For most professionals, writing is a primary part of their job, even though it’s a painful task for many. The good news is that spending more time planning will enable you to streamline the process, reduce writing time, and will result in more effective documents.
While planning may seem like an extra step in the process, it’s necessary to help you streamline the writing process and write more cogent, targeted documents. The bottom line is that taking the time to plan your writing will mean less time spent rewriting and revising.
- Develop a pre-writing strategy. Pre-writing helps you get ideas out before you begin writing the first draft. A good pre-writing strategy acts as a brain dump and helps you get all ideas down before you begin writing. In addition, a brain dump allows you to see your ideas and begin to figure out what will, what won’t, and what may work in your document.
- Figure out who your primary reader(s) are. The primary reader has the most influence over the document and so should be person(s) or group that you’re writing for.
- Create a reader rubric. A reader rubric is simply a checklist that helps you define the attributes of your readers that are most important for writing the document. Consider how your readers will read the document, what they need from the document, what they’re looking for, and where they expect to find information.
- Write an outcome statement. The outcome statement is a tool for you that indicates precisely what action you want your readers to take or what the objectives of the document are. An outcome statement can help guide your writing process and keep you on track.
- Consider the organizational strategy you’re using. Many professionals rely on chronology, but using chronology exclusively can bury ideas, emphasize the wrong point, or make your document difficult to get through. And, it’s often boring.
- Create a plan for solving the writing “problem.” Writing is problem-solving on paper, which means that the strategies you use for solving problems in the workplace are the same as those you should be using when you write.
- Figure out the main gist of the document. After you’ve done that, create a list of keywords or key concepts that will help you get that point across to your readers.
- Consider how your reader(s) read. Do they expect BLUF (bottom line up front), details, or are they skimmers? Understanding this can go a long way toward helping you write a document that meets your readers’ needs.
- Think about the variety of rhetorical tools you can use. For instance, are bullets appropriate or will headings/subheadings help your reader get through the document? Be sure that if you do use these tools that you use them correctly.
- Write every day. When we don’t make writing a habit, our writing skills diminish. Write for short periods every day, even when you don’t have a writing task.