Some key questions to ask when writing
Here are some starter questions to bear in mind when thinking about writing something. They may help to give form to your ideas.
- Who am I writing for? — Who is my audience?
- What am I trying to explain? — What are the key facts?
- What is the desired outcome of my communication?
- What type of communication is best suited to this? — What tone of voice is appropriate?
- How much text shall I write? — What supporting illustrations etc are needed?
- What is my timescale and budget?
This will determine the type of language you should use – simple or technical, academic, legal, familiar or distant. Asking yourself who your audience is, and what they need to know, or what they care about, will help you find the right words to explain the issues you are writing about.
Think about the key facts. Plan a coherent narrative to explain everything to the necessary level of detail. This will determine how the account is presented – if it is a book, how the chapters are planned, whether illustrations are required or helpful, etc.
This relates to the previous point. You may be setting out to explain something, or to sell something, but be clear in your own mind from the outset what that thing is, and how you are going to achieve it.
The intended purpose of the communication, the subject matter, the audience, and also the organisation you represent must all be reflected in the language and overall tone of voice you use. They will also determine the medium that is most appropriate – for instance a book, report, information leaflet, or web report.
How much is enough will follow on from your answers to the preceding questions. ‘Write only as much as is needed’ may be a useful rule of thumb, but it is important to cover the necessary ground in sufficient detail. It may be appropriate to present key findings in a brief overview or summary, with supporting information in the form of an appendix or information pack. Similarly, the issue of what, if any, supporting illustrations are needed must be considered.
These are crucial considerations, both drawing from and modifying your responses to the above points.