Clarify your thinking before you write

It is amazing how endemic poor writing is around the business world. Poorly written web pages, white papers, proposals, memos, marketing collateral, and even simple emails are a surprisingly common occurrence. Why is it so?

The most common cause of bad writing is that writers do not clarify their thinking sufficiently before they write. First drafts then take on a life of their own, and the result is a document that is hard to read and understand. My experience in the business world suggests that if documents are structured correctly, they help writers clarify their thinking, close gaps in logic, and make it easy for the reader to understand the ideas being communicated.

One of the best frameworks for structuring written documents is the Pyramid Principle developed by Barbara Minto. According to Minto, it is easier for the human mind to understand information if it is consistently presented in a top down manner, with the summary or conclusion always preceding the detail that supports the summary. Fortunately it is relatively easy to learn this methodology. However it takes some coaching, and a lot of practice to do it consistently and effectively.

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