Article written by: Zoe Melhuish, creative writing and literature graduate (work experience)
As the old saying goes, in business time is money, so being able to work as efficiently as possible to maximise your time is important. While many writers will sit down and sketch out a quick plan before producing a piece of copy to speed up the writing process, valuable time can still be lost in the initial stages of planning, when you find yourself asking “where do I start?” Considering your GAP is a good first step.
GAP stands for Genre, Audience and Purpose, and is a technique I learnt whilst studying A-Level English Language and still use today. By Identifying your GAP early in your plan, it makes your writing more targeted, deliberate and effective.
Before you rush to start writing, for example, a leaflet, consider if this is the most appropriate genre or type of copy to best fulfil your business aims and those of the task at hand. If there is a lot of information that you need to convey, then perhaps a leaflet is not the most appropriate choice as this form of copy should be short, sharp and quick to read. A leaflet with too much information becomes crowded and could take too long to read so your audience may choose not to. Instead for information dense copy, consider a form in which the audience might expect to see more information, like a blog or an article. Considering your audience and your purpose can really help to identify the correct genre.
Once you have decided the genre, then thinking about the key features of it can also help direct your writing. For example, a leaflet without any images is likely to be less effective and may make the genre less clear. Similarly, trying to add additional features not commonly seen in that genre could distract the focus and make your copy less clear. In a piece of effective copy, you should be able to identify the genre almost from a glance, and clarity is key. If you are unsure about what the key features of a particular genre are, have a look at other examples and try to notice what features they have in common, for example, you might expect a leaflet to include clear subtitles and bullet points.
Your audience is not just who happens to be reading a piece of copy but who you want to be reading it —your ideal target audience. Think about who that is in detail; what is their age; demographic; political views; reading habits; how long will they spend reading your copy and when might they read it? Once you have correctly identified your target audience it is much easier to adjust your writing style and language to suit them and encourage these specific people to read your copy and act upon it.
Why are you writing the copy? This is important to think about but can easily be overlooked. Every piece of writing will have a purpose behind it and identifying this purpose ensures that your writing is targeted, deliberate and avoids unnecessary waffle. It might be tempting to think the purpose of each piece of copy is to inform but try to be more specific. What precisely are you informing the audience on? Perhaps it is about a new product or an upcoming event.
It is also important to be aware that most texts have multiple purposes. For example, you might want to inform your audience about a new product, but you are also likely trying to persuade them to buy it. Think about the key messages you want to convey and how you want your audience to react as a result of reading your copy, your copy is a call to action.
Your business goals can also be linked to the purpose of your copy, such as encouraging repeat business or demonstrating your expertise in a chosen field. The more specific you can be in your purposes, the more accurate your plan and final copy will be and the better your audience’s experience of reading it. It is important to remember that although there might be multiple purposes, the message and purpose of your copy should be clear and having too many can confuse this, so focus on the few most important ones and prioritise these.
With practice, identifying your GAP should become quicker and easier. However, if you still feel that your copy is not as effective as it could be, then consider employing the services of a professional copywriter who will have a wealth of experience and in-depth knowledge to create your copy and help you to maximise your time.