How to plan and structure your writing with descriptive headings

Descriptive headings highlight your main points. So why not use them to help you plan what to write and decide where your information should go?

Think about what your readers need and what you’re trying to achieve

Your audience and purpose come first, so think about what answers your readers might want and what they’re interested in.

Consider where your readers might be reading — will they be online, on a bus, at work, at home, or waiting in a queue?

Image, Person selecting link to an article on a smartphone.

Where do your readers read? Image by Japanexperterna.se / CC BY-SA

Also think about what might your readers be experiencing — will they be stressed, relaxed, focused, or distracted?

Finally, what do you most want your readers to know or do after they’ve read your piece?

Jot down some notes. Talk it over with someone. Use the answers and inspiration to work out your main messages.

Don’t worry if you’ve got lots of messages or they’re a bit vague — you can whittle them down and sharpen them later.

Write draft headings based on your main messages

Next, use your main messages to write some draft headings. To do this, just write a few key topic words or a sentence that covers your main point. Then repeat the process until you have a few headings to work with.

When I was planning this blog post, I jotted down these headings:

Descriptive headings help you plan and structure your writing
Descriptive headings help readers find information
Descriptive headings summarise your main messages
You can write descriptive headings in a few different styles

Check the order of your headings and tweak, tweak, tweak

Now check to see if you’ve got the information in the right order (for your readers, of course).

Do you need to cut or add any messages? Swap things around and tweak your draft headings until you feel you’ve got the structure reasonably right.

Image, scrabble board.

Move your ideas into an orderly structure. Image by Sebastian Wiertz / CC BY

Looking at my headings, I realised that I was writing a long post that I could break into two different topics. So I moved some content out and added descriptive subheadings beneath my main heading.

How to use descriptive headings to plan and structure your writing
Think about what your readers need and what you’re trying to achieve
Write rough headings based on your main messages
Check the order of your headings and tweak, tweak, tweak
Write paragraphs that relate to the main messages in your headings

Write paragraphs that relate to the main messages in your headings

Once you’ve settled on your structure, you’re ready to write paragraphs that focus on the main messages — they’ll be sitting right there in the headings to remind you of your purpose and keep you on track!

The time you spend planning and structuring your writing really pays off — it saves you from lots of rework or missing the aim of your writing.

Image, golfer aiming for target.

Good headings help you hit your writing targets. Image by Florida Fish and Wildlife / CC BY-ND

So use descriptive headings to help your write clearly and purposefully for your readers. How to write descriptive headings give you some tips and examples.

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2 responses to “How to plan and structure your writing with descriptive headings”

  1. James Park says:

    Just a further question on this topic – so how is the best way to differentiate the heading from the rest of the text in an email document?

    • lesleyhanes says:

      Hi James, headings need to be bigger than the text, so they stand out. It also helps to have more space before the heading than after, so the heading is tied to the text it relates to. Does this answer your question?

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