I hope you’ve been having a lovely week so far. Today I want to share with you why you really need to plan your written texts before you start writing them. Don’t worry! It doesn’t have to be a long process – even just planning for a few minutes before writing will help you easily get your message across to your clients, colleagues, or students.
Why you need to plan your texts
Remember in school how whenever you had to write a story there was always a process? First you had to sit down and plan your writing. Who are your characters? What are their names? What’s the story about? Then you’d submit it, the teacher would correct it, and only then were you allowed to start writing.
Well, there was a reason for that.
Planning your text gives you time to stop and think about what you’re actually writing and why you’re doing it. Do you think I just sat down at my laptop and started typing away at this email hoping it would make some logical sense to someone? That’s a big, fat NO!
I worked out who my audience was (that’s you, my friend!) and what I thought would be most helpful to them before I even set pen to paper. (You know, fingers to keyboard just doesn’t have the same ring to it! ?)
There are 3 main benefits to planning your texts:
- Your audience has all the information they need so they don’t waste time asking unnecessary questions or clarifying information
- You get straight to the point and eliminate babbling, which saves you writing time and your audience reading time
- Your text actually achieves its purpose, whether that’s telling your audience about an event, process, or service
Planning your text, even just for a few minutes, can make a huge impact! This is a really simple yet effective step that will have you achieving your plain English dreams in no time! (wait, am I the only language nerd that has plain English dreams. . . ?)
How to plan your texts
When planning your texts, you need to consider three things:
- Who your audience is
- What information they need to know
- How to present that information
If you were here last week, you’ll know all about working out who your audience is. If you missed the post or need a little refresher, here’s a recap: to work out who your audience is, think about who you’re creating your text for. Is your text for students studying AMEP English classes? Or is it for native English students in a Certificate I in Disability course? Or is it for parents at a primary school who all have different language backgrounds? Remember that your audience is hands down the most important thing in determining what sort of language you use.
Once you’ve worked out who your audience is, you’ll need to work out exactly what information they need to know. Now, it’s very tempting to work out what information you want them to know, but I urge you to pause for a second and actually put their needs above your own. But how do you do that? Well, it’s super simple! Use words like who, what, where, when, why, and how to come up with questions your audience might ask you about the topic you’re informing them about. When you’re writing your text, make sure you answer all of these questions.
And finally, you need to work out the best way to present this information. There are so many different ways you can present a text. It could be a flyer, poster, email, SMS, video, audio recording, letter, booklet, blog post, PDF doc, or any other type of text. The options are endless. To work out what’s best for your audience, you really need to understand them and their capabilities. It may sound obvious, but there’s no point creating an audio recording for someone who’s deaf! Likewise, a non-native English speaker with low English literacy will probably not be able to understand a dense letter with lots of text. Perhaps a visual document with short sentences and pictures would be better.
This Week’s Challenge
So my friend, my challenge for you this week is to start planning your texts. Ask yourself who your audience is, what information they actually need to know, and what text type would best suit their needs.
I encourage you to follow this process for most if not all of the texts you create. For short texts, it may just be a quick 10 or 20 second check-in with yourself in your head. For longer texts, it could be a one-hour meeting with your team where you actually write out each step.