8.4 Purpose and Central Idea Statements

Speeches have traditionally been seen to have one of three broad purposes: to inform, to persuade, or to entertain. Presentations to entertain may also include those with goals to inspire, to amuse or to please. You could also think of these purposes as appealing to the understanding of the audience (informative), the will or action (persuasive), and the emotion or pleasure.

Now that you know your general purpose (to inform, persuade, or to entertain), you can focus on the specific purpose. A specific purpose statement builds on your general purpose (e.g. to inform) and narrows that down to exactly what you want to inform your audience about (e.g. global warming).

In writing your specific purpose statement, you will take three contributing elements (shown in Figure 8.2) that will come together to help you determine your specific purpose:

  • You (your interests, your background, past jobs, experience, education, major),
  • Your audience
  • The context or setting.
diagram demonstrating three beginning categories, you, your audience, your context leading to a specific purpose statement followed by a central idea statement.
Figure 8.2. You, your audience, and your context (Tucker & Barton, 2016)

Putting It Together

Keeping these three inputs in mind, you can begin to write a specific purpose statement, which will be the foundation for everything you say in the speech, as well as a guide for what you do not say. This formula will help you in putting together your specific purpose statement:

My purpose is to _______________ [Choose your Specific Communication Word (inform, explain, demonstrate, describe, define, persuade, convince, prove, argue)] an audience of ________________ [Choose your Target Audience (my classmates, the members of the Social Work Club, my coworkers] that/of __________________. [The Content (how to bake brownies, Macs are better than PCs].

Example: The purpose of my presentation is to demonstrate for an audience of my coworkers that informed intercultural communication is valuable.

Formulating a Central Idea Statement

While you will not actually say your specific purpose statement during your speech, you will need to clearly state what your focus and main points are going to be. The statement that reveals your main points is commonly known as the central idea statement (or just the central idea). Just as you would create a thesis statement for an essay or research paper, the central idea statement helps focus your presentation by defining your topic, purpose, direction, angle and/or point of view. Here are two examples:

  • Specific Purpose – To explain to my classmates the effects of losing a pet on the elderly.
    • Central Idea – When elderly persons lose their animal companions, they can experience serious psychological, emotional, and physical effects.
  • Specific Purpose – To demonstrate to my audience the correct method for cleaning a computer keyboard.
    • Central Idea – Your computer keyboard needs regular cleaning to function well, and you can achieve that in four easy steps.

32. Purpose and Central Idea Statements” from Communication for Business Professionals by eCampusOntario is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.


Icon for the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License

Talking Business Copyright © 2023 by Laura Radtke is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

Share This Book