PM Article June 2020

Writing to catch stakeholder attention

Vikram Malhotra

Vikram Malhotra holds a PhD in Linguistics, and a masters in German studies. He is proprietor of a translation company, WordPar International. He blogs at https://www.wordpar.com/blog/ .

What to do when you write?

Have you struggled to put forth your idea in simple words? There’s a method in the madness and the trick to getting heard is that you must follow a certain process.

It is essential that the ideas are organised and a blueprint is created BEFORE beginning to write. This provides direction to the writer and ensures that the writer is in the clear as to what she/he wishes to achieve with each section and the article as a whole.

  1. Words Do Things

In the process of saying and writing, we do something. For example, when we say “good morning”, we ‘greet’; a paragraph in a letter to a landlord could ‘ask’ for termination of a lease agreement, another paragraph could ‘explain’ the circumstances for a premature request, and so on.

Notice how with a simple phrase “well done” one could either ‘praise’ or sarcastically ‘castigate or deplore’ someone, depending on the context. The awareness of the intended purpose is critical to being heard.

  1. Preparing the Blueprint

Many of us complain that our ideas are scattered and incoherent. The best way to deal with this challenge is to compare a text with a house. Just like an architect who creates a floor-plan before construction, we must first draw up a blueprint to organise our thoughts into the various sections of a text.

Generating Content

The first step in this direction is content generation. These are the ideas, facts and figures that are to be presented in the article. Brainstorming for a few minutes, researching for several hours, and accumulating the ideas in a single document provide the raw material.

Classifying & Organizing Content

Next, we must organise and plan the content to create a structured blueprint. This refers not only to the sequence in which the ideas are  presented, but also to the interweaving and a logical unfolding of ideas, one leading to the next.

Bear in mind two things while creating a floor-plan: One, know that every room in the plan has a specific function, which we do NOT perform in another. We know a bedroom is for sleeping and unwinding, and a dining hall for dining. We must bear in mind NOT to eat in the bedroom or sleep in the kitchen.  Unless of course, you want breakfast in bed.

Further, we have to classify relevant ideas and arrange them in a hierarchy of main-themes and subordinate ideas. Finally, we decide the sequence in which to present the themes, in order to complete the skeletal structure of the text.

The diagram below reveals the skeletal structure of this article. Note, how the main ideas of the text (highlighted in bold) form its blueprint.

  1. Construction of the Text

Once the blueprint is ready, begin to write.  Write about one theme at a time, remembering to stick to the theme and not to digress into the ideas of the other sections. Interconnecting with other aspects of the text is NOT the task for this stage. You can write about any section or theme in random order. Write the easier sections first, reducing the queue, and move on to the next.

Once all or most sections have been written, reorganise and connect them. Modify the sentences of preceding sections to lead to the idea of the ensuing ones.

Rearrange the sequence if necessary. The main theme of a section may be represented by headers. This practise is gaining popularity especially for publication on the internet.

  1. Writing the Introduction

The introduction is the first paragraph of a text. However, it must be the last thing to write. It is not merely a generalised discussion of the topic,  but rather an overview of the main ideas of the text that is about to be read. An effective technique in writing an introduction is to summarise and weave together briefly the main themes of the various sections, emphasizing the most important ones.

Analyse the introduction of this essay  and compare it with a more generic one drafted below.

« Writing texts is an important skill in today’s academic and corporate worlds. Texts include term-papers, process documents, manuals, and reports. Many students, managers and executives alike find writing a daunting task for lack of adequate training. Effective writing can be practised if we employ certain well-established steps that are discussed below. »

You notice how the brief preview at the start of this article is more effective than the generic introduction given above.

  1. The Conclusion

A conclusion usually emerges naturally when a text is created systematically and with due planning.  It is simply the concluding idea that one presents. It may thematically and logically be the last point in the series of propositions that are addressed in a text.

The conclusion, like the introduction, may also round up the essence of the article. The difference between the two is that they are placed at the extremities of a text, with the varied function of beginning and concluding a text. While the tone of the former might be to open a chapter, the latter has the tenor or bringing it to a close.