8 Unique structures for better business writing
Writing well at work is about clarity, efficiency and coming across as a professional who can articulate an idea effectively. That’s why it’s paramount to be able to structure your thoughts in an easily understandable manner. Here are some structures that clients have found useful when trying to write everything from a proposal to a strategy for the future of their role.
Tell them what you’re going to tell them, tell them, tell them what you told them
This common structure is useful to layout a presentation. It gives you a structure for a beginning, middle and end.
Previous state - current state - future state
This is a good one for talking about goals - where we were, where we are and where we want to go. A good way to phrase the goal itself is to write it in the form “from X to Y by Z”. In other words, to go from “45 clients to 80 clients by January 31st”.
If this, then that
When there are many variables to deal with - make it clear what happens in each scenario. “If A happens, we will do B. And if C happens, we will do D”. This will give you and your colleague/client clarity over what will happen next.
List of their questions with answers
Sometimes people will write a paragraph of questions in an email. It’s confusing to answer them in another paragraph - so it’s best to separate them into separate lines and answer them all individually. This will give the reader more clarity on the answers.
Overview - details - challenges - risks / rewards - timeline - responsible parties - next steps
This is a good format and structure if you’d like to go to your manager with a proposal for a new project/innovation or a new type of role you’d like to do. The areas listed above will help you structure your thoughts, deal with any risks there might be in terms of time/money and highlight how the project will be rolled out if it goes ahead. The beauty of this structure is that it allows you preempt what the questions from your manager could be or any downfalls of your proposal. That way, you can deal with them before he/she asks you about them.
Experience - responsibilities - achievements - technical skills - soft skills - IT skills - qualifications - abilities
Do you need to sell yourself in an email, proposal or presentation. Try to use the list above to highlight the best parts of your career and experience to date and give three points on each. It can be a difficult exercise for many people to do, so get help from a friend, colleague… or me!
Who - what - where - when - why - how
This is a nice way of eliciting what you do in your job on a daily basis. So many times I hear people say “I help clients and that’s all I do”. Yes, but HOW do you help clients, WHY do you help them, WHEN do you help them, WHERE do you help then and WHAT do you help them with. Answering these questions will give you much better and clearer description of your role.
One sentence - one paragraph - one page
Can you explain the idea/topic/proposal well? This is a good exercise because it forces you to write down what you do 1. simply, 2. with more detail and then finally, 3. in great detail. Firstly, start off by writing it out in one sentence, then elaborate it into one paragraph, and finally flesh it out into a whole page with all the details. This will help you to really clarify what you mean and how you explain it.