Follow the writing process

Excerpt from Harness the Business Writing Process

There are five steps in the writing process:  Preparation – Research – Organization – Writing – Revision.

The time required to complete each step varies depending on the nature of the project. For instance, if you are a subject matter expert, you might not have to spend any time on external research. If you write a particular type of document regularly, you might not have to spend much time on preparation; you might even have a template you fill in each time you write.

When writing a formal report, you will spend more time preparing, researching and organizing. You might even have to produce a formal outline (an integral component of organization) for approval before you start to write. As you write, section by section, you might discover gaps in your knowledge and have to conduct more research and incorporate new material into your outline. When you complete your first draft, you will probably spend considerable time revising to ensure that your writing is as clear, concise and focused as it can be, and that all points covered in the report reinforce your purpose and conclusion or any recommendations that you have made.

Effective and efficient

If you follow the writing process, you will become a more effective and efficient writer.

Efficient writers spend time planning (preparation, research and organization) before they write. In addition, they allocate time for editing (revising and proofreading). This leads to the writing of effective documents, documents that achieve specific and clearly defined purposes.

Less efficient writers tend to spend more time overall on projects even though they spend less time planning. They also edit as they write, which is to say they write, tinker, write, revise, write, correct little errors and so on. This is not a productive way to write and, because less efficient writers don’t plan what they want to write, they end up with less satisfactory, or less effective, results.

It may seem ironic to say that you can become more efficient if you spend more time planning. However, the time you invest up front in preparation, research and organization pays dividends when it comes time to write and revise.

Think of writing as a trip. If you plan your trip, you are less likely to get lost and more likely to arrive on time. That does not mean you cannot meander as you travel. You can. However, if you meander and your side trip takes you nowhere, you will find it easier to get back on track because you have a road map or, in the case of writing, a process that includes a detailed outline.


Paul Lima is a freelance writer and business writing trainer. You can read more about him online.




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