Adapted from Writing to Get Things Done® (WGTD) seminar
The gap between knowing and doing is greater than knowing and not knowing.
- Ken & Margie Blanchard
Do What You Know To Do In Your Life
This gap is real in much of what we do. We know to stretch our muscles before playing sports. We know to buckle up before starting a car. We know to wash our hands before eating. We know to eat healthy foods and get daily exercise. We know doing these things prevents injuries and promotes a long, vital life. Yet, we often don’t do them.
Do What You Know To Do In Your Writing
This gap is also real when business professionals write. We know that clear writing is clear thinking, framed for the reader, using plain language. To persuade our readers, we know to list key ideas and supporting facts before writing the draft. We learned how to outline ideas and write a paragraph in elementary school. But 99% of business professionals—from corporate presidents to interns—do not do it. They all know to do it—they just don’t.
The Rambling Prose Process
Instead, most people use what we can the Rambling Prose writing process. They type as they think through the content. For writers, the process generally looks like this, as they:
- sit down and bang out the draft
- read it
- rewrite it
- read it
- rewrite it
- close with,” If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me.”
- send it off in the hope that the reader will figure it out
Process Drives Outcome
In everything we do, the process we use determines the outcome. For example, well-trained motorcyclists know that when they look at an object in the road, they are more likely to hit it, because a motorcycle goes where the rider is looking. The same process-drives-outcome experience is true in writing. When people type as they think, there are predictable outcomes for the writer, the draft and the reader.
Outcome for the Writer
People often procrastinate, so they bang out the draft as they think it through. Rambling Prose causes an endless string of emails—the tag-you’re-it syndrome—where busy people fire off emails in the hope that something gets done. The problem is that our documents are difficult to read and are easily misinterpreted.
Outcome for the Draft
Drafts written with the Rambling Prose writing process look the same. They usually begin with background information, bury the purpose in the most difficult-to-find place, hide lists of key points, and lack transitions that tie ideas together into a cogent, memorable message.
Outcome for the Reader
Inadvertently, and unintentionally, the game Rambling Prose plays is “Let the readers figure it out.” The reader must quickly figure out the answers to three compelling questions:
- How does this affect me? What do you want me to do?
- What are your key points?
- What is the urgency?
An Example of Rambling Prose
You can see these outcomes in almost all emails of 100 words or longer. You can see these outcomes for the draft and reader in this example.
A Rewrite Using a Model from Writing to Get Things Done® (WGTD)
Shorten the Gap between Knowing and Doing—Do What You Know
In your personal life, remember to do those things that you know will prevent unnecessary injuries and promote a long, vital life. And in your writing, remember to do those things that you know will produce an easy-to-read document that gets things done.
Berry Writing Group Writing Tips
- Use a Forecasting Subject Line
- Put What You Want to Get Done in Paragraph One
- Five Ways to Make It Easy for Your Readers
- Avoid Worn-out Clichés in Your Opening Sentence
- Avoid Worn-out Clichés in Your Closing Sentence
- Follow Basic Email Etiquette for Greater Productivity
- The Harmful Effects of Rambling Prose
- A Strategic Advantage that Begins at the Keyboard
- Use Plain Language
- Use Short Sentences
- Use Short, Simple Words
- Write in Active Voice
- Avoid Hidden Verbs
- Finesse With Tone
- Find Your Hidden List
- The Productivity Checklist
- How to be Read in Government and Corporate America—Use the Models of Writing to Get Things Done® (WGTD)
- Clear Communication Drives Productivity
- With Procedure Writing, Point of View is Everything
- In the Heat of the Moment—If It Feels Good, Don't Do It
- Make Your Procedure a Thing of Beauty—Use an Appropriate Format
- Make Your Procedure a Thing of Beauty—Use an Appropriate Format (Example 2)
- A Tribute to the Gregg Reference Manual—the gatekeeper of business grammar since the 1950s
- The Benefits of Writing—Supported by a Phone Call
Stan Berry has devoted over 35 years to improving the writing skills of over 100,000 business and government professionals. After completing his Master’s degree from Yale University, he co-authored five books on writing that he uses in his seminars. He’s been a member of the American Society for Training and Development (ASTD) since 1975 when he served as the newsletter editor and on the Board of Directors for the Twin Cities Chapter. Stan can be reached at www.BerryWritingGroup.com or 612-578-1487.