by Cris Yeager | DIGITAL MEDIA GHOST | WRITING
Structure is one of the most important elements of any piece of writing, regardless of genre or subject matter, make sure the next piece of content really makes an impact! It can be easy to write and keep writing, but if your writing doesn’t have any type of structure, your content can feel disjointed and unorganized, making it difficult to read and understand. Whether you’re working on an article, an eBook, or just doing some freelance writing, these techniques will help ensure that your writing is clear and easy to read. You don’t want your readers to get lost in the shuffle!
#1) Ensure you have an introduction, content and summary
The most important structural tool for a writer is his ability to craft a complete thought. A long, rambling paragraph might have some impressive verbal pyrotechnics, but it doesn’t matter if you don’t know where it’s going. Start with an introduction that addresses your topic head-on and then follow up with examples or points that support your case. Make sure that each sentence builds upon your last until you arrive at a solid conclusion at which point you should offer some parting thoughts. Use this technique for each paragraph, section, scene, article or blog post.
#2) Understand your audience's needs
Understanding your audience isn't a huge undertaking. Ask yourself: What do they want? What’s important to them? However, don't place a limit on just those questions. This exercise will give a solid idea of what approach to take while writing your content. By imagining what your audience's questions will be and answering them ahead of time, it will help inform decisions like whether or not you should use complex vocabulary (or even slang). This is one of my favorite writing hacks. If you could write something that gives your reader exactly what they need, or answers their questions, then why wouldn't you?
#3) Outline your writing before starting
Developing a solid outline before you start writing will help you structure your piece and make sure you hit all of your key points. For example, if I’m writing a 500-word essay about my favorite book, I might spend 20 minutes outlining what points I want to cover—like why the characters are relatable and how it impacted me personally—and then dive right into drafting. This is especially helpful when you’re starting a big project and aren’t quite sure where to begin. An outline can give your project some structure and help get it off on the right foot!
#4) Have goals when writing
If you’re writing fiction, it might be easier for you to get started if you can break your book down into individual scenes and plug them into the outline. This will make it easier for you to write one chapter at a time (or even one scene at a time) rather than trying to start in mid-conversation or mid-action. The same thing goes for nonfiction writers who have strict word counts they need to hit. If you know that there are certain sections that are going take more effort, figure out ways—either through research or previous experience—to help get those sections written quicker so they don’t slow your progress.
#5) Write something every day to reinforce and maintain skills
While you can be a natural-born writer, writing every day helps you reinforce your skills. Try writing something every day that you won’t share with anyone else, like a journal or stream of consciousness ramblings—you’ll be amazed at how much practice it gives you. Some days are harder than others, but practicing for 10 minutes a day is better than not practicing at all. Make writing part of your morning routine: Set aside 15 minutes in the morning to write.
#6) Use good grammar structure
The foundation of good writing is good grammar. Grammar isn’t just there to make sure you’re understood; it also plays a crucial role in helping your readers understand what you mean. Sure, spelling counts, but readers can catch misspelled words on their own. If you misuse your and you’re, though, they might never know what you meant at all. The more technically proficient your writing is, meaning that it follows standard grammar rules—and has no spelling errors—the easier it will be for your reader to get what you mean quickly and efficiently. This brings me to my next few points, which I'll break down here since we're on the subject:
#7) Use white space and separate longer paragraphs
When readers start a piece of writing, they will immediately look for a way to make sense of it. White space is a great tool for making your writing more approachable. Using white space between lines and varying line spacing will help guide your reader from one thought or point to another. Without adequate white space, people might feel overwhelmed when trying to take in everything you’ve written. Find a balance that allows your reader enough room to breathe while reading your content; it’s hard (and unnecessary) to cram too much onto one page or screen. The last thing you want is for the audience to land on your content, take one look at that long paragraph at the beginning and decide it's far too long for their time to even read it.
#8) Use prepositional phrases and adverbs sparingly
Prepositional phrases and adverbs can weaken your writing. Using them too often or simply because you don’t know what else to do with your sentence will cause your writing to become clumsy and meandering. Instead, use phrases and adverbs as tools sparingly. Good writing means saying what you want to say with few, if any, adverbs. You'll still want some variety, but pick your modifiers carefully. Take an objective look at your prose—where are you using words like very, just, and completely? Could you use more precise words instead? Instead of saying that something is just awful, why not describe how it makes you feel?
#9) Put the Grammar Police badge in the drawer and reasonably write
If you want your writing to have impact, it needs flow. Look at those sentences from a non-grammatical point of view and you’ll see that they follow a logical order. It’s only by carefully selecting which ideas to put in front of which other ideas that we can write something that feels logical—even if it isn’t grammatically correct. Each sentence will read better, feel more natural and leave a better impression on people reading it—all because you’ve used a little bit of logic instead of trying to stick too rigidly with grammar rules.
#10) Put important paragraphs at the beginning
Put your paragraphs, sections, or points that are critical to your argument at the top of your writing. Don’t bury these key sections in obscure sections of text that no one will ever see. This is a favorite of my tips because it can make a huge difference in how many people read and follow along with what you have to say. Who doesn’t love to skim? Everyone does, myself included. If I can get all of my main points up front without too much effort, I'm more likely to stick around for more details further down in the content.
#11) Have a clear purpose and convey that to your audience
The words you write should always be done with a purpose. Whether it’s for work or as a hobby, if your writing doesn’t have a clear purpose, you run into problems later on. For example, if you’re writing about an idea or something that happened in your life, it helps to have a hook that makes people want to read more about it. Or if you're making a sales pitch for a product, consider how your copy can create a sense of urgency and make customers feel like they need to buy now.
#12) Use your personality to tell the story
In order to connect with your audience, you have to be yourself. By showing people who you are as a writer, it will be easier for them to connect with you as a person. If you have something interesting about yourself that is important and relevant enough that others might want to know, then use it in your content. Once readers feel connected and at ease reading what you have written, they will likely return again and again for more of what interests them.
#13) Don't over explain the topic
Most people have a tendency to write everything they know about a subject. If you find yourself doing that, stop and take a break. You can always add more if needed. And believe me, it's needed! Readers hate to read a lot of content that is just fluff—so save them from going blind by structuring accordingly. Imagine you're presenting what you've written as a speech, and try to decide how much detail will make sense for someone who has never heard of your topic before.
#14) Choose a writing style and and be consistent
Each writer has a distinct style, whether you realize it or not—even you. No matter how you write, sticking with a consistent voice and style will help build your audience and encourage readers to return. Not only does writing in a simple style help you avoid wasting time with needless frills, it also makes it easier for readers to pick up on your message. Use bullet points or numbered lists when appropriate, but avoid rambling sentences whenever possible.
#15) Get rid of fluff words and phrases, filler is not needed
Let’s talk about fluff words and phrases that aren’t needed. These are common in everyday speech; they act as fillers or make what you’re saying more pleasant. But they should be avoided unless they add value to your message. Phrases like 'at any rate, in other words, and with all due respect' can be immediately eliminated. They don't move your point forward.
#16) No need to use unnecessary information, be direct
When you’re writing, use simple sentences and be direct. Let your reader follow along without too much effort. Aim for structure, not showiness. An editorial piece can be a highly emotional read with beautiful passages if it serves a purpose—but don’t let it get in your way of being direct and getting your point across as quickly as possible. You should try to make a point first and then back it up with examples or quotes from related texts. Don’t go off on an unrelated tangent if you can help it—if you do, come back quickly and tie it into what you were talking about before.
#17) Audio record thoughts and discuss them with yourself, use transcription
Transcribing your thoughts is a great way to stimulate creativity. The process of transcribing gives you time and space away from writing. Think about it: if you were forced to sit down and write every day without stopping, you might be stuck trying to come up with new ways of expression or might be exhausted by your daily word count. By recording your thoughts first, then sitting down to put those ideas into motion, you allow yourself room for discovery and exploration. You might be surprised at what you discover about yourself and your thought process!
#18) Cut the redundancy
While some redundancy is perfectly acceptable (and even necessary) in speech, it’s not often a good idea for written communications. But using redundant words and phrases are just wasted verbiage that could be better used elsewhere. Be ruthless with your writing, editing out as much wordiness as possible. Ultimately, efficiency will be rewarded over superfluous wording and content—no matter how smart-sounding those words might be.
#19) Reiterate key ideas so readers can remember what they learned
A common writing tactic called recapitulation is one way you can make sure your audience remembers what they read. Basically, recapitulation involves reiterating key ideas throughout your writing so people can remember what they learned from reading your content. If you're looking for a great way to help people quickly grasp complex information, give it a try. It's particularly useful if you're trying to convey how something works or why something matters.
#20) Relax—you're not writing the most important document in history
Although you're trying to get your point across, a key tenet of writing is to have fun. If you're not having fun writing a particular piece, it'll come across in your prose. Don't stress—you're just trying to get your thoughts down. You can fix problems in editing—then go back and add any finishing touches. That's what editing is for—to polish your piece so that it sparkles! Don't worry about being perfect.
Perfect your writing structure
There are few things more important in writing than structure. By following a certain structural pattern, writers are able to give their readers exactly what they want every time. When you’re trying to perfect your craft as a writer, be sure you’re constantly looking for ways to add structure into your work. You don’t have to stick with one method throughout a piece of writing, either; try using a different approach for each section if it helps keep things interesting.