20 questions: scoping out a writing assignment’s focus and misconceptions
Posted by contentgrrl on January 17, 2008
To fully capture a writing assignment’s focus and value, twenty questions are usually in order. Give or take a few. At the beginning of a gig, I’ll ask all of them. I never know when I’ll run into a misconception or political curse. But after a while, experience with a particular topic teaches me the answers to more and more of these questions.
- Topic: What are the keywords?
- Service or product: What product or service is involved or might be helpful?
- Timeliness: Why is this article timely at its writing/deadline?
- Focus: What merits a special focus?
- Expert Technical Reviewers: Who can serve as a resource for information and to verify the accuracy of the article?
- Communication: What channels do we want to use to get the word out — mass email, newsletter, Web page, fill-in form, press release, FAQ?
- Audience: Which target audiences, customers, or prospects are affected?
- Assumptions: What does the target audience know? What’s been rumored?
- History: What related issues have the audience experienced that may color their motivation or response?
- Misconception: What is most likely to cause the target audience to misunderstand or err?
- Task: What is the target audience trying to do or accomplish?
- Trigger: What situation or case triggers a problem?
- Flow: How is it supposed to work?
- Solution: What do we want the audience to do? What sequence of steps are recommended in this particular case?
- Out of Scope: How do you know if you’re not affected? Are there special cases that merit more in-depth attention?
- Benefits: What are the desired outcomes? What does a successful result look like?
- Consequences: What are the consequences of errors or inaction?
- Alternative: If there are alternative solutions, why wouldn’t you want to use them?
- Validation: What case data, evidence, statistics or resources can be used to confirm the veracity of our information?
- Illustration: Is there a metaphor, diagram, or image that might attract attention or help understanding?
TIP: With seven really good interview questions, a talkative expert can fill an hour. For the sake of efficiency, I try to get the basic facts out of the way, email my questions ahead of a meeting, and schedule a followup for during draft review to cover the rarer questions.
This entry was posted on January 17, 2008 at 8:00 pm and is filed under illustrating, learning, publishing, writeroll. Tagged: alternative, assignment, benefit, communication, consequence, expertise, gig, illustration, questions, research, solution, technical writing, timeliness. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.