The structure of your report, blog post, advertisement, article or professional whatnot matters.
You can have the most impressive vocabulary, and a way with words that makes people around you swoon. But if you don’t know how to properly present yourself in writing with a diverse, engaging structure, then you should stick to speaking.
Your printed or online products just aren’t going to get you very far unless you understand how to format them.
I’ve accidentally touched on this topic twice now in the last few months:
First with a previous professional writing tip back in April, “Why White’s Important Too”
Then with creative Writing Rule #24, “Don’t Bore Readers in Your Rising Action Scenes.”
However, I think the subject of structure warrants a full blog post all to itself.
As a quick recap, “Why White’s Important Too” was about using white space in writing, and how it can actually encourage people to respond to your message in positive ways.
A versatile piece of structure, white space is simply anywhere on a page that isn’t taken up by words, images or videos. When well-managed, it makes what you’ve got down more engaging and therefore more profitable, giving readers a visual pause that allows both their eyes and brains the chance to rest for a moment.
Readers aren’t robots. They tend to process information much better when you give them little rests here and there – rather like a college professor who divides his lengthy lecture into two parts: before the bathroom break and after the bathroom break.
Moreover, readers tend to appreciate the very fact that you’ve been so considerate – making them that much more susceptible to whatever you want them to feel or do.
Unintentionally building off of that post, Writing Rule #24 adds a new layer to the structure story:
Our imaginations and very lives are designed to appreciate diversity. In so many ways, we’re attracted to what’s different, drawn to contrasts and changes for the simple reason that it breaks up an otherwise monotonous existence.
Monotony is uninspiring, to say the least. And, just for the record, uninspiring is the very opposite of what we should be trying to convey in this entertainment-driven society of ours. If we want to reach the masses or even effect a small handful of people, we writers need to be engaging.
Like really engaging.
So here’s a short list of how to accomplish that with nothing but structure tips:
Use varying paragraph lengths, erring on the shorter side – Once again, that allows readers to mentally breathe, which allows them to digest what you’re saying better.
Play around with bullet points – Readers love bullet points because they make the typical tendency to skim so much more worthwhile. (Extra tip: If you have a detailed list of them, put spaces in between each to play off of white space some more.)
Employ embellishments – In the creative writing world, I normally tell my clients and students not to bold, italicize or underline their words. In a story that’s already working with so many emotions, those font additions can make things look hokey way too easily. But with professional writing, whether it’s in a blog post, a news article or a company report, some well-placed trimmings can be eye-catching enough to push people into reading more.
Add in hyperlinks – Hyperlinks are great for a whole plethora of reasons, but for now, we’re sticking with the structure perspective. So here’s the way to look at it… That pop of blue in a sea of black and white is different and therefore, in this case, attractive.
Actually, bullet point 4 highlights the two key words you want to keep in mind when working on structure: diversity and attraction. Formatting your message as one monotonous blob isn’t pretty.
And when it comes to writing, a pretty structure can get you so very far – maybe even where you want to go.