Tackling a Blank Page Through Audience, Purpose, and Means
When we’re presented with the task of writing a document, it can be a daunting experience. You might feel it’s hard to start writing when all you see is a blank screen in front of you—even though you know the content and know it well.
So, how do we get past this initial challenge?
Begin with three key ideas. Think of:
The purpose of your document, and
The means of presentation.
Who is your audience?
The individuals who will read your document—from executive directors, managers, colleagues, or the public.
Your audience will determine how you begin writing. By keeping them in mind, you can adjust your writing style to catch their attention.
If you’re writing for an executive, keep things clear and concise by providing a summary. They have limited time available to delve into a document, but they still need information on what is happening and if any issues will arise.
If you’re writing for a manager, they may want more details. They may want these specifics to determine if a project, for example, requires more time, more monetary adjustments, or more people.
If you’re writing for the public, use plain language, keep it concise, and above all else, be professional. You’re representing yourself and your organization and want to represent it well.
Now that we know who you’re writing for, the next step is to think about your document’s purpose. What type of information or message are you wanting to provide, and why are you writing this document?
Are you trying to:
Prompt a decision?
Perform an analysis?
Sell a product/service?
When you think about your purpose, you should focus on your document’s desired result.
Before you begin writing, jot down your document’s purpose. By having it in writing, you can refer to it, especially if you feel you’re getting off course while creating your first draft.
The last item to think about before beginning your first draft is how you want to present your information. In many cases, you may be asked for a specific style of presentation, such as a report or proposal. Other times, it is up to you and your team how to present your information.
Many focus on:
Emails and team postings
Proposals and reports
Newsletters and PowerPoints
Each means has a specific format that should be followed. These formats help ensure your audience will understand your purpose and your subject clearly. With specific headlines, visuals, and the use of white space, you will maintain your reader's attention.
A traditional proposal will include an introduction, a problem statement, objectives, methodology, timeline, deliverables, pricing, and terms and conditions.
A traditional report will include an introduction, a method, results, discussions, and a conclusion.
These traditional formats follow quite different styles as they have two different purposes. A proposal sells an item or service, while a report provides information on a project. Proposals are typically oriented toward specific teams within larger organizations for a project, while reports are often oriented toward executives.
At Scriptorium, we offer services that help staff find their way to that finished document. We write and edit for various means, working alongside you and your team to get that customized documentation to the finish line. We also offer business communication courses through Sidelight, where our experienced instructors (and writers themselves!) help your team discover their writing skills, giving them the confidence to tackle any documentation project that comes their way.
Need writing support? Want to learn how to write better business communications? Contact us for more details at: firstname.lastname@example.org.