Coloured pencils. These are a good tool to help you plan your writing.

Plan your writing

Investing time in planning your writing is one of the best ways to improve it. Effective writers devote 40 percent of their time to planning, 25 percent to writing and 35 percent to editing. Yet many people dive straight into writing. This approach often means your writing takes longer, but the quality isn’t as good.

These 10 steps will help you write a great report, but whatever you’re writing, planning helps you organise the ‘big picture’ elements of your writing. These are:

  • a clear purpose
  • content that supports the purpose
  • a clear and logical structure
  • headings that act as signposts for your readers.

Writing a plan from scratch can seem daunting, but it doesn’t need to be. Follow these 10 steps to create a plan:

  1. Ask yourself who are you writing for. This person or group is your target audience.
  2. Think about the purpose of your writing?
    For example, do you want to inform, express an opinion, explain a decision, influence an opinion, give advice or entertain?
  3. Write the purpose of your writing, clearly and specifically, in one sentence.
  4. Put yourself in the shoes of your target audience. What questions will they have?
  5. Think about what else you need to tell your target audience to achieve your purpose
  6. Write down the topics you need to cover to answer your audience’s questions and achieve your purpose.
  7. Highlight the most important message. 
    Tip: this may be a recommendation, decision or action needed.
  8. Starting with your most important message, put your messages or topics in a logical sequence.
  9. Look at your purpose statement again. Are all the messages or topics in your list necessary to achieve your purpose? What’s missing? Revise your list.
  10. Finally, think about the information you need to write about your topics. Do you have it, or can you get it? Make a list of what you need.

Depending what you’re writing, planning can take as little as 10 minutes.

Follow these 10 steps every time you write something new, and planning will become a habit, not a chore.

If you have an important report to write, a professional writer and editor will save you time and give you a high-quality product. I’m an Accredited Editor who specialises in plain English writing. Contact me to help you plan, structure and write your documents.