Effective professional communications don’t happen immediately. Aside from a very quick email or text message with very brief, straightforward information (e.g., This email confirms that the Thursday meeting is at 10:00 a.m.), you’ll need to evaluate most communication situations thoughtfully and do some preparatory work before creating the actual communication. In the same way, you’ll need to do some follow-up work after creating the communication, before you send it. Whether you’re writing informal or formal messages, brief or lengthy documents, creating PowerPoint presentations, or creating a website, understanding and applying a three-stage process approach—planning, creating, and revising—should help you create effective professional communications.

Note that this process is iterative, meaning that you often move back and forth between the phases, as shown by the arrows in the image below. Creating a communication doesn’t always occur in a straightforward, linear fashion. And you also may find that your process differs from communication to communication; however, understanding the phases and, in general, understanding the real importance of the pre- and post-creation phases, should help you create professional documents more efficiently and effectively.

mutual interactions between planning, creating, and revising

You may have encountered a similar process in a college writing course, a process which focuses on prewriting, writing, and revising.  Whatever you call these stages, it’s just as—or even more—important to plan and revise as it is to create.  It’s often recommended that you devote 40% of your time to planning, 20% to creating, and 40% to revising.  If you can plan consciously for what you need to consider in the professional communication, then creating that communication will be easier.  And revisiting the results of your conscious planning will help you revise the communication for maximum effectiveness.


Most of the thinking about what you are going to communicate should happen before you compose a single sentence. Planning a communication is one of the most important stages in creating effective professional communications; skipping the planning stage is like taking a vacation without first choosing a destination. If you don’t know where you’re going, how will you get there?

Fortunately, planning can become routinized by using a situational analysis, which asks you to consider many communication variables: audience, purpose, content, role, tone, organizational context, cultural context, communication medium.  For example, to whom are you writing? What is your primary audience’s background, position in the organization, and understanding of the concepts you intend to present? Who is your secondary audience, and who are potential other audiences? Will additional research or information gathering be necessary?  Just how much information and detail will your primary and secondary audiences need?  How much background information do you need in order to establish credibility as an informed communicator?  Considering variables such as these will help you establish a better sense of what you need to say as well as how you need to say it in the communication. As you can see, conscious planning using a situational analysis is an important first step in any professional communication, as it establishes some parameters for that communication, thus making it easier to draft the communication itself.


Prewriting goes along with planning; the two are very often linked in practice. Once you complete a situational analysis and identify your purpose, audience, and other communication variables, you can start to jot down ideas for appropriate content. Prewriting also involves gathering data and doing research as needed, as well as considering how to group, organize, and order your information.  Essentially, during the prewriting stage of the writing process, you develop ideas, information, and details via notes, an outline, a diagram, an idea map, a voice file, or any other format that makes sense to you. By the end of your planning and prewriting, you should have ideas for content and ideas for ordering and presenting that content. (Note that you can access a free, online, College Writing text if you want fuller information about prewriting techniques, which apply globally to all types of writing, professional writing included.)

Planning/prewriting is a major stage in the writing process for which you should always make time. In the process of writing a report, or creating almost any type of business or professional communication, remember that you should devote about 40% of your total time to planning and prewriting.


You should be able to proceed more easily with creating a draft once you develop content and organizational ideas through planning and prewriting. As you draft your communication, make sure that you have appropriate explanations, examples, and details for each major idea.  Make sure that your information and details address your audience and purpose, as well as the other communication variables.

Also during the creation stage, group similar ideas together, and develop clear, informative headings for each idea group, especially if you are creating a communication of any length or complexity.  For brief communications, make sure to organize by offering your most important idea first, in most cases, and then follow with relevant details. For longer or more complex communications, you will need to consider organization consciously and carefully in the context of:

  1. your purpose (e.g., to persuade? to inform? to offer negative information?),
  2. your audience’s level of knowledge and potential reaction to the topic (e.g., are they expert in the field?, are they prone to accept or reject the ideas offered?), and
  3. the information itself (e.g., does it flow logically from one topic to the next?).

Also consider and adhere to expected formats for professional communications, whether they are language-, image-, or sound-based, printed or digital, as you organize your information within the draft communication.
decorative image

As you create your communication, keep in mind that plain, straightforward language is always best. Focus on expressing your ideas and information directly.  Don’t edit yourself as you write—save editing for the revision stage.

Finally, format the communication after you have developed and organized your draft. You will reconsider format when you revise, but it’s also fine to consider it once you have a robust draft.

Remember that the writing/creating stage should take about 20% of the total time or effort for the full communication. This often surprises new writers, who assume that most of the work happens in the creating/writing phase.


Always plan on time to revise communications that are longer than an email consisting of a few sentences (and sometimes it’s even good to revise those). Beginning communicators often skip revision; seasoned communicators understand that revision, along with planning, are key to creating effective communications. Incorporate time to set your draft aside to gain some distance from it, as a precursor to revising.

Revise on two levels: macro and micro.  Macro-level revisions involve going back to the planning stage and reviewing/editing your communication with the situational analysis elements in mind.  Ask yourself whether your content and organization are appropriate to your audience.  Are there places where your audience might need more—or less—information?  Do ideas flow easily from one to the next?  Is your purpose as clear as possible at the start of the communication, and does all information relate to your purpose?  Macro-level revisions also involve considering and addressing format expectations for the type of communication you are creating. Have you complied with or deviated from expected formats and, if you have deviated, what’s your rationale for doing so?  Have you considered the layout of information, so that your communication easy to follow and understand? As you review your communication on the macro level, you may find that you need to reorganize, add, subtract, redesign, and/or tweak information in your communication.

Micro-level revisions deal with sentences and words.  Is your overall tone appropriate for your role, purpose, and audience?  If not, where and how should you edit your language? Are your sentences clear and grammatically correct?  Have you used words or technical jargon that some audience members might not understand and, if so, what’s your best revision option, to add definitions or to change language? Are there typos that need to be fixed?  Even if you used a spellchecker, you might end up with this, “the store should not implement the new plan,” when you meant this, “the store should now implement the new plan.”  Evaluate your word choice to make sure your language is considerate of all audience members, with non-biased language that is respectful of organizational and cultural contexts.  Evaluate your word choice to make sure you’re using words that are appropriate to your audience’s level of understanding, and to make sure that your style is appropriate to the communication’s purpose and organizational expectations. Finely-tuned work with words should occur at the very end of the revision process and never during the composing stage, since this type of revision tends to derail the creation of information.

Remember that the revision stage should take about 40% of the total time or effort put into the communication.

How the Process Works

Although the following two videos are from a radio interview for an author promoting a book, the information about applying the writing process is very useful.  The videos also include a brief review of many concepts important to professional writing.

Also watch the video, Using a Writing Process to Avoid Common Errors (5:06), which is a portion of a course on Business Writing Fundamentals on

The following video also shows the process in action.

Final Note

This textbook is organized around the stages in the communication process:

  • Planning—all of the things you need to consider before starting to compose a communication, including sections on Communication Processes, Planning Effective Communications, Ethical and Digital Considerations, Communication Purposes
  • Creating—different types of professional communications and their content and format expectations, including sections on Brief Written Communications, Resume-Cover Letter-Professional Websites, Reports, Proposals, Oral/Visual Presentations, Virtual & In-Person Meetings and Teams
  • Revising—things you need to consider to polish a communication, including sections on Effective Language Use and Documenting Sources