Eric Sentell EDU 287 12 April 2011 Slidecast Script: Audience and Purpose As part of “Unit One: Writing Process and Personality,” you must identify and analyzethe purpose and audience of author David Sedaris in “Cyclops” and author Zora Neal Hurston in“How it Feels to be Colored Me.” In a separate discussion board post, you must identify,describe, and analyze the purpose and audience for potential topics for your Narrative Essays.But what exactly do “purpose” and “audience” mean? Whether you are writing, speaking, singing, playing a guitar, or painting, you are tryingto share a message with other people. You always have a reason for sharing this message,whether it is to inform, persuade, entertain, or something else. Purpose is your reason forsharing the message. The people you share it with are your audience. Purpose and audience aretwo-thirds of effective communication. The message itself is the remaining third. For example, let’s say that I tell you a knock-knock joke. Knock-Knock. Who’s there? Nacho. Nacho who? Nacho cheese!
My purpose is to offer an entertaining example of communication by telling a funnyjoke. My audience is you, the student watching this slidecast. My message is the joke itself. Toachieve my purpose, the message, or joke, must illustrate communication in a way that myaudience, my students, can easily understand, and it must also appeal to the sense of humor ofthe audience. If you didn’t laugh at the joke, I’m not surprised! It’s not very funny to anyone,especially a college student, because it has been told so many times and also because it is, well,cheesy. So, the joke, as a message, did not achieve the purpose that I had for it because it didnot appeal to my audience’s sense of humor. As a writer, I may have the purpose of entertaining, informing, or persuading myaudience. Within this general purpose, I may have a more specific purpose, such as making thereader laugh, cry, or get angry; telling the reader about a specific issue; or urging the reader totake a specific action. But to achieve my purpose, I have to know some things about theaudience. I need some idea of what will be entertaining, informational, or persuasive to thosepeople who are reading my writing. Young college students tend to have a certain sense ofhumor, whereas older adults often have a very different sense of humor. If I’m writing an articleon baseball for Sports Illustrated, then I can probably assume that my audience already knowscertain information and doesn’t need it explained whereas other information may need to beexplained in detail. Professors in English and the Humanities may be persuaded by hypotheticalexamples and arguments, but Scientists will probably need more concrete information andresearch. The audience exerts a powerful influence on the writer and how he crafts his messageto achieve his purpose.
The writer can also influence the audience. If a writer wants to entertain, he can makehis audience entertained by crafting his message to appeal to their sense of humor. DavidSedaris, for example, uses huge exaggerations to make his readers laugh. He knows enoughabout his audience to realize that exaggerations will be funny to them, but he also makes hisaudience laugh at the exaggerations more and more as they build on each other. Purpose,audience, and message influence each other. Purpose is usually easy to identify and describe. You can tell when an author is trying topersuade you or simply inform you, and you know your own intentions for your writing. Butaudience can be much more difficult to identify, describe, and analyze. If you could see yourreader, then you could infer a lot of information about him. Take this punk rocker, for instance.I’m just guessing, but it may be very hard to make him laugh, especially with a cheesy knock-knock joke. But if we can’t see our readers, how can we analyze our audience? How can wefigure out what will appeal to them? The more you can find out about the audience, the better you can craft your message toachieve your purpose. I could try to narrow my topic so that it appeals to an obvious group. IfI’m writing about baseball, obviously it will appeal to baseball fans. This is still a broad group,but I can narrow it even more. I could read several issues of Sports Illustrated and analyze howthose articles appeal to the audience. Then I could do the same. When I can’t identify a specificaudience like this, then I can do my best to appeal to a general audience. Based on myknowledge of myself and the people I know, I can judge what would help me appeal to as manyreaders as possible.
To analyze purpose and audience, you need to ask yourself some questions before,during, and after your reading or brainstorming. So what? What is the point of this writing?What is the author trying to achieve? Why is he writing this? And who cares? Who is he writingthis to? How does the audience influence the purpose and the message used to achieve it? Howdoes the writer use his message to influence the audience? Whether you are analyzing the purpose and audience of David Sedaris and Zora Hurstonor yourself, these questions can help you think critically about the two most importantinfluences on writing: the purpose writers want to achieve and the audience with whom theyare trying to achieve it. Good writers are those who have a clear purpose, such as entertaining,informing, or persuading, and also know how to achieve their purpose by effectively appealingto their audience.