Challenge #7: Not Knowing How Best To Structure Your Communications

… or not even realising that structure is important!

Let’s expand on the cookery book example mentioned previously. We’ve already realised that the ‘how-to’ information given for each receipe should be in a certain order, so that the food is prepared well.

Most people would also realise that the receipes in the cookery book would be easier to find if arranged in a certain way. But how do we organise our receipe collection – in alphabetical order maybe, or grouped according to the type of food (for example: starter, main course, dessert, …)? Alternatively, perhaps we should consider arranging the receipes by country of origin? Potentially, there are many different ways of organising the same information.

Taking this example a step further, where in each receipe do we put the list of ingredients? Where in the book do we explain the quality of ingredients required, if important? Do we describe some basic ‘building blocks’, such as making a simple sauce, for each receipe (where relevant)? Or do we keep the sauce making details in a separate section? If separate, how do we relate the sauces to the receipes, and vice-versa?

Even in this seemingly ‘well-known’ example of a cookery book, there are quite a few things to think about. But how do we tackle a book project if the subject area is not so well known to the author, or if the intended readers are not familiar with the subject area?

Solution: Make it easy for readers to find what they seek

The answers to these questions lie in making it easy for your intended audience to find the section or paragraph they are looking for. They then should also be able to follow easily the sequence you have chosen within each section or paragraph.

So break down your whole book into manageable chunks – into chapters, sections and sub-sections. Do this in a way that would be easy for the reader to understand. That is, start from the readers’ understanding of the world. So if you use a hierarchy of ideas to structure your work, make sure that the reader would understand the logic of your structure.

Then label each chapter, section and sub-section with easily understood headings. The headings should sum up the content below them.

When describing a process or procedure, keep the steps in the logical sequence small enough so that all your readers can follow you, but not so small that you bore them with too much detail!

For further help with the structure of your documents, get the support of a good coach.

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