Thursday, 12 June 2014

Writing structures

Conveying complex written information in an easy to understand format is an
essential everyday skill for communications professionals. Here are 9 persuasive writing structures to consider when constructing your text:

 1.       Order of importance

You may want to structure your messages in order of importance. For example, if you are writing instructions on how to change a lawn mower blade, you would tell the reader to turn off the electricity supply first!

 2.       Chronological order

Arranging information into chronological order can help the reader to gain a sense of where they are in series of events, and help them to prepare for what is coming next. Examples of writing in chronological order would be: a day in the life of x; a historical account of events; a process that you are guiding the reader through.

 3.       Groups

It may help your reader if you group information under key headings. Remember, people are unlikely to read online information at the top left of the page and read every word. They will scan headings and sub-headings to find information relevant to them. For example, if you are writing copy for a recruitment webpage you might split the copy under the headings of ‘Graduates’, ‘Experienced professionals’, and ‘Interns’. This allows the reader to skip to the section relevant to them straight away.

4.       Location

Can your copy be structured by reader location? This is especially important if your information contains calls to action that differ depending on where they are based.

5.       Benefit-costs

The benefit-cost structure allows you to spell out the pros and cons of a situation. This can be particularly useful in change management situations, because it can help to demonstrate that a number of view-points have been listened to and understood, even if the outcome is not what the reader wants to hear.

 6.       Problem-solution

Think about a trouble-shooting guide and you understand how this writing technique works. If for example, I have a problem with my washing machine, I want to be able to scan down a list of headings that describe my potential problem, and read the one or two paragraphs containing the solution underneath.

 7.       HW5

What, Who, When, Where, Why, How. With this technique, you are likely to be detailing the facts around a particular event. For example, if you are organising a conference, you will list what the event is about, who should attend, when it is happening, and so on.

 8.       Simple to complex

You may be aware that some members of your target audience will be more knowledgeable about your subject area than others. This technique ensures you explain key messages in a simple to understand manner at the start, and lead on to more complex detail for those readers that require it. If your audience only read the first two paragraphs of your text, they should go away with the key messages you needed to deliver.

9.       General to specific

Think about the opening paragraph to a newspaper article – generally, this will summarise the issue in very broad terms, and then go on to provide the specific details of the case.

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