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Tested Writing Methods

by Mike Murach
10 chapters, 256 pages, 101 figures
Published November 2023
ISBN 978-1-943873-11-1
List price: $25.00

Want to see your students write better than they ever have before? Just add this book as a supplementary text to your writing or communications course. It presents all the writing methods that your students need for success on the job. And it does that in a unique, top-down way that lets your students add one method at a time to their skillsets. What’s hard to believe is that most of these methods aren’t taught in high school or in college or in college textbooks.

But don’t take my word for it. Please request a free review copy today!

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  • About this Book
  • Table of Contents
  • Courseware
  • FAQs
  • Corrections

Who this book is for

This book is for writing instructors who want to see their students make dramatic improvements in their writing in a single semester. To facilitate that, you just need to add this book as a required supplementary text to your course.

Although the focus of this book is on business writing, the tested writing methods work for all types of non-fiction. To write well, you need to think and write from the top-down, and that’s what this book will teach your students how to do.

What this book does

What’s unique about this book is that most of its methods aren’t included in other books on writing. That’s true even though the tested writing methods it presents are the ones used by professional writers. That’s why the two sections in this book will help your students improve their writing in ways that other books don’t even address.

In section 1, your students will learn the tested writing methods. That includes how to use headings and subheadings to plan what you’re going to to write paragraphs that sell your to write sentences that are easy to read and to show the relationships between your paragraphs and to write the first draft in record time...and how to edit that first draft without “thrashing.”

Then, the last chapter in section 1 shows your students how they can use chatbots like ChatGPT to improve their writing. This is a timely subject that needs to be handled in every writing course because like it or not your students will be using chatbots. But as this chapter shows, most chatbot writing leaves a lot to be desired. That’s why your students still need to master all of the methods in this book.

In section 2, your students will learn how to use the Microsoft Word features that every writer should use: templates and styles, the outline feature, and the spelling and grammar checker. If that seems out of place in a book on writing, it’s included because most writers don’t use these features, even though these features will help them write faster and better.

What we mean by "tested" writing methods

To a large extent, writing has been treated as more of an art than a science. In business, though, you want your writing to be more science that art. You want your emails to communicate efficiently. You want your reports to draw the right conclusions and your proposals to get results. You want your marketing and web copy to sell your products and services. In short, you want your writing to get the intended results. And any writing that doesn’t do that is a waste of time...for both the writer and the reader.

So what we mean by “tested” writing methods is that our publishing company has tested them on the job in the real world for more than 50 years. During those years, we used these methods to write dozens of books and to sell more than 1,000,000 copies of them. We also used these methods to write our emails, reports, proposals, procedure manuals, web copy, and more. From the start, the success of our company has depended 100% on how well we write...and we’ve used the methods in this book to do that writing.

When we started, though, we had to develop many of the writing methods ourselves. That’s because we couldn’t find anything useful in the dozens of books that we reviewed. That includes: How to plan what you’re going to write. How to use headings and subheadings to guide your readers. How to get the most from visuals. How to write the first draft. How to edit that first draft. And even how to write effective paragraphs.

But when it came to writing sentences, there was voluminous information in other books on writing. The trouble is that there’s so much more to good writing than writing good sentences. So when it came to writing sentences, we selected just the best methods from other books, tested them on the job, and improved them. Now, chapter 4 presents those methods in a single chapter from the top-down with the most important methods first.

How this book will help your students improve their writing

Like all our books, this one has features that you won’t find in competing books. Here are five of them:

  • This book presents a top-down approach to writing that starts with how to plan what you’re going to write and ends with how to use Word’s spelling and grammar checker to catch a final error or two. No other writing book is that comprehensive.
  • Above all, this book presents the writing methods that are either neglected or ignored in college textbooks on writing and communications. That’s why Tested Writing Methods works so well as a supplementary text.
  • This book not only shows how to write better, but also how to write faster. That starts with planning and ends with writing the first draft just once, editing it just once, and proofreading it just once. That contrasts the write, edit, rewrite, and edit again approach to writing that we call “thrashing.”
  • This book has a chapter on AI writing and chatbots like ChatGPT that shows how these tools can help you write better. But as the chapter points out, your students still need to master all the other skills in this book if they want their writing to be successful.
  • This book shows how to use the Microsoft Word features for writers: templates and styles, the outline feature, and the spelling and grammar checker. If your students are using Word but aren’t using these features, this will show them what they’re missing. And if they aren’t using Word, this will show them why they should be.

What courses this book can be used for

Because Tested Writing Methods has a business and technical orientation, it will work especially well for business and technical writing courses. But the methods work for most types of non-fiction. That’s why this book will help the students in most curriculums improve the writing that they do for their courses.

View the table of contents for this book in a PDF: Table of Contents (PDF)

Click on any chapter title to display or hide its content.

Section 1 The tested writing methods

Chapter 1 How to use headings to plan short documents and guide your readers

How to use headings in short documents

Why you should use headings in your documents

Why you should use a heading plan to plan the headings

A three-step procedure for planning the headings

Related skills

How to choose the organization for a document

How to improve your headings and document titles

Chapter 2 How to use headings and subheadings to plan long documents

An introduction to the use of headings and subheadings

How headings and subheadings should guide your readers

Why you should use a heading plan to plan long documents

How to use a heading plan to plan long documents

Step 1: Select and sequence the topics

Step 2: Add and sequence the subtopics

Step 3: Convert the topic and subtopic names to headings and subheadings

Step 4: Analyze and improve the heading plan

How your heading plans will affect your writing

How better heading plans will lead to better writing

How poor heading plans will limit your effectiveness

The heading plans for three chapters in this book

Chapter 3 How to write paragraphs that sell your ideas

The principles of paragraphing

Principle 1: Start each paragraph with the idea of the paragraph

Principle 2: Put one and only one idea in each paragraph

Principle 3: Fully develop the idea of each paragraph

How to provide continuity between paragraphs and sentences

Use connecting words

Use subject and word repetition

Use pronouns and pointers

Use parallel structures

Three related skills

How to write introductory paragraphs like topic openers

How to write paragraphs that present lists

When and how to plan the paragraphs that you’re going to write

Chapter 4 How to write sentences that are easy to read and understand

What you should know about readability measurement

How to measure readability

What GL scores can’t measure

Four ways to improve readability

Simplify your sentences

Simplify your words and phrases

Use fewer words

Use four basic sentence structures

Three ways to say what you mean

Be specific and prescriptive

Use active voice

Avoid figurative language, trite language, and analogies

Two ways to improve your style

Write with a conversational style

Use some stylistic devices

Chapter 5 How to use visuals to enhance your writing

Six guidelines for using visuals

Plan the visuals before you start writing

If necessary, gather the visuals

Be sure that each visual enhances the document

Try to make each visual easy to understand

Be sure that each visual is honest

Use the text to get the full value from each visual

Two ways to include visuals in your documents

Embed the visuals

Treat the visuals as separate components

Chapter 6 How to write a good first draft in record time and edit it without “thrashing”

How to write the first draft in record time

Start the document from your heading plan

Start somewhere and keep going!

Write one good paragraph at a time

Insert the visuals as you write

If necessary, adjust the heading plan

How to edit without “thrashing”

Edit the first draft just once

If necessary, analyze the paragraphs

Proofread the edited document just once

Use your word processor to do some final checking

Related skills

How to write document introductions

How to write topic openers

How to format the headings and subheadings

How to use the standard proofreading marks

Chapter 7  When and how to use AI writing tools like ChatGPT

Introduction to AI writing and ChatGPT

An introduction to AI writing

How ChatGPT has taken AI writing to a new level

Two competing chatbots: Google Bard and Microsoft Bing

What ChatGPT can do


Parlor tricks

Write programming code

Present basic research

Write an essay or short report

What ChatGPT can't do

Write like a pro

Add new perspectives and analysis

Write comprehensive reports

How to use ChatGPT to improve your writing

Write prompts that get the intended results

Use ChatGPT for research...but do your own research too

Use ChatGPT for drafts...but enhance, edit, or ignore them

Section 2 The Microsoft Word features for writers

Chapter 8  How to use Word’s templates and styles

Basic concepts

Template concepts

Style concepts

How to use templates and styles

How to start a new document from a template

How to apply paragraph styles

When and how to use direct formatting

Other uses of the Styles pane

When and how to use the Office templates

How to create and modify styles

How to create a new style

How to modify a style

How to assign a shortcut key to a style

How to create or modify a template

How to create a template

How to modify a template

Related skills

How to add a table of contents to a template

How to update Word fields

How to create a custom ribbon tab or Quick Access Toolbar

Chapter 9  How to use Word’s outline feature

How to create and use an outline

How to start an outline

How to expand and collapse the headings in an outline

How to reorganize an outline

How to print an outline

Other uses of the outline feature

How to use Outline view as you write and edit

How to use Outline view to plan and organize your work

When and how to number the headings

Chapter 10  How to use Word’s spelling and grammar checker

Two ways to use the spelling and grammar checker

How to fix spelling and grammar errors as you type

How to run the spelling and grammar checker

How to get the readability statistics

How to set the spelling and grammar options

The basic spelling and grammar options

Other grammar options

A quick reference for grammar

Subject-verb agreement

Pronoun references, dangling modifiers, and misplaced words and phrases

Comma use

Capitalization and italics

Misspelled and misused words


Appendix A How to download and install the reports and templates for this book

How to download and install the reports and templates for this book

We believe that Tested Writing Methods will improve any writing course just by making it required reading. That means that you can assign the same writing projects that you’ve assigned in the past...but you can expect to see your students make dramatic improvements in their writing.

To help you get the maximum benefit from the book, though, we also provide a limited set of instructor’s materials. Those materials include PowerPoint slides, behavioral objectives, and student projects.

PowerPoint slides

The instructor’s materials start with 171 PowerPoint slides that present the methods and examples that are in the book. That makes it easy for you to review the methods in class. In fact, if you step through the slides for a chapter at the start of a class, your students will quickly see how mastering the tested writing methods will help them improve their writing.

Behavioral objectives

The objectives describe the skills that your students should have when they finish each chapter. These objectives are also provided at the start of the PowerPoint slides for each chapter so you can go over them in class. Of course, the underlying objective is always for your students to apply the methods of each chapter to their own writing projects.

Writing projects

The four writing projects for this book ask your students to apply the writing methods to four different types of projects. The first three ask the students to write an email, a short report, and a long report. The fourth asks the students to edit an essay that was prepared by ChatGPT. This is a difficult project that requires extensive editing...and it clearly shows your students why they shouldn’t use a Chatbot for their own writing assignments.

Reports and templates

The book download includes the two documents that are used as examples throughout the book, plus the two Word templates that are presented in chapter 8. Your students can get this download from our website.

However, you don’t have to download them, because those documents and templates are provided in the courseware. The courseware also includes the ChatGPT essay that’s required by the fourth writing project so you will have easy access to it.

On this page, we’ll be posting answers to the questions that come up most often about this book. So if you have any questions that you haven’t found answered here at our site, please email us. Thanks!

There are no book corrections that we know of at this time. But if you find any, please email us, and we’ll post any corrections that affect the technical accuracy of the book here. Thank you!

Murach college books and courseware since 1974