Since I'm working on the revision chapter for our book on business writing, I thought I'd share an easy strategy for getting more details into your work. It's the IDEA-DETAILS, which I've shown here before for pre-writing/planning (here and here).

This little dude's also good for revising. If you feel you’re short on explanations, examples or evidence, whip this chart out and have a go at adding more. With the Main Idea hanging out there on the left, you’ll never get too far away from the point of your story, which helps you choose the right details.

Here’s how I used the strategy to flesh out a piece I had to prepare for a town board:

The Task Force recommended a Buy Local campaign to help consumers understand the importance of buying local. Suggested activities include: a branding initiative, advertising/promotions and events. Costs will vary depending on donations and volunteer hours. The success of each component and the overall campaign will be measured.

Not much meat on that there bone, huh? Here’s how I remedied that:


Here’s the revised version:

Changing buying habits will take time, so the Task Force suggests a multi-year campaign consisting of multiple components. To combat the sense that it’s hard to buy local, we suggest creating materials that showcase how easy it is to do. Suggested activities include:

• Creating a Think Local First brand
• Identifying and promoting local businesses through advertising, promotions and industry campaigns
• Holding community events like forums, yard sales and co-branding with other organizations.

Costs will vary depending on donations and volunteer hours. A survey of local marketing and advertising companies resulted in an estimated campaign cost of $5,000. Branding initiatives can cost between $10,000 and $50,000.

The success of each component and the overall campaign will be measured using a combination of surveys, owner-reported business metrics and participation data.

Now, you don’t always have to have an example, an explanation and some evidence. Depending on your audience, you may need all of one or another, or two out of three (which we all know ain’t bad). Sometimes details depend on your purpose, too.

Idea-Details Strategy Chart © Copyright 1995-2010 by Teaching That Makes Sense, Inc. Used with permission.