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The way I write more is by doing it every day. I write first thing in the morning (journaling and note taking) and publishing my notes (like this one). For work, I write product briefs to clarify the situation, my interpretation of the facts, and what we should do about it. I write memos for the team for anything important. I write investor updates. I do it without thinking—even when drafting a tricky email I’ll write it out to understand what I’m trying to do.
Categories are not a useful way of demarcating sections in a document because they don’t support the structure of answering the key question of the document. For example ‘Background’ doesn’t say anything and the reader is forced to read through the section to connect the ideas rather than providing it to them. Section titles should answer the next question reader has from the preceding section to make it easier to understand your argument.
Connecting key lines in a document is important to answer the key question and provide clear reasoning. To do that, structure the document using inductive arguments rather than deductive arguments. That’s because a deductive structure could introduce a large distance (number of paragraphs) between the problem and answer which the reader would be required to hold in their head and build their own connections which can be confusing and difficult to read.
A lecture from Kurt Vonnegut about how to analyze and critique fictional stories. By graphing the plot along two axes, Good to Bad and Beginning to Entropy, you can visualize the story and compare their shapes to other stories. It also shows that stories seldom tell the truth that we don’t know what the good news is and what the bad news is.
The Pyramid Principle by Barbara Minto.
Stands for ‘below the line up front’ as a way leading with the conclusion from a memo. This helps save the reader time when sending a communication to a wider distribution and raises ambient knowledge of the organization.
We can only read one sentence at a time, but the resulting information received is tree-shaped. This presents a challenge to the writer to ensure the transformation matches the intended tree structure otherwise the reader may misinterpret the ideas shared. That’s why organizing ideas is important and explaining the connections between ideas so the reader doesn’t have to.
When forming a horizontal relationship between ideas (e.g. supporting sentences of a summary statement), they should form an inductive or deductive argument. This makes the connection of ideas more clear to the reader and improves overall reader understanding.
To have clear writing, always give the summarizing idea first, before the individual ideas that are being summarized. This helps with clarity because you are providing the connection between the ideas upfront so the reader doesn’t need to make their own association which leads to confusion.
A theoretical tool that checks a piece of business writing against a set of rules from The Minto Pyramid Principle. Like a code linter, this would serve as a ratchet for improving the output of others—in this case, those sharing business writing like strategy memos, 1 pagers, and project briefs.