A good structure for your writing is important if you want people to read your work, and if you’re a student, you want to guarantee a good mark and to pass your assessments.
Well structured work is easy to read and your audience will understand your points and follow your arguments. In this post, I’m going to outline the steps required to ensure you have a good structure to your work.
How to create a good structure
Let’s start with some factors that all contribute to a solid structure.
Before writing your work out you should take time to plan what you want to say. What are the key points you want to make? How will you develop your arguments? You should find it beneficial to create an outline plan which identifies your headings and the key points you want to make before you start writing up your work. When I’m writing, I might start with my headings, but then I actually write out the questions I want each section to answer.
When writing, you want to make your work easy to read and easy to follow your arguments. Headings make this easy – they indicate where your argument is going and how you will develop your work. Plus if you’ve made a plan, you already have your headings.
From a lecturer/teacher’s point of view, it also makes it easy to find the answers to the questions. If you have been asked to identify 3 types of training methods, each method could have its own sub-heading. I call this signposting – showing me where I’m going to find the relevant information.
A good structure allows your work to flow well. I mean that the different sections are connected and there’s a smooth transition from one point to the next. You also want to ensure that your arguments etc are delivered in a logical order.
When making more than one point with your work, you want the connections to be seamless. There is nothing worse than reading something that feels broken and disjointed – that a point/paragraph ends abruptly and then the next paragraph introduces a completely unrelated topic. This becomes more important the longer your work becomes. If your work doesn’t flow well your reader could get confused and even stop reading.
As well as your work having a clear and logical structure, its also important to think about what your work looks like. Does it look tidy? Layout is important; It may be less relevant to blog posts, but if you’re creating a word document for a course assessment, for example, you should think about page breaks, margins, the size of the font and the font used itself. For some of the work I mark, these elements all contribute to the overall mark, which can be up to 25% of your mark.
When using fonts etc, you should ensure you’re being consistent … keep to the same font type and size in each paragraph unless there is a clear reason for any changes. When students don’t follow this suggestion it sets of alarm bells and we think plagiarism.
Finally within this category, I would also include ensuring your work is free from spelling and grammatical mistakes. Ensure that you have good punctuation and you’re not making too much use of colloquialisms and contractions, particularly in formal academic writing.
I’ve gone over some of the key aspects to consider when creating work – blogs, assessments or other forms of writing, but what should a basic structure itself look like?
|Title||You need to ensure you provide a title for your work and if its a report or something similar, also think about a Title Page|
|Introduction||This should grab attention, but should also indicate the purpose of your writing – briefly outlining what you’re going to do in your work. Depending on the type of work you are creating you may also wish to contextualise. For example, many of my students are producing reports. A report usually has some kind of problem to explore, so this should also be contextualised within the introduction.|
|Middle||This section should be broken down into the different themes or ideas you are writing. This is where you answer the questions or make the points you want to make. This is why you should have a plan – it helps you organise your thoughts and ideas and you should be able to present your arguments in a logical and clear fashion and with a piece of writing that flows well.|
You should present each idea, concept, thought in a separate paragraph so each paragraph should be only dealing with a single focus.
|Conclusion||Your conclusions are not simply a summary of what you have said. You should look back over your work and identify the key points from your work – what are the main points you really want to emphasise – that’s your conclusions and the thing you should be doing here.|
Typically the conclusions (and recommendations if you’re writing a report) should not contain any new information. If you get a eureka moment while writing your conclusions, you need to go back and put it into the main body of your work.
I hope the above guidance will help give you some direction for structuring your writing. A few final points to make which will, I hope, help you produce a better written, presented and structured piece of work are provided below:
Appropriate format and tone
Be sure you have a clear understanding of your audience and your writing, tone and the language used are appropriate. For example, if you’re writing a personal blog, the language will be less formal than if you’re writing a report for a senior management team.
This leads onto a connected point – this is particularly focused/directed at students – be aware of the format requested in your assignment brief – if you’re asked for a report, answering questions, presentation notes – you must ensure you give your assessor what they’re asking for.
Make sure you write in the correct person – I’m writing this in the first (I) and second (you) person. This is good for a blog or a personal diary/journal, but if you’re writing an academic report or essay etc, you should be writing in the third person.
Also, linking to writing, you should ensure you’re writing in properly structured grammatical sentences and paragraphs. Please also ensure your work does not contain spelling mistakes. Be careful with the use of spell-checkers – you still need to proof read your work as a spell-checker will not be able to tell you if you’ve used a “wrong” word – misspelling a word but still producing a word – contact instead of contract for example.
I love writing, and I hope you will too, but it helps to develop good writing skills which help you produce better quality work. I’m hoping this post will help many people, but if you have any comments or questions, I’d love to hear from you through the comments section.
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