Skillset New Zealand Blog

Ideas to help your team develop personally and professionally.

Ever read a letter, email or report and wondered, 'What's this really about?'

Any chance you skimmed until you found what the writer really wanted to say?

As writers, we can do better. Let's tell them the big idea upfront. No background, no justification. Just say what we want, need, recommend or believe.

Obvious? It's not the way most people write.

Most report writers will start with background, then tell us the problem and  hope we will stay to the end to see their recommendations. (Usually we just go to the recommendations, then go back and skim the rest.)

In business emails, most people provide background, then get to the point, sometimes in the last line. They fear that stating the big idea early would make them seem pushy. Think of it as being helpful.

Instead, how about?

Hello Jane
I've been thinking about ways to reduce our costs. I suggest we sell our whole fleet of cars and lease replacements.
Here's why...
Hi Pete
Could you have your report to me by the end of the day?
Sorry about the short notice, but the chief has asked for a meeting tomorrow afternoon and I need your report to prepare.

I'm suggesting that our big idea should come early, not necessarily first. I prefer first in a report, but in an email you might want to say something that enhances your relationship first: 'Thanks for the meeting this morning', 'Thanks for the briefing on the phone', 'I hope you enjoyed your break in Tahiti'. Then get to the point.


Interested in a workshop on business writing for your team?