1.4 Developing and Preparing Documents
Garner then recommends that the writer use the raw ideas and form them into complete sentences, which are then organized into sets of main points and those are put in a logical order. The Judge is the quality control manager who does the cleanup and the polishing, everything from tightening language to correcting grammar and punctuation. Forcing oneself to just write, ignoring rules and conventions allows us to get words on paper, which we can then modify, move, expand upon, and revise.
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In this lesson, I’ll give you some ideas for developing and preparing your documents. First, the more traditional approach, and then a somewhat modified version recommended by Mr. Brian Garner. When writing a document, the traditional approach involves the following steps. First, determine the goal or intent of what you are about to write. Second, brainstorm all the ideas, concepts, issues, facts, and evidence you could potentially include. Then you will organize all that you’ve brainstormed in terms of chronology, complexity and importance, and from your organization structure, then you’ll determine the main ideas of your document and organize them into the flow that makes the most sense. From the main ideas, you will write your draft allowing the words to flow and not concerning yourself with editing or revisions. Revise your document for content, flow, and message. Edit your document to ensure that you have made the best word choices and eliminate acronyms, jargon and colloquialisms. And the final step is proofreading for typographical errors, spelling, spacing, and punctuation. A different approach, developed by Brian Garner, in the Harvard Business Review Guide to Better Business Writing, looks at preparing business documents as going through four phases, the Madman, the Architect, the Carpenter, and the Judge. The Madman gathers material and generates ideas. Garner recommends keeping track of points, ideas, and facts and opinions in a spreadsheet. The Architect organizes all of the information collected by drawing up an outline. Garner then recommends that the writer use the raw ideas and form them into complete sentences, which are then organized into sets of main points and those are put in a logical order. The Carpenter puts thoughts into words, lays out the sentences in paragraphs by following the Architect’s plan. Garner says the key here is to work on a tight schedule because in his opinion, the key to writing a first draft is to write quickly. The Judge is the quality control manager who does the cleanup and the polishing, everything from tightening language to correcting grammar and punctuation. These two methods are very similar and all the steps in the traditional methods are embedded in Garner’s Approach. There are two items in Garner’s Approach that I find quite powerful. The first really useful suggestion Garner makes is in the Architect stage. Garner suggests that the writer forms the raw information, collected by the Madman into complete sentences. These sentences are then categorized. The categories of sentences can then be put into a logical order. I think you can see that in doing this, you as the writer will have a series of sentences categorized and placed in order. From there, you should relatively easily be able to turn those sentences in each category into a paragraphs and the paragraphs, which are already ordered, become the body of your document. Garner’s second really useful suggestion, in my opinion, is in the Carpenter phase. Garner recommends that the writer force him or herself to write quickly using some sentences formed by the Architect as a base. He recommends paying little attention to grammar, word choice, sequencing, or any other components of writing but to just get words on paper. He goes even further to say to start in any section, and if you get stuck just move on to another section. I particularly like this recommendation because it is always so much easier to edit text that already exists than to write a unique document. Forcing oneself to just write, ignoring rules and conventions allows us to get words on paper, which we can then modify, move, expand upon, and revise. I find this approach to be very effective. Regardless of the approach to writing a document that you choose, you should always begin by considering your goal, the purpose of your document and your audience. Keep these things in mind as you begin to write. Write quickly and write without regard to the rules. Just get the words on paper. Plan to spend much more time editing and revising than you do drafting.
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