Monday, October 20, 2014

Writing Lessons for Students: Part One -- Pre-Writing Episode 2: Your Writing Purpose

You are still on step one of the writing processthinking about what you will write, and you need to now consider your writing purpose before you can decide on such important things as what form or structure to follow.

Nerdvark thinks his writing purpose is "to get a high mark in English."  Nerdvark, who always does get a high mark in English, divides writing purposes into four sections.

The first is writing to IMAGINE -- EXPLORE -- ENTERTAIN.  

These purposes apply to fiction.  Fiction writing includes the narrative story, poem, song, dramatic script, and descriptive pose.  For the IGCSE or A-levels, you will need to write a narrative or descriptive piece.  It is important to keep in mind that your purpose in narrative writing is to imagine something and share the images with the reader, to explore an idea, and/or to entertain your reader.

Next, you might be writing about your opinion or point of view.  Then your purpose is to ARGUE -- PERSUADE -- ADVISE.

There are some important techniques to keep in mind for these purposes.  For example, if you are arguing your opinion, you need to discuss the opposing opinion and disprove it or show why it is flawed as well as show your opinion and its strengths.  This technique is called "counter-argument".  If you are writing to persuade, you will want to be familiar with such techniques as "the rule of three," rhetorical questions, shock value, humour, and use of personal pronouns to involve the reader.

Third, if you are writing to give more details about a subject, your purpose is to INFORM -- EXPLAIN -- DESCRIBE.

This might be for a how-to manual, a pamphlet, or in the IGCSEs and AS exams, descriptive writing.  The goal here is to give a lot of details.  For instance, in descriptive writing, you need to write a lot of imagery, thinking about the five senses.

Fourth and finally, if you are being asked to respond to something, your purpose is to ANALYZE -- COMMENT -- REVIEW.  

In this case, you might have an article to read and comment on, or you might be asked to do a review of a book, movie, video game, etc.  In IB, you need to be able to write a commentary on a piece of prose or poetry.  Some English exams ask you to analyze a specific aspect of the text given, such as language, word choice, structure, etc.

Once you have figured out what your writing purpose is, it will be easier for you to go to the next step of the writing process, which is to plan your writing.  For example, if your purpose is to entertain, then you might choose to write a narrative story, whereas if your purpose is to persuade, you may decide to follow a structured five-paragraph essay or perhaps write a speech, and use lots of persuasive writing techniques.  

Alternately, perhaps your teacher or exam has given you a format or question.  If you think carefully about the purpose that is being asked, it will help you decide what style and techniques you need to use to achieve that purpose.  Look for purpose words in any assignment or exam question, such as "describe" or "comment" and think about what techniques you need to employ for that purpose before you go on to plan your writing.

For more about the techniques for specific purposes, please check back next week!  For now, Nardvark's purpose is to eat banana-peanut-butter pizza and marathon "Breaking Bad."