Seven Simple Structures for Writing Fast

 9th October 2013 by gihan

Note: This post is sponsored by Grammarly. I use Grammarly’s plagiarism checker because it improves my writing fast. Give it a try!

Use a clear structure in your writingIf you know what you want to say but don’t know how to put it in writing, one of the things that can help is to start with a clear structure. The simplest structure is just “introduction, body, conclusion”, but that’s not very useful because it doesn’t help you organise the “body”. So here are seven simple structures for organising your material. Not all of them will apply to every situation, but you should be able to use – or adapt – one of these for each article, blog post or newsletter you write.

1. Timeline

This is the classic structure that often appears in business presentations:

  1. How were things done in the past?
  2. What is the current situation?
  3. What are you proposing for the future?

This is a simple but clear formula. Don’t discard it just because it might be common or familiar. In some situations it’s exactly the right structure.

2. Location

Some topics lend themselves to a geographical approach. For instance, if you’re describing something that affects people differently in different parts of the country, you provide a brief introduction, then take them mentally to each of the locations, and then summarise in your conclusion.

Another way of using geography is when you’re talking about the reach of your message, in which case you start with smaller regions and expand outwards (or the other way around).

For example, if you’re talking about taking action to address climate change, you could start by discussing what countries are doing, then individual cities, and finally talk about what individual audience members themselves can do.

3. Problem to Solution

This four-step process takes them from problem to (your) solution, like this:

  1. Problem: What problem are your readers facing?
  2. Cause: What is the underlying cause of that problem?
  3. Effect: How much is this costing them?
  4. Solution: What are you suggesting to fix the problem?

This structure is particularly useful when your presentation clearly addresses a known problem in your reader’s world.

4. Traffic Lights

If you want readers to change their behaviour, consider the “traffic lights” approach:

  • Red: What should they stop doing?
  • Amber: What should they continue doing?
  • Green: What should they start doing?

This might seem too simple, but it’s very effective because it’s practical – in other words, it talks about action, not just a roundabout discussion of the problem.

5. Simple to complex

Start by describing a simple concept, and then gradually add layers of complexity as you progress through your material.

This can be particularly useful when presenting something new or unfamiliar to your audience. For example, if you’re teaching wealth creation, you wouldn’t teach complex share trading strategies first. You would probably start with something everybody understands, like managing a budget.

This is not specifically about asking them to take a small step first (although that could be important as well). Rather, it’s about introducing simple concepts to them first.

6. Process

If you’re teaching a step-by-step process, that’s a logical way to organize your material. You present an overview of the process first, and then go through each of the steps in turn.

7. List

Finally, if you can’t think of any better structure, just make a list of all your points and address each in turn. This is simple but effective. For example, this article itself is such a list!

Which of these could you use?

Think of a topic you’d like to write about, and quickly go through this list of seven structures to find one (or more) that could work. Sometimes the structure itself will help tease out the material or help you organise it in a more logical way.

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