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1. Decide on who and why

2. Get to know the text

3. Put the best bit first

4. Slash everything else

5. Edit sentences

6. Put "if" before "then"

7. Demolish walls of words

8. Launch and land on the same name

9. Rest it then test it


2. Get to know the text

Apply headlines to identify what you've got in your content. You will decide later which bits to keep and which headlines to keep as headings.

Write a headline for every bit of text

A headline is a mini-sentence that conveys the main message of the text.

To get to know the text, write a headline for every bit in the text.

What's a bit? Often: a paragraph. But it might be: a sentence, a word, a video, an image, or any other bit of content that creates a single piece of the conversation. Or a heading.

If you cannot make a single headline for a paragraph, then split the paragraph up.

Decide whether to keep some headlines as headings

The best headings are also mini-sentences that can stand alone, without the content that they introduce.

Good headings will:



Write headings as headlines

From Davis, R. (1997) Everything I know about life I learned from PowerPoint Russell Davis explains why it is important to create good presentations, and how to do it. "Write headings as headlines" is one of his many tips.

Try reverse outlines

The Writing Center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison explains how to do reverse outlines which is like doing step 2 and step 3 in one go. If you prefer that, please tell me.

Well-designed headings help

From Hartley, J. (1997): "In a series of experiments with secondary school children [we] investigated the role of different kinds of headings .... We concluded that headings significantly aided search, recall and retrieval."

Try deleting the first bit

The introduction that we write to get started on writing is often not the best one for the reader.

Try deleting the whole introduction, or the first paragraph, or the first sentence.

from John Sankey CMG, PhD:"During my many years as a diplomat, I had to edit many documents. Nearly always, deleting the first paragraph helped a lot".

Where to find out more

Ginny Redish's book

chapter 7: Focusing on Conversations and Key Messages