A.T.T.P. – a tiny but mighty writer’s tool (Scrivener blog post)

(Note: Scrivener comments follow post .)

(Introduction Folder)

Whenever I teach a writing class, one of the first lessons I begin with is the importance of A.T.T.P. I write those letters across the white board in large letters and then I look out to my students who don’t have a clue as to what they mean.

A (Audience), T (Tone), T (Topic), and P (Purpose) are a way to sharpen your writing. This tool provides a way to ensure you are truly aiming your writer’s target and not with trying to hit that target with eyes shut.

This is such an effective and important tool that once taught, all of my students have to include their A.T.T.P at the top of each paper so that I know who and why the paper was written. I need to know who they are writing for and why before I can offer comments.

Ready to learn this tool? It couldn’t be easier, but I promise you, if you start using it in your writing, it will sharpen all you write.

(Development Folder)

Audience (Development sub-folder)

A stands for Audience.

Before you commit one work to your paper, you need to know who your audience is. The first time I ask students to define an audience, I’ll hear things like:
• “Female”
• “Anyone interested in science”
• “People who read books”
And other such useless suggestions.

Why are they useless? Think about it how are you going to write for females? Are you going to use the same language, pace, and length for say, an audience of female young mothers as you would for female working professionals?

I would venture that they are wildly different audiences.

And how about writing on a science topic for 6th graders as opposed to an article geared toward scientists?

As an exercise, I sometimes make my students actually picture what a typical reader looks like. I have them imagine a reader for the National Enquirer and then a typical reader for National Geographic. I start hearing qualifiers like age, education, and even in some cases what a reader might be wearing (fair or not, the National Enquirer reader usually has elastic pants on.)

The point here is that if you can see your audience clearly then you will know how to speak to them.

Tone (Development sub-folder)

T stands for Tone.

This is the voice that you bring to your piece. In my Professional Writing classes, I warn my students that under NO circumstances is humor allowed in job-related documents. It’s the wrong tone. If you are writing at a job, then you must always write with a professional tone.
Save your humorous tone for your blog writing when you’re off the clock. On your own blog, your voice – your tone is absolutely appropriate.

If we tie tone into audience then it’s easy to see that we could match a more casual tone for the National Enquirer reader and would use one a little more authoritarian or educational for National Geographic.

Pick a tone and then consistently use it from start to finish.

Topic (Development sub-folder)

The second T stands for Topic.

This is what you are writing about. Sound obvious right? You might be surprised how often people veer from what they are writing about.

Want to see some great examples of this? Check out letters to the editor. Often these letters are written when the writer is angry and let’s face it, when you are angry, you probably aren’t the most coherent.

I teach my students that when they hear or see “and another thing…” the speaker or writer has lost their topic.

It’s not that what they have to say is not important, it’s that that additional thought belongs somewhere else Put it in another letter to the editor.)

By keeping your writing to the same topic, you’re making sure that your message is strong, clear, and easy to be understood.

Purpose (Development sub-folder)

P stands for Purpose.

This is the reason you are writing what you’re writing. Do you want someone to change their behavior? Then make sure you’ve included benefits and good reasons for them to change.
Are you trying to teach someone a new procedure? Then make sure you include plenty of examples and clearly outline what to do.

Just as you hate to be stuck next to someone who just “talks to hear themselves talk” so does an audience hate to read something that is going nowhere and was written just to be written.
Don’t waste anyone’s time. Make sure that every sentence you write supports the reason for writing your piece.

(Conclusion Folder)

I’m such a big believer (preacher) of this little tool. I’ve heard again and again from my students that it has made them think about how they approach their writing and I’m often told that once they’ve learned this, they can’t unlearn it.
I even suggest that my students tape a card with A.T.T.P to the side of their monitor so they will be reminded of this approach every single time they write *anything*. How’s how universal this tool is.

Need to send an email to your boss asking for time off?
Figure out your A.T.T.P before you write word one.

Have writer’s block?

Go over your A.T.T.P, I’m willing to bet that in the middle of your piece you’ve changed your audience, tone, topic, or purpose. Go back, figure out where you got lost and get back on that original path.

A.T.T.P – it’s such a simply tool, but it can make a huge difference when you use it to sharpen your writing so that you can cleanly hit your target.


 Scrivener notes:

  • This is my second post using Scrivener. I have to say that it was a lot easier than yesterday’s (it just turned out that I had two posts in a row this week, figured I’d go to town with Scrivener.)
  • Word length: 910 words
  • Time to write: about 35 minutes
  • I used 4 sub-folders (instead of 3) under the “Development” folder and I changed the last folder name from “Completion” to “Conclusion” otherwise the process was the same one I used yesterday.
  • This post is not really a fair representation of blog writing though, I didn’t have to do any research or gather any notes. I’ve taught this information so often that I could “hear” myself give the lecture. I simply “dictated” this post – Is started at the introduction and wrote it in order until the end.
  • When writing this, it felt a little stilted, but that might just me getting used to the process. I’d be interested if, as the reader, you could tell that I was using an organizational tool to write it. Did it feel a little too structured/forced or did you think it flowed okay?

Thanks for the feedback, more than a few of us are playing around with this tool, all comments and questions are greatly appreciated.



Wendy Thomas is an award winning journalist, columnist, and blogger who believes that taking challenges in life will always lead to goodness. She is the mother of 6 funny and creative kids and it is her goal to teach them through stories and lessons.

Wendy’s current project involves writing about her family’s experiences with chickens (yes, chickens). (www.simplethrift.wordpress.com) She writes about her chickens for GRIT, Backyard Poultry, Chicken Community, and Mother Earth News.

13 thoughts on “A.T.T.P. – a tiny but mighty writer’s tool (Scrivener blog post)

  1. Thank you all for your comments and thank you for being tolerant as I slog my way around Scrivener. I have a feeling that Scrivener is going to play a big role in my future writing projects.


  2. I just started using scrivener for my novels and haven’t considered using it for my blog as well. Great idea! I can’t wait to learn more about all the things scrivener can do as right now I’m just touching the surface. Such a great tool for writers.

  3. woww… its a very nice topic and this part of communication is mostly neglected by many.. hope to follow this in my upcoming blogs… one of ur writing fan…

  4. That ATTP tool is great. I like it. I think I will used it to keep myself from going off track.

    And another thing (Ha ha, just teasing!), I love Scrivener and have used it a lot over the last few years. I wondered what your red folder descriptions were about. I assume you included them to illustrate the structure you used in Scrivener because I felt they would normally be left out of the final compile of your document. Actually that seems obvious now that I’ve pointed it out. Only the titles of the sub documents would be selected for inclusion in the compiled version.
    I did a series of posts recently where I used a similar folder structure but posted one sub-document each time.

  5. Pingback: Nailing The Audience When Writing For Magazines | Live to Write – Write to Live

  6. Pingback: Learning to Use Scrivener | Live to Write – Write to Live

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