I’ve found myself thinking about writing and going back to the basics. Remember highschool? In Oklahoma, it is required that highschool students complete a class on Oklahoma History. So in 9th grade I marched off to a co-op for an Oklahoma History class. The main thing I remember about this classroom was that on the first day the teacher (Let’s call her June) declared how horrible the textbook was but we will use it anyway (digression: great example of why I can’t stand organized institutions – they tolerate mediocrity!). So every week June would heap on in class complaining about what was wrong with the last chapter every week. Seriously! June was quite eccentric. The funny thing was that this was a co-op. To my knowledge, June picked the book. So why she didn’t just find a book she did like is beyond me. Interestingly though, I learned a great nugget of truth about writing in this class. Perhaps because of the peculiarity of my teacher I remembered a few things.
In this class we had a myriad of writing assignments due every week so I remember quite vividly June writing on the chalk board many times throughout the semester these 3 points when it comes to writing:
- Tell them what you are going to tell them.
- Tell them.
- Tell them what you told them.
Plain and simple this is writing summed up! Of course, June did not come up with this by herself but that was where I first learned it. If you look it up it is most often attributed to Aristotle but I also saw Thomas Jefferson, Steve Jobs, and Dale Carnegie spins on it. These phrases are used to help spell out how to write and speak publicly. I don’t think this is conclusively what happens in writing nor is it intended to be but it is a framework of where to start. Let’s discuss the points one by one.
The first one: tell them what you are going to tell them. This is your introduction. This is your opening remarks. Hopefully, you will get a thesis statement in there. Ultimately, the goal here is to entice the reader to keep reading by revealing what they’re going to be reading about in a brief way. The second point: Tell them. This is where you expand about what you’re sharing. The details are shared here. This is where you look at whatever you’re writing about from every angle, you answer objections. The third point: Tell them what you told them. Now that you have completed the first two, the last point is a summary of what’s been shared. This is where you wrap up or conclude. Your point or information has been conveyed, therefore nothing else needs to be revealed. You sum up and tell the reader goodbye. If fitting, you challenge the reader in a way relevant to what you have shared.
It’s good every so often to remind yourself the fundamentals of writing. To my own surprise and delight I have found this nugget that I learned in school to be a simple way to organize things I want to write about. It’s possible that this is just because I had an eccentric teacher teach it to me but either way this is a useful tool to have in your writing skills. Even if your writing or speaking doesn’t follow this example exactly, it can help you mentally orchestrate where you are on a topic. Our minds can sometimes over complicate something we are trying to explain when in reality it is not that complicated. Use it or don’t!
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