Revisiting Garner’s Approach to Business Writing


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Document creation or document writing has been and is still a method of communication to transfer information systematically. There is no much doubt that documentation will always be an inevitable part of any professional or academic set-up in future too.

The transition from paper documentation to electronic document creation has been revolutionary and is beneficial for any individual or group. Report writing in a professional set-up, however, focuses mainly on the aspect of conveying the right information in the right way.

To make a report or a document comprehensive and communicable, it is mandatory to have all the details covered with an in-depth understanding of the author. How easily it can be communicated to the readers by the usage of simple and effective language is also crucial.

Authors or document creators use various methods both conventional and unconventional to report their findings, ideas, thoughts or analysis. The guidelines to create a professional document are also varied based on many factors like region, work culture, past works, etc.

Traditionally a document is created in a series of steps involving setting the goal depending on the audience, planning, categorizing main ideas and trivial ones, drafting, editing and proofreading. However, the steps named above are not exhaustive and can have more steps/sub-steps.

In a study by Bryan Garner popularly known as Garner’s approach of writing discusses a simple but effective method of creating documents. This was appeared on “The HBR Guide to Better Business Writing” and he believes that consistent practice can make anybody a good writer.

Garner’s Approach

According to Garner, writing can be effective only if an individual can communicate the ideas completely. Absence of this skill can even make great ideas unnoticed. Learning desire and regular practice can, however, help any individual to overcome this problem of incomplete expressing.

Garner divides the process of writing into four stages and this technique can be helpful for any writer unaware of the type of content or document that is created.

He names the stages in this process by associating an individual or profession so that the writer can approach the stage in the way that individual/profession handles the work.

Stage 1 –Madman

This is the initial stage in the Garner’s approach to effective business writing where the writer can collect all the details and information required to complete the document. This stage needs to ensure that the writer has gathered all materials for the document.

The prime focus of this stage is to focus on the content/topic that you are planning to write and not on how you write. Therefore, generating ideas is as important as gathering materials and he recommends listing all the ideas and gathered information on a spreadsheet for reference. 

Stage 2 – Architect

In this stage, the writer needs to organize all the information that is collected and categorize them based on the choice of document style. You must be able to draw the outline of the document and understand the degree of discussion in the document.

This outline formation also comprises of producing logical sentences or one-liner. Here similar ideas and thoughts can be listed in more than one sentences using different styles and length.


Stage 3 – Carpenter

The carpenter stage is all about refining the best sentences into the paragraphs of the document. Selection of sentences that were listed in the architect stage is chosen based on various criteria set by the writer himself.

The transformation of these sentences to paragraphs mainly focuses on the core concept that the author is trying to communicate and therefore the best sentence which can communicate the information most effectively is selected.

Stage 4 - Judge

In the final stage, Garner suggests you look the write-up from a Judge’s point of view and this the stage where all the quality enhancement is taken place. All types of corrections and editing must be initiated, processed and completed by the end of this stage.

This is the only stage that focuses on the formatting and viewing the document from a readers’ point of view. The stage also involves proofreading and final polishing to increase the overall quality of the document.


Written by – Arun S.

Edited by – Adrija Saha

Revisiting Garner’s Approach to Business Writing Revisiting Garner’s Approach to Business Writing Reviewed by Adrija Saha on June 24, 2020 Rating: 5

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