Creating a Document Step-by-Step

(Overcoming Blank-Paper Phobia)

1. Jot down your main points (quickly).

Don’t get caught up in the complexities. Begin by quickly jotting down all of your main points in no particular order. Don’t worry about word choices, organization, grammar, etc. Just get the thoughts down before you forget them. This brain dump will help you feel that you’ve accomplished something, and your screen (paper) won’t be blank anymore!

2. Create a logical order (a.k.a. outline).

Arrange these thoughts into a logical order that tells your story or makes your point. Some people call this an outline, but if that gives you bad flashbacks to your middle-school English class, you can call it whatever you want.

3. Make a rough draft.

Flesh out the items in your outline to create a rough draft. This is the time to choose some specific words, and form complete sentences and paragraphs. Check to make sure the order is still working—does the text flow logically from one paragraph to the next?

4. Make a final draft.

Edit and refine the text. Read the entire document through the eyes of your intended audience. What issues or questions does each sentence or paragraph raise? Is each question answered in the subsequent sentence or paragraph? Are there any potentially confusing sentences? Did you have to reread any sections to understand them? If so, re-word them or rearrange them. Are your sentences primarily active (rather than passive)? Is the document convincing and interesting?

Rearrange, reword and reformat your text until you’re satisfied that your document accomplishes its goal. Remember to use headings and bullets to help ease the reader through your text, and always do a final check for spelling and grammar!

5. Have someone else do a test read.

Before you send off the final document, get a second pair of eyes to check for things you might have overlooked and to give feedback about the content.