Structured Writing

When I was going through School – Jr. High / High School – Those years were you begin to learn about life, love, why it’s important to wash your face and wear deodorant in public, part of my education that I remember very well is the art of the Five Paragraph Essay. The idea is a structured method of writing that guides you’re composition, It’s actually not a bad idea if writing doesn’t come naturally to you or if you’re just at a loss on how to approach your topic. But if your going to use a structured composition method I have a few idea’s to help you step away from the formality of structured writing, and to give your content a little more of you.

Someone Said It Better.
I remember being told that you should start your writing with an “attention getter” an often recommended example was quoting another author. This is touchy – I often use quotes in my writing, but there are better and worse ways to use a quote. Here’s a general suggestion that I feel comfortable giving to other writers. Attention getters supposedly pull the reader in, but using a block of text from someone else, can take the focus away from your thoughts and advice. If you have to spend the rest of your composition living up to that first text block, we won’t get to all that you have to say.

Try something small – a song lyric, a common turn of phrase, a line from the Simpsons – and reinterpret it in a way that helps make your point.

Take a Stance; Are You for, or Against.
This goes to the argumentative structure of composition writing, and it’s ingrained in our culture. We value the knowledge of experts, and experts know the answer.
But few of us are experts, most people are muddled and curious about the best answer. don’t try to play the expert all of the time – if the basis for your content is that it “seems to be” to you, or that it has worked in your experience – then go with that – you don’t need to tell people how it is, it’s okay to let them know how you feel. In a conversation people don’t want a lecturer, and when becoming part of a community, conversation is what you want to foster (exception to this is in cases like Wikipedia; you should know your material if you contribute to that venue). When you are speaking to people, you will want to develop trust. Trust comes from developing what your audience is looking for, whether it’s your story, your advice, or your expertise – in short your readers are not always looking for the expert advice – you can be open, honest, even unsure, and you can ask for advice or a better idea while you’re giving advice to others.

There is a write way to write and a wrong way.
There is no way to respond to that. Saying that it is wrong, is to clearly state that there is a right way to write. But in light of what I was taught in school I will say that I was never taught to believe in my own voice as a writer – and voice is one of the most important things I’ve found. Even research papers have voice – though generally the pressure is to use the academic voice – But what about your voice – the voice the yells when Lebron dunks (do we still call it dunking?), the voice that talks back at the radio announcer in the car? doesn’t that voice have anything important to say?


There is a reason why the fiction sections are in the center of barns and noble, the how to books “for dummies” do well, and why the new york times best seller is rarely that no nonsense masters thesis on the mating habits of mice… it’s because most people don’t want a text book. people take more interest when someone speaks on their level. present your information, but don’t talk down to your readers – talk to them and talk with them.


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