Writer, the Audience Is Looking For Your Purpose": How to Cast the
By Heather J. Allman
Department of English and Foreign Languages
When writing business
messages, think of your message as a movie script. A successful writer
knows that planning, or casting and rehearsing, a written business message
is just as important as actually creating, or performing, the message.
During the planning stage, you should carefully consider the fundamentals
of your message: your purpose for communicating and your audience
who is receiving the communication. Then the auditions begin to cast a
classic character actor for your general purpose (to inform, to
collaborate, to persuade) and a rising unknown star for your
specific purpose. The casting ends when you've analyzed your potential
screening audience for this message performance in order to
clarify your purpose.
First, you start casting for a general
purpose in order to determine how much your audience needs to
participate in the message. For example, if your general purpose for this
script is simply to inform your audience of a new product
line your company has developed, "Organically Fresh," it does
not need finely tuned crowd interaction skills, as the audience will
either accept or reject the information given.
Secondly, you start auditioning for the
blossoming young star of your message: a specific purpose.
Here the casting becomes more difficult because the star of the message
must be able to clearly articulate the answer to its most important line:
"How should my message performance change the audience's ideas and
behaviors after they screen this message?" The star must act in
accordance with the reasons the message needs to be communicated to the
After casting, you will have to rehearse with
your specific purpose in order to make sure it is clear. To
accomplish this goal, you need to utilize the journalistic approach,
carefully checking your script to see whether your chosen purpose answers
all the important questions: who, what, when, where, why, and
First, you must decide what your general
purpose needs to convey to the screening audience. To choose what
your general purpose will be in the script, you need to take the
- Who needs to hear this message? Anyone in the
audience who does not have this information.
-What does the audience need to do after
this message? They need to accept
or reject the
*Notice how both the questions and answers are GENERAL
and nonspecific in nature.
Secondly, you must be more
selective and decide what precise information your specific purpose
needs to convey to the screening audience. To choose what your specific
purpose will be in the script, you need to narrowly focus on your reasons
the message needs to be communicated to the waiting audience:
- What is the specific reason the audience needs to
hear about this product line? They like our
products and need to be informed of this
hypoallergenic "Organically Fresh"
- When exactly will this product line be available
them? They can purchase any of the new
after March 15, 2002.
- Where exactly will this product line be available
to them? They can visit our website to
find a listing of
stores and outlets that carry this new product
- Why, specifically, might they need this new
line? If they have allergies to harsh hair
they can eliminate these problems by purchasing
totally organic product line.
*Notice how both the questions and answers are very product-SPECIFIC,
narrowing the focus of the message's purpose.
Is your purpose showing? If
not, direct it to the forefront; remember, the audience is
waiting to give your message performance rave reviews.
When you find an error, look for others nearby. Errors often come in
This & That
By Mamie Webb Hixon
Writing Lab Director
If you're reading this,
you're probably a person who wants to learn how to use the pronoun
Style is as important to
good writing skill as
correctness of expression is. A professional
should keep his or her language concise and
of jargon such as unfamiliar initials and
"government-ese," legalese, and
ensure that the writer is communicating
clearly and effectively. This will also
the writing will be able to stand on its own
the writer being with the reader to translate.
This what? Whenever I read a sentence like the three
above in which the writer has attempted to use this to refer to
either something implied or to an entire preceding statement rather than
to some substantive in that statement, I either cringe or say to myself,
"This what?" Therein lies the rub. Because this is a
demonstrative pronoun and should accompany a specific noun, it can never
be used to refer to an entire sentence, paragraph or idea.
To avoid this kind of implied use of the pronoun this, do one of
Answer the "This what?" question by
placing a specific noun after this.
If you're reading this sentence,
probably a person who wants to learn
to use the pronoun this correctly.
Sum up the idea in the preceding statement(s) in
a noun which acts as an antecedent (a word to which this
Avoiding jargon will ensure that
is communicating clearly and effectively.
will also ensure that the writing will be
to stand on its own without the writer
with the reader to translate.
Make the statements coordinate.
will ensure that the writer
is communicating clearly and effectively
that the writing will be able to stand on
own without the writer being with the
reader to translate.
Rephrase the sentence.
To communicate clearly and effectively,
writer should use concrete words to
specific pictures so that he or she does
need to be present to translate.
The above passage on style also uses the relative
pronoun that before a noun clause instead of omitting it. While
some English sentences are equally grammatical with or without the word that
to introduce a noun clause serving as the object of a sentence, it is
important to know when that can be omitted. The use of that
in the sentence below is optional.
Select the office that you prefer.
OR Select the office you prefer.
Do not omit the word that when its omission could cause the
reader to misread a sentence.
editing, verify the document's information is accurate.
editing, verify that the document's
information is accurate.
jargon will ensure the writer is communicating clearly and
Nick reported the planning committee will meet.
Avoiding jargon will ensure that
the writer is communicating clearly and effectively.
Nick reported that the planning
committee will meet.
Be sure to distinguish between so and so
that refers to condition:
write legibly so that (NOT so) the
read your handwriting.
the examiners can read your
please write legibly.
So means "therefore":
of expression is important, so
(NOT so that)
it is important to use good