When you’re thinking about writing more than a couple of hundred words, it’s worthwhile planning a structure. And there are quite a few ways to do it… here are just three:
The image is the plan I sketched out before starting to write the local primary school’s prospectus. We’d agreed a broad outline for the content – see below – and figured out we’d need a 16-page brochure. My task then was to organise all of the topics we wanted to include into a logical sequence.
To determine the content, I thought about the audience for the prospectus – parents thinking about sending their child(ren) to the school. Since my own daughter and son attend, I was at an advantage because I had personal experience of the situation. Even so, I made a point of talking to the school’s representatives – and other parents I know – about what they thought should be included.
With ideas about the content and page count in place, I wanted to have a visual guide too. The sketch that I created shows me what each page should look like and what each headline should be. I then mapped the content we had across to this rough layout and started honing any existing text and writing fresh copy.
The inverted pyramid
Broadcast, print, and digital journalists all use this technique when creating their news articles, since it puts the most important information first.
The approach dates back to the days of type-setting, when the simplest way to reduce an amount of text so that it fitted into a certain space was to take out words from the end. This encouraged reporters (who didn’t know in advance how much space their story would occupy) to get the most news-worthy elements as near to the start of the story as possible. Incidentally, this would mean answering 6 basic questions within the first few sentences: who? what? when? where? why? how?
Here’s how it looks:
When you’re writing a press release that you’d like published, this is also the technique to employ. For more on “How to write an effective press release” please go to this website’s Free Reads page.
The AIDCA technique
While this sounds like a title for a Robert Ludlum novel (the creator of Jason Bourne, and author of books such as “The Sigma Protocol” and “The Holcroft Covenant”), it’s instead a step-by-step guide to structuring your copy.
The first “A” is about Attention – competing with the thousands of other communications received by a reader and ensuring that it’s yours he or she pays attention to. The “I” is for interest – how do you arouse and maintain it? – and the “D” for desire – what can you do to engage emotionally with your reader? The “C” is about conviction – ensuring the reader is convinced by your argument(s), feels reassured and that the risk of doing something is minimal. The second “A” is about action – asking the reader to do that something that they weren’t necessarily considering before reading your text.
There are various ways to put each AIDCA step into practice (e.g. at least 12 types of headline exist and you can use them to gain Attention) – and too many to mention here. If you’d like to know more, please get in touch.
If your organisation commissions RichWords to assess some writing samples – with a view to editing, rewriting or replacing the text – we’ll use our PAGES analysis system to give you a structured response.
We’ll consider the Power of the vocabulary/overall message, its Architecture – as defined above – and Grammar, and also look at Eloquence and Style.
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