Framing a message – critical step for a effective writing. A report, contract bid, academic paper, grant submission, etc., – just like a home – require a solid structure. 

This skeletal structure equates to an architectural drawing that guides the building’s construction. My book “Write to Influence!” explains that in writing, the outline is the counterpart that guides the author in developing the message. 

A house is sometimes described as having “good bones.”Paul Morse, Morse Constructions, Inc., characterizes house with “good bones” below.

Note the parallels below between architecture and writing structure (in italicized text). I address these writing tips in my business writing workshops when describing elements involved in framing a message.

Quality construction –Constructed with quality materials. Consists of well-crafted information: solid research; substantiating facts; hard-hitting, precise, and focused sentences.

Solid infrastructure –The basic infrastructure (e.g., a founbuilding the frameworkdation, roof, heating, plumbing and electrical systems) is sound. Follows a sound outline. Identifies key arguments and main points that support the thesis. Counter arguments or other alternatives are thoroughly and equitably addressed.

Good floor plan– The floor plan is well designed, rooms logically arranged, traffic flows easily through the house. No disjointed, tiny rooms; no reconstruction required (e.g., removing walls).

Information flows smoothly from the title to the opening sentence. Topic sentences build upon each other and flow logically to advance the story. Sentences within each paragraph flow from and support the topic sentence. The conclusion circles back and ties neatly to the thesis.

Well-proportioned rooms –Rooms have a useful size and shape.

The author elaborates on each key element in detail sufficient to make the point; the discussion is neither too sketchy nor disproportionately excessive. The paper contains no information irrelevant to the thesis or purpose, regardless of how interesting the author finds it.

Character –The house has personality, such as a fascinating focal point or unique architectural design.

A paper can – and should – have character. Antiseptic, colorless, and sterile prose does not convey a sense of professionalism, objectivity, or authority. It does, however, rob your product of sparkle.

By contrast, lively expression invigorates writing, imbuing your message with an engaging robustness, rhythm, and movement that will captivate the reader

Follow the steps below in framing a message:

— Research the topic
— Gather facts
— Compose a thesis, problem or purpose statement
— Identify key points
— List basic questions the paper must address
— Develop an outline

You’ve now framed the paper. Next month, we’ll address how to construct it!