Context, audience and purpose

Thinking through ‘CAP’ will help you decide what kind of ‘voice’ your writing needs. You will need to learn how to adapt your unique voice to suit the:

  • context - are you writing something formal such as a letter or informal like a phone text message?
  • audience - are you writing to your friends or someone in authority?
  • purpose - are you trying to entertain, inform, explain or persuade – or perhaps all of these?

Try to determine the context, audience and purpose of the following texts.

Task 1


NO WAY M8! I missed da train cuz the ticket machine weren’t workin. Wat a joke. Reckon I’ll get money bk?

Context: text message

Audience: friend

Purpose: describe

Task 2


Dear Sir/Madam,

Due to an error with the ticketing machine, I was unable to collect my tickets and missed the train connection. Can you please refund the price of the ticket back to my account?

Context: letter

Audience: train company

Purpose: explain

Both pieces of writing give the same message: the person missed their train owing to an error with the ticket machine. But you need to consider:

  • Would the train company have taken the information seriously if they had received it as a text message like the one above?
  • Would the friend have given sympathy if they'd received the formal letter?

Changing the tone and style of ‘voice’ to suit the purpose is essential. Therefore, whatever kind of writing you need to do, always consider ‘CAP'.