Three essentials can help writers conceive, develop and execute their prose.
They’re easily remembered with the acronym POP: purpose, objective, process.
Here’s how they roll out:
1. Purpose. This is the overarching reason you’re writing. It might be the theme of your blog. Identifying purpose involves a macro-level understanding of what you’re trying to accomplish.
Consider Julie Powell, whose story was featured in the movie “Julie & Julia.” Powell’s purpose was to whip up 500-plus recipes, all drawn from Julia Child’s “Mastering the Art of French Cooking,” in 365 days—and then share the experience with a growing cohort of readers. Again, it’s the big-picture view of the endeavor.
For Brighter Writer, it’s about sharing decades’ worth of gathered writing and editing guidance with our websites’ readers.
Regarding internal emails, one’s purpose would probably be conveying work-related updates and other information to colleagues—and, in certain cases (ahem), making obscure pop culture references.
2. Objective. This one is more precise in focus. Rather than addressing the overall theme of a blog, for example, it would entail the delivery of information on a specific topic. Again, in Brighter Writer’s case it might be the use of imagery, punctuation or which pronoun to use in framing your insights.
In Powell’s case, it would be discussing the challenges inherent in a particular recipe, or perhaps her day’s efforts to transform several blocks of measurements and instructions into delightful dishes (or culinary calamities).
With an internal email, the spotlight might be on benefits signup deadlines, a dress-code change, company holidays or even that week’s cafeteria specials. The informational purpose remains, but the specifics vary.
The distinction between purpose and objective might seem subtle, even needless, but it’s as important as distinguishing between strategy and tactics.
3. Process. Extending the strategy and tactics comparison, process would involve their execution. This aspect is, in many ways, particular to the writer—yet idiosyncrasies butt up against a great many constraints.
From square one, you must write in the audience’s language—English rather than Esperanto, for example—and put the words in the right order; otherwise it will be incomprehensible.
Ask these questions:
- First and foremost, who is your audience?
- What is the audience’s level of comprehension about your topic? (This determines how much lingo and shorthand you can use.)
- How much time do they have to read this piece of text?
- How finnicky are they about language?
- How well do they know you personally?
Those are audience-focused questions. Enough about them; let’s talk about you:
- How much prior thought have you given this specific topic? (Have you formulated this piece in advance, and now all that’s left is putting it on the screen?)
- How, when and where do you best write? (Morning larks are different from night owls, after all, and some prefer silence to ambient music.)
- Would humor work for this topic (and are you genuinely funny)?
- What’s your deadline, and does that deadline affect others’ workflows?
- How many drafts will you create?
- Will you edit your own copy, or hand it off to fresh eyes?
As you can see, the process aspect has many facets, though some—such as writing in English—might be givens. So be it. As long as they are fully considered on some level, you have a foundation to proceed toward your objective, fulfilling your overriding purpose.