Are You Ready for the SAT & ACT?

PURPOSE AND POINT OF VIEW

Understanding a book, a poem, or even a text message often requires more than simply knowing what an author says. Frequently, recognizing why an author makes a particular statement is equally necessary to grasping his or her main point. Additionally, many reading comprehension questions on standardized tests, such as the SAT or ACT, ask for the purpose of specific words, sentences, and paragraphs. Therefore, discovering the different reasons why authors write, and learning how to identify those reasons, is crucial.

Purposes of Sentences

When authors write, they do so for many of the same reasons that you write: to provide information, to make people laugh, to convey emotion, or to convince others of a certain argument, among other things. Putting yourself in the place of an author, and thinking about the reasons why you might write similar statements can help you to discover an author’s purpose. Consider the statement below.

Grit in a sensitive instrument, or a crack in one of his own high-power lenses, would not be more disturbing than a strong emotion in a nature such as his.

To discover the writer’s purpose, ask yourself two questions.

1. What does the author say?

2. Why does he or she make that statement?

In this case, what the author says is that the man in question would be disturbed if he felt strong emotions. Now examine why the author makes this statement. The sentence describes the way that a particular man reacts to emotion. Why might you explain how someone reacts to a particular thing? You would probably do so to provide a picture of that person’s character. Therefore, the purpose of this sentence is likely to give you, as the reader, a better understanding of the man’s character.

Read the sentence below, and use the questions that follow to help you identify the purpose of the sentence.

Far away on the path we saw Sir Henry looking back, his face white in the moonlight, his hands raised in horror, glaring helplessly at the frightful thing which was hunting him down.

1. What does the author say?

_____________________________________________

_____________________________________________

2. Why does he or she make that statement?

_____________________________________________

_____________________________________________

Here, what the author states is that Sir Henry looked pale, that his hands were raised in horror, and that something fearful was hunting him. Why does the author give you this information? The situation that the author describes is somewhat scary, so the author is likely attempting to build suspense and to convey just how terrifying the event was.

Read the sentence below, and use the questions that follow to identify the purpose of the sentence.

Consider Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Purloined Letter,” which cannot truly be considered a mystery story because Poe identifies the thief at the outset.

1. What does the author say?

_____________________________________________

2. Why does he or she make that statement?

_____________________________________________

In the sentence above, what the author states is that “The Purloined Letter” cannot be considered a mystery because readers know from the beginning who committed the crime. Why does the author make that statement? Notice that the author uses the word “consider” to begin the sentence. Why might you use the word “consider” to begin a sentence? You would probably use it to introduce an example. In this case, therefore, the author is likely introducing an example of a story that is not a genuine mystery.

Read the sentence below, and use the questions that follow to identify the purpose of the sentence.

At first glance, the question may appear unnecessary and the answer quite obvious.

1. What does the author say?

_____________________________________________

_____________________________________________

2. Why does he or she make that statement?

_____________________________________________

_____________________________________________

In this sentence, what the author states is that the question may seem redundant, and that the answer to the question might seem obvious. Why does the author make this statement? Notice that the sentence begins with the phrase at first glance. Why might you use that phrase? Often, people use the phrase at first glance to suggest that a deeper, more thorough look will provide a different point of view. Hence, in this case, the author must be writing to show that the question only outwardly appears to have an obvious answer, and that a more careful look will show that the question is not unnecessary and that the answer is not obvious.