The Three Purposes of Content Writing
I was recently asked a question by a friend. “When you write, how much time do you spend thinking about the purpose of your writing?”, he asked. It’s not something I’d given much thought to in the past, but in an instant, I had an answer.
At the basest of levels, there are three purposes or reasons for writing non-fiction content: to inform, to opine, or to persuade (or sell). In modern times, the three are often conflated — with factual explanations often laced with opinion-but, the three main reasons remain. At least, that’s my opinion.
Let’s look a little closer at each.
The truest form of non-fiction writing is used to inform. It’s takes factual information and presents in a digestible form — relevant to the audience. From encylcopedias to support articles, informing has been the backbone of non-fiction content for generations.
When writing to inform, you should try to keep the content free of opinion. Or, at least try to mark it as opinion when included. The conflation of facts and opinions can be confusing.
Try to reference sources for any facts you may have. If you don’t have any sources, then perhaps what you’re writing isn’t as factual as you may think it is.
As always, be prepared for people to disagree with you, even if what you’re sharing is the facts. Sources and other information help with this.
Non-fiction has long been used to share an opinion. That’s what I’m doing right now. When you have a thought and you want to share it with people across the world, writing’s one of the best ways to do it. It’s why you see so many listicles and thought pieces on Medium.
It’s important when writing opinion pieces that you make it clear the content is your opinion. Too-often nowadays, opinion and fact are conflated. Just look at the Donald Trump presidency for reasons why this is bad.
And whenever you’re sharing an opinion, be prepared to get rebuttal as well as support from others in the community. What you’re sharing may be, intentionally or not, controversial. And it’s always good to have an opinion tested for merit before deploying it to the real world.
Persuasion is the name of the game whenever it comes to marketing or sales copy. When writing to persuade, you’re picking parts from the “Inform” and “Opine” purposes to drive a conversion.
Persuasive content is the trickiest to write, as it requires a fine balance between fact and opinion. And the tone of what you’re writing has to be tailored to your audience in a way they find believable and compelling.
Building up a base of “Inform” and “Opine” pieces before you go for “Persuade” helps build social capital and trust, and the comments and feedback you get from your previous work will help you better understand those you’re writing for.
As with any content, be prepared for kickback from those who don’t agree with what you’re doing. When even Evolution and Climate Change are questioned, you can be certain your sales piece for chocolate teapots will be looked over with a fine-toothed comb.
Write For The Job At Hand
Writing can be difficult. There’s a reason that we pay others — freelancers, authors, scriptwriters — to write content we enjoy. But, if you approach your content with an idea of the purpose it serves, it gives you one heck of a running start.
A little thought helps you tailor the content you write and the way you present it. It helps you keep what’s valuable and discard what’s not. And it helps keep you writing when the end seems far away.
All you have to remembers is: Inform, opine, persuade.