Have you ever sat in front of your computer, staring at the blank screen, and wondering what to write? We all have! So what can you do to avoid those awful blank-screen-staring-moments – and why is it they always seem to come up when you’re working against a deadline? How can you get started quickly?
Strangely enough, you can get off to a faster, easier start by taking just a little more time up front to save a whole lot of time writing the whole piece. Begin tactically.
What are tactics? Strategy. Good strategy is the essential part we so often leave out, before we begin to write. And a clear strategy is what lets you start quickly and easily; continue step-by-step; finish with a piece that does the job it was meant to do; and get the results you need.
Here are the ten steps that will get you off to a quick, easy start:
10 tested tactics for clearer writing:
1. Begin with focus. Ask yourself (a) What is the piece I am writing? (b) Who am I writing to? (c) What do I want to accomplish – what results do I need from this piece? What will happen when I am successful? How do I need to prepare for my success? (d) What is the relationship I need to establish with my reader? (e) And finally, what content will I use? What will I talk about?
Notice that you will be determining what you need this piece to accomplish before you decide what to say!
2. Build a strong strategy, based on your answers to these questions.
3. Begin with a “tight” first paragraph. Get right to the point as soon as possible, and as soon as appropriate to establish your professionalism and credibility. Tell your reader who-what-when-where-why-how in no more than five lines.
4. Use an appropriate tone and style to build, or to reinforce the appropriate relationship with your reader.
5. Consider syntax. Order your words and thoughts for clarity and results.
6. Use a strong thought flow. Organize your content to lead your reader through your material so he or she will understand it clearly, and come to the appropriate conclusion.
7. Look for places to use alternate formats, to present the material “a bite at a time,” to help your reader “get it” at a glance, and remember it.
8. Choose your words carefully. Use fewer words because you are using the most appropriate, most powerful words to say exactly what you mean.
9. Provide complete information. Avoid overload. The more you know about your subject, the easier it is to confuse your reader with too much information.
10. Does your reader know what to do with, or about the information you have given him or her? If you are writing to persuade, provide a clear call to action. Tell the reader specifically what he or she is to do with your information.
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