in the paper.

Drafting is where you actually write the essay. You will want to write a complete draft. Sometimes, students leave out parts of the draft or leave the draft unfinished. This just makes more work for you later on since you will have to complete the draft and also revise the parts of the draft that you have already written at the same time. It also makes it impossible for your teacher or your peers to give you good feedback on all of the parts of your paper. Always write a full draft so that you can get complete feedback on your essay, and so that you can make less work for yourself down the road!

Once you have completed a draft, it is time for revising and editing. You will usually receive feedback from a teacher, your fellow students, or both, which can be used in this step. There are generally two types of feedback that writers get for their essays: feedback about content and format and feedback about grammar and mechanics. Rewriting, or changing your paper, to reorganize, add, or delete ideas is known as revision. Rewriting, or changing your paper, to improve the grammar or mechanics is known as editing. Both of these are important steps in giving your paper that final polish it needs to be complete, clear, and professional.

Purpose and Audience

During the brainstorming and outlining parts of a paper, you want to think about the type of paper you are writing in a couple of important ways. Everything that you write is made up of two elements: your writing always has a purpose and it always has an intended audience. The purpose is the reason or goal that you have for writing about your topic, and your audience is the specific people that you are writing for.

For example, when we write a grocery list, we write it with a purpose in mind: to remember what we are planning to buy at the store. We also write it with an audience in mind: ourselves and our families. If your audience doesn't like wheat bread and will only eat white bread, that certainly influences what you will put on your list!

On the other hand, let's say that you are writing a storybook about a young boy that finds out that he is a wizard and goes to wizard school. That storybook has a totally different purpose and audience: the purpose would be to entertain an audience of mostly children and pre-teens. On that note, you would make sure that you added interesting characters and a mysterious, exciting set of details that make the story entertaining and engaging. Since the audience is young, you also would not use difficult vocabulary or scenes that are too violent or scary, and you would probably make the story shorter so that the younger readers don't get too bored.

When writing an essay, you have to think very hard about your purpose and audience before you start to actually draft your paper. Are you writing to argue a point? Are you writing to inform the reader about a topic? Are you writing to define a key term? Are you writing to tell a story? This will help you to understand what kind of details that you might need to add to your writing. The best place to decide on your purpose and audience are early in the writing process, during the brainstorming and outlining stages.

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