Writing faster with the Rudyard Kipling writing system

by Dean Evans

Speed...By implementing a content writing system you could become more productive, writing faster than you ever did before. 

Such a system could help when you’re struggling to get an article started; point you towards information you hadn’t thought of; and help you think through the structure of what you’re writing.

Where can you find such a system? Oddly, the author of The Jungle Book wrote about one over 100 years ago…

A content writing system from 1902

Rudyard Kipling immortalised an effective writing system in a poem printed in Just So Stories way back in 1902. Here’s the all-important verse:

“I keep six faithful serving men
(They taught me all I knew)
Their names are What and Why and When
And How and Where and Who.”

The 5Ws (and 1 ‘H’) approach is an information gathering technique that can work well in any topic you’re covering. It spurs you to ask “who?”, “what?”, “where?”, “when?”, “why?” and “how?” to form the core of your first paragraph(s).

For example:

  • Who was involved?
  • What happened? (and What were the important details?)
  • Where did it take place?
  • When did it take place?
  • Why did it happen?
  • How did it happen?

Try it out in your own topic. Not all of the questions will be relevant, but this article writing system can usually give you an instant opening paragraph and ensure that you don’t miss out on any vital information. You’ll also write faster.

The system is ideal for news writing, where the demands of the inverted pyramid mean that you need to get across the crux of your story quickly and concisely.

Writing faster with 5W and 1H

This 5Ws (and 1 ‘H’) approach is also helpful for building entire articles. If you’re writing about a product or a service, you could ask the following questions:

  • Who is this aimed at?
  • What are the advantages/disadvantages?
  • Where can you buy it?
  • When is it available?
  • Why should the reader care?
  • How does someone get more information?

Let’s say that you’ve identified “wine making starter kit” as a keyword phrase you’d like to cover. Start by applying the 5W approach to see if it gives you a head start on a basic article structure. For example:

  • What do you get in a wine making starter kit
  • What different wines can you make?
  • What are the benefits of using a kit?
  • How much wine can you usually make?
  • How do you pick the right kit?
  • Where can you find wine making starter kits?

Asking the questions that matter to readers

Then put yourself into the mind of a reader who’s interested in the topic. What questions would you ask about wine making starter kits? What objections would you have to buying one? How about:

  • Where do you get wine recipes from?
  • How much wine can you make?
  • How long does it take?
  • How easy is it?
  • How expensive are wine making kits?

Pick several of these questions and then turn them into key points. For example: ‘What do you get in a wine making starter kit?’ could easily become a paragraph that talks about the supplies included in a typical pack.

Elsewhere, the ‘How do you pick the right kit?’ question can be transformed into recommendations for starter kits that people can buy. Here’s a potential outline for this article based on some of the questions asked above:

  1. Introduction (benefits)
  2. What do you get in a wine making starter kit?
  3. What recipes/fruits/wines can you use with such a kit?
  4. How much wine can you usually make?
  5. How easy is it?
  6. Are wine making kits expensive and where can you buy them?
  7. Conclusion (summary and links to more info)

While Kipling’s system is ideal for news writing, it can also be a useful brainstorming tool when you need to map out an article. It can quickly give you a structure to work from with instant sub-headings. All you then need to do is answer the questions and fill in the blanks.

Creative Commons License photo credit: Rami ™

Need some help? You can hire us, check out The Good Content Code, view further posts related to writing faster or tell us how you go about writing faster in the comments section below…

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