About Structured Writing

Structured Writing is a modular, topic based approach to writing that speeds up writing time, makes content easy to find, use and understand, and enables efficient content reuse.

Why use Structured Writing?

Structured Writing is based on the psychology of how we read, process, remember and retrieve information. It provides a systematic approach to analysing user needs and organising and presenting information so it is easy to find, use and maintain.

Structured Writing is also an ideal method for segmenting and storing content in content management systems, and creating content that can be reused in multiple places and output formats.

Who uses it?

Structured Writing benefits anyone who needs to:

  • improve their business writing skills
  • create content that is easy to read and understand
  • create more effective documents in less time, and
  • make complex information clear.

Structured Writing is also an essential skill for technical writers, instructional designers or those who need to:

  • create large amounts of content, such as knowledge bases, policy and procedure manuals, user guides, training materials or web content
  • write information for multiple audiences with different information needs
  • use a content management system, or a DITA/XML-based authoring tool
  • design a structure for a knowledge base or large bodies of information
  • develop content for single sourcing and multi-channel publishing, or
  • write as part of a team and need a common documentation standard.

Toolbox for plain language writing

The International Plain Language Federation defines plain language as follows:

A communication is in plain language if its wording, structure, and design are so clear that the intended readers can easily find what they need, understand what they find, and use that information.

There are many guidelines and standards that describe what plain language looks like. Structured Writing is more than that. It’s the complete toolbox for creating plain language communication.

How does it work?

Structured Writing provides the tools and techniques to analyse, design and develop user focused content. This table describes the Structured Writing process.

Phase Description
  • Establish a clear purpose
  • Analyse the needs of the audience
  • Analyse the content

Result: A clear understanding of your purpose and audience, and what information to include or exclude.

  • Build a structure for the content based on the results of the analysis
  • Apply cognitive science principles for chunking
  • Incorporate labels and signposts
  • Sequence content for the purpose and audience

Result: A modular structure that makes intuitive sense — your roadmap for development.

  • Write using plain language principles
  • Format and present for accessibility and ease of use
  • Combine words and images
  • Edit for accuracy, consistency and readability
  • Validate usability

Result: Well crafted, consistent and effective content.

Learn Structured Writing

All our writing courses impart the principles of Structured Writing. Each course focusses on different document types:

  • Business Writing: This course is for you if you write common business documents like emails, reports, proposals, business cases, presentations or work instructions. More about our Business writing workshop
  • Technical Writing: For people who develop or maintain large amounts of content such as manuals, user guides, standard operating procedures, training materials or knowledge bases. More about our Technical writing workshop
Thoroughly enjoyed this short course. It was on point, engaging and I really feel armed with new knowledge and tools to improve my work. Thank you.- Workshop participant, Fab Group
Great content, tutor and learning environment. Highly recommend it. Looking forward to putting my new writing skills to use.- Workshop participant, NZDF