How to write clearly

1. Think before you write

Think before you write

Clear writing starts with and depends on clear thinking. Ask yourself: Who will be reading the document?

What are you trying to achieve?

What is the purpose of your document? After reading it, what will your readers have to do?
  • make a decision?
  • handle a certain situation?
  • solve a particular problem?
  • change their attitude towards something?

What points must the document cover?
  • Decide on your message
  • Make a list or bubble diagram (see illustration) containing all the points you expect to make, in no particular order.
  • Cross out the irrelevant points.
  • Link the remaining points into related groups.
  • Fill any gaps in your knowledge: make a note of facts you will need to check and/or experts you will need to consult.
This approach applies to practically all non-literary texts: memos, reports, letters, user guides, etc. For formal documents such as legislation, specific draft­ing rules must be followed.


An alternative is the ‘7 questions’ approach.

This is a structured method of covering relevant information:

WHAT? My essential message

WHO? Persons concerned

WHEN? Days, hours, timelines, deadlines

WHERE? Places

HOW? Circumstances, explanations

WHY? Causes and/or objective

HOW MUCH? Calculable and measurable data


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