How do you write words that really work for your audience? There’s one secret of success – planning.

Why plan?

Writing is hard. If you sit down to write something from scratch, you’re trying to do two things at once:

  1. Think about what you want to say
  2. Put it into plain, readable English

These are difficult tasks that need a lot of concentration. Trying to do both at the same time is like driving up the M1 at 110mph while reading your road map.

Like the driver who works out a route before hitting the road, you’ll write better if you do these two things separately, and make a plan before you start typing or pick up your pen.

But wait – you’re in a hurry. Planning takes time, right?

Yes, it does, but if you do it right it’ll cut the overall time you take to write something. You won’t spend ages deleting whole paragraphs and swearing at your PC because your brain is overloaded. Planning helps the writing process flow more easily – and more quickly.

Four simple steps to successful writing

At Afia we use a four-step planning process. If you don’t have much time you can do it in your head, but it works best if you jot it down – especially if you’re working on a longer piece of writing.

The four steps are simple. Write down your…

  1. Outcome – what do you want this piece of writing to achieve? Sounds obvious, but many people start writing without a clear, concrete idea of what they want to say. What do your want your readers to grasp and/or do? Try to summarise it in a sentence or two.
  2. Audience – who are you talking to? What do they want/need to know? Imagine a single person who might be a typical member of your audience. Write just for them.
  3. Content – how are you going to organise your ideas? For short, attention-grabbing pieces of writing, try to put the really important stuff at the top, in paragraphs a line or two long. This is the meaty bit of your planning – write a short, ordered list of what you want to say.
  4. Tone – what kind of language, style and level of formality are you going to use? This will depend on how your organisation wants to come across – how you need to sound when you write and speak to be true to your brand. If you’re lucky, you’ll have a clear tone of voice to use and good guidelines to help.

When you’ve finished steps 1, 2 and 3, you’ll find you’ve done at least half the hard thinking your piece of writing needs, so your brain will be free to focus on actually putting the words down and getting the tone right.

So there you have it: four simple steps that make a world of difference, and that’ll help your messages hit home – every time.

Do you have a blueprint for writing success? Share it with us here…