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1. Decide on who and why

2. Get to know the content

3. Put the best bit first

4. Slash everything else

5. Edit sentences

6. Put "if" before "then"

7. Demolish walls of words

8. Launch and land on the same name

9. Rest it then test it

2. Get to know the content

To identify what you have in your content, apply headlines.

A headline is a mini-sentence that conveys the main message of the content that follows it.

Turn existing headings into headlines

Just like any heading, headlines break up the content into chunks. But headlines have the extra benefit of helping people to decide whether to read or to skip the content that follows them.

Find each heading in your content and turn it into a headline.

Check that every paragraph has a headline

Look for any paragraph that does not have a headline. Write one for it.

If you cannot make a single headline for a paragraph, then split the paragraph up.

This technique prepares you for the next two

When every paragraph has a headline then you are ready for the next technique: 3. Put the best bit first

Do not worry about ending up with too many headlines.

When you have put the best bit first, you'll then go on to 4. Slash everything else. That's when you'll decide which parts of the content to remove.

Write headings as headlines

From Davis, R. (1997) Everything I know about life I learned from PowerPoint Russell Davis explains why it is important to create good presentations, and how to do it. "Write headings as headlines" is one of his many tips.

Try reverse outlines

The Writing Center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison explains how to do reverse outlines which is like doing step 2 and step 3 in one go. If you prefer that, please tell me.

Well-designed headings help

From James Hartley: "In a series of experiments with secondary school children [we] investigated the role of different kinds of headings .... We concluded that headings significantly aided search, recall and retrieval."

Hartley, J. (1994). Designing instructional text. London: Kogan Page. ISBN: 0-7494-1037-X

Try deleting the first bit

The introduction that we write to get started on writing is often not the best one for the reader.

Try deleting the whole introduction, or the first paragraph, or the first sentence.

from John Sankey CMG, PhD:"During my many years as a diplomat, I had to edit many documents. Nearly always, deleting the first paragraph helped a lot".

Where to find out more

Ginny Redish's book

chapter 7: Focusing on Conversations and Key Messages