More than 25 years ago, Writing Machine formally developed our Structured Writing Method. Since then, all of our writers have used the method, which is designed to turn the act of writing into a scientific approach that guarantees a high quality result, first time. However – and this is important – it’s not just for copywriters.
Anyone that has ever had to write something has faced the fear of the blank page. Staring at a white screen with a blinking cursor, a deadline looming and the clock ticking can cause interns and CEOs alike to break a sweat.
This is precisely why Writing Machine developed the Structured Writing Method – to dispel writer’s block, and empower our in-house writers to create first-class documents, fast. The method does this by turning writing, as far as possible, into a scientific approach with a logical, linear process. Here at Writing Machine, we use it to produce marketing, sales and bid documents that meet our clients’ objectives from the very first draft.
It makes sense; there is no-one better to solve this problem than experienced copywriters who write for businesses day in, day out. However, the Structured Writing Method isn’t just for people who write for a living.
The Structured Writing Method is applicable to every business, and every business document. If you need to write an in-depth report, the method will help you plan your objective, give you tools to optimise the research process and make structuring and working with a long document a breeze. If you have to impress a customer (or, perhaps, your boss), the sections on writing with authority and crafting guidance for clarity and scan-reading will be invaluable. The method will help you write emails that persuade, brochures that impress and tenders that win business.
So what is the Structured Writing Method, and how does it work? There are four steps to the process: objective setting, messaging, structuring and crafting. Below you’ll find a short outline of each step and what it entails.
- Objective setting
What do you want to achieve? This is a critical question. All documents should be created for a valid, known purpose. That’s why the Structured Writing Method starts with Objective Setting, as why you are writing can profoundly affect everything else – from structure, to message, to tone of voice.
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 message. The Structured Writing Method provides clear guidance on how to make such messages as clear, concise, competitive and compelling as possible. It’s worth noting that there is a special version of the method aimed at bid writers, which includes specific 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 which delivers your message in a way that achieves your objective. We harness the power of Microsoft Word’s ‘Outline View’ to help writers rapidly and effectively structure their writing. When writing bids, we augment this with tools to address the challenges of structuring executive summaries and complex bid questions. We also 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 working out initial objectives, fine-tuning their messages and creating the right document structure, people become much more confident writers. And the documents they produce automatically become clearer and more focused. But the craft of writing is clearly still important. In this final section, the method addresses matters of style such as how to write for scan readers, how to engage a reader, how to write with clarity, and how to write with authority. It also clarifies key areas of both grammar and punctuation, and teaches techniques for proofreading.
Paul Ayling is the founder and CEO of Writing Machine.