What’s your purpose?

What's your purpose?

What’s your purpose?

– or –

What’s the difference between a purpose and an objective?

Sometimes these terms seem synonymous, and often the term purpose is used solely to mean both, but the distinction between them in a document or training plan is key. The purpose is about the document and the objective is about the audience. In other words, “purpose” is what the document sets out to teach and “objective” is what the reader will be able to do as a result of that teaching.



“The purpose of this guide is to describe how to complete a customer claim.”

I once saw a purpose statement at the front of a guide that stated, “The purpose of this guide is to be a user manual.” The circular reasoning is obvious, and it’s easy to see how feature-focused this kind of planning is. The purpose is the story the document is telling; or put another way, it’s the point of this guide.



“As a result of reading this guide, the reader will be able to complete
a customer claim accurately to company standards.”

Writing an objective in technical writing is a thornier issue and unless you’re writing training materials, it’s something quite foreign. The reason for this is simply that the objective describes something about the consumer of the information. Often, technical writers are removed from their readers. Technical writers don’t have to stand up in front of a room of readers, but trainers do, so instructional designers (those who write training materials) are more familiar with writing objectives.

In a technical document, I’m one for a blended approach and stating both, even if it means that the objective is buried in a purpose statement.

Purpose + Objective = Purpose

The result is something like this:

“The purpose of this guide is to enable readers to complete
a customer claim accurately to company standards.”

Big whoop—I know—it’s not all that different, but by taking in both the document and its reader, the purpose statement becomes much more meaningful (it’s not filler at the beginning of a guide), and the reader can go back to the beginning and assess if that objective was fulfilled (or not).