Writing in circles

By | December 21, 2015

The circle is a very powerful shape. Nature loves it and so do humans (think about how you got to work this morning).

Circles work in writing, too. In narrative there’s nothing quite as satisfying as a return to the starting point. Western narrative does this all the time – think of Odysseus and his voyage home, or contemporary stories like The Alchemist, where the hero’s far-flung quest for treasure ends in his own back yard, or Dorothy’s perfect circle of dream exploration in The Wizard of Oz.

Why do we find the circle so satisfying? One reason might be our deep need to be home, in familiar surroundings, connected to our families and friends. Another might be the simple enjoyment of closing the loop as the end of the story brings us back to the beginning.

In business, we close the loop in our writing and our presentations by reviewing the main points so that our readers, who might be prone to forget our starting point, are gently reminded of why we’ve engaged their attention.

If we structure a piece of writing or a presentation as a process of detection – why did our company do X when it should have done Y? – then the solution we provide naturally loops back to the mystery, puzzle or question we addressed at the beginning.

A circular structure helps us bring our audience home and helps create a strong, clearly defined and satisfying conclusion. Think about this the next time you plan a piece of communication, and leverage the power of the circle.

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