How to Determine if Your Essay Addresses its Purpose

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  • 0:01 What Is Your Essay's Purpose?
  • 0:35 To Persuade
  • 2:39 To Inform
  • 4:12 To Entertain
  • 5:40 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Angela Janovsky

Angela has taught middle and high school English, Business English and Speech for nine years. She has a bachelor's degree in psychology and has earned her teaching license.

Have you ever written an essay, but had no idea if you actually accomplished your goal? In this lesson, you will get several tips on how to know if you actually achieved the purpose of your essay.

What Is Your Essay's Purpose?

Every piece of writing has some sort of objective. Novels, letters, newspapers, all have something called the author's purpose, which is the author's reason for writing.

There are three main purposes for all written work. These three categories can be remembered with the acronym PIE, which stands for persuade, inform, and entertain. In order to really understand if your essay truly addresses your purpose, you should know which category of author's purpose you are writing under. Let's look at each one and see where your essay falls.

To Persuade

The P in the PIE, stands for persuade. If your essay falls under this category, then you must give your opinion and try to persuade your reader to agree with you. A politician is a prime example of someone persuading others on a daily basis. He gives his or her opinion, tries to get everyone else to agree, and usually asks for a call to action, which is trying to get others to do some sort of act. That politician is likely trying to get listeners to vote for them. Voting then, is his or her call to action. Other examples include commercials, billboards, and any other advertisement that tries to get a consumer to buy a certain product.

If you are not sure if your essay falls under this category, ask yourself, am I using my own opinion or asking the reader to do something? If your answer is yes to this question, then you are trying to persuade. You are trying to get others to agree or to do a certain thing.

If you know your purpose should be to persuade, you need to check several things. First, make sure your essay has opinions that are not too extreme. For example, if you were listening to that politician and he was trying to persuade others to help the environment, which idea would make you more likely to vote for him? If he states everyone should give up cars and go back to horses? Or if he said everyone should transition to hybrid cars? You will most likely pick the second option, since returning to horses is way too extreme, whereas a better type of car is much more realistic. It is difficult to get others to agree with you if you do not make realistic demands.

Also, you should be sure to include facts, or information that can be proven, to back up your opinion. You need to prove that your opinion is correct and logical. For example, if your essay is trying to persuade people to move to hybrid cars, then you need to include statistics on how gasoline cars pollute the environment and stats on how hybrid cars can remove that pollution. If you use realistic examples and proven facts, then you show you are correct in your beliefs.

If you follow these tips, then your essay will be extremely persuasive.

To Inform

The second author's purpose is to inform. If your essay falls under this category, then your purpose is to provide facts to your reader. If this is your purpose, you should not include opinions. An informative essay should never pass judgment on anything or anyone. Only provable information should be included. For example, the same essay persuading people to give up gasoline cars would change into an informative essay if all the opinions were removed. What would be left are just the facts, including the good and the bad, of gasoline cars and hybrids. There would not be a call to action asking everyone to give up gasoline cars. The overall goal of your essay if you are writing to inform should be to enlighten the reader about a topic. Other examples of works written to inform include textbooks, encyclopedias and even cookbooks.

If you have decided your author's purpose is to inform, then you need to check for several things to determine if you have accomplished this goal. First, make sure you have included a fair amount of relevant facts that support your thesis, or main idea. Do not pack your essay with facts that have nothing to do with your thesis. This would overwhelm your reader and undermine your main idea. For example, in the essay about gasoline cars versus hybrid cars, statistics on the earliest cars created would not have a place in this essay. It would just bog down your main idea. This would prevent the reader from learning about the topic of current gasoline cars and hybrid cars.

Overall, informative essays emphasize facts and try to teach the reader about a topic.

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