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UWF WRITING LAB

 

"Hey, Ima Writer, the Audience Is Looking For Your Purpose": How to Cast the Proper Purpose
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.

Casting Call:
     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 waiting audience.
     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 how.

Rehearsal:
     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 journalistic approach:
- Who needs to hear this message? Anyone in the 
     audience who does not have this information.
-What does the audience need to do after hearing 
     this message?
They need to accept or reject the 
     information.
*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 previous 
     products and need to be informed of this new 
     hypoallergenic "Organically Fresh" shampoo and 
     conditioner.
- When exactly will this product line be available to 
     them?
They can purchase any of the new products 
     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 line.
- Why, specifically, might they need this new product 
     line?
If they have allergies to harsh hair products, 
     they can eliminate these problems by purchasing this 
     totally organic product line.
*Notice how both the questions and answers are very product-SPECIFIC, narrowing the focus of the message's purpose.

Performance:
     Is your purpose showing? If not, direct it to the forefront; remember, the audience is waiting to give your message performance rave reviews.


Proofreading Tip: When you find an error, look for others nearby. Errors often come in groups.

 

 

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 this correctly.

     Style is as important to good writing skill as 
     correctness of expression is. A professional writer 
     should keep his or her language concise and free 
     of jargon such as unfamiliar initials and 
     abbreviations, "education-ese," 
     "government-ese," legalese, and "office-ese." 
     This
will ensure that the writer is communicating 
     clearly and effectively. This will also ensure that 
     the writing will be able to stand on its own without 
     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 the following:

  1. Answer the "This what?" question by placing a specific noun after this.
         If you're reading this sentence, you're  
         probably a person who wants to learn how 
         to use the pronoun this correctly.

  2. Sum up the idea in the preceding statement(s) in a noun which acts as an antecedent (a word to which this refers).
         Avoiding jargon
    will ensure that the writer 
         is communicating clearly and effectively. It 
         will also ensure that the writing will be able 
         to stand on its own without the writer being 
         with the reader to translate.

  3. Make the statements coordinate.
         Avoiding jargon will ensure that the writer 
         is communicating clearly and effectively and 
         that the writing will be able to stand on its 
         own without the writer being with the 
         reader to translate.

  4. Rephrase the sentence.
         To communicate clearly and effectively, a 
         writer should use concrete words to paint 
         specific pictures so that he or she does not 
         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.

UNCLEAR: When editing, verify the document's information is accurate.
CLEAR: When editing, verify that the document's information is accurate.
UNCLEAR: Avoiding jargon will ensure the writer is communicating clearly and effectively.
Nick reported the planning committee will meet.
CLEAR:

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.

     So that refers to condition:
          Please write legibly so that (NOT so) the 
          examiners can read your handwriting.
          So that the examiners can read your 
          handwriting, please write legibly.

     
So means "therefore":
          Correctness of expression is important, so 
          (NOT so that) it is important to use good 
          grammar.

 

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