Sunday, October 16, 2011

How to How-To: Part 1 - Introduction

Today starts a seven-part series on writing how-to information, which will explain some techniques and give you examples of how to use them in your writing projects. You’ll learn how to:

  • Determine your project’s audience and scope—to help you know who you’re writing to, and what your project will and won’t include.
  • Organize information into “chunks” that readers can absorb and digest easily.
  • Group similar information into bulleted lists, numbered steps, and tables—and know when to use each type.
  • Enhance your text with art, and how to do it effectively.
  • For books, develop a leak-proof index that points your readers directly to the information they need.
  • Edit down to the bone for clear and concise text.
Well-written how-to information is organized and presented in a clear, logical, and organized format. By applying these techniques to your nonfiction books, articles, proposals, and queries, you can improve their readability, appeal, and value.
With the proliferation of “info bytes” and Web content, writers need to know how to organize and present information logically, to catch and hold readers’ attention and interest. Clear, clean copy also reflects a professional approach and can help you establish and maintain credibility with audiences, editors, and agents.

Here are some projects that you can apply how-to writing techniques to:

  • Book proposals
  • Queries and other business correspondence
  • Grants
  • Nonfiction books
  • Articles
  • How-to and self-help books
  • Cookbooks (an excellent example of a how-to book)
  • Other instructions
  • Indexes
Next time, I'll explain how to figure out who your audience will be (who'll read your how-to) and how to “chunk” information into bite-sized pieces.
Happy writing!

Copyright © 2011 by Marilyn C. Hilton

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