Yesterday, Steve and I presented a writing strategy to our friend Todd Finley's class of future high school English teachers at East Carolina University. The theme was "One strategy, many uses". The tool: the Transition-Action-Details Strategy™. But it's not just useful for school papers like personal narratives or history reports. It's helpful in the business world, too.

Creating a logical flow

The T-A-D is the best strategy when you need to convey information in a particular order, like directions or a blow-by-blow account of something. But since a logical flow from idea to idea is critical for any successful document, the T-A-D is a good revision tool, too. These are some of the forms you can create with it:

•    Agendas
•    Meeting, Conference or Trip Reports
•    Procedures and Directions
•    Project Plans
•    Résumés
•    Technical Manuals

Planning your writing

Here's what it looks like:

Copyright 1995-2011 Teaching That Makes Sense, Inc. Used by permission.

The best way to work through the strategy is to fill in the two “actions” that are usually pretty clear: the first and the last. Then start at the top and walk yourself through the sequence, including transitions and details for each action. You may not always need or have a transition (sometimes they happen right in the ACTION or DETAIL). I usually use the Transition column to in revision, to either add "transition details" that link the main idea (action) from the former row to the current idea (action), or for re-ordering actions if I've put them in the wrong order. This is also a good time to share the document with others for their input and approval.

Putting it to work

I used this all the time when I was writing procedures for Golden Corral's monthly training newsletter. It made it very easy for sources to review before I started writing, and for readers to follow once printed.

To write from the strategy, just work across each row to create a sentence or a paragraph, or a point on a timeline. One caution: Don't stop there. You’ll notice that that working across the rows kills your sentence fluency because every sentence will have a very similar pattern:

Intro part (TRANSITION), main part (ACTION) and an add-on part or two (DETAILS).

That’s going to be really boring for your reader. You'll need to do a little sentence level work to break the recurring pattern and make your piece more enjoyable and engaging to read.

The T-A-D also kicks butt as a revision tool if you've written something that feels out of order. Just drop your paragraphs into the document and do some rearranging. Use the transition column to number each graf in the correct order. Pretty soon, you'll have the right stuff in the right place.

Give 'er a whirl and let us know how it works for you.

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Credit for the Transition-Action-Details goes to my brilliant husband, Steve Peha. © 1995-2011 Teaching That Makes Sense, Inc. Used by permission.