Writing tips: 5 steps for writing any non-fiction text

IT’S TIME TO WRITE! You’ve identified a communication need, done your research, gathered your content and it’s time to put the information into words.

Now you’re faced with a blank page (or screen) and you don’t know where to start. Don’t panic! Just follow these writing tips.

Update 2018: My book, Writing for Mobile, takes you through each step to help you understand how to do it!

1. Create a content map Sketch out a mindmap, dividing your content/ideas into groups of related content/ideas. “Label” the groups. These labels will later serve as draft chapter names or section headings. Structure the groups into a simple, logical sequence. Check that there’s a “home” for every bit of content.

You can sketch a mindmap on paper or use one of the many mindmapping tools available online, free or paid.

2. Define key messages Based on your content map, write down (just for yourself, in a rough checklist) the key messages you want readers to take away from your communication. Check that you have all the information available to be able to create these messages. Prioritize the messages.
3. Define keywords Identify and prioritize keywords to use in headlines, the lead paragraph and throughout the text.
4. Sketch out your inverted ladder content plan The inverted ladder is a list, in order of priority, of your core message, the lead content, other key messages and a rough outline of the content for each key message.
5. Write Using your inverted ladder as a template, start writing. Anywhere. Fill in content under each key message, starting with the easiest ones. Don’t worry too much about the quality of your writing at this stage. Just get your thoughts onto the page.
Use simple words and sentence structures and short paragraphs, but don’t oversimplify or sacrifice content. See also: Writing for Mobile. Chapter 8 contains 10 rules for writing more readable text.
6. Edit, clarify and correct Edit carefully to simplify, improve the flow, eliminate duplication, and correct spelling and grammar mistakes. Your readers aren’t mind-readers. State the facts precisely and explain them: don’t rely on suggestion and innuendo. Check that your key messages stand out. And proofread carefully. See also: Common English mistakes.

Done!

See also: 10 NEW rules for business writing

For more writing tips, see the Articles section. We regularly add new in-depth articles and writing tips, particularly for business writers.

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