All oral and written texts have a meaning and a purpose. Adults learn to distinguish between the different purposes of texts through examining the purposes they have as they prepare to listen, speak, read or write. These purposes can be very diverse, for example, to entertain, to build a friendship, to get something done, to comfort, to influence, to subvert, to deceive, to persuade, to build community or to shock. The purposes can be direct, indirect or a combination. The purpose may be to express the writer’s or speaker’s point of view, perspective, attitude, bias or agenda, and these purposes may be expressed in direct or indirect ways. Listeners and readers who think critically are able to consider different perspectives along with the different intentions of texts (see Listening and reading critically for more information). Listeners and readers also have their own purposes for listening and reading, which may or may not align with the purposes of the texts they listen to or read.
Since all texts have a purpose, it follows that all texts will have one or more intended audiences. Even personal diaries have the writer of the diary as an audience. The audience may be obvious (for example, a written or oral report may be given as part of a handover on a project), or it may be less obvious or even obscured (for example, if the person giving the report wants an opportunity to brag about how what a good job he or she has done).
Write to Communicate: Purpose and Audience progression
Whenever someone writes, they have a purpose for writing and goals to help them meet their purpose. These goals relate to what the writer wants to say and how the writer will say it. As the writing progresses, the writer may read back over their work to check that it is meeting the purpose, making changes to the ideas and information as well as to word-level and sentence-level features such as spelling, grammar and the order of sentences. The more experienced and confident the writer becomes, the more automatic some parts of the process (such as letter formation, spelling and the use of grammar) become. Other aspects of the writing process continue to require conscious planning and skill even for the most expert writers.
An expert writer begins the writing process by clarifying their purpose for writing, identifying the audience they want to engage and thinking about how they will meet the purpose and engage the audience. For example, when a person needs to write a CV, the purpose is to present their qualifications, skills and experience in a positive light so they will have the best chance of getting a job. The audience is the potential employer. As the writing progresses, the writer checks to make sure all the right details are included, that the CV is not too long and that the presentation is correct and tidy. All these features will help make the CV fit for the purpose and the audience.
A CV, like many other kinds of written texts, has established conventions, features and language. Writers gain knowledge of the features and structures of the different text types through reading and writing many different texts as well as through their experience of oral discourse. They can use models of the types of texts that best fit their writing purposes, for example, to explain, instruct, report or persuade. Experienced writers can bring the features, conventions and generic patterns of many different text types to mind as they write.