We’ve all had the unpleasant experience of reading an email or document that doesn’t make a clear point. When we don’t think in advance about our main point, we may inflict this painful experience on our readers. We need to identify our main point before we write, and state our point quickly and clearly, to help our readers best understand and act on our message.
- Emails and documents that lack a clear point
- Know your point before you start to write.
- Get to your point early in your document.
- First, what is the issue?
- What is your purpose or intended result?
The three most common purposes of business documents are to inform, to request, and to persuade. Based on the purpose of your document, answer the corresponding question.
|IF INFORMING:||What do you want your reader to KNOW about the issue?|
What do you need your reader to DO about the issue?
First -- what can your reader gain or lose through the action/attitude that you are supporting? Then -- what do you want your reader to BELIEVE about this issue?
- Capture your message in ONE sentence; include a call to action if possible.
You might notice that if you are requesting or persuading (and we recommend that you use these energetic purposes as often as possible), boiling down your point will usually give you your call to action.
Where Does the Point Belong?
In general, start your message with some version of your point.Leading with your point means that your reader knows that your message is relevant to him right away. Without that, he is likely to gloss through your email until he discovers whether it is relevant or not – and miss a lot in the process.
An Example That Lacks a Point
Take a look at this email, and see if you can figure out its point:
Dear Mr. Ritz,
Downs High School is at the corner of Polk Street and Downs Avenue. I remember it well from my days as a student there so long ago. The senior citizen's park adjoining the school is also so lovely. The senior center is leased to Jonesville School District, I believe.
Someone has reported that the benches in the senior center need to be repaired. We at the district cannot do this without the proper paperwork. We don’t have the current lease agreements, although we do have a site map and some notes from a meeting discussing the leases from many years ago.
Any information you can send would be most appreciated.
Figure out the point for Mr. Ritz and Get a Prize
- First – what is the issue?
- What is the writer’s purpose?
- What does his reader need to DO?
The Point of This Writamin
You absolutely need to know your point before you write. Otherwise, you may drag your hapless reader through your convoluted mental process of figuring out what you want to say. Where you place your point depends in part on your purpose. In most cases, placing your point at the beginning and repeating it at the end will serve you well.
©2017 Elizabeth Danziger All rights reserved
Read Writamins on these topics:Emailing Effectively
Choosing the Right Word
Thoughts on Writing
Writing Within Organizations