DEMONSTRATION ONLY: This demonstration presents an abbreviated version of the complete PLACE course. Click 'Next' at the bottom of the screen or make a selection from the links on the left to begin. Not all links are available for the demo.
Recognize Purpose and Audience
Recognizing the Appropriate Purpose, Audience, or Occasion for a Piece of Writing
A well-written paragraph or essay will be unified; that is, every sentence will contribute to the reader's understanding of the main idea. This main idea, usually called a thesis statement, states the subject and gives the writer's opinion about that subject. Focus on that main idea promotes unity in the essay. Just as a photograph that is fuzzy and out of focus is difficult to look at, a paragraph or essay that does not have a clear point to make is difficult to understand. Consider the following section of a paragraph, for example:
Just getting accepted into a college may be difficult. First, the prospective student must face mountains of paperwork for each college under consideration. The applications alone may be pages long. In fact, one college requires its applicants to write an essay of 1,000-1,500 words stating life goals. Life goals are important, of course, but it is often very difficult to write about them without sounding like every other college student. General statements about wanting a family, a good career and a house with four bedrooms do not take very many words. Second, if a student is trying to get financial aid, there is even more paperwork . . . .
Can you see that the writer had as his/her purpose to discuss the difficulties of getting into college, but that after the fourth sentence, the focus began to change to the particular essay that one college required and the difficulties of writing that essay? The writer has lost the unity of the paragraph and/or the entire essay in just these few sentences.