Because Small Business is Big Business

Organizing Information

When developing written communicate make sure you cover the basics by organizing information in a logical, easily understood manner.

organizing informationThe simple “Rule of Thumb” is the following:  Always, always, always make an outline before starting the rough draft. An outline will keep the information organized and prevent you from putting material where it doesn’t belong.

This step requires putting the information into some logical order. Group information about a specific topic or subtopic together in a section – i.e., make an outline. You undoubtedly remember being required to hand in outlines for papers in junior high or high school. Most of us moaned and groaned over this requirement, often wondering what the point was.

The point is that outlines keep you organized and save you a great deal of time in the long run. For instance, for a brochure put out by a lawn and landscaping service, all information about weed control would be together, not dumped in with information about retaining walls for a landscaped area. Spotting the information that is out of place, missing or even unnecessary is far easier when you look at an outline than if you try to plow your way through a page or two or more of text that is written out.

The outline does not necessarily need to be in the form that we learned back in school:  Roman numerals, capital letter, lower case letters, numbers, lower case roman numerals, etc. Circles and arrows work if the main points at least have numbers next to them so that you present them in a logical order. Numbering the sub-points is also a good idea. If you are giving instructions, step one comes before step two and so on, like in a recipe. You can’t bake the cake before you add the flour.

Most communications will be front-loaded (Some people refer to this as the “direct approach.”), meaning that the main point is stated at the beginning. On occasion, some background information may need to be provided first. This pattern is called back-loading (or “indirect approach’). Ask yourself if the person receiving the message needs to be filled in on background information before the main point can make sense to him or her?

Check out the book A Guide to Communication Basics for Business Owners and Managers for additional tips organizing information when writing.