Writing with purpose: How to get read

Lesley Hanes | December 6, 2017

You can up the odds of your writing being read by putting the purpose of your communication up front. If your readers don’t get clued in quickly, they might think that your communication is not for them and move on.

To avoid being bypassed, you need to answer some simple but crucial questions in your title and purpose statement.

Answer three crucial questions before you write

Before you write your title and purpose statement, jot down the answers to these three crucial questions:

  1. What are your main topics?
  2. Who are you writing for?
  3. What are the main things you want your readers to know or do?

Notice a theme in the questions? It’s all about what’s in it for your readers. For you, the writer, it’s all about nailing the purpose and sticking to it.

Image, two people discussing ideas.

Imagine explaining the purpose of your communication to a friend or colleague — what would you say? Image by Nik MacMillan on Unsplash licence

Craft a descriptive title

With your answers handy, start crafting a title that informs your readers well. See if you can sum up the main message or story in a few words.

Try some of these tips.

A good title is not a label, but a lure. Hayes B Jacobs

So what does a descriptive title look like? Here are a few examples of descriptive titles in different mediums. Notice the abundance of key topic words in the titles.

Descriptive titles for webpages

Getting started with mindfulness
Food safety for schools and kura (Food Act 2014)
How to be more creative (without sacrificing productivity)

Descriptive titles for reports

Risky business — the most dangerous occupations
Households continue to outspend their income

Descriptive titles for guides

Let your baby guide you — what, when and how to introduce solid foods
Your earthquake planning guide — pick this up and get prepared now

Descriptive titles for infographics

New Zealand’s atmosphere and climate at a glance
Got time to move? Easy ways to be more active

Back up your title with a purpose statement

A purpose statement summarises the topic and goals of your communication. It also prepares your readers for the content that follows.

An effective purpose statement is concise, specific, and clear. You don’t need to write a lot — but you do need to summarise well.

Here are a few examples of effective purpose statements. Notice how each title (in bold) combines with its purpose statement to clearly convey the purpose. In the webpage examples, notice how the writers have made the value of the pages explicit.

Purpose statements for reports

Our atmosphere and climate 2017
Our atmosphere and climate 2017 presents information about the state of our atmosphere and climate, the pressures on this state, and what that means for us and the environment.

Health and Independence Report 2016
The Health and Independence Report 2016 is the Director-General of Health’s annual report on the state of public health in New Zealand. The 2016 report draws from a range of information sources to present a picture of the health of New Zealanders.

Purpose statements for webpages

Small Business Guides
Tips, tricks and accounting essentials for business success.

Retirement planner
See whether you’re on track financially for the retirement lifestyle you want.

Image, Wall with 'Together we create' written on it.

Create titles and purpose statements that reinforce each other. Image by “My Life Through A Lens” /Unsplash licence

As you can see from the examples, making the purpose clear at the start:

Have a go at crafting a descriptive title and clear purpose statement next time you’re drafting. And let us know what happens!

Insights, tips, and professional development opportunities.