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Common Core Standards: ELA See All Teacher Resources

College and Career Readiness Anchor Standards for Writing

Writing CCRA.W.4

4. Production and Distribution of Writing: Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.

So now that we know how to write an argument, an explanatory text and a narrative, we need to know which one is appropriate when. Most people know, for example, that you shouldn’t write to a future employer in the same way you would to a friend—

Dear Mr. Givemeajob:

I think I’d be perfect for the sales position because I just bought a raspberry lipgloss that would match the uniform I’d wear. I got the raspberry lipgloss because the cherry reminded me of the guy I thought was a total creeper but who turned out to be my friend Kelly’s dad who worked at the Kool-Aid factory. It’s a good thing I did get the raspberry because the cherry would totally clash with the cute uniforms, and I really want to look good while I’m working because you never know when a cute boy will walk by and notice you.

So please hire me.

Jennifer Notgettinghired

So other than NOT treating our future boss like our BFF, how can we tell what kind of writing is appropriate at what time? There are three indicators that should help us determine what form of writing we should use:

1. The task is the specific type of writing you will be doing. Are you writing an essay, a short story, a letter, a poem? About the only thing Ms. Notgettinghired did right above was structuring her writing as a letter, since her task was to write a letter.

2. The purpose is what you’re trying to accomplish with your piece. Do you want to convince your audience of something, explain something, or tell a story? Jen’s purpose above is to convince Mr. Givemeajob that she’s the right candidate for the sales job.

3. The audience is who is going to be reading your writing. You might be writing for your teacher, for little kids, for the President, for a future employer, or for your friends. Jennifer N.’s biggest mistake in her letter was writing for the wrong audience.

So these are the indicators that tell you what form of writing to use. What exactly makes up the correct form of writing? There are three elements of writing that you must focus on to make sure they conform with the task, purpose and audience:

1. The development of your writing is the pre-writing you do before you put pen to paper (or, let’s be honest, fingers to keyboard). Even if you have never completed an outline, an idea web or a brainstorming session, you have still developed your ideas about your writing before you started. For essays, you’ve done research about quotations that would back up your argument. For short stories, you’ve thought about what will happen when and to whom. For poems, you’ve figured out words that rhyme with orange before you started your ode to citrus. For each type of writing, you do a different kind of development.

2. The organization of your writing is how it is structured. We all remember that annoying paper clip that shows up when we’re typing a letter in certain word processing programs. “You look like you’re writing a letter,” it says, after knocking on the monitor glass. “Would you like some help?” Well, how do you think that paper clip knows you’re writing a letter? Because you have organized it like a letter. You have started with a salutation, and then move on to writing the body of the letter.

A letter doesn’t look like an essay, and neither one looks like a poem, and none of those necessarily look like a story – so each type of writing has its own organization.

3. The style of your writing is, for lack of a better word, how the writing “sounds.” Jennifer Notgettinghired has an informal conversational style. In other words, she sounds like she’s talking to a friend, rather than writing to an employer. The words, grammar and phrasing you choose all affect your style.


Mission Improbable

Hello there, Shmooper. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to match the task, purpose and audience of the following writing assignments to the correct development, organization and style. (This message will not self destruct in thirty seconds.)

Writing Assignment 1

Write an essay comparing the relative awesomeness of pirates versus ninjas.

Task: An essay
Purpose: To prove either pirates or ninjas are more awesome.
Audience: Anyone interested in the debate over pirates and ninjas.

Writing Assignment 2

Write a description of the last time you got into a fight with a family member.

Task: A narrative
Purpose: To describe a fight
Audience: Any reader who would like to read about the latest family caper, or the average Jerry Springer audience member.

Writing Assignment 3

Write an explanation of how cheese is made.

Task: Explanatory or informational text.
Purpose: To educate the reader about the cheese-making process
Audience: Students interested in becoming cheese-heads…er, that is, cheese mongers.

Writing Assignment 4

Convince Mr. Givemeajob to give you a job.

Task: Letter
Purpose: To convince a future employer to hire you
Audience: Mr. Givemeajob

Writing Assignment 5

Write a poem about pirates and ninjas eating cheese.

Task: Poem
Purpose: To create a beautiful work of word art about our favorite subjects.
Audience: Poetry lovers.

Possible methods of development:

1. Research pirates and ninjas. In order to write a well-thought out essay, you would need some support of your idea that either pirates or ninjas are more awesome.
2. Come up with a list of rhyming words. In order to create a poem, you would want to think ahead of time about what rhymes with “cheddar.” (Hints: better, letter, Irish Setter, go-getter).
3. Interview someone who makes cheese. To explain how cheese is made, you must first know how it’s done.
4. Talk to the family member you most recently fought with. Before writing about your most recent fight, you might need some reminders about what exactly happened. This might also be a good time to re-start the fight, if you’re still feeling sore about it.
5. Make a list of your marketable skills. To convince someone you’re the right person for the job, you’ll want to make sure you know what makes you a good worker.

Possible methods of organization:

1. Salutation, body paragraphs, closing, signature. This is the standard organization for a letter.
2. Rhyming stanzas. There are all kinds of ways to organize poems, but this would be an appropriate organization method.
3. Dialogue, pacing, description, reflection. These are the elements of a narrative.
4. Thesis statement with evidence as support. This is what you must have for an effective essay argument.
5. Information presented in specific steps. This organization will help you to write your explanation.

Possible styles:

1. Informal and conversational. This is appropriate for a narrative.
2. Formal and academic. This is most appropriate for an essay you write to convince someone of your opinion.
3. Flowery (using many metaphors and similes). This is appropriate for a poem.
4. Formal and business-like. This is most appropriate for a business letter.
5. Instructional. This is most appropriate for an explanatory essay.

Quiz Questions

Here's an example of a quiz that could be used to test this standard.

  1. Let’s revisit some of our friends from the previous standards. First, here’s the “Declaration of Independence:”

    When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

    We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security. — Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

    Who is the audience for this excerpt?

    Correct Answer:

    The King of England

    Answer Explanation:

    The correct answer is C. The Declaration was written specifically for King George to read so he would know what the colonies planned to do and why.

  2. How is the style used appropriate for the intended audience?

    Correct Answer:

    It is written formally because the signers are conveying their respect to the reader.

    Answer Explanation:

    The correct answer is D. Even though the colonists wanted to declare their independence from England, they also thought it was only fair and respectful to give their reasons. They even begin the Declaration with the assertion that it is respectful to be clear about what is happening and why.

  3. What is the purpose of this document?

    Correct Answer:

    To declare independence and spell out the reasons why.

    Answer Explanation:

    The correct answer is A. The signers of the Declaration only wanted to let the King know what they were doing and why. They knew that it was impossible to convince him of their need for independence (answer E).

  4. Next, let’s take another look at Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s “Why Women Do Not Reform Their Dress:”

    It would seem at first sight that there was but one answer to this question, namely, that women are fools. When you can plainly prove to a woman that her dress is unhealthful, unbeautiful, immoral, and yet she persists in wearing it, there seems no possible reason but the above. But there is a very simple explanation. A physician complained to me that women came to her actually wearing mechanical appliances to counteract diseases which were caused and fostered by the mechanical weight and pressure of their dress. She could see no reason why a woman should deliberately choose pain and weakness. Here is the reason. Let us take an average woman, with a home, family, and social circle. Like every living organism, she is capable of receiving pain and pleasure. As a human being, she receives these sensations both through mind and body. Now this woman, apart from what she considers duty, will pursue always that course of action which seems to her to bring the most pleasure, or the least pain. This is a law of life, as right and natural as for a plant to grow towards the light. This woman’s life as a human being is far more mental than physical; the pleasures and pains of the heart and mind are far more important to her than those of the body. Therefore, if a thing give pain to her body but pleasure to her heart and mind, she will certainly choose it. Let us see now how this question of dress affects mind, heart, and body. The present style of dress means, with varying limits, backache, sideache, headache, and many other ache; corns, lame, tender, or swollen feet, weak clumsy, and useless compared to what they should be; a crowd of diseases, heavy and light; a general condition of feebleness and awkwardness and total inferiority as an animal organism; with a thousand attendant inconveniences and restrictions and unnatural distortions amounting to hideousness. But it also means the satisfaction of the social conscience; gratification of pride, legitimate and illegitimate; approbation of those loved and admiration of those unknown; satisfaction of a sense of beauty, however false; and a general ease and peace of mind. The true and reasonable dress means perfect ease and health and beauty of body, with the freedom of motion and increase of power and skill resultant therefrom. But it also means long combat with one’s own miseducated sense of beauty, and fitness, and with all one’s friends’ constant disapprobation; ridicule, opposition, an uneasy sense of isolation and disagreeable noticeability, loss of social position, constant mortification and shame. Now, to the average woman, these pains and penalties of the home and social life are infinitely more to be dreaded than the physical ones; and the physical comfort and strength infinitely less to be desired than the mental satisfaction and peace. Physical suffering has been so long considered an integral part of woman’s nature, and is still so generally borne, that a little or more or less is no great matter. But to offend and grieve instead of pleasing, to meet opposition and contempt instead of praise and flattery, to change pride for shame,–this is suffering which no woman will accept unless it is proved her duty. And this is why women do not reform their dress.

    What is Gilman’s task?

    Correct Answer:

    An explanatory text

    Answer Explanation:

    The correct answer is E. Gilman is writing a text that explains something.

  5. What method of organization does Gilman use?

    Correct Answer:

    Lists and comparisons of evidence

    Answer Explanation:

    The correct answer is B. Gilman is trying to explain why women dress as they do, but she is not trying to convince someone of her opinion. Because of that, there is no specific thesis statement.

  6. Now, let’s take a look at the excerpt from Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte:

    "Very soon, my--that is, Miss Eyre:  and you'll remember, Jane, the first time I, or Rumour, plainly intimated to you that it was my intention to put my old bachelor's neck into the sacred noose, to enter into the holy estate of matrimony--to take Miss Ingram to my bosom, in short (she's an extensive armful:  but that's not to the point--one can't have too much of such a very excellent thing as my beautiful Blanche):  well, as I was saying--listen to me, Jane! You're not turning your head to look after more moths, are you?
    That was only a lady-clock, child, 'flying away home.'  I wish to remind you that it was you who first said to me, with that discretion I respect in you--with that foresight, prudence, and humility which befit your responsible and dependent position—that in case I married Miss Ingram, both you and little Adele had better trot forthwith.  I pass over the sort of slur conveyed in this suggestion on the character of my beloved; indeed, when you are far away, Janet, I'll try to forget it:  I shall notice only its wisdom; which is such that I have made it my law of action.  Adele must go to school; and you, Miss Eyre, must get a new situation."

    "Yes, sir, I will advertise immediately:  and meantime, I suppose--" I was going to say, "I suppose I may stay here, till I find another shelter to betake myself to:" but I stopped, feeling it would not do to risk a long sentence, for my voice was not quite under command.

    "In about a month I hope to be a bridegroom," continued Mr. Rochester; "and in the interim, I shall myself look out for employment and an asylum for you."

    "Thank you, sir; I am sorry to give--"

    "Oh, no need to apologise!  I consider that when a dependent does her duty as well as you have done yours, she has a sort of claim upon her employer for any little assistance he can conveniently render her; indeed I have already, through my future mother-in-law, heard of a place that I think will suit:  it is to undertake the education of the five daughters of Mrs. Dionysius O'Gall of Bitternutt Lodge, Connaught, Ireland.  You'll like Ireland, I think: they're such warm-hearted people there, they say."

    "It is a long way off, sir."

    "No matter--a girl of your sense will not object to the voyage or the distance."

    "Not the voyage, but the distance:  and then the sea is a barrier--"

    "From what, Jane?"

    "From England and from Thornfield:  and--"


    "From YOU, sir."

    I said this almost involuntarily, and, with as little sanction of free will, my tears gushed out.  I did not cry so as to be heard, however; I avoided sobbing.  The thought of Mrs. O'Gall and Bitternutt Lodge struck cold to my heart; and colder the thought of all the brine and foam, destined, as it seemed, to rush between me and the master at whose side I now walked, and coldest the remembrance of the wider ocean--wealth, caste, custom intervened between me and what I naturally and inevitably loved.

    "It is a long way," I again said.

    "It is, to be sure; and when you get to Bitternutt Lodge, Connaught,
    Ireland, I shall never see you again, Jane:  that's morally certain. I never go over to Ireland, not having myself much of a fancy for the country.  We have been good friends, Jane; have we not?"

    "Yes, sir."

    "And when friends are on the eve of separation, they like to spend the little time that remains to them close to each other.  Come! we'll talk over the voyage and the parting quietly half-an-hour or so, while the stars enter into their shining life up in heaven yonder:  here is the chestnut tree:  here is the bench at its old roots.  Come, we will sit there in peace to-night, though we should never more be destined to sit there together."  He seated me and himself.

    "It is a long way to Ireland, Janet, and I am sorry to send my little friend on such weary travels:  but if I can't do better, how is it to be helped?  Are you anything akin to me, do you think, Jane?"

    I could risk no sort of answer by this time:  my heart was still.

    "Because," he said, "I sometimes have a queer feeling with regard to you--especially when you are near me, as now:  it is as if I had a string somewhere under my left ribs, tightly and inextricably knotted to a similar string situated in the corresponding quarter of your little frame.  And if that boisterous Channel, and two hundred miles or so of land come broad between us, I am afraid that cord of communion will be snapt; and then I've a nervous notion I should take to bleeding inwardly.  As for you,--you'd forget me."

    "That I NEVER should, sir:  you know--"  Impossible to proceed.

    "Jane, do you hear that nightingale singing in the wood?  Listen!"

    In listening, I sobbed convulsively; for I could repress what I endured no longer; I was obliged to yield, and I was shaken from head to foot with acute distress.  When I did speak, it was only to express an impetuous wish that I had never been born, or never come to Thornfield.

    The style of this excerpt is informal and somewhat like a diary entry. What choice did Bronte make to create that style?

    Correct Answer:

    Jane is talking in the first person.

    Answer Explanation:

    The correct answer is B. Jane writes in the first person (I, me, etc.), which is how a diary-writer would describe events. Answer A does not have anything to do with the style of the writing. C is an element of narrative (and a stylistic choice), but it doesn’t necessarily indicate that the writing is informal like a diary entry. D and E are both stylistic choices and are both true, but they do not necessarily indicate that the writing is diary-like.

  7. Considering the fact that Jane Eyre is a novel, which of the following choices do you think Bronte made to keep her audience reading?

    Correct Answer:

    Pacing the plot developments.

    Answer Explanation:

    The correct answer is C. Bronte expertly uses pacing to keep her audience interested, because Bronte was well aware of what her audience would like.

  8. Considering the fact that Jane Eyre is a novel, how would you expect it to be organized?

    Correct Answer:

    In chapters

    Answer Explanation:

    The correct answer is C. Although novels have been written in different organizational structures like letters or diary entries, vignettes, and even poetry, most novels are organized by chapters.

  9. What is the purpose of this excerpt?

    Correct Answer:

    To show the relationship between Jane and Mr. Rochester.

    Answer Explanation:

    The correct answer is D. This excerpt gives the reader a better understanding of how the two characters feel for each other.

  10. What would have been an appropriate way for Bronte to develop this novel?

    Correct Answer:

    Outlining the plot ahead of time

    Answer Explanation:

    The correct answer is B. While it might be helpful to know what seems romantic to others, or to find out more about governesses (since that’s Jane’s job), Bronte ultimately just had to know where her story was going before she wrote.

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