Part 1: Six Basic Steps


Analyze Readers
Organize Top-Down
Verify and Revise



During Explore, you got your ideas out in the open, looked at them from different angles, thought about different possibilities. It was an expansive period where you consciously avoided closure in order to keep possibilities open. During the Analyze Readers step you went through a similarly expansive kind of thinking as you tried to identify who all might read your document, what they know and don't know, and how you want to change them. While it is important to keep you options open so that you can think creatively, at some point you have to commit to writing a particular document. Now is that time.

Commit by answering the four questions in the procedure. They will help you identify in very general terms some of the major characteristics of your document. The answers constitute a Focus Statement, a point of reference to keep your thinking on-track.




In answering the first question, you describe your subject matter in a single sentence, condensing it to its essence. That sentence is like a very brief, high-level summary of the content of your document.

The second question should be easy. To answer it, just compress the thinking you did in the Analyze Reader step into a brief description of each major reader or group of readers.

The third question gets at your purpose for writing the document. It's often hard to separate purpose from subject matter, but keep in mind that the first question is concerned with content and the third with what you want your readers to do with that content. If you have different purposes for different readers, write brief purpose statements for each.

The fourth question is different from the other three. It gets at some of the more subjective aspects of writing. To answer it, imagine that you are reading your document to your readers. How do you want to sound to them? Friendly. authoritative, funny, perhaps even angry? All documents have tone, since all words have connotations and associations as well as meanings. Be honest with yourself when you answer this question; you can use this information to guide you as you write and later as you revise your words and sentences.

In addition to helping you aim the document, this four-step procedure will also help you write more succinctly. Describing your main point in a paragraph is easy, but doing it in a sentence is hard. You have to step way back and think in a very general or abstract way. If you don't know precisely what you want to accomplish or how you want to sound, you will tend to wander around until you get your bearings. By forcing yourself to decide these things early, you eliminate a lot of that wandering. And the quicker you get to the point, the right point, the less time it will take you to write it and your reader to read it.

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