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A Simple Way to Make Your Boss Like Your Writing More

Subheads are easy to drop in. Now you've written a series of short pieces, and that's far more likely to be read than a long, unbroken essay.

When you give your boss or client a document, such as a speech, there are gonna be changes. That’s part of it.

The problem is how the boss communicates those changes. In a perfect world, your boss goes into Microsoft Word, clicks the Review button, and marks it up – what a lot of us call doing a redline version. Or your boss sits down and takes you through changes line by line while you take notes. That’s fine, too.

But often there’s no time for that, or no interest, so you end up with feedback like, “I don’t like how it starts,” or “This needs more data,” or “The middle doesn’t sound like something I would say.”

What part is your boss talking about? “How it starts” could mean anything in the first six- or seven-hundred word. “This needs more data” could refer to a single claim or the whole thing. And “the middle” could be anything between the first and last sentences.

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So use subheads. Every section – and by that I mean every subtopic – needs a subhead, and it must describe what’s in it. That is, don’t just write “Argument #1,” write “The City Can’t Afford This,” or something like that.

The simplest documents have at least three subheads, a description of the opening, the middle, and the end. A standard form for speeches and essays is for that middle part to contain two or three discrete claims. Each of those should have its own subhead. 

With that in place, your document is no longer an unbroken stream of information. It’s a series of short pieces, each of which has a title – and each of which runs probably no more than 500 words.

Sending your boss a 2000-word document without subheads is like getting dropped in the middle of a city without a map. If somebody asks where you are, you likely have no idea. 

But if there are subheads in the document, now you have a map of the document and thus a way for your boss or client to be specific. Now when your boss says, “I have a problem with the middle,” you can say, “Do you mean the section labeled Legal Arguments or Personal Experience?”

Subheads come with a lot of other benefits. Here are three:

Subheads form an outline. Just by reading the subheads, you or your boss can know what the speech or document is about and visualize the flow of the argument.

By presenting the document as a collection of smaller pieces, you make it easier to read and review. We’re hesitant to dive into pages of prose with no obvious stopping points in them. Subheads fix that.

Obvious organization gives your boss greater confidence in you. Why? Because they understand more quickly what you’ve done. They see the subheads and know.

Okay, here's a little more.
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be a stronger critical thinker.
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When you write a document of more than half a page, and especially when you’re writing a speech, use subheads. It helps your boss, it helps you, and it looks pretty pro, too. 

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Mike's Calendar
Topic Organization Date Location
Storytelling PSA Online Speechwriting School May 27 Online
PR Writing
IABC World Conference June 16 Online
Advanced Speechwriting PSA August 17 TBD

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