Analysing a text

Things to consider

When you are trying to decide whether something is a text or not, think about it this way:

  • What is the context that brought the text to be created? - When and where was it created, and in what situation?
  • What does it look like? - Is it like other text types?
  • Who is the audience for this text? - Who is it aimed at and how do you know it is aimed at them (or a group of people) in particular?
  • What is the writer or speaker’s purposes in communicating?

If you are able to answer these questions - you have a text that you can study.

Context, audience, purpose (CAP)

You can analyse a text by thinking about its context, audience and purpose - or CAP.

Context

Context refers to the situation that brought the text about. It is when, where and in what social situation the text was written, and what kind of text it is.

For example, the text in “The Diary of Anne Frank” was written during World War Two, when Anne was hiding from the enemy soldiers who wanted to capture and take her to a concentration camp. This is a part of the context of Frank’s writing - the situation that brought her to want to create it and to have a purpose for it.

Audience

Audience is who the text is aimed at and styled for. This may be, for example, teenagers, adults or children.

For example a text written for children will likely use shorter, less complicated words than a text written for adults.

Purpose

Purpose is the point of the text – it is what the writer created the text for. Persuasive texts often try to encourage readers to buy or think something, or back a particular cause (eg charity) so they will use both informative and emotive language.

An entertainment text might be more light-hearted to help create a sense of enjoyment.

Task

Look at this text:

C u l8er m8. Gonna b at urs 4 bout 6 tonite :)

Question

Analyse the above text using the following points:

Context

  • What is the context of this text?
  • When, where and in what situation was it created?
  • What does it look like?
  • What other text type is it like?

Audience

  • What kind of audience is the text created for and how does this affect its style?
  • What features of the text let you know this?

Purpose

  • What is the purpose of the text? - What is the writer trying to achieve by creating the text?

Context - This text is in the typical form of a text message that will have been sent on a mobile messaging app via a mobile phone or an online social network, as it shortens the language to slang, abbreviations, numbers and emoticons.

Audience - In the example, the text is aimed at the sender’s friend as the sender calls him “m8”, ie mate. Shortening the language in this way is very informal which suggests that the sender is very familiar with the recipient.

Purpose - The text is being sent to a friend to inform them that the sender is going to see them later today and they expect to be at their house for about 6 pm.