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The four step writing process

Have you ever spent hours staring at a blank page or writing, only to realise your draft doesn't achieve its purpose? This four-step process provides a framework for staying on track when writing any document, including letters, emails and reports. 

1. Planning

Planning is the most important and often underutilised step in the writing process. It can take anywhere from five minutes to 50 minutes or more, depending on the task. To plan effectively, ask yourself four simple questions:

  • Why am I writing this document (what is its purpose)?
  • Who will be reading this?
  • What information do I need to convey?
  • How should I present my message?

To get your ideas down on paper, try using a brainstorming tool such as a mind map or flowchart.

2. Writing the draft

The second step is concerned with layout, format and structure of the content, and development of your message. If you planned properly, you've given yourself a head start! Your document must flow logically and be concise enough to engage readers, but not so brief that it skips important details.

A standard format for developing your message

Introduction

Introduce subject and purpose.

Set the mood (tone and language).

Encourages readers to read on.

Body

Discuss the facts.

Develop the message.

May include text, bullet points, tables and headings.

Conclusion

State or restate any calls to action.

Leave a positive impression.

If appropriate, say thank you or offer assistance.


3. Editing and revising

You may have edited while you wrote your draft, but that doesn't mean you can skip this step! Now it's time to critically evaluate your writing from the reader's perspective by asking questions such as:

  • Have I addressed my purpose clearly?
  • Does the content flow appropriately for the reader?
  • How will the reader comprehend my choice of language?
  • What is the underlying tone of the document?
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With the rise of plain English, business writing has become more simple and direct. When you edit, remember it is ok – and often best – to use common, shorter words and minimise jargon.

4. Proofreading

Proofreading is different from editing as it focuses on spelling, typos, punctuation and grammar. This is more than just a quick skim – proofreading even a brief email properly can make a big difference to how others perceive your business.

Some tips for better proofreading:

  • Take breaks between writing, editing and proofreading.
  • Proofread a printed hard copy.
  • Proofread multiple times, focusing on different aspects.
  • Ask someone else to read it.
  • Use a ruler to focus on the line you are reading or follow each word with your finger.
  • Read backwards sentence by sentence or word by word for spelling.
  • Use the spell checker and look up any words you're not sure about in a dictionary.

By following this process, you will not only feel more organised and confident but also increase the chances that your writing will achieve its desired outcome or purpose.

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