What's the point?

Almost everyone tackling a big writing project, like a grant proposal or an academic paper, eventually wonders ‘What’s the point?'

BEEN THERE. When I was in the thick of writing my thesis I probably asked myself that once every hour. At least.

But there's an unproductive way to ask that question and a productive way, and I'm going to show you the difference.

Unproductive: "Why am I even bothering with this? This is stupid. What's the point?"

Productive: "Who is my reader? What does my reader need to know? How do I explain why this matters? What's the point?"

BINGO. If you can ask the productive version of What's the Point? then I guarantee your writing will improve.


How to get to the point

1. Think about the purpose of your writing project. Is it to:

  • Persuade
  • Inform
  • Inspire

For example, if you're writing a grant proposal, you're trying to persuade an agency to fund you. What do the reviewers need to know in order to fund your project? What is the problem you're trying to solve? How does your project solve it? And why is your project an ideal solution to this problem?

2. Think about your audience. Are they:

  • Peers
  • Funders
  • Community members

For example, if you're writing a peer-reviewed journal article, what are you contributing to the conversation happening in the literature on your topic? What new contribution is your research making? What are people talking about? What don’t we know about this topic? Where’s the big debate? And, most importantly, what are you contributing to that debate?

3. Think about what you want your readers to remember

What is the message you want your reader to take away? Can you explain it in a sentence or two? It's not easy, but it's worth taking the time to distill your message as much as possible.

Once you're clear on your message, you need to make sure that you're setting up a logical road map to your writing that directs the reader to it. Don't assume that the reader is going to figure it out by reading between the lines.

Make it easy. Lead your reader to the message, and then bash them over the head with it. Eloquently, of course.


Do you ask yourself the productive version of 'what's the point?' when you write? Will you start? Tell me in the comments!

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