Writing Workshop: Considering Audience, Purpose and Tone

  • Due Sunday by 11:59pm

Background: In order to be as effective as possible when making an argument, the speaker or writer has to consider three important aspects: tone, purpose, and audience.

  1. Purpose. The reason the writer composes the paragraph.There are three major types of purpose: to inform, to persuade, or to entertain. These are not the only ones, but the are the most common.
  2. Tone. The attitude the writer conveys about the paragraph’s subject.Toneis the attitude of the writer, which means the author’s viewpoint on the subject matter. The tone of any essay is directly related to audience and purpose. You should also use relevant vocabulary to achieve your tone. As the writer of your essay, you want to make sure you are striking the right tone for your specific purpose and audience. There are a wide variety of possible tones for essays, including ‘sarcastic,’ ‘solemn,’ ‘critical,’ and ‘humorous.’
  1. Audience. The individual or group whom the writer intends to address. An important factor in determining your tone is your audience. To figure out your audience, ask yourself, ‘Who will read my essay?’ If your essay is for a grade in class, then your audience is your teacher or professor. If you are writing an essay to be published in a periodical, your audience is anyone who might read that periodical. It is very important to know your audience because you will craft your essay for a specific audience.

Imagine you are writing an essay on Adolf Hitler’s influence on Nazi Germany. If this essay is for your teacher, what sort of vocabulary and language will you use? Now imagine this essay is to introduce World War II to an elementary class. How will your vocabulary and language change? For your teacher, you will use advanced words and professional terminology. For the elementary class, you will need to use simple words and phrases because those students will have a very limited knowledge of Nazi Germany.

Realizing how your terminology and attitude might change depending on your audience will directly affect your tone. In the example above, with your teacher as your audience, your tone should be serious and professional. On the other hand, your tone will be much lighter with an elementary class as your audience. You should omit some of the more gruesome aspects of the war, like the atrocities committed by the Nazi’s towards Jews, and speak in a more relaxed manner since the students are at such a young age. This will make your tone much more informal.

Here is a video lesson on purpose and tone if you need more clarification.

Practicing Looking at Purpose, Audience and Tone

Knowing what you now know about purpose, audience and tone, please re-watch the videos from Oliver and Stuart and complete the chart below:




What is the speaker’s purpose? What makes you think so?


Who is the speaker’s audience? What makes you think so?


How would you describe the speaker’s tone? Is his tone appropriate to his audience and purpose? Why or why not?

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