Structured writing

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Structured writing is a form of technical writing that uses and creates structured documents.

The term was coined by Robert E. Horn and became a central part of his information mapping method of analyzing, organizing, and displaying knowledge in print and in the new online presentation of text and graphics.

Horn and colleagues identified dozens of common documentation types, then analyzed them into structural components called information blocks. They identified over 200 common block types. These were assembled into information types using information maps.

The seven most common information types were concept, procedure, process, principle, fact, structure, and classification.

Some of the problems that structured writing addresses[edit]

Structured writing has been developed to address common problems in complex writing:[1]

  • Organizing large amounts of material
  • Maintaining an orderly structure to provide a consistent experience to users
  • Providing users with a more intuitive and obvious experience
  • Ensuring the completeness of documentation
  • Targeting content to varying audiences
  • Coordinating writing projects among a group of writers
  • Organizing each chunk of content in an intuitive way
  • Organizing pages of content in a way that helps users understand its place in the whole body of knowledge
  • Maximizing the efficiency with which documentation can be understood and used

Relation to DITA[edit]

The seven most common information types identified by Horn and colleagues are loosely related to the three basic information types in Darwin Information Typing Architecture (DITA): concept, task, and reference. An information mapping procedure is a set of steps for a person. A process is a set of steps for a system. Both resemble the DITA task. DITA topics are assembled into documents using DITA maps.

See also[edit]


  • Horn, Robert E. (1989). Mapping Hypertext: The Analysis, Organization, and Display of Knowledge for the Next Generation of On-Line Text and Graphics. Lexington Institute.
  • Horn, Robert E. (1992). How High Can it Fly? Examining the Evidence on Information Mapping's method of High-Performance Communication. Lexington Institute.


  1. ^ Horn, Robert E. (1998). "Structured Writing as a Paradigm". Stanford University. Educational Technology Publications. Retrieved 9 July 2018.