Part1: Six Basic Steps


Organize Top-Down
Verify and Revise



Don't get it right; get it written. Writers who try both to write and revise at the same time often lose their sense of direction and purpose. They also lose time.

Try to write continuously. You can do that since you have already thought the document through and recorded your plans in the Focus Statement and the Tree. Follow the Tree like a map, filling out each of the ideas. Since you will come back to the draft later to revise it, you don't have to get everything right. You just have to get it written. Of course, you will occasionally run into problems that cause you to stop and rethink; the procedure will suggest ways of handling them.




The Tree is your guide for the document. Use it. Put it up on the wall or on the desk in front of you so you can look up and see where you are in the document's conceptual structure and what's around you as you write.

Because you have thought the whole thing through, you can now write the sections in any order you wish. Writing from the start is the "normal" way to write -- from the introduction straight through to the conclusion. To follow this path through the Tree, you start at the top by writing an overview of the whole document. Then do the the left-most limb of the Tree by writing a brief introduction for the first section and then the section, itself. If the Tree is tall (for a long document), you may need to write similar introductions or overviews for the subsections. After you have completely filled out the first limb of your Tree, do the same for the next one, until you have written the whole document

Alternatively, writing top-down is not the way most people write. However, you may find it useful, particularly for large projects where you need to produce something early that shows your overall approach. To write this way, start at the top and write an overview for the whole document or project. Do the same for each of the major sections on the first level. At this point, you have a brief -- probably two or three page -- summary of the document. Then work your way down the Tree, one complete level at a time.

Another alternative is to write in random order. You may have fifteen minutes to work; you want to get something done, so write a short section in the middle of the Tree. Or you don't have all the data for the first part of the Tree but you do for the second, so write that section first. Since the Tree lets you see where any piece fits into the whole, you can easily see what comes before a section, what that section is about, and what will come after. Any problems caused by writing this way, such as transitions between sections, can be smoothed out during revision.

In responding to problems, the main thing is not to lose your momentum. If you have a problem with a word or sentence, give it two or three tries. If you're still not satisfied, mark it and come back later. You'll be amazed how the right word will just pop into your head or the words in a troublesome sentence will straighten themselves out.

However, for large structural problems, stop. Rethink. Don't try to write your way out. Go back to the Tree where you can see the whole context and work out a solution there. Since you have now broken your momentum, be sure you have gotten the Tree right before restarting to write.

As you write, think strategically . Keep in the back of your mind all the thinking you did earlier about your readers and your intentions. If you have to convince some readers, think about what they believe is important: time, costs, accuracy, quality. Then explain your reasons or point out the benefits of your proposal in those terms.

Where you are explaining or presenting data, put your information in context. Use descriptive headings to help readers know what to expect and to help them skim.

Write overviews or introductions for each section. That's the perfect place to point out benefits and to preview what is about to follow. For each paragraph, be sure to include in one sentence the paragraph's main point. Usually, this sentence will be the first, the second, or the last one in the paragraph.

Finally, format similar information -- definitions, equations, procedures -- similarly each time an instance appears. That way your reader can easily recognize the type of information being read. (For more on this, see Formatting in Part 2, below.)

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