Benefits of Structure

, Sep 5, 2011

Whether it’s some project-internal documentation, a public presentation, training material or any other kind of technical content, I find it amazing how often the very simplest advice could help the authors improve their work dramatically: Add some structure.

I’ve just seen yet another document where the authors describe their outline in the introduction, and then proceed to ignore it; where random bits of information are inserted in the middle of a section they clearly don’t belong to; where a topic is picked up, dropped, picked up again, and finally left hanging in some state of limbo.

I find that structuring your thoughts is the very first thing you should do when you create content for others to consume. If you don’t do this before you start writing, at the very least have the courtesy to do it before you hand it over to anybody else to look at. I find this just as obvious as making sure there are no spelling errors. Apart from making it a lot easier to make others understand what you were thinking, it helps you think in the first place.