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Specific Purpose and Central Idea

The specific purpose is a brief phrase stating your goal for your speech.
The central idea is a brief one-sentence preview of the main points in your
speech.

Rules for the Specific Purpose


1. The specific purpose should begin with the infinitive PHRASE To
inform my audience. . .
2. The specific purpose should include a number of aspects, reasons, steps,
parts, etc. (between two and five). This will be the number of main points
in your speech.
3. The specific purpose should state the topic of your speech.
4. The specific purpose should include only one main idea for your speech.
Incorrect
To tell about baseball.

Correct
To inform my audience of the four (4) main
skills in baseball.
To inform my audience about making dolls. To inform my audience of the five (5) steps
in making dolls.
To inform my audience about someones
To inform my audience about three (3)
life.
stages in the life of Tupac.
You should eat organic food.
To persuade my audience to eat organic
food for two (2) reasons. OR: To persuade
my audience to eat organic food by
showing how it satisfies their needs.
Rules for a Central Idea
1. The central idea is always written as a complete sentence.
2. The central idea should include the number from your specific purpose.
3. The central idea should list out the 2-5 specific main points you will address in your
speech.
4. The central idea should match the specific purpose (both the number and the topic).
Compare the correct specific purposes (above) and the correct central ideas (below) to
see how they match each other.
Incorrect
There are four (4) main skills in baseball.
A doll makes a great gift.

Tupac made many contributions during his


life.

Correct
The four (4) main skills in baseball are
batting, catching, pitching, and running.
The five (5) steps in making dolls are
buying the bisque parts, designing the
body, buying body fabric, painting the
bisque parts, and sewing the body.
The three (3) important stages in the life of
Tupac Shakur are his childhood, his
education, and his career.
1

Organic food is the best and so you should


eat it.

1.
2.
3.
4.

Two (2) reasons you should eat organic


food are its lack of chemicals and its lack
of polluting the environment. OR: Organic
food can satisfy your need for healthy food
and a safe environment.

Rules for Main Points


Your main points should come directly from the central idea.
The Main Points of Main Ideas for your speech should be natural divisions,
reasons, or steps to support your central idea.
If your specific purpose states that you will show three steps, and your central
idea lists three steps, you will have three main points. Each main point will be a
step.
You should always include at least two (2) main points, but no more than five (5)
points in your speech.

Example:
Topic: Glassblowing.
General Purpose: To inform
Specific Purpose: To inform my audience of the three steps in blowing a glass bubble.
Central Idea: The three steps in blowing a glass bubble are 1) gathering glass on the rod,
2) reheating the glass gather in the glory hole, and 3) puffing small amounts of air into
the rod.
Main Points:
1. The first step in blowing a hot glass bubble is to gather molten glass on the end of the
hollow rod.
2. The second step is to reheat the blob of gathered glass by inserting it into the glory
hole.
3. The third step is to puff small amounts of air into the hollow rod until the hot glass
begins to inflate.

Specific Purpose and Central Idea Exercise


For each speech assignment you will be asked to choose a topic and write a specific
purpose (SP) and central idea (CI) at the top of your outline. For this assignment, please
choose three (3) topics for three different informative speeches. Write a specific purpose
and central idea for each informative speech topic in the space below. (These topics are
just possibilities; you will not be required to give speeches on the topics.)
Topic:
General Purpose: To inform (about a process )
Specific Purpose:
Central Idea:

Topic:
General Purpose: To inform (about an object/person )
Specific Purpose:
Central Idea:

Topic:
General Purpose: To inform (about an event or concept )
Specific Purpose:
Central Idea:

Source: Adapted from Dwyer, K. (2002). Public Speaking Workbook, 7th Edition.
Boston: McGraw-Hill Primis Custom.