In conclusion, a well-organized document is a much better tool for communication than a document that's haphazardly put together. Wait. That's not where a conclusion goes.
While this gaffe is obvious enough that few would actually make it, document organization is still a skill many writers would do well to strengthen. Organizing a document before writing streamlines the writing process and can also ensure that your readers learn and retain information in a form they can apply. Here are a few tips to put everything in its place:
- Know your topic. If you can articulate what your document is about in a single sentence, you'll know what information you need to include and what you need to leave out. Structuring a document around a single topic strengthens the message and keeps ideas from getting too cluttered.
- Brainstorm with a mind map. Put your topic in the middle of a piece of paper or whiteboard, and around that topic write 10 or so subtopics. These should be topics, assertions, or pieces of information a reader will need to know to understand the topic itself.
- Get your sources together. List pieces of data, studies, and other authoritative sources that support each subtopic.
- Spot the connections. Looking between your subtopics, you may find that some are related. For example, if your document is about the effect of company health plans, two of your subtopics might be "lost production due to sick days" and "employees with gym memberships take fewer sick days." Those two subtopics can be presented together in your document. You can also take this stage to write the transition sentences between your subtopics.
- Let it rest. Once you have a basic order of subtopics, take a break to clear your mind and come back with a fresh perspective.
- Analyze for completeness. If your outline doesn't cover all the information you need to convey, move back to the brainstorming stage and repeat these steps.
For more information on organizing a document before writing, contact Hurley Write, Inc.