Anyone can write but not everyone who can write that can write well. Writing is a skill and like many others, it takes months and sometimes years of thankless sweat and effort to come up with anything worth reading. But say you are not looking to publish a book or run a blog; say you only want to be able to report what happened in a meeting or you want to send a simple email and you don’t know where to start. Here is a 5-step process you can use for any kind of writing that will definitely set you on course to good writing; or at least, effective communication.
The temptation is usually to jump right in and start typing. Soon enough, you find that you are struck. Preparing will make sure that this doesn’t happen. What does it look like you ask? Simple – it’s mainly about brainstorming ideas.
Open a Microsoft Word document and type anything that comes to mind that you would want to communicate either in your email, blog post, letter, or whatever. Don’t worry about the order of your ideas or grammar or anything else rather than the ideas themselves.
Once you have enough of your points, move to the next step.
Here, you arrange your ideas in a logical way and cancel out any ideas that you do not want to use. Expand each one of the ideas and keep writing until you are sure they cover everything that you want to say. It would be better if you wrote them into full sentences at this point.
If you get stuck when trying to expand your ideas, ask yourself these questions: What, why, when, who, where and how. A good practice for people who do timed writing: for example, freelance writers or high school students writing compositions, is to divide your time such that a good amount of it is spent in the first and second steps.
You can take the time to research at this point so as to help you when fleshing out your points.
When organizing ideas, you can ask yourself questions such as: How do I guide my reader? What do they see first? Where do they go from there and what do they see last?
Create an outline for the final product.
By this point, you have a blueprint and so writing will be easy. Arrange the sentences and move them around to what makes sense for you. The aim here is to make the sentences easy to read. Pay attention to the linkers you use– words like although, however, and so forth.
By now you have a rough draft. You need to check it for content, structure, language, and formatting.
Check to see that the message is as clear as possible and evaluate the effect it is likely to have on the reader. Is the effect what you desired? Is your purpose clear? Is there irrelevant information? Are the ideas clear? Is your data/examples accurate? Is the tone appropriate for your audience? Is the length the right length?
See if the structure is organized; whether ideas flow logically. Is there a clear introduction and/or conclusion? Are there enough paragraphs? Does each paragraph have a clear topic sentence? Have you linked the sentences well?
Make sure that the language you use is grammatically correct and remember to spell check. Use appropriate vocabulary and punctuation.
The final thing to check for at this stage is the formatting. Good writing includes high readability. Does your final product look good? What font have you chosen? Have you highlighted important ideas? Is the formatting consistent?
If you have done the previous steps well, this last one should take you 10 minutes or less depending on the length of your writing. You normally review to make sure that your content reads well and that the final draft has the intended effect on the reader.
If possible, read your writing aloud and see how it reads.
Writing now sounds like a lot of work, doesn’t it? Well, that is because it is. However, as you continue to practice, you become better until eventually these steps become merged into one seamless and effortless writing technique. It helps to come back here every once in a while to get the basics. From there, you can move to other aspects of good writing such as clarity, simplicity, and elegance