How many times have you or I sat, staring at a blank computer screen, waiting for inspiration to strike? How many times have we wished there were such a thing as a business writing fairy godmother – or at the very least, a ghostwriter, who could come along and give us a fill-in-the-blanks draft to get us started?
Let’s say that your email is the type of email you write all the time. And the question becomes just how many ways can you say the same thing? So it can often be helpful to use a sort of template for the same sorts of pieces, and many companies and organizations do just that.
The downside of course is that these form letters tend to sound much the same, and are usually, of necessity, quite impersonal.
Especially from a tonal point of view, these impersonal form letters can be quite destructive to a relationship that we have worked so hard to develop with each individual reader. Obviously, it is far preferable to write most of our correspondence directly for that specific individual reader. Templates, or “form letters” are not for everyone, nor are they for every situation.
On the other hand, when carefully crafted, and especially when they are of the “save as and fill-in-the-blanks” type, they can be quite useful. Just “save as,” fill in the blanks, and you’re done!
Let’s see, for example, how this might look for a very simple standard meeting announcement:
“The (date/topic) meeting of the (name) committee will be held (at/in the) (location) (at/from) (time) on (day and date). Please see attached agenda for details.”
This simple “save as and fill-in-the-blanks” template might become something like:
“The April meeting of the waste reduction committee will be held in the third-floor conference room from 4 to 5 PM on Thursday, April 24, 2013. Please see attached agenda for details.”
The RSVP request will be your second paragraph, which could also be a “saafitb” paragraph.
Be sure that the attached agenda details include who will be responsible for each report, or presentation agenda item, so the responsible person will be prepared. It’s also a good idea to send a quick reminder email to each of these individuals. You may even have a system that does this automatically.
You probably have a number of standard emails you create on a regular basis. Try developing your own “save as and fill-in-the-blanks” templates for these sorts of emails, and see if it makes the process easier and faster.
More complex repetitious communications will require a more complex format, but the principle is the same: You want to avoid as much repetitious key stroking as you reasonably can, using the “blanks-to-be-filled-in” to provide both the specific information for the piece you are writing, and to personalize this information for your specific reader. This will go a long way toward avoiding the impersonal “form letter” tone, while speeding up the process.
For example, a persuasive proposal should begin with a persuasive “lead” paragraph clearly summarizing exactly what the proposal is, and stressing the benefit to the reader, or to his or her company or organization. Quick tip: Increase the effectiveness of your proposal by starting with the benefit.
As appropriate, other sections of the persuasive proposal could include, for example:
• Significance of your proposal. Why do? Why need? Why now?
• Proposed time schedule.
• Resources required/Resources available.
• Changes that will be needed.
• Similar programs/activities. Review and evaluate how, and how well they worked. How were they the same, and how did they differ?
• Projected positive results, with time frame and evaluation criteria.
• Anything else your reader needs to know to decide in your favor.
And finally, you will have a very strong, very clear, very persuasive conclusion to the material covered, in benefits-to-the-reader terms.
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