Comparing by purpose and form

One way to link texts is through the purpose they are aiming to achieve and the form they are using.

Form is the type of text, for example:

  • an article
  • a blog
  • a letter
  • a diary
  • a newspaper

It’s also useful to think about whether the form is for a public or private audience. For example, a letter is usually for a private audience while a news article is usually for a public audience. This will affect the purpose of the text and the language choices made by the writer.

Purpose is what the writer is trying to achieve, for example:

  • to entertain
  • to inform
  • to advise
  • to persuade
  • to argue

It’s very important to remember that often a writer will have more than one purpose. For example, a fashion blog may want to entertain, as well as inform and advise.

When comparing texts, consider what they have in common AND what is different about them.

If they have the same main purpose:

  • Do they use similar methods? For example, a letter and a news article could use persuasive methods to present completely different viewpoints of the same topic.
  • Are they aimed at the same kind of audience or different ones? Within two advertisements, the writers will aim to sell their product but might have a different target audience in mind.

If they have a different purpose but the same subject:

  • How do they treat the subject differently? For example, if you are comparing two texts about a natural disaster, how does the choice of methods show how the writer has aimed their writing at a particular audience? For example, one text could be aimed at university students studying the natural disaster and the other could be aimed at the general public.
  • How have the writers shown a different opinion about the same subject?

Example

Look at these headlines, from The Mirror and The Telegraph, from articles reporting the same story. They have the same main purpose – to inform people about the landing of a space probe on a comet.

quote
Rock starThe Mirror
quote
European Space Agency's Rosetta spacecraft lands probe on cometThe Telegraph

Analysis

  • The Mirror have used a pun, which grabs the attention, playing on the idea that a comet is a rock, and this is a terrific achievement – so it’s like a ‘star’. But a ‘rock star’ plays on ideas of celebrity. It’s a much shorter headline, which might be more able to grab the attention of the reader, but does not necessarily inform them of the topic of the article.
  • The Telegraph headline provides a detailed level of information to the reader to indicate the topic of the headline. The headline provides the reader with the name of the spacecraft which adds to the educational tone of the headline. The newspaper uses a longer sentence rather than making use of a particular technique, instead relying on the reader's interest in the topic to attract them to read.
  • The difference in the approaches could be because of their different audiences – The Telegraph might be assuming that their audience is already interested in science, whereas The Mirror might feel they have to attract a reader and entertain, as well as inform.