Better Business-Writing Results: Plan More, Write Less
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How to Write a Bang-up Bio - By Lynda McDaniel
People tell me they hate to write. Or more accurately, they’re afraid to write because someone—their boss, client, or even that ornery editor in their own head—will be standing by to criticize. One way to beat those critics at their own game is to write less. How? By planning more.
When a reporter asked Albert Einstein how he’d go about solving a crisis if he had only one hour, he answered that he’d spend 55 minutes planning and 5 minutes executing. Professional writers agree—though we don’t go quite that far. On average, we spend approximately 50 percent of their time planning, 20 percent writing and 30 percent editing. (Don’t worry about getting a stopwatch—the point is to prepare yourself to write.)
When starting a document, good planning will save you a lot of time. Ask yourself:
• Why is it needed?
• Who are your readers?
• What level of understanding will they bring to your memo, letter, etc.?
• What do you want to teach them?
• Will they be reluctant readers? Resistant? Attentive? Passive?
• Are they your superiors? Peers? Employees?
• What is their education level?
• How long can you expect to hold their attention?
• How much detail do you need?
• What length? Keep it as short as necessary, but long enough to accomplish your goals.
• Have you done all your research? Don’t feel you have to be a genius and come up with everything on your own. Be a reporter. Get advice, interview experts, search the Web (reliable sources!) and go to the library.
Organization is next to godliness
Once you’ve gathered your information, how are you going to organize it? What approach will best accomplish your goal? Choose from one of the following:
1. Most important information first: The most common approach, it works well when writing letters, memos, reports and papers. When you lead with your most salient information, your readers will remember it.
2. Most important information last: Sometimes, though, you’ve got to warm up your audience. Imagine how disastrous it would be to tell your boss in the first sentence you need a raise. You’ve got to build your case so that your request is a natural, logical conclusion.
3. Bad news burrito: When you need to deliver a complaint, a refusal, or any other bad news, start first with something positive. Perhaps the person is a great worker but needs to brush up on his writing skills. Maybe the company is closing one site but expanding another. Start with something positive, add the bad news and roll it all up by ending with something positive.
4. Chronology: Save this step-by-step approach for meeting minutes, scientific reports, procedure manuals, etc. Unless the end result is unknown (which can make the ending intriguing), this style is a pretty dry.
5. Compare & Contrast: This approach works nicely for planning reports, feasibility studies, sales reports and letters, marketing reports—anything where you are making a case for something. Be sure to make your points for the advantages, then explain the disadvantages. If you go back and forth too much with advantages/disadvantages, advantages/disadvantages, it’s like watching a tennis match—that you lose.
Plan it, organize it and then write it. You’ll be amazed at how much faster your writing goes when you know where you’re headed.
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How to Write a Bang-up Bio - By Lynda McDaniel
About the Author: Lynda McDaniel
RSS for Lynda's articles - Visit Lynda's website
Lynda McDaniel is a creativity catalyst and business writing coach. She brings more than 25 years of writing and teaching to her position as director of the Association for Creative Business Writing (AFCBW). Lynda founded in 2009 to help writers learn how to mine their creativity and express their business ideas in an organized, compelling way. As a result, they're able to persuade, sell, teach, improve, guide, explain, change, contribute, motivate, praise, recommend...and there's no telling where that can lead.
Lynda's written just shy of a thousand magazine articles, all kinds of business collateral, and five books. Her latest, "Words at Work: Powerful business writing delivers increased sales, improved results, and even a promotion or two," took top honors from the National Best Books 2009 Awards. About five years ago, she began teaching and speaking about writing. She discovered she loved getting people fired up about writing. She's helped hundreds of people to write better at national and regional organizations such as The Boeing Company, Key Bank, City of Seattle, YMCA, T-Mobile, SBA, U. of Washington, Cutter & Buck, and Kroll Security.
Click here to visit Lynda's website.
More from Lynda McDaniel
The Doom and Gloom of To Whom It May Concern Forget oldfashioned cover letters
Overcome Your Fear of Writing
Letters to the Editors How to sell your expertise to magazine and newspaper editors
Whats in it for me How to keep people reading your business letters and email reports and proposals
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