Our hardworking strategists spent the day in a business writing seminar to enhance our skills. Since many of us don’t have time in our schedules to spend a full day in a seminar, I’ve put together a few helpful tips we learned.
Do you ever have writer’s block? Feel like you’re providing too much information?
Begin with the end in mind…
PLAN YOUR DOCUMENT: It’s important to brainstorm to generate ideas quickly for a successful document. Everyone thinks differently, which means everyone brainstorms differently. Try one of these brainstorming techniques:
- Key Words: Make a list of all the key terms that should be included.
- Sticky Notes: Write an idea, word, or project on an individual note then lay them out all over your desk or wall if you have the supplies and space available.
- Mapping: For our visual thinkers, draw your thoughts out.
- White Pages: Take a Sharpie, a large white sheet, and have at it.
- Free Writing: Stick to the traditional way, write down all your thoughts just as they start flowing from your brain.
The most important step in brainstorming is organizing the information. First begin with grouping similar ideas together (this will be easy if you decided to use sticky notes). Then, arrange your ideas in order of importance. Finally, discard anything that doesn’t fit the purpose.
Well designed documents get read…
DESIGN YOUR DOCUMENT: There’s a variety of types of readers. Some read the entire document, others skim most of the document, and then you have those readers who only read the end of the document. It’s beneficial to follow the Four Box Format to connect with all of these types of readers.
- Box 1: Purpose & Deadlines: Needs to be upfront and readable in less than 10 seconds.
- Box 2: Preview: State your key points and include a preview of content to help readers know what to follow. Keep it short.
- Box 3: Provide details for each key point and use informative headings to introduce the readers of relevant data. More tips below…
- Box 4: Review: Always have a summary that re-states your purpose.
Do one thing at a time…
DRAFT YOUR DOCUMENT: Do not write and revise at the same time!
- Write Informative Headings and Subject Lines: Begin with a signal word (noun) and summarize your do/know statement (Ex. Request for..Recommendation to…Agenda for…).
- Parallelism: Used for lists and consistency
- If the first item begins with a verb, begin other items with a verb.
- If the first item begins with a phrase, construct other items with a phrase.
- If the first item is a complete sentence, construct other items as complete sentences.
Cool before you revise, it’s more than just a spelling and grammar check…
REVISE YOUR DOCUMENT: Do you have run-on sentences? Have you used the correct verb tenses?
- Stage 1: Be Clear: Focus on the organization, tone, and layout. Who doesn’t love white space?
- Stage 2: Be Concise: Eliminate unnecessary verbiage and try to avoid gobbledygook, and redundant words.
- Use strong verbs in the simplest form. (Ex. Make preparations for Cinco de Mayo should be Prepare for Cinco de Mayo).
- Use active voice to write clear concise sentences. Try to think about who is doing what in the sentence.
- Avoid redundant words (Ex. plan ahead, past experience, end result)
- Stage 3: Be Correct: Check your spelling…proofread!