Create a structure for your business writing to help you write quickly and effectively.

Let's hear it for structure in business writing. Photo: Chris Halderman

I wrote recently about taking three steps to better business writing. Creating a structure for your writing is essential for the first step: being clear.

Structure helps your reader find their way through your text. Once you've got a clear structure in place, you can set about making your words really stylish and persuasive.

But how do you build an effective structure?

1. Give yourself a brief

Just like a copywriter, you should set yourself a brief. This helps you focus on your reader and what you need to tell them. So, for example you might say to yourself: "I need to write an email to all staff encouraging them to take part in the company's volunteering day."

2. Start at the top

Next, start building your structure. Try putting the roof on first — write the headline to guide you. For example, if you're composing an email, sum up what you want to say in the subject line. You can always refine it later but it'll give you something to work from in the meantime. So, if you're giving people advice on email writing, you might choose something like: "How to write the perfect email."

3. Write an outline

Now you're ready to create the outline. You can use bullet points to set out the distinct points you want to make, starting with the most important. But check that each one adds something new to your argument so you don't let any waffle creep in. You want your structure to be water-tight.

4. Set a word limit

Finally, set yourself a word limit to work within. This will help you choose your words carefully and creatively. You can think of this visually — to fit half a page of A4 paper or a preview screen in Outlook, for example.

In our next post, we'll show you how to build your argument effectively.

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