help! for writers, Roy Peter Clark, writing help, writing tips, tips for writing

Margin analysis to improve your writing

Like belongs with like in your writing, as I discussed in “Key lesson for investment commentary writers from my professional organizer.” In Help! for Writers, Roy Peter Clark suggests a way that you can analyze and then reorganize your drafts so that your information goes in the right places.

Step 1: Print and write in margins

Print your draft on paper and then list in the margin the main topics of each paragraph. This helps you to get some distance from your draft so you can analyze it.

Step 2: List most important topics

On a separate piece of paper, list your draft’s most important topics. Assign each topic a color. Use colors of markers that you have handy or of highlighter colors in your word-processing program.

Next, color each section or paragraph according to its topic. If you see one color scattered throughout your draft, you can assess whether to leave it that way or, as Clark says, “bring those elements together in a single coherent passage.”

If you try this technique, I’d like to hear from you about how it works for you.


Note: On July 2, I added a clarifying phrase to this post.