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Editing Tip: Consider Structure

November 28, 2017

 

Language, voice, content—these techniques hog the spotlight among critics, reviewers, and, subsequently, readers. Yet structure can make or break writing (think The Argonauts or A Girl Is a Half-Formed Thing). It is the roadmap to content—where it all fits in—and without it, writing can be jumbled, confusing, or long-winded. Structure is the gift that keeps on giving.

 

So how can you give the gift of structure to your writing?

  1. Outline that…stuff

    It doesn’t have to be pretty. It can be scribbles on scrap paper, but keep it off to the side. As you write, reference it for guidance on what goes where. Tweak as needed.

  2. Need some space up in here.

    White space provides a visual break, and prompts the reader to take a moment for reflection and jot down key takeaways. It can also prep the reader for topic X’s intro.

  3. What’s our status?

    Headers act as signposts. They breakdown content into smaller, concentrated sections for easy consumption. Bonus: they solve the whole transition problem.

  4. Give it character.

    Just like that original crown molding, the finishing touches are in the details. Try multiple fonts (3 max) to differentiate text (ex: title, section title, paragraph) for added interest and to define its function on the page. Just make sure it doesn’t look like a cut and paste job.

  5. Be original.

    Whether inserting supporting tables or graphs, blocking out quotes, or highlighting bullet points, spicing up the page engages the reader (we like visual cues! Just ask John Medina author of Brain Rules) and directs them to the goods.

  6. Hello New York!

    Consider your audience. How do you want them to respond? A business pitch won’t be structured the same way as a blog post.

  7. Nice form.

    Form and function shouldn’t clash. Look at structure as the peanut butter to your jelly. Without it, the bread gets mushy.

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