One of the things I do on a daily basis is teach people how to write structured and concise text. And ever since I started blogging, I have been trying to do nothing but just that myself. I have always enjoyed writing, even as a child and it is something I have always been rather good at. For one, I am a quick writer. It only takes me an average 15 – 30 minutes to write the text of a 500 word blog. Not only am I quick, but I also write clear and well-structured texts. That is why I thought it would be a good idea to share with you some of my writing tips.
Apart from checking your spelling and using the correct vocabulary for what you are trying to say, writing is mostly about structure and organization. A well-written piece of text is structured and well-organized. Not only the text itself, but also paragraphs and the way you organize your idea before writing are important. So here are 3 rules of thumb you can use whenever you are writing a text to give it a better structure.
1. Organize your thoughts.
First you should know what it is your are trying to say. Write down each idea you have about a topic and turn these ideas into single sentences. These so-called topic sentences are very handy tools. Not only do they provide a guideline but they also form the basis of your text and you will be able to build the text around those sentences. After coming up with the sentences ask yourself the following: Which idea is the most important? What is the most detailed information? Answering these questions will give you a main structure for the text.
2. Organize your paragraphs.
You have determined your text’s main structure. Now you have to organize the actual content. A general rule of thumb is to use only one topic sentence per paragraph. This means you can only use one idea per paragraph to explain your topic. Applying this rule will greatly improve the readability of your text.
There is a choice of two flavors when it comes to writing paragraphs: 1. the pyramid structure or 2. the inverted pyramid structure. If you start with you topic sentence (the ones you thought of earlier) and then add sentences that belong with that topic sentence, but which give more detailed information about the concept then that is an inverted pyramid structure. This is the structure I use mostly in my paragraphs. Pyramid structured paragraphs start with the details and then work their way towards the main point or question. This is usually used to make people think about things as you sort of leave them hanging until the end of the paragraph.
3. Organize your text.
This third rule is something you do throughout the writing process. You usually make a basic outline using the main structure you’ve devised based on your topic sentences. However, as you are writing your text you will find that some paragraphs don’t fit nicely together or that the order isn’t ideal. This is a matter of reading and re-reading your text continuously until you are satisfied.
Nevertheless, you can use certain types of structures to organize your final text. First, there is the circle where the most important information goes first, followed by the least important bit of info only to work your way back up to the most important thing again. Secondly, you can use the pyramid or inverted pyramid structures here as well. You could go from least important to most important or from most detailed to broadest information. This would be the pyramid structure and you find it mostly in text books that you use at school. The inverted pyramid is another possibility and I guess for blogging, shorter texts as well as argumentative pieces, this is the best one.
Now have a look at this blog. Which structure do you think I’ve used to write this? Am I doing things I shouldn’t be doing?
Well in fact, there is. My main faux pas here is that I start of by having not one, but two introductions. The first one above the picture tells you something about my writing skills and the second one tells you exactly what this blog is about. Most text books on writing will tell you to never have two introductions, but as you can see here, it also depends on the purpose of your text how you end up structuring it. Are you trying to simply give some information? Or are you trying to convince your audience of your point of view? Depending on which goal your text fulfills you will have to choose the structure that fits best.
Hope this helps! Happy writing.
Which type of structure do you use most often?
3 responses to “Writing 101”
Honestly, we weren’t taught about paragraphs in this way with the pyramids.
We were taught when to start a new paragraph and even to indent it (but the latter is an old style now) but as far as the order of the sentences, we were left to get on with it. If the teacher thought we needed it in a different order, they would write comments as such and speak to us about it. So we learnt that way.
Therefore I have no idea which structure I use most often, it’s just second nature to me now.
Well I don’t tell my students: ‘this is a pyramid structure’ either. I just tell them to have one thought per paragraph and give them personal feedback where necessary. Works much better.
Hello! I could have sworn I’ve visited your blog before but after looking at many of the articles I realized it’s new to me.
Nonetheless, I’m definitely pleased I came across it and I’ll be bookmarking it and checking back regularly!