Monday, November 03, 2014

The Reading Writing Continuum, Step 5: Read to Assess the Content and Structure

After drafting, we must acknowledge that good writing is rewriting. There are no shortcuts.

So how do we start rewriting? By reading what we wrote: reading silently for the logic of the message (revising, step 5 of the Reading-Writing Continuum), then reading aloud for the fluency of the language (editing, step 7), and finally reading silently again for overlooked errors (proofreading, step 9). But I'm jumping ahead; let's start with revising (step 5), your first reading after completing a rough draft.

During this step, you are making a big leap. Through step 4, you have been reading and writing for yourself, to get those ideas on the screen or on paper. Now you are reading and writing for the readers, reflecting on their concerns about your ideas. You are no longer just engaged in some sort of internal monologue. You are simulating a dialogue with your readers. Let's say you wrote, "We have a problem in the production unit." At the least, you must decide whether your readers would ask the following questions:

  1. Who asked for your opinion (authorization)? 
  2. What is the problem (problem)?
  3. By what measure have you identified the problem (standard)?
  4. What is the current situation (status)?
  5. How does the problem affect the business (impact)?
  6. How did you determine the root of the problem (method)?
  7. Did any factors prevent a better analysis (limitations)?
  8. What is the root of the problem (cause)?
  9. What choices do we have to fix the problem (options)?
  10. By what measures are you comparing each option (scope)?
  11. What are the advantages and disadvantages of each option (comparison)?
  12. What is the best option (recommendation)?
  13. Why is yours the best choice (benefits)?
  14. What is the next step to eliminate or alleviate the problem (plan)?

You have begun reading for completeness. The list above is by no means comprehensive, but it is a solid start. If your readers would not ask these questions, then you do not need to address them; if they would, then you do.

At this time, you will also need to read for organization. You should determine whether the ideas connect sensibly throughout the draft. I offer tips on organizing ideas in the next
WORDS ON THE LINE post, step 6 of the Reading-Writing Continuum: Write to Focus the Ideas.