Peta Jinnath Abdul, Editor

Writer. Editor. Language Consultant.

Category: Developmental Frameworks

Writing Framework: EDT

EDT is a writing framework that helps you plan, develop, and write conceptual works. It stands for Explain, Define, Teach. Unlike many writing frameworks, it specifically addresses the needs of the receiver, the person reading or listening to your piece. 

Use Cases: how-to style posts, teaching posts, whitepapers, series, pitch decks, non-fiction books. Especially suited to work over 5,000 words.

Writing Framework: Explain, Define, Teach

EDT uses the principles of good writing alongside teaching pedagogy. It’s built off two key teaching concepts: explicit teaching, and Bloom’s taxonomy. Explicit teaching is when a teacher uses an I do, you do lesson to help students work through a concept, then try it out for themselves. Bloom’s taxonomy sets out a learning path that applies across many fields and styles of learning: remember, know, understand, analyze, create. Together, these ideas help you craft a piece that clearly explains the problem, your conceptual solution, and your actual (how-to) solution. It can be used as an overarching framework for a book or series, in conjunction with an existing framework such as PIGS, or for smaller how-to pieces. EDT is also a good fit for big ideas and thought leadership works, with at least three things contributing to the key concept. Using the EDT framework helps you:

  • explain why your piece matters
  • define a clear outcome for your work
  • provide enough background for your receiver to understand the importance of what you’re writing and how it affects them
  • teach a key concept or solve a problem

Although EDT is broken into three pieces, the percentage weight for each varies according to the use case. In a speech, the Teach step is smaller than it would be in a book. In a book, the Define step is smaller than it would be in a speech. Another way to conceptualise this is to rework the writing tools you learnt in high school.

Before starting out with EDT, spend a few minutes working out what your end game is. If you’re writing a pitch deck, your end game is to bring on a new client. If you’re writing a whitepaper, your end game could be to sell your company’s new service. Be as clear as you can.

Explain: What/Why?

This is a grounding step. First, clearly state your idea or key point. This is the what of your piece — what matters, what’s coming up, what your receiver cares about. Keep it clear and simple, but ensure it’s related to your end goal. Ensure you provide all the background information your receiver needs to know. Don’t leave anything out — if you have too much detail, it can be cleaned up in post.

This is an especially important step because most folks jump straight into the why of a piece. Jumping straight into the why is a completely valid approach, and it fits lots of scenarios, but it requires a base level of knowledge in the receiver. But if you’re writing about anything — anything — that’s outside your audience’s general knowledge base, jumping straight into “why” can be confusing. This first step, Explain, is a comfort step. If you skip it, you risk dropping your receiver into a special kind of intellectual Hell: they know what you’re saying matters; they feel like they should understand it, but are struggling; they feel stupid. No one wants to feel stupid, so your receiver:

  • pretends they understood
  • leaves

Neither are good options. So you use this step, the Explain step, to state your idea and seed information. At the end of this section, your receiver will remember the important information, and know why your work is important. Most of the time, this section is around 30% of your piece.

Define: Restating the what

Now you’ve established the key concept and the background, it’s time to restate the concept again. Define it clearly. Although this may seem repetitive, this restatement of your concept is the hinge in of the piece. When you first stated the concept, you used a hook, but your receiver didn’t have any context. It was just a statement, a lead in to the important stuff. Now, your receiver has context. Now, when you restate your key idea, the receiver understands what you’re saying and why they should care about your words. At the end of this step, your receiver moves from remembering and knowing to understanding your concept. Most of the time, this is around 20% of your piece.

Teach: All About The How

This is where you get things done. It’s usually the biggest part of the piece, because you have to step your receiver through your process. Be as clear as you can. Include lists, images, and examples where relevant. At the end of this step, your receiver moves from understanding your concept into analysing it, breaking it into pieces, then creating with it. Most of the time, this is around 50% of the piece.

When you’re finished, go back over the material and tighten it up. Work through each piece and ask:

    • Explain: what/why
      Is it clear what my idea is? What’s the context my receiver needs? Have I ensured they have everything they need? Have I given enough context for them to understand why they should care? What does my receiver remember and know at the end of this section? Spend time cutting out any extraneous material.
    • Define: what
      Have I restated my idea clearly? What does my reader understand at the end of this point?
    • Teach: how
      Have I set up clear steps my receiver can follow? Have I provided a clear how-to? Can my receiver break down the idea I’ve explored then apply it to their own situation?

The percentages here are not hard and fast; they will shift according to the type of material you’re working on. In a business book, your chapters might use EDT with a 30/20/50 breakdown, but the book itself is more 40/40/20. Remember: before you start, work out what your end game is. Once you’re done, go back and make sure you’re hitting it.

Need a framework for something smaller? Try out PEER, which is well-suited to simpler, individual pieces under 2000 words, like blog posts and press releases.

Writing Framework: PEER

PEER is a writing framework I developed to help my clients understand structure. It’s the single most useful framework for most writers because it can be adapted to any single point piece of writing. It stands for Point, Explain, Evidence, Review.

Use Cases: blog posts, individual articles or book chapters, pitch letters, press releases, essays, general teaching tools under 3000 words, simple analysis under 2000 words.

PEER Writing Framework as an image

Rather than focussing on all the discrete pieces of an idea, PEER makes your life easier by helping you work out what you’re trying to say before you start writing. Working this way means you:

  • stay on topic
  • keep your explanations concise
  • provide concrete evidence without waffle or chunks of irrelevant text
  • write a clear and concise summary of your main point

If you already have your content but feel like it’s wandering or waffling, PEER will help you bring structure to your work. To do this, run through your piece with a pencil and mark only the pieces directly relevant to each of the pieces described below. Be ruthless. If it doesn’t fit into the percentages I’ve listed, go back again, and cut more. Pay attention to extraneous facts or doubled up evidence.

Point:  What’s your big idea? 

This is the reason you’re writing. You should be able to state your point in a single sentence or tweet. If you can’t drill down to a single line summary, then you probably have too many ideas in your piece. Invest time in working out exactly what you want your reader to know. You can do this by asking questions such as What does the reader need to know? Why does my reader care? If I had only sixty seconds to explain this, what would I say first? If you’re really stuck, write down keywords, and build your single sentence summary out from there. Once you’re done, write out your point grafs. There’s no exact word count to this, but the Point in your piece should be no more than 20% of the total. If your point is less than 5% of the total, chances are you haven’t established properly, so make a note and come back to it at the end.

Explain: Why is your point important? 

Here’s where you get to delve into your idea more and get into the why/what/how. What’s your key concept? Why does it matter? How are you going to help your receiver?

Explaining your major point should take around 25–30% of your total. Use language suitable to your audience, and make sure you’ve clearly defined any new terms or acronyms. Expand on why your point matters, and how you’re going to prove it. Use this space to ground your reader in the topic.

Evidence: Proving your point

Evidence, evidence, evidence! When you write, you need to be able to back up your words. In non-fiction, this could mean statistics, charts, or quotes from appropriate sources. You’ve grounded your reader, explained why they should care about your point, and now you have to show them you’re worth your proverbial salt. Do not just state evidence, then sit back and relax. Evidence without context or some analysis is a waste of time. Tie your evidence back to your Point and Explanation. Ideally, you can walk your receiver through your why/what/how with real data. If you can’t write a because statement, like “this evidence shows that X because of Y”, you have a problem. Work out what your evidence is saying, how it supports your Point and Explanation, then try again.

Ngram of Clinton, Obama, and Trump, 1998-2008

These lines  show how many times each subject shows up in books catalogued by Google, over a ten-year period. They demonstrate nothing without explanation, analysis, or context.

Evidence should make up around 30% of your total. In some cases, this figure might run as high as 40% of the total count. Do not let evidence overrun your piece. Evidence is part of a greater whole, and it is possible to have too much.

Review: Ensure your receiver understands your main point

Recap your Point and how you’ve addressed it. Think about the takeaways in your piece. Did you successfully teach a concept? Did you show how you worked through from your question to your answer? Your Review should be around 10–15% of your article total, unless you’ve written an analysis-heavy piece. If you’ve spent a lot of time digging into your evidence, the review should reflect the major takeaways, and comprise around 20% of the total.

Some folks like to write a basic single line frame with PEER, defining four sentences and then building out from there. When I use it in high school English classrooms, I have students write questions around the steps, then answer them. Clients who know their topic well and are looking for a better way to structure their thoughts often write each graf in sequence, then go back and check they’ve adhered to the structure to keep their writing tight and focussed. Do whatever works for you. PEER doesn’t replace your knowledge, or provide you with new knowledge. Writing frameworks are about expression, about bringing structure to your thoughts. PEER helps you:

  • express what you know
  • express what you have
  • state what you want
  • or some combination of all three.

You can also use PEER as a secondary framework in larger pieces (which we’ll discuss next time). Remember, whatever the content, if you can drill down to a single point, you can use PEER.