Mastery of your subject matter is a basic requirement for clear writing. Weak writing will usually result from lack of subject matter preparation
A two step process is involved here – acquiring knowledge of the subject, and expressing that knowledge clearly. But how well you perform the second step depends to a large extent on how well you have accomplished the first. . You can’t write about a subject that you know little or nothing about, whether you are trying to educate the reader, advocate a position, or persuade the reader to your way of thinking.
Following the steps below will go a long way to satisfy your reader that you are knowledgeable about your subject.
Research Your Subject Thoroughly.
In the first place, if you are writing about a subject you are not familiar with, research it thoroughly. This is where doing your due diligence really pays off. Take time to acquire enough background information to satisfy yourself you can write clearly and with authority about your subject. This will pay enormous dividends for you. Otherwise there is a serious likelihood the reader will simply conclude you don’t know what you’re talking about.
If possible, find someone to review your writing with you. One of the biggest challenges I faced as an attorney was to read enough cases on the issue I was researching to satisfy myself I could intelligently answer any question raised about that issue. After writing a preliminary draft I would review it with someone else in the office, and then make appropriate revisions based on questions raised. The litmus test of course was answering questions raised by the judge in court and responding to arguments made by the opposition. Thorough preparation before going to court was always the key.
As a writer you may not have the “luxury” of responding to questions raised by a judge and by the opposing attorney as a means of testing your preparation. You must therefore try to anticipate questions the reader may have and then answer them in your writing.
Use Effective Research Techniques.
The creation of great content flows directly from effective research techniques. These typically include at least the following:
- Understand what you have read.
- Look for main ideas and supporting details.
- Organize your notes in logical sequence
- Avoid the tiresome task of excessive note taking. Summarize as necessary. Don’t get lost in the forest of too many words by extensively rewriting what you have read.
- Make optimum use of your time in doing research. If you’re under a writing deadline consider budgeting your research time to make sure you do not spend too much time in any one area and run out of time in another. Otherwise, some part of your writing may suffer.
As an example of descriptive paragraphing, the next blog, a historical vignette entitled “Gettysburg – The Battle Which Determined America’s Fate,” will be posted on Monday, February 20, 2012, in honor of President’s Day. A follow up to the present blog will cover writing with authority and polishing your writing, respectively It will be posted on Wednesday, February 22, 2012.
Copyright 2012 Arnold G. Regardie. All Rights Reserved.