In previous posts I set out the first few steps in my formula for writing with clarity. (See the Overview, as well as Step One and Step Two.) Although the mechanical skills of good grammar and sentence structure are important, all written work should be intelligently organized so it reads well and is easily understood.
Just to review, my five-step kick-start is as follows:
- Set your goals for the piece. Do you want this document to explain, inform, educate, promote or inspire?
- Know your audience. You need to select words, phrases and basic information that will resonate with readers and earn their attention.
- Collect your facts. Always over-research so you have the luxury of being selective about the information you include.
- Organize your information well. Dump the raw data into four categories: Why, What, How and So What.
- Check for what’s missing.
Once you’ve done all this preliminary work you end up with a document that practically writes itself.
Today we’re focusing on “Collect Your Facts.”
Information for most types of business writing tends to come from a variety of resources: interviews, reports and online resource material are most common. You need to be a Detail Drone at this part of the process because it’s often a tiny piece of innocuous information that can elevate your article to new heights.
For example, I once wrote a promotional article about a retirement home manager, a large man with uncommonly large hands. He had a great laugh and a ready smile, and all of the expected qualifications for running a retirement home with integrity. But his hands became the anchor for the piece and the article ultimately reflected the fact that residents could rest assured that with this man in charge, they were “in very good hands.” The article was a hit.
If I had not been filtering for small details, I would have missed that opportunity.
Not all details are going to be relevant and I’ll caution that not all writers like working with detail – some of us are more comfortable with “big picture” topics. But your goal at this stage is to collect everything you can get your hands on so you can work towards the writing stage, where the more elegant craftsmanship takes place.
The next installment in this series looks at what to do with all the information once you collect it.
Want to learn more about how I can help you deliver your brand message? Contact me today!