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I’ve seen it hundreds of times. The Boss walks in, says, “I need a report/memo/presentation. It’s due tomorrow afternoon, so give me something to look at by end of day.” Before he’s even out of the room, the team is off and running, crafting sentences and messages, and laying out the work.

That’s when I apply the brakes. Stop!

Sometimes I am faulted for asking many questions on a project, but I prefer the “safe rather than sorry” route of writing. Who is going to receive this information? Where will it be placed? Having as much information as possible at the start creates an effective process to construct the right material, rather than having to scramble and conduct major rewrites in the eleventh hour, turning in a less than polished piece of work or having an unhappy client.

APT visualIn business writing, it’s key to establish three important components before beginning a project. This doesn’t matter if you’re in PR, Engineering, Sales or Marketing. Begin each project by identifying the APT – Audience, Purpose, Technique. Basically, for whom are you writing? Why are you writing? How will the writing be used?

Audience – Give thought to the audience

  • Who are they? What do they value? What words will affect them?
  • Make sure you have a solid grasp on the target audience(s).
  • What might they know about the subject?
  • How much time is available to read your work?
  • Choose an approach that is appropriate for your audience

Purpose – Why are you writing?

  • To explain
  • To persuade
  • To entertain
  • To express yourself
  • Ultimately, you are Selling somethingan idea, a product, a corporate value. What will convince each target audience to buy? What do you want to happen?

Technique – Each project may be a different medium, so know the ins and outs to be effective.

  • Look at ad formats (left side or right side placement?). Blog formats. Proposal formats. Feature news article formats.
  • Look at sentence structure.
  • What works for that medium?
    • Do ads use complete sentences or fragments?
    • What kind of language works?
    • What needs to accompany the language?
    • What will catch the eye?

Understanding the Audience, Purpose and Technique lays the groundwork for the project and puts you on the path to effective writing from the start.