Here are six categories to consider when revising your
This method of generating ideas works well when you’re feeling stuck or blocked. It’s also good when you need to write about a disagreeable business issue, such as a misunderstanding or claim denial. There’s something about fast writing and keeping your hand (or keyboard fingers) moving that gets rid of your inner-editor. And that can help you loosen up and get on with your business. • Outlining. Classifying and prioritizing your ideas in an outline is another way to begin your writing. You can be traditional by using Roman and Arabic numerals to denote a hierarchy of ideas. Or, if you prefer, make up your own notations to subordinate some ideas to others. Outlining works well for large-scope writing—reports, and proposals—where you need to keep track of many different categories and details. (See page 248 for further discussion of outlining.) • Sketching out a preliminary rough draft. Maybe some of you have no patience with the generative writing activities listed above. You want to start right in with what looks like a facsimile of the finished letter, memo, e-mail, or report, and you won’t consider any other option. We have no intention of standing in your way or criticizing a method that works for you. But we need to caution you about two pitfalls that come with the rough draft method. • One is a temptation to view a rough draft as a final draft, especially when you’ve composed it on your computer and it prints out looking so nice and professional. However, refrain from sending that message out into the world without taking the time to revise and edit it. (Revision and editing are two different activities, described later in this chapter.) • The second pitfall is that it’s too easy to press the “send” button on your e-mail system immediately after you’ve drafted a message. Don’t compromise your professional image in writing by sending something you can’t take back. Instead, draft your message as a separate document. Then, let it rest while you take a break. After you’ve had some time away from it, review, revise, edit, and then send it—either as an attachment or a cut-and-pasted e-mail message. 4. Draft your message. Whether you’ve started with a cluster of ideas, a brainstormed list, an outline, or a preliminary rough draft, you are ready to translate the ideas, terms, and phrases into a working document. Your goal here is to sort your major ideas into an order that makes sense to your reader. In business writing, that means getting directly to the main point in your first sentence or paragraph. Your introduction should address two points: the reason you are writing and your reader’s needs and expectations. 17 02 graphic revised 2/12/07 4:25 PM Page 17 Here are some examples of effective introductory sentences. • I am applying for the position of Art Director that was posted on your Web site on March 12th. • Attached is my response to your RFP. . . . • Enclosed are the roughs for. . . . In sales writing, Mark Cain notes, “You have about a tenth of a second to capture your reader’s attention. Sales writing speaks to ‘what’s in it for me [the reader]’ and ‘Why should I?’ It’s a call to action and persuasive. Tease them, but swing it so they feel ‘I need to talk to him.’ Develop those sentence structures so you’re giving the person a reason to respond.” Cain offers this example of an effective sales letter introduction: I’ve worked with Con Agra and developed their package line so that their sales are up 13 percent. I know that you are in the same industry, looking for those same types of results. Once you’ve drafted an attention-grabbing introduction, pay attention to your other main points and to support them with relevant details. Use paragraphs to separate the main points. Most business letters and memos are no more than a page long, although some can be longer than that. 5. Revise your draft. Revision refers to re-envisioning what you have drafted in relation to your purpose and reader analysis. When you revise, ask yourself if your draft is accomplishing the goals you set out to fulfill when you sat down to write in the first place. Here are six categories to consider when revising your writing: purpose, organization, conciseness, clarity, layout, and tone.