When I first begin teaching a writing class, whether it is English 101 or Technical Writing, I always go and write across the board in large letters: A.T.T.P which stand for:
If you know what these are and how to identify them, I tell my students, then all of your written materials will always stay on message.
Audience – The more you can identify with your audience the more you can write a piece that will specifically appeal to them.
Ask yourself who exactly are you writing for? What is their intellect? What do they read? Where do they live? What products do they buy?
If you can mentally picture a member of your audience, then all the better for your piece. For example, I’ll ask my students to tell me who a Soap Opera Digest/Magazine is written for. Answers fly back describing a middle aged woman who has probably not gone to college and who is stuck at home with the kids. Sometimes she is eating bonbons, sometimes not, but almost always she’s wearing curlers.
It helps to write to your audience if you have a clear idea of who they are.
Tone – What tone are you going to use for your piece? Conversational? Authoritative? Casual? The tone you choose must fit in with your message and it must be consistent throughout your piece.
Want your piece to be friendly, that’s fine but don’t become the authoritative parent halfway through. Nothing confuses your reader more than a changing voice. How are they expected to believe your message if you’re not clear in the delivery?
Topic – What specifically is your piece about? Can you summarize it in one or two sentences? If not, chances are you are trying to grab hold of too much information. The more focused your topic, the better able you are to hit the mark of what your readers need to know.
Although it’s a bit simplistic, the old TV saying, “just the facts ‘mam” holds true in any kind of marketing writing. Avoid the “nice to know” pieces of information and stick to the identified message.
Purpose – What is the point of what you are writing? Are you trying to convince someone of something? Compare your product to others? Are you selling or asking for a result?
The purpose is also defined by asking what you want your readers to think or do as a result. What is the action you want your readers to perform once they have finished reading your piece? Once again, the more specific you are, the better your message will be.
When my students tell me they have “Writer’s block” I ask them to go through their paper and tell me where it was when they first started to stray from the original ATTP of the assignment. Perhaps their tone has changed from one of authoritative to anger (often seen in letters to the Editor). Perhaps it is because they have changed their purpose and are no longer trying to inform their audience about an event but instead have started to preach about the outcome.
More often than not, they find that the writer’s block is really just a case of getting lost from their original ATTP.