Consider Your Purpose, Audience, and Message for the GED RLA Extended Response

By Achim K. Krull, Murray Shukyn

Whenever you write anything — your GED Reasoning Through Language Arts test Extended Response, a letter to the editor of your local paper, or a cover letter for your resume — you need to think about what you want the letter to accomplish, the person(s) you’re addressing, and the message you want to convey.

You don’t have to write all this information down or address it any formal way in your essay, but you do need to keep purpose, audience, and message in mind as you write your Extended Response.

Purpose

When writing your RLA Extended Response, the purpose is clear: You’re writing to express your point of view and convince the reader that you’re right. Sure, your underlying purpose is to score as high as possible on this portion of the test, but if the people scoring your Extended Response are convinced by your argument, you’ll achieve that goal, too.

Purpose is important because it influences everything from organization to word choice. A letter to persuade your boss to give you a raise is quite different from instructions for connecting to a Wi-Fi hotspot.

Your purpose in an argumentative essay is to convince the reader. Don’t get confused with purposes of other types of writing. Your purpose isn’t to instruct, describe, or tell a story. Although you do need to inform the reader in terms of providing evidence to support your claims (thesis and premises), your primary objective isn’t to inform or explain. Your objective is to persuade.

Audience

Like a movie, an essay is intended for a particular audience. Before you put pen to paper, you need to think about who will be reading your essay. If your essay were to be used as an industry magazine editorial, you’d know that you had an audience with a particular level of education and set of interests. Your audience may have specific political leanings, biases, and preconceptions.

To persuade such an audience of your viewpoint, you need to write your essay in a way that this audience will accept your points. Whether you’re writing for preteens, university professors, or your neighbors, you adjust the way you present the information to make it suitable.

Your audience for the Extended Response consists of the people who will read and score your essay. Write your essay as if to convince your high-school English teacher. The evaluators expect you to use Standard English — to demonstrate a good command of vocabulary and grammar. They want to see precision in your arguments.

Message

The message is what you want the reader to understand and accept. You want to present that message clearly and in a way that your audience will acknowledge. When you’ve organized the key points you want to present in your essay, you need to review how well they prove your thesis and how you present the information. You want to be convincing without being harsh. The wording needs to be strong enough to make the message clear without becoming so aggressive that the audience rejects it.