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How to template your writing

A pair of hands typing on a laptop

Often, a lot of what we write or blog follows a pattern. We write articles and posts that have similar structures, similar flows.

Chances are, you want a consistent look, feel, and flow across similar articles and blog posts. An easy and effective way to do that is to template your writing.

What do I mean by that? By template I mean creating a canned structure or format for one or more types of article or blog post. You slot words into the template, and then you’re ready to go.

Let’s take a look at how to template your writing.

Why use a template?

Besides offering a consistent feel and flow to what you’re writing, using a template can save you time. With a bit of practice, you’ll be able to open a template, fill in the information you want to include in the article or post, and you’ll quickly have something ready to publish.

Using a template doesn’t mean you’ll be painting (well, writing) by numbers. Remember that a template is a guide. It provides the container. You fill the container with your words and ideas. You can be as creative as you want to be with that. The creativity comes from how you present those words and ideas.

What can you use a template with?

Just about anything you write. But I don’t think you need to template everything. Instead, think about the types of articles or blog posts that you regularly write. Focus on those, and then build templates for them.

Here are the types of articles and blog posts I use templates with:

  • Listicles
  • Roundup posts
  • Interviews
  • How-to pieces

How can you create a template?

Look at the elements and the structure of the type of writing you want to template. Then, pick out the elements and structures that are common across that type of writing.

When I template my writing, I think in terms of what goes where. I’ll have:

  • An introduction that runs anywhere from one to three paragraphs
  • A number of sections, that can contain one to three paragraphs
  • A conclusion running a paragraph or two

Obviously, this will vary across the types of articles and posts that I write.

Once you’ve picked out the elements and structure, add them to a text file or a word processor document. There won’t be any detail; you’ll just have a bunch of placeholders that you’ll replace with text when the time comes.

Here’s a sample roundup post template, based on the news roundups I write for Opensource.com.

What should you include in your template?

Whatever you need to include in the template.

Having said that, keep the details to a minimum. Include placeholders and, if necessary, a sentence or two of instructions or description — for example, explain the type of information that goes into one paragraph over another in a section.

Remember that the template is a skeleton. It’s a guide, not a straitjacket. Use it to remind you of the general structure of what you’re writing. Don’t be afraid to play with the contents a bit.

If you’re using your templates regularly, you eventually won’t need the digital files. By then, you’ll have internalized the structures those templates provide and will be able to use them from memory on a blank canvas.

Until then, try templating your writing. Doing that might not make you a better writer, but it could make you a more efficient one.

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