Naval recruitment poster: a painting of an urgently serious female telegraph operator in a 40s Navy uniform against a black backdrop. The poster reads “It’s a woman’s war too! Join the WAVES. Your country needs you now.” The caption reads “Navy recruiting station or office of naval officer procurement.” The poster is signed “John Falter USNR”.

Source: Navy recruiting poster, John Falter, Office of Naval Officer Procurement

From street signs and advertisements to magazine articles, novels, and manuals, everything you read has a purpose. In many cases, it is quite easy to determine the author’s purpose for writing. A street sign provides information for drivers. An advertisement persuades consumers to buy a product. A manual explains how to use something or accomplish something, but often the author’s purpose is not so clear-cut. The writer may appear to be writing a magazine article, but the writing is meant to persuade you to believe something as you read the article, not simply to entertain you. A smart reader will identify this technique and not be misled.

Recognizing the author’s purpose will also help you evaluate the writing’s effectiveness. In this lesson, we will explore ways to identify the author’s explicit and implicit purposes in a variety of texts and media; we will analyze how diction, tone, and style advance an author’s purpose; and we will look at biographical and historical information to better understand an author’s purpose or multiple purposes.