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Writing Well

There’s a new 12-Step program for people who can’t get to the point. It’s called Anonanonanonanon. 

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.
How to find your point:
  1. First, what is the issue?
What general issue are you writing about? Is it a delay in a project timeline? A need for budget approval? A proposed new project? At this stage, just identify your basic topic.
  1. What is your purpose or intended result?
Identifying the purpose of your document is your first task when writing. Everything else about your document, including your point, flows from its purpose.
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?
  1. Capture your message in ONE sentence; include a call to action if possible.
At this stage, you formulate your point as concisely as possible. It should boil down to: What do you want your reader to KNOW/DO/BELIEVE about the issue that you’re writing about?
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

  1. First – what is the issue?
The park benches in the senior center need to be repaired.
  1. What is the writer’s purpose?
To request. (But look at what he wrote: Did he ever make a clear request?)
  1. What does his reader need to DO?
Provide information that he has about the current lease agreements.
  1. Capture the point in one sentence and email it to me. I will send a summary of the Worktalk Three Ps planning tool to everyone who responds.  Send your answer to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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

Writing Well

Choosing the Right Word

Thoughts on Writing

Writing Within Organizations

Bad writing is costly. Good writing builds relationships and productivity. Improve the business writing and email in your organization by offering business writing and email training programs from Worktalk. Contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for information.

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  • Taught by a professional writer. +

    These courses are not taught by a general skills trainer who happens to teach writing. Elizabeth Danziger has been published by major publishing houses such as Random House and Harcourt Brace. Her work has appeared in many national magazines. She is an expert writer and editor who brings her knowledge as a resource to participants.
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