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    Effective business or technical writing requires training; success comes by method, not chance. You can reduce your writing time, improve clarity, and achieve your objective—whether to inform, persuade, or simply create goodwill—by following some very basic principles.

    TIP 1: Leave “Once Upon a Time” to the Novelists

    Forget the once-upon-a-time format. Only on rare occasions is this arrangement useful for presenting conclusions and recommendations against which your reader is strongly biased.

    For example, consider the jaded TV viewer who’s about to change the channel to find something more intriguing during the on-the-hour station break. Quickly, the producer slides into a teaser: The wife finishes her phone call, kisses her husband goodbye, and walks out to the car parked in the garage. The garage door rises as she presses the button. From out of the shadows, a gruff voice demands that she keep her mouth shut as brutish hands claw at her throat. She gasps for breath, then slides limply to the garage floor.

    Commercial. The rest of the movie circles back to let us guess “who done it.”

    If you use this arrangement, you purposefully try to keep your readers blindfolded, forcing them to follow your reasoning slowly and deliberately. If we did X, then Y would happen. If we tried to do A, then B might happen. If we then tried option C, then D might ruin us. Therefore, it follows that EFG appears to be the best course of action. With this suspenseful format, you as the writer completely control how much or how little you want to reveal to the readers and in what order.

    Such an arrangement usually annoys busy readers, who want to control their own time. Their reaction is, “Tell me what your main point is, and I'll decide if I want to hear more.”

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    If, on the other hand, you think your readers are so biased against what you have to say that you have to sneak up on their blind side, then you might well choose the once-upon-time format. You hold up the reader's first cherished idea, then refute it. Next, you hold up the reader's second most cherished idea, then knock it down. Finally, you present the only remaining option––your conclusions and recommendations––and hope you have left the reader no alternative but to accept your position. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't.

    Unless your document is so short or of such great interest that all readers will feel compelled to read every single detail, avoid this arrangement. Novelists and screenwriters get away with such a structure,… but most business writers create far less intrigue.

    TIP 2: Consider Your Audience for the Proper Approach as You Organize Your Ideas

    When writing any document, always make the reader’s interest central. And remember, for the most part, readers don’t care about your trouble, only your results.

    Decide how your readers will use your document, and narrow your message to suit their interests. Choose details to be included on the basis of the audience’s experience, biases, uses, and knowledge of your subject.

    TIP 3: When Writing to a Mixed Audience, Rank Readers by Importance

    Name names. Most reports and many letters and email messages go through several people for approval. And even if the document doesn’t need the approval of others, it is often passed on simply to inform them.

    When writing to a mixed audience, first rank readers by importance. Then broaden your document to include all levels of readers and their diverse interests in your subject. List names or at least groups of readers your work needs to satisfy: top management; general professional staff, such as engineers, accountants, and geologists; specialists in a particular field such as inspectors, machine operators, auditors, and so forth.

  • About the Author

    Dianna Booher’s extensive and ongoing research and published works in the field of business communication and productivity serve as the foundation for over 40 books on communication skills training . Dianna has received the highest awards in the professional speaking industry, including induction into the CPAE Speaker Hall of Fame®. She is a member of the prestigious Speakers Roundtable. As a result of Dianna's work among top corporations on communication issues, Executive Excellence magazine has recognized Dianna on its list of the Top 100 Thought Leaders in America. Additionally, Successful Meetings magazine named Dianna on its list of 21 Top Speakers for the 21st Century! Dianna has been interviewed by Good Morning America, CNN, CNBC, USA Today, the Washington Post, New York Newsday, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Wall Street Journal Radio, National Public Radio, Bloomberg, Investors Business Daily, Fox Family Network, Reader's Digest, Working Woman, Industry Week, McCall's, Cosmopolitan, Success, Entrepreneur, among other national radio, TV, and newspapers. She holds a master's degree in English from the University of Houston.

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Write to the Point

Learn to write clear, concise, compelling documents (email, sales letters, proposals, reports) quickly and get the action you want.

This 48-page ebook will take the pain out of writing process by providing quick tips and practical examples you can apply immediately to reduce your writing time and get your point across.

Example Tips:

  • Write for the same skeptics who watch network news.
  • Make sure your elaboration matches the intended emphasis.
  • Quantify when you can.
  • Decide whether a chart or graphic will help or hinder.
  • Use passive voice only for a good reason.
  • Watch out for the dangling “”which.”””
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