Word count: 380
Estimated reading time: 3 minutes
Image by Dr Craig
When we were kids, my siblings and I would complain to our mother if she let any of the food on our plates mix together. We didn’t want the peas mixed in with the mashed potatoes, for example. Not even close. Keep everything in its own separate part of the plate, please! (We were a lot like the TV character, Adrian Monk.)
My Mom or Dad would usually respond, ‘But it’s all mixed together in your stomach! What’s the problem?’ And that would frustrate us to no end. ‘We don’t want it mixed together in our mouths!’ we would whine. ‘It tastes bad!’
As Westerners, we weren’t served the beautifully presented meals you get at Japanese restaurants—where every type of food is artfully displayed on a separate part of the tray, frequently in separate bowls or plates. You know precisely what’s there—sushi, tempura, rice, fish, fruit—nothing gets mixed up. It’s a child’s dream meal, where you can eat the well-organised ‘work of art’ one distinct bite at a time.
What does this have to do with business writing?
Well, think of it this way. Even though you might not mind having the peas and potatoes get mixed together on your plate, you certainly wouldn’t want the whole meal – from salad to soup to entrée to dessert to drinks – served all mixed together in a big bowl, would you?
Not very appetizing.
The same thing applies with organising and presenting a business document. You can’t just lump information all together with no rhyme or reason. You want the various parts in their own separate spaces. In this way, we’re all ‘fussy eaters’ of information.
Likewise, you want the parts of a document to stick together in a logical order (like a well-planned, well-prepared meal) – not just a bunch of unrelated ideas strung together one after the other.
A well-organised document needs logic and structure. It needs clarity. It needs linking.
In the next few posts, I’ll deal with organising documents, starting with how to sort information. I’ll expand on the ideas from the ‘ARRANGE’ section of Business Writing with TASTE and suggest some new tools for you to try. If you want to prepare, read pp 10-16 of the book.