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Reverse Engineer to Create Templates

By: Kevin Ryan

In his book Write Up the Corporate Ladder, Kevin Ryan suggests how you can save time if you have numerous similar documents to send to customers or suppliers: develop templates. As he observes, “Templates can speed the writing process. Experienced and inexperienced writers alike can benefit greatly from using prebuilt format templates with descriptive subheads that prompt them for the information they will need to include.

There are several advantages of using templates:

  • They help prevent writer’s block.
  • They speed the writing process.
  • They know which types of information to gather and where to put them in the document.

How do you create templates? Simply work backward and reverse engineer the template from old reports, letters, or memos. For example:

1. Gather the last two years’ worth of quarterly reports.
2. Read each one carefully.
3. While reading, draw brackets in the right-hand margin next to groups of sentences or paragraphs that represent blocks of required information that each report must include.
4. Next, create the template. Open a blank word-processing file on your computer. Create an appropriate name for a subhead for each block of required information and type the subhead in the blank template.
5. To keep the template flexible, type in two blank subheads that writers can use for information that wasn’t anticipated or that changes each time the document is written. Report writers can delete these subheads if not used.

While you may have to modify the template occasionally, using templates still saves you time in the long run.

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