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Thursday
Nov242011

4 Ways to Write Quickly

“Well, just bash it out. Even if you have to do it all in bullet points and stitch it up later.”

That was Elaine’s response to my comment that I had, in effect, only a few hours in which to write a comparative review of two educational technology products, obtain all the specs, and come up with ratings and an incisive conclusion, and all in 1500 words.

My cup of tea froze halfway to my lips.

“Bash it out?! Stitch it up? I’m not some hack who just churns the stuff out like a machine. I’m a craftsman. Each article is a work of art, each word carefully selected having been hand-picked from the millions of words available. The result is a thing to be admired, savoured, treasured even.”

“You mean like haute couture?”

“Indeed. Exactly so.”

Use the tools at your disposalBut actually, Elaine had a point. The great thing about a word processor is that you can just “bash something out” and worry about the order later. Here are a few techniques you might like to try. They are not mutually exclusive.

Use bullet points

Even if your article is not going to be in the form of a list, getting all the main points down in the form of bullets allows you to get the main ideas down quickly. You can always worry about making it flow (or, to use Elaine’s picturesque description, stitching it up) later.

Reorder lists

Once you have a list of points down, you can easily reorder them if you are using Word (and probably other word processors too). Just click the mouse in a sentence to be moved, hold down the Shift and Alt keys, and press the up or down arrow. That will move the whole point up or down. (Note that I use a PC, so the actual keys you press may be different if you use a Mac or an iPad.)

Use paragraph headings

This is similar to lists, but using paragraph headings, by which I mean text formatted with a paragraph style, not only means that the main sections will stand out from the rest of the text, but that you can use outlining if you wish. (See below.) See 13 Things You Didn't Know About Word: Paragraph Styles for more information about paragraph styles.

Use outlining

Outlining is a nifty little feature which lets you do two things. First, you can view the whole document as a set of headings, so you can see the structure of the article without getting bogged down in all the detail. Second, you can then, if you like, change the order of the headings, and hence the structure of the article, in much the same way as you can reorder lists (see above). When you move a heading, you automatically move all the text in that section along with it – but only if the heading has been formatted with a paragraph style. Simply underlining it and making it bold won’t work. See 13 Things You Didn’t Know About Word: Outlining for more on outlining.

So there you have it: four ways of getting your ideas down quickly before they fade away. Even skilled craftspersons can benefit from working quickly sometimes!

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