What do you want to achieve? This is a critical consideration because all documents should be created for a known purpose. That’s why the Structured Writing Method starts with Objective Setting, as this can profoundly affect everything else that happens subsequently – from structure, to message, to tone of voice. It is also the logical place to start when starting most business activities (not just writing) as it forces people to identify where the value in a particular task lies.
Having worked out what you want to achieve the next logical question to ask is: what do you want to say? Every business document exists to communicate a certain message. The Structured Writing Method provides clear guidance on how to make such messages as clear, concise, compelling and, if appropriate, competitive as possible. (There is a special version of the course aimed at bid writers which includes focused guidance on messaging for executive summaries and bid questions.)
Architects often talk about ‘form following function’ and the same is true of documents. The next stage of the method, therefore, concentrates on how to create the right structure to appropriately deliver your message to achieve your objective(s). The course harnesses the power of Microsoft Word’s Outline View to help writers to rapidly, and more effectively, structure their writing. The bid version of the course augments this with lessons about the particular challenges of structuring executive summaries and complex bid questions. It also shows how to create storyboards to revolutionise the quality and efficiency of the bid process.
A key principle of the Structured Writing Method is that writing is the very last thing you do. After you’ve worked out your initial objectives, fine-tuned your messages and created the right structure for your documents, you will become a much more confident writer – and the documents you produce automatically become clearer and more focused. But it is clearly still important to learn how to improve the craft of writing itself. In this last section, the Structured Writing Method looks at matters of style such as how to write for skim-readers, how to engage a reader, how to write with clarity and how to write with authority. It also clarifies key areas of grammar and punctuation, and teaches techniques for proofreading.