Organize Your Material
Organize your material in a way that helps readers to grasp the important information early and to navigate through the document easily. Your document will be an interruption to your reader’s busy day. They’ll read
in haste, picking out the information relevant to themselves. They’ll be asking
two questions with every sentence they read:
- So what?
- How does this affect me?
Plain words and short sentences will go a long way to helping them find the
answers. But you will also need to organize the material so that the reader
can extract what they want in the shortest possible time.
Several models are useful:
(1) Top-heavy triangle. Put your most important point first, follow it with
the next most important, and so on, until your last paragraph includes relatively
||Request for leave
||Thanks for your email yesterday
||The managing director has agreed to your request to take special unpaid
leave immediately after your visit to Athens. It is vital, though, that
we have a brief written report of your key findings as soon as the business
part of the trip is completed. Will you please fax this to us on 24
||As your flight was booked some time ago, please liaise with Michael
South about rearranging the return leg.
||Hope this helps. We’ll speak again after Tuesday’s meeting
(2) Problem – Cause – Solution
state the problem – You asked me to find out how a batch of chocolate
came to be contaminated during the night shift on 25 April.
state the cause – What seems to have happened is that some inadequately
treated reclaimed chocolate was added to the mix. This occurred because the
reclaimed chocolate was mis-labelled and stored in the wrong part of the factory.
then say what should happen in the future – The contaminated batch
will have to be destroyed; the cost of the loss is about £2,800, taking everything
into account. I have told supervisors to tighten their procedures for labelling
and storage. They’ll be reporting back to me next week.
(3) S-C-R-A-P (Situation, Complication, Resolution, Action, Politeness) – A
corny mnemonic, but useful.
||Order for 5 Sky-Fly hang gliders, £2,250 each
||Thank you for your order dated 17 December; my apologies
for the delay in responding.
||The manufacturers have recently withdrawn the Sky-Fly
and now offer a much improved model, the Sky Jet. I enclose a leaflet
which gives details of all its features.
||Although the price of the Sky Jet is £255 more than the
old model, I can offer it to you at a special introductory price of
£2,385 until 10 January next. We could let you have immediate delivery.
||If you would like to order the new model at the discount
price, do please give me or my assistants a call.
||I look forward to hearing from you.
So, Organize Your Material in a way that helps readers to grasp the important information early and to navigate through the document easily.
• Keep Sentences Short.
From Organize Your Material to HOME PAGE
• Use words your readers are likely to understand.
• Use only as many words as you really need.
• Prefer the active voice.
• Use the clearest, liveliest verb to express your thoughts.
• Use Vertical Lists to make complex materil understandable.
• Keep Electronic Text Communication simple.
• Put your points positively when you can.
• Reduce cross-references to the minimum.
• Try to avoid sexist usage.
• Avoidable English Errors are so many.
• Avoid fusty first sentences and formula finishes.
• Put accurate punctuation at the heart of your writing.
• Avoid being enslaved by seven writing myths.
• Plan Before You Write.
• Organize your material in a simple way.
• Consider different ways of setting out your information.
• Devote special effort to producing lucid instructions.
• Use clear layout to present your plain words.