Purpose, the end you're aiming at, determines strategy and style. Strategy involves choice—selecting particular aspects of a topic to develop, deciding how to organize them, choosing this word rather than that, constructing various types of sentences, building paragraphs. Style is the result of strategy, the language that makes the strategy work.
Think of purpose, strategy, and style in terms of increasing abstractness. Style is immediate and obvious. It exists in the writing itself; it is the sum of the actual words, sentences, paragraphs. Strategy is more abstract, felt beneath the words as the immediate ends they serve. Purpose is even deeper, supporting strategy and involving not only what you write about but how you affect readers.
A brief example will clarify these overlapping concepts. It was written by a college student in a classroom exercise. The several topics from which the students could choose were stated "parents," "teach ers," and so on—so that each writer had to think about restricting and organizing his or her composition. This student chose "marriage":
Why get married? Or if you are modern, why live together? Answer: Insecurity. "Man needs woman; woman needs man." However, this cliche fails to explain need. How do you need someone of the opposite sex? Sexually is an insufficient explanation. Other animals do not stay with a mate for more than one season; some not even that long. Companionship, although a better answer, is also an incomplete explanation. We all have several friends. Why make one friend so significant that he at least partially excludes the others? Because we want to "join our lives." But this desire for joining is far from "romantic"—it is selfish. We want someone to share our lives in order that we do not have to endure hardships alone.
The writer's purpose is not so much to tell us of what she thinks about marriage as to convince us that what she thinks is true. Her purpose, then, is persuasive, and it leads to particular strategies both of organization and of sentence style. Her organization is a of a conventional question/
answer strategy: a basic question ("Why get married?"); an initial, inadequate answer ("Insecurity"); a more precise question ("How do we need someone?"); a partial answer ("sex"); then a second partial answer ("companionship"); a final, more precise question ("Why make one friend so significant?"); and a concluding answer ("so that we do not have to endure hardships alone").
The persuasive purpose is also reflected in the writer's strategy of short emphatic sentences. They are convincing, and they establish an appropriate informal relationship with readers.
Finally, the student's purpose determines her strategy in approaching the subject and in presenting herself. About the topic, the is serious without becoming pompous. As for herself, she adopts an impersonal point of view, avoiding such expressions as "I think" or "it seems to me." On another occasion they might suggest a pleasing modesty; here they would weaken the force of her argument.
These strategies are effectively realized in the style: in the clear rhetorical questions, each immediately followed by a straightforward answer; and in the short uncomplicated sentences, echoing speech. (There are even two sentences that are grammatically Insecurity" and "Be cause we want to 'join our lives.' ") At the same time the sentences are varied to achieve a strategy funda mental to all good get and hold the reader's attention.
Remember several things about strategy. First, it is many-sided. Any piece of prose displays not one but numerous organization, of sentence structure, of word choice, of point of view, of tone. In effective writing these reinforce one another.
Second, no absolute one-to-one correspondence exists between strategy and purpose. A specific strategy may be adapted to various purposes. The question/answer mode of organizing, for example, is not confined to persuasion: it is often used in informative writing. Furthermore, a particular purpose may be served by different strategies. In our example the student's organization was not the only one possible. Another writer might have organized using a "list" strategy:
People get married for a variety of reasons. First. . . Second . . . Third . . . Finally . . .
Still another might have used a personal point of view, or taken a less serious approach, or assumed a more formal relationship with the reader.
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