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How To Be A Better Writer: Plan Your Writing

November 18, 2019
Plan your writing

Following the results of our State of Content Survey 2019, we’ve created a series of articles called How To Be A Better Writer. Together, they form a practical, step-by-step guide to improving your written communications. In our first post, we explore how to plan your writing.

Whether it’s a text message, email, social media update or magazine article, we all write at some point during the day.

And although we might think about the content of the message, we don’t always give our words the consideration they deserve. Do they clearly communicate what we want to say? Are they compelling? Will they convince the reader to take action?

At Method Marketing, we believe that planning is crucial to making our words hit the spot. At the root of our content are six simple questions:

  1. Who?
  2. What?
  3. Why?
  4. Where?
  5. When?
  6. How?

These questions help you consider your audience, your message, your reason for writing, your platform, your deadline and your format. Once you have answers to these questions, you’ll be able to write an effective message.

Once you have answers to these questions, you’ll be able to write an effective message.

We’ll go through each of these questions in turn, with examples, so you can plan your writing.

Who?

Without getting too philosophical, you’re likely to write with a reader in mind.

Writing is a means of communication; you’ll want to convey meaning to the reader, whether it’s your mum or your potential customers.

Identifying your reader at the planning stage allows you to pinpoint your target audience before you start writing. Your tone of voice is dependent on that audience. For example, the tone you take with your mum will differ from the tone you take with potential customers.

It’s important to remember that your tone may vary across customer segments and personas too. For instance, you might take a more formal tone with a B2B audience, and be more casual B2C.

What?

When you’re planning your writing, ‘What?’ refers to your message.

‘What’ is the meaning you want to convey. Do you want to invite your mum over for dinner, or do you want to tell your customers about a new charity partnership?

Our advice? Try to keep this to one or two key messages, even for a long-form article. It keeps your writing focused, so you don’t go on tangents.

Ask yourself: If my readers only take one thing away from my writing, what would it be?

Why?

On the face of it, there might not be a reason why. However, if you dig down, you might be surprised.

For instance, if you’re inviting your mum for dinner, your ‘why’ might be thanking her for something.

Likewise, if you’re sharing a marketing communication about a charity partnership, you may want your readers to do something. Do you want them to make a donation? Or to share the news with their friends?

By honing in on the ‘why’, you may find it easier to write a compelling call-to-action.

Where?

The final destination of your words will affect how and what you write.

If you’re writing a WhatsApp message to your mum, it’s likely to be brief and personal.

If you’re writing about a charity partnership for the local newspaper, your word count will be higher and the language more formal.

When?

This question relates to the timeliness of your content.

If it’s a text message, it probably won’t go out of date. However, if you’re writing about a charity partnership, you may want to write a news story, which is timely and relevant.

Bear in mind that if you’re writing about your company’s CSR activities, you may prefer to write ‘evergreen‘ content. This refers to content that never goes out of date and rarely has to be updated. Be mindful of including dates and references to time (i.e. ‘last week’, ‘today’ etc.) if you’re writing evergreen content.

How?

This refers to the format of your writing.

If you’re writing a message to your mum, a WhatsApp message might suffice.

However, WhatsApp’s unlikely to be effective if you’re contacting a newspaper about your business’s charity partnership. Instead, you could write a press release that a time-poor journalist can copy and paste into layout.

Plan Your Writing: In Summary

Planning doesn’t need to be a time-consuming step, but it does lay the foundations for your message. It ensures you adopt an appropriate tone of voice, format and content, so that your readers understand what you’re trying to say.

These two, very different, examples show how six simple questions can help you to plan your writing.

Stay tuned for part two of How To Be A Better Writer.

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