Do you often find it difficult to write things? Like emails, letters or essays? Do you sit down to write something and then realize you don’t know what to write? If your answer is yes, then this lesson will help you to overcome exactly these problems because I’m going to teach you a very simple trick that you can use to write anything easily, quickly and effectively. This is a process used by the best writers in the world and it’s called the POWER writing method. You can use it to write emails for work, essays for your English exam, you can use it for letters, business reports, blog posts, stories – basically, anything that you need to write.
But you might be asking – why is it called POWER writing? Well, POWER refers to the five stages of the writing process: Prepare, Organize, Write, Evaluate and Review. This is the order you will follow and it will allow you to write without getting stuck by focusing on one task at a time. So let’s start with the first stage – prepare.
Before you write anything at all, you must prepare for it. This is because the reason we often struggle to write is that we don’t have enough ideas when we put pen to paper. So the most important task of writing is to come up with good points before you write. So this is the very first stage – before you write a single sentence, you’re going to collect ideas. And here’s how you do it: You take your paper and pen (or you can do this on your computer if you wish), and you note down anything that comes to mind.
Don’t criticize your ideas – don’t leave out or discard anything. Whatever you get, write it down. Don’t worry about organizing your ideas – we’ll do that in the next stage. Also, don’t worry about grammar, spelling or punctuation – remember we just want ideas so if there are mistakes, no problem. And keep doing this until you have no more ideas.
As an interesting note, this process of coming up with ideas is called brainstorming. OK, let’s look at an example of how to do this. Let’s say you’re in an English exam, and you have to write an email of complaint.
Here’s your task: You recently purchased an item online, but you are not happy with it. Write an email of complaint to the manager of the shopping website: say what you bought, why you are not happy with it, and what action you expect them to take. So let’s start by collecting some ideas for this.
So what kinds of things can we buy online? We can buy clothes, we can buy computers, phones, books and so on. Let’s think of some more specific ideas – I like computers, so let’s talk about them.
You can buy a laptop. Actually, you can also buy computer parts like a monitor, a mouse or a keyboard. For this task, I’m going to go with a mouse because it’s easy. Now if I bought a mouse, what problems might I have with it? I think the most common one that people face is with one of the two buttons – let’s pick the right-click button, but you can also have trouble with the scroll wheel – that’s the wheel in the middle.
So I bought a mouse and maybe just two days later, the right-click button started having problems. But I’m going to say that now it’s been a week and the button has just stopped working. You can see that I’m just using my imagination. I want to add some more details, so let’s say the scroll wheel is also having some problems.
What problems can it have? Well, if I try to scroll in one direction, it actually makes the screen go the wrong way. So we have our problems now.
But what do we want the shopping website to do? We can say give me my money back – that’s called a refund, or we could ask for a replacement. I like that idea. Now when they give me a new item, they will want the old one back. So I’ll have to return the defective unit.
That means the mouse that’s not working. Alright, we are done collecting ideas. And here in just two minutes, we have all the information we need to write our email. Notice that as I was brainstorming, I came up with lots of ideas – I collected everything that came to mind without leaving anything out.
And then I expanded on the important ideas. It can be very helpful to talk out loud during this stage like I was doing – try to have an imaginary conversation and you will find it easier to generate ideas. Also, it’s good to use paper and pen for this exercise rather than your computer.
This way, you can draw a mind map like the one you see on the screen – it can really help you to be creative. OK, once you have the ideas you need, you move on to the second stage, which is Organize. The goal of this stage is to produce an outline for what you’re going to write. That is, you’re going to structure your ideas in a logical manner. So throughout this stage, you should keep asking yourself this question – “How do I guide my reader?” Think of yourself as a tour guide – imagine that you’re taking your reader through a tour of a great place – that great place is your writing. So, what should the reader read first?
What should he or she read next? And what should your reader read last? So in this stage, the first thing you do is go to the ideas you’ve collected, and select the best ones. After that, you take those ideas and arrange them in the most logical sequence. So here, we’re back with our ideas for the complaint email.
It’s easy to see which ideas we want to keep – the mouse, the right-click button with its two problems, the scroll-wheel, and the request to replace it. When you do this on paper, you can underline the ideas you are selecting. So, now, how do we organize these points? Well first, I want to say that I bought a mouse online, it has two problems – one is that the right mouse button started having issues two days later, or two days after it arrived, and now it’s been a week and it’s stopped working completely.
Then I’d like to mention the scroll wheel. It’s making the screen go in the wrong direction. And finally, I want the company to replace the mouse, and I can return the defective one. This is the outline we’re going to follow for this email. A good outline should have all the ideas that you need, and it should be well-organized. I think this is a pretty good outline, so with this, we move on to stage three – write.
This is where you’re actually going to put pen to paper. That is, you’re going to take the ideas in your outline and write full sentences for them. Treat this as only your first draft. That means, just focus on writing full sentences without worrying too much about grammar, vocabulary, spelling or punctuation.
Just go with the flow and write out some sentences. You can come back and correct the mistakes later. Now, if you’re writing in an exam, then you need to try to write correct sentences in your first draft because you don’t have time, but in all other situations, leave the corrections for later. Sometimes, as you’re writing, you might think of some additional ideas to include or you might want to remove something or move ideas around, that’s OK – it’s a natural part of the process. Alright, let’s go back to our outline and write some full sentences.
So here I have the outline that we created (I’ve added a few words here and there to make it easy to understand). The first point I want to mention is my purpose for writing. So I can take this idea and put it in a sentence like this: “I am writing to complain about a computer mouse I purchased recently from your webpage.” There are some mistakes in this sentence, but that’s on purpose. Don’t worry about them for now.
OK, so just like this, we need to take all of the other ideas and put them in sentences. I’m going to show you my first draft in a moment but I want you to think about how you would write sentences for these ideas. Pause the video, think about it then play the video again and check. Alright, here it is. You might notice that there are errors in grammar, spelling and punctuation, and there also some poor word choices. That’s OK (we can come back to them).
Remember that we’re only trying to produce a first draft here. But you can already see that our email is coming together nicely. And now that we have a draft, we move on to the next stage – evaluate. This is the stage where you check your work. This is also called proofreading.
There are four things you need to look at: vocabulary, grammar, spelling and punctuation. First, you check if you have used the right words to express your ideas. Then you check to see if there are any grammatical mistakes you need to correct. After that, you check if you have spelled all the words correctly, and finally you look at your punctuation (that is periods, commas, question marks etc.) and make any corrections that are necessary.
Alright, we’re back to our first draft. Before I make any corrections to this, I want you to try doing that. There are a total of eight errors in this email – two in vocabulary, two in grammar, two in spelling and two errors in punctuation.
Stop the video, try to correct them, then play the video again and check. OK, let’s talk about vocabulary and word choice first. In the first line, I’ve said ‘webpage’ – this should be website.
Because a webpage is just an individual page – the company is the website. And in the very last line, I’ve said ‘delivery guy’. This sounds a little casual, and also the person delivering the replacement might be female. So it’s more professional to say ‘delivery person’. These are the changes I made in word choice.
Let’s talk about grammar – Notice I’ve written ‘the scroll wheel have started’ – ‘scroll wheel’ is a singular noun, so it should be ‘has’. And where we make the request for the replacement, it says ‘if you could sent’ – it should be ‘send’. Let’s move on to spelling. The first error is ‘writing’ – it has an extra ‘t’. And the second is ‘immediately’ which is missing the ‘e’.
And finally, let’s look at punctuation – the first error is that there is a period (or full-stop) missing after completely. And then, after ‘I would appreciate it’ there is a comma which should not be there. How many of these errors did you identify – let me know in the comments. Now, as I was reading this draft, I realized that in a real email, you would give details of your order.
So I quickly came up with some imaginary order details and put them and the end (before the closing). And I also thought it would be useful to say “see order details below” in parentheses (or round brackets) right at the beginning. So here we have our final draft, and it looks pretty good to me. So now, we go on to the final stage – review.
OK by now, you will have a pretty good piece of writing that’s almost ready to go out into the world. But before that, it’s always a good idea to go over it one final time to make sure that it reads well. You do this to check that what you have written has the intended effect on the reader (that is the effect that you want).
If you’re in an exam situation or you’re writing a quick email at work, all you need to do is just give it a read before you hand in your paper or hit the send button. But if you have time, or if you’re writing something longer (like a report or a story), then the best practice is to not review it immediately. This is because after you finish writing, your mind will still be full of the same ideas. Instead, you should leave it and come back to it the next day (or, at least, after a few hours).
This way, you will look at it with a fresh pair of eyes and it will be easier to notice any last-minute corrections that you need to make. When you review, it’s good to read it out loud and not just silently in your head, so you can check if your writing sounds natural. And finally, if you can, ask someone else to read it and give you their feedback (just don’t do this in an exam).
If you’ve gotten this far, then congratulations, you have now used the POWER writing process to easily, quickly and effectively produce a written work. Now, in this lesson, I showed you how to do this with an email but remember that this process works in the same way for anything that you need to write. Alright, let’s do a quick recap of what we’ve learned in this lesson. You begin the writing process with the Prepare stage. This is where you collect or brainstorm ideas. You then organize your ideas into an outline that you can use to write.
Then you go on to the Write stage where you expand your outline into full sentences and produce your first draft. After this, you Evaluate or proofread the draft to correct any errors. Finally, you review what you’ve written to see if it reads naturally and make sure it’s fully ready to go out into the world. Once you get good at applying the POWER writing process, you will find that writing anything is easier, more systematic and more enjoyable than ever before.
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