Add Structure to Your Writing in Four Easy Steps

shopping-cart-tantrum-child_MAt the grocery store yesterday, a preschooler threw a tantrum that was quite impressive. Head back, mouth wide and wailing, he dropped to the floor in a lifeless heap.

His mom calmly surveyed the dead weight at her feet. She cupped her hands under her son’s arms, pulled him upright, and firmly instructed him to stand on his feet. And stand he did, though his whimpering trailed behind them as they moved to the next aisle.

Editing is a very similar experience.

Blogs, for instance, can look more like blobs. Great subject matter more often resembles a shapeless heap of words than a strong piece of writing.

The job of editors is like that of mothers. Our task is to pull up a piece of writing by the shoulders, brush it off, and make it stand up. Even the shortest blog post begs for structure that allows it to stand on its own.

How can you edit your blob into a strong piece of writing? Here is a process that I follow with my clients to transform their jumble of ideas into a structured piece:

1. Identify the few defining words or points you want to communicate.

Read these first few sentences of my client’s blog:

Do you know what enables you to dream? Is it solitude? Is it prayer? Is it the beach? Is it music? Whatever it is, embrace it more and dream more.

We narrowed the point of those first few sentences to the word dream.

2. Give each point a mini beginning, middle, and end.

My client surrounded his point about dreaming with supportive sentences. He began with the purpose of this point, followed with details, and then ended with a tiny conclusion drawing his sentences together:

The first step to creating the life you want is to identify what enables you to dream. Is it solitude? Is it prayer? Is it the beach? Is it music? It is different for everyone. Find out what enables you to dream and then embrace it more in order to dream more.

By leading his reader from an introductory thought to a concluding thought, he is helping his audience connects the dots of his thoughts.

3. Give each thought its space.

Since that first paragraph represented one point, my client then put a space between that and the next paragraph, which began:

The second step to creating the life you want is . . .

The space indicates to his readers that he’s moving to another thought. Spaces also make his page look less crowded and more appealing to the eye.

4. Reconsider your title.

After defining three key points and adding structure to each, my client realized his title no longer applied to his writing. He changed his title from Imagination and the Myth of Motivation to How to Create the Life You Want.

His new title is more effective and appealing to readers – because his structured material is now more effective and appealing!

When you follow this process to clarify, support, and give space to your ideas, your readers are more willing to follow you to the end of your thoughts. What other tips do you apply to add structure to your writing?

Ella Hearrean of Stellar Communications is a Houston-based freelance editor and writer for business leaders, publishers, and other writers. Connect with her at http://www.linkedin.com/in/ellaritchie.

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