Planning Technical & Professional Documents


Learning Objectives

  • analyze a writing problem and outline a plan for solving the problem that illustrates and analyzes audience while creating various professional/technical documents with a sophisticated awareness of audience as a reader and a writer.
  • operate current technologies in order to produce effective documents.

Types and Benefits of Planning

All writing, whether professional or technical, requires planning. The ability to write audience-centered, persuasive, purposeful, and concise messages does not come naturally. Very few writers, especially those who are still developing their skills, can sit down and compose an effective e-mail, report, or presentation without planning the process and production of the document. Creating a writing plan helps you understand the primary tasks of a writing situation, how long each task will take, and when you should complete each task in order to meet the final deadline. Following a systematic process for prewriting can help beginning to experienced writers be successful. For professional and technical writers, “prewriting” includes analyzing the audience, anticipating how they will react, choosing a medium, and developing a writing plan.

To develop a writing plan, create a work schedule that includes the tasks of the assignment and the dates that you plan to complete the tasks. The tasks and completion dates can be recorded in a planner, a journal, a spreadsheet, a table, or a Gantt chart. As Figure 1 illustrates, a Gantt chart (named after inventor, Henry Gantt) helps you manage time by identifying tasks that can take place simultaneously versus those that must be completed sequentially. Since a color-coded assignment key can be used to associate certain team members with specific tasks, Gantt charts are also useful for managing team projects.


Figure 1: Gantt Chart

A table that displays a work schedule helps you manage time by identifying the key tasks of a project, the estimated time for each task, and the projected due dates for tasks. A three-column work table may not highlight tasks that can be completed simultaneously, but a table can help you quickly recognize key tasks and their due dates. 

Project Task Your Time Allotment Your Due Date
Analyze Audience(s) 2 days  Aug. 29
Write project schedule 1 day  Aug. 30 
Conduct research 1 week Sept. 5
Create outline for deliverables 2-3 days   Sept. 10
Draft deliverables 1 week Sept. 17
Request reviews of documents 1 week Sept. 24
Revise deliverables 3 days Sept. 27
Edit deliverables 2 days Sept. 29
Proofread deliverables 1 day Sept. 30
Submit deliverables 15 minutes Sept. 31

Consider the following example. You are currently working in a part-time job that is unrelated to your major and career choice. You decide that you want to replace that job with another part-time job or internship that relates to your major. You need to conduct research about your career choice before carefully selecting a job advertisement for which you can apply. You have also heard that you should create a LinkedIn Profile. Of course, you will also need a cover letter and a résumé. Finding a new part-time job is not an emergency, but you want to locate and secure one within the next few months.

A three-column work schedule may be more effective than a Gantt chart for this writing situation since you do not plan to compose your LinkedIn Profile, Résumé, and Cover Letter with a team. You may, however, ask your peers and a College or a University Career Center to review your documents before you publicize or disseminate them. Below is a sample work schedule that might fit your prewriting needs for this writing situation. 

Project Task Your Time Allotment Your Due Date
Conduct research about career 1 day Aug. 27
Locate a relevant job advertisement 1 day  Aug. 28
Conduct research (e.g., information about the company, who to address the cover letter to, etc.). 1 week Sept. 3
Learn about LinkedIn and create a profile 2-3 days Sept. 5
View LinkedIn Training – How to Make your Profile More Attractive to Recruiters 5 minutes  Sept. 5
Revise LinkedIn Profile 1 day Sept. 8
Gather information for Résumé 1 day Sept. 9
Draft Résumé 2 days Sept. 11
Draft Cover Letter 1 day Sept. 12
Ask peer and career center to review Résumé and Cover Letter 2 days Sept. 12
Revise Resume and Cover Letter 4 days Sept. 19
Edit and Proofread LinkedIn Profile, Résumé, and Cover Letter 2 days Sept. 22
Send Résumé and Cover Letter to apply for the advertised job 15 minutes Sept. 23

Strategies for Effectively Planning Writing Projects

  1. Analyze the writing situation: who are the audience(s), how might they react, what deliverables do you need, and what is your timeframe? Is the writing task geared towards individuals or teams?
  2. Generate a list of tasks that the writing situation requires: what research do you need to conduct, who do you need to interview, what text(s) do you need to compose, who can review your deliverables, and what revisions and editing will you want to conduct?
  3. Estimate the amount of time that each task will take for you and/or your team members to complete. Remember to consider the final deadline for your project.
  4. Design a work schedule in the form of either a table or a Gantt chart. Include a list of tasks for your project. Use reverse planning to fill in the due dates for tasks: begin with the final due date and use your estimates of time for each task to work backwards in your plan. In the above table, the writer plans to complete the editing and proofreading of his or her work on Sept. 22 in order to send the final drafts by Sept. 23. 
  5. Consult with your team members, if applicable, to finalize your plan.


  1. Why does technical or professional writing require planning, especially if writing comes naturally to some people?
  2. Identify three benefits of creating a writing plan.
  3. Identify three to four aspects of the prewriting stage for professional and technical writing.
  4. What are the benefits of using a Gantt Chart to design a writing plan?
  5. What are the benefits of using a table to design a writing plan?
  6. Identify five strategies for effectively planning writing projects. 

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