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Everyday English 1
Everyday English 1

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1.2 Planning writing

Much of what you write every day doesn’t need to be planned. However, when writing longer or important texts, planning is vital to ensure your writing does what you need it to do.

Planning before you start writing helps you make sure that you include all the information that you need to. When you plan you need to consider why you are writing, who you are writing for and what that person needs to know.

There are generally two useful ways of planning: making notes or drawing a diagram. These diagrams are sometimes called spider-diagrams, mind-maps or thought-showers.

An ‘empty’ spider diagram.
Figure 2 A spider diagram

For example, when you write a formal letter, you need to plan it carefully. Planning will make sure that:

  • you include all the important information
  • you put your points in the right order
  • your letter makes sense
  • your letter uses the right language and tone.

Activity 3 Planning a letter

Timing: Allow about 15 minutes

Imagine this has happened to you:

You bought a new vacuum cleaner on 25 September from Ultra-Cool Electrical Products but it has stopped working. It has lost all suction power.

The machine cost £75 and you want the shop to give you a replacement. You are going to write explaining what has happened and telling them that you will come in on Saturday to bring it back and collect a new one. You need them to let you know if they won’t have a replacement in stock because you don’t want a wasted journey.

The address of the shop is 54 West Street, Anytown, Allshire, ABC 345 and the manager’s name is Steve Trent.

Use one of the planning methods suggested above – making notes or drawing a diagram – to create a plan for a formal letter of complaint to the store. Do not write the letter.

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Your plan may have looked something like this:

  • Address of shop
  • Name of manager
  • Do they have one in stock?
  • Will they replace it?
  • What has happened?
  • When it was bought
  • When you will come in
  • What the product is
  • Your details

There is no right way of doing this, but all the main points need to be included. They don’t have to be in any particular order.

If you drew a spider diagram, it may look something like this:

Spider diagram showing main points
Figure 3 A spider diagram for the vacuum cleaner letter

Activity 4 More planning

Timing: Allow about 15 minutes

You have been asked to help plan a family party and you need to design the invitations. Read the details below and then make a note of the points you will need to include on the invitation.

John and Sylvia are going to celebrate their 40th wedding anniversary on 1 June with a party at the Village Hall in Bridham. They are hoping that all the family will be able to come and expect that there will be about 60 guests. There will be a buffet supper and disco. The party will start at 7.30 p.m. and carry on until midnight. They need to know by 1 May how many people are able to come. Replies will need to be sent to you.

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Well done if you included the following points:

  • Who: John and Sylvia
  • What: 40th Wedding Anniversary Party
  • Where: Bridham Village Hall
  • When: 1 June, 7.30 p.m. – midnight
  • Details: buffet supper and disco
  • RSVP: 1 May
  • Your contact details for people to send their replies to.

When you plan your writing, you should think about what you are writing, who is going to read it and its purpose. Planning helps you focus on the main points and think about the style and tone that you will need to use for your final piece of work. Use your plan to check that you have included all the necessary information.