Even professional writers sometimes struggle with organizing their thoughts, and find themselves stuck for an opening line.
When you're in the same boat, use one of the techniques the pros use:
1. Q & A technique: Playing the role of your typical reader, ask yourself questions to figure out what information to include and in what order. Use questions as temporary headlines to start organizing information underneath. Type the answers, and—Presto!—you have a first draft.
When it's useful: Writing a letter, memo or e-mail.
Example: You need to announce a monthly department meeting. Write these questions as your temporary headlines:
- "Where and when is the meeting?"
- "What's on the agenda?"
- "How should I prepare?"
- "Is attendance mandatory?"
- "What if I can't attend?"
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2. Brainstorm technique: Commit all your ideas to paper without worrying about what goes first. Start with your central message, written at the center of your paper. Then, draw lines coming from the central message, like spokes of a wheel. Write important ideas that support the central message on the lines.
Keep going until you've written down all your ideas. If an idea is related to a spoke you've already drawn, make it an offshoot of that spoke. Once finished, number the ideas in the order you want to discuss them.
When it's useful: Drafting a long memo, report or proposal.
3. Sticky-note technique: Jot down each thought on a single sticky note, until you've covered the topic. Don't weed anything out. Once finished, group related notes together and arrange them in the order you want to address them.
When it's useful: Writing a long memo or report.
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4. Free-association technique: Start your creative juices flowing by writing anything that comes to mind, related or not. Forget about punctuation and complete sentences. Don't let your internal "editor" delete anything.
Eventually, you'll limber up, and relevant thoughts will begin to emerge. When finished, look over your page for useful phrases or thoughts. Use them to create an outline.
When it's useful: When you're so stuck that none of the previous techniques are working.
The One Overlooked Secret to Business Success
If you work, you must know how to communicate. But too often it’s a struggle to organize your thoughts and write so other people can understand. Miscommunication can cause misunderstandings. Foggy writing can lead to unclear directions and mistakes. Confusing memos and emails can blow a deal and lose profits.
But with Business Writing That Gets Results, your writing will be sharp and crystal clear every time. You’ll discover quick tips to polish your writing. You’ll learn active phrasing to power up your communication. You’ll get rid of useless words that bog down your message. You’ll use handy checklists for flawless writing … and so much more!
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