Put a Sharp Point on Your Written Communications

“Words are, of course, the most powerful drug used by mankind.” Rudyard Kipling

by my dear friend Debra Benton

It’s not unusual to get 20 or 200 emails a day. I know someone who gets 2000! If you look at the ones you’ve received (and include snail-mail letters too), you will see that the majority start with “I.”

You typically see, “I’ve attached . . . I hear . . . I wanted to thank you . . . I’m cc’ing . . . I reviewed . . .”

Let me suggest that instead of starting with “I,” start your written communications with “You.” For example:

“You’re getting a copy of . . .
“You probably know that I’ve heard . . .”
“You deserve thanks for . . .”
“You and Barry are being cc’d on this . . .”
“Your material was carefully reviewed . . .”

The simple effort of starting the first paragraph with “you” personalizes the missive to the intended receiver, reinforces who’s most important to them (themselves!), appears other-oriented (not self-oriented), and makes your communication stand out from the rest subtly, but positively.

Regarding structure, try this simple formula:
First paragraph – “Them” focused, meaning that it addresses their interests, needs and concerns.
Second paragraph – “Me” focused, meaning that it addresses you and what you want.
Third (and final) paragraph – “Action,” meaning that it conveys the action that you will take next.

This sequence helps you stick to the point and be brief. Incidentally, it also works particularly well in a cover letter to accompany your resume when you are job hunting. In that application, the structure might play out this way:

First paragraph – “Your organization is known for high integrity . . .”
Second paragraph – “I want to be a part of your team . . .”
Third paragraph – “Let’s try to talk in person this month, I’ll follow-up next week with your assistant . . . ”

See how much better that reads if you were the recipient than, “I’m writing to you because you are a high integrity team and I want to be a part of it and I’ll phone you next week.” Their likely response to this second approach? “I don’t want you to!”

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