The Importance of Structure
Developing a simple framework for your writing before you start can save considerable time and will prevent the text from meandering.
You will often be able to use the titles of the main sections as headings and subheadings within the text since these help the reader to navigate through the piece. However, even if the section titles are not desired in the finished piece, they still help you as author to structure your writing to the desired framework.
There is no one set structure or framework that covers all possible forms of written communication, except perhaps that writing should start with an introduction and finish with a conclusion. There are however many examples of structures for different forms of writing available on the web and within study guides.
Two examples of common structures for writing different types of communication are provided below. Many variations on these frameworks, as well as other frameworks for different purposes, exist but if you have been given a framework to follow you should use this instead. Whatever structure you choose for your writing, start by beginning to flesh-out, in note form, the section headings with the main points that you wish to include.
Examples of Structures:
A Written Report
Reports are always presented in sections and subsections since they contain a lot of information which needs to be organised in a way that makes sense to the reader.
Sections are often numbered and long reports should include a title page and then a table of contents which lists the section headings and subheadings, preferably with page numbers.
- Title Page
- Contents Page
- List of Illustrations (optional)
- Acknowledgements (optional)
- Abstract/Summary/Executive Summary
- Background/Literature Review
- Research Methods/Methodology
- Recommendations (optional; in some business situations, this section may be included at the beginning of the report)
- Further Research
A Press Release
A press release is a written statement to the media and could be used by an organisation to generate a news story.
Since journalists receive numerous press releases every day, the key aim is to capture their interest quickly and provide them with contact details so that they can follow up the story. Note that the headings and subheadings provided below should not be included within the press release but are provided to help you structure the text.
- Statement “For immediate release” or “Embargoed until (date and time)” as appropriate
- Headline (a short, attention- grabbing summary of the story)
- Photo opportunity (optional)
Paragraph 1 Lead Sentence: Summarise the story - who, what, where, when and why. All key information needs to be in this paragraph and it needs to continue the reader’s interest from the headline.
Paragraph 2: Include more details to flesh out the story that you outlined in the first paragraph
Paragraph 3: Quotes from someone relevant to the story. Each quote should make one point. If you wish to include more than one point here, use quotes from different people.
Paragraph 4: Any additional relevant information
Note for Editors (background information; whether you can offer interviews or additional pictures; any additional relevant information)
Developing a structure or framework for your writing will ensure that the most important points are covered at the appropriate point in the writing.
A framework such as the Written Report Structure, above, will also allow you to break down the daunting task of writing a report into more manageable sections.
For example, being asked to write a 10,000 word report is an intimidating prospect. However, if you decide to adopt this framework, you should then allocate an appropriate number of words to each section. Writing a 500 word introduction is much less daunting a task than writing a 10,000 word report. Adhering to your framework will also prevent you from writing too many words for one section and then having to delete these as you need “those words” for another section.
Whatever structure you choose to use, you should constantly check that you are adhering to it: if you find that your structure does not work then revisit it and research to see whether another structure might be more appropriate.
You should also check the flow of your text as paragraphs should flow from one to the next and you should conclude one subject area before introducing another. Hopping from one topic to another with no clear structure confuses the reader and demonstrates a lack of clarity.