Task, Audience, and Purpose When Writing

by Joan Sedita | 1 | 0 Comments

Lately I have been pinning a large button on the lapel of my jacket when I deliver professional development for writing instruction that says: AUDIENCE, TASK, PURPOSE. I wear the button as a reminder to participants that they should teach their students to always be mindful of the audience, task, and purpose when they write because these elements influence a number of important decisions that a writer must make, including (McKensie & Tompkins, 1984):

  • Tone of the piece (e.g., objective, critical, apathetic, sincere, skeptical, etc.)
  • Language and word choice, style, tone of the piece
  • Type of information and level of detail to include in the piece
  • How to arrange and present the information

The fourth of ten Common Core writing standards requires students to be aware of task audience and purpose as early as grade three:

Writing Anchor Standard #4: Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.

The Common Core website provides this description about Standard #4:

“Students adapt their communication in relation to audience, task, purpose, and discipline. They set and adjust purpose from reading, writing, speaking listening and language use as warranted by the task. They appreciate nuances, such as how the composition of an audience should affect tone when speaking and how the connotations of words affect meaning. They also know that different disciplines call for different types of evidence (e.g., documentary evidence in history, experimental evidence in science).”

The March issue of the ASCD Express free e-newsletter focused on Writing for a Purpose. The introduction to the newsletter points out that many students struggle to articulate a reason for writing beyond getting a grade, and includes two feature article related to this topic:

Here are a few other resources that support teaching students about audience, task, and purpose:

You should also visit a previous Literacy Lines post written by one of our Keys to Literacy trainers, Shauna Cotte, titled Motivate Writers with Authentic Audiences.

Joan Sedita

Joan Sedita is the founder of Keys to Literacy and author of the Keys to Literacy professional development programs. She is an experienced educator, nationally recognized speaker and teacher trainer. She has worked for over 35 years in the literacy education field and has presented to thousands of teachers and related professionals at schools, colleges, clinics, and professional conferences.

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