Three things to think about before you start writing

Step away from the computer. Hands off the keyboard. Now think.

Whether you’re preparing a blog, email or presentation, you need to think about three things before you start to write:
1. what you want to say
2. who your target readers are and how you want them to respond
3. how you’re going to make your case

For example, before I started writing this, I thought about
1. how my writing and revising go so smoothly when I’ve already thought things through
2. how I want to make writing easier, faster and more effective for other people
3. that I would offer three tips, a number that’s easy for readers to remember

Of course, I often make notes. Just kidding about ditching the computer. But I’m very serious about these three simple steps.

The first step requires you to think about your message so carefully that you’ll be able to summarize it in less than 30 words. It takes more thinking to write in fewer words, so take your time if you’re not clear. You’ll make up the time later and boost your effectiveness.

The second step means you need a precise idea of the results you want for your readers. This may include
*teaching them how to do something
*providing information they clearly understand
*persuading them to think, emote or or take action in a certain way
*inspiring them, a leap above persuading
*some or all of the above

The third step involves your organizational structure. Will you give your readers chronological steps to follow? Will you organize your information under a memorable acronym or logical subheads? Will you provide a list? Will you go by geographic region, top to bottom, most to least or whatever? Will you argue from specific examples to a general rule? Will you argue from a widely accepted rule to a specific case? Compare the unknown to the known? Tell a moving story?

The possibilities are endless. My point is to decide on the structure that best serves your objective. For example, if you’re teaching how to do something, chronological steps are the best, while inspiring may be realized through storytelling.

Writing without first thinking is like taking off on a road trip without consulting a map. It may be fun at first, but it will become a huge problem if you need to reach a specific destination by a certain time. So try it next time you go to write something important.

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One Response

  1. […] Ignore this and you run a high risk of readers hitting delete or close, as I explained in an earlier post, Three things to think about before you start writing. […]

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