The 5 Step Writing Guidelines

To Writing Clear and Concise Emails That Save you Time

Reactive email writing is far too common. Writing quality and clarity is compromised because editing and brainstorming occur all at once. Instead, slow down and process what you’re going to say by applying 5 key writing steps. By applying these, your readers will reduce the needs to ask further questions, and lessen go backs.

Step 1: Rough Notes. Do not edit and brainstorm at the same time. Instead just download each thought imaging the reader is sitting across from you. Leave an inch between each sentence you draw forth.

Step 2: Identify Your Message ( Do this; Know this )

The one thing you would say if you couldn’t say anything else.

Many letters leave the message for last. Instead help your reader get at the main message of your communication right up front. What do you want them to do? What do you want them to know? This is the one thing you would say if you couldn’t say anything else. So explore your thoughts about this.

Step 3: Label your Rough Notes into 5 types of sentences:

R – Relationship

M – Message

B – Background – Past; Present (proceeding the messaging).

D – Development – Future (where to go from here).

C – Calls to action (directives on next steps)

“R” Relationship statements are those that engage, acknowledge, and strengthen the relationship with the reader.

Ie. I appreciate your passionate interest in acquiring expertise with your finances.

Ie. I admire your goal of creating a world class business and inspiring a high impact team.

Ie. Thank you for always keeping me in mind when making a favorable introduction.

“B” Background sentences usually support your message with references to the past or present.

Ie. When we worked on the ABC team project, it became clear just how important referrals are for both of us.

Ie. Today, my focus has been X.

“D” Development sentences are future-based. They bring the reader to look down the path to the future.

Ie. How about next week we refine the proposal template together and test drive it?

Ie. Moving forward we’d rebuild the team, and define position descriptions.

Ie. Later we might tweak the plan to suit the changes in your business course.

“C” A call to action is a next step or move that has closure.

Ie. I’ll call you next Tuesday at 10am, if your assistant Martha has a better time, please have her call me before 5pm today.

Ie. Joe’s letter is expected to go out in today’s mail, when you read it, please call me before 12 noon on Thursday to position a next step.

(always use “please” and “thank you” in calls to action)

Step 4: Highlight Visually – Form Paragraphs, Sentence structures. Spell Check.

Syntax. Grammar. Meaning and intention. Now that you’ve labeled your sentences

into the five types, compact your paragraphs, and finesse your sentences, spelling, and syntax.

You’ll essentially have 4-5 paragraphs: R, M, B, D, C.

  1. Relationship
  2. Message
  3. Background
  4. Development
  5. Call to Action

Your message “M” should be the last sentence of the relationship “R” (1st) Paragraph, italicized. Or the 2nd paragraph if your message “M” has more than one sentence.

***Do not include more than three sentences per paragraph.

Step 5: Write the final draft. Monitor your “tone” in these (and all) communications. Remember that tact is the ability to tell a person to go to hell, and have them happy to be on their way! Tone is the feelings or emotions you convey. Since you’re trying to persuade someone to do something, tone is an important key to getting a successful response. Key: Tone can be warm, blunt, cold, pissed, etc. Decide on the tone you want before writing future communications. Tone is influenced by 3 key factors: 1) your relationship with the reader of your message 2) the type of message you’re sending 3) any other audience to your message. (Anyone looking over the reader’s shoulder?) Tone elements you can use are: 1) Personal words (their name, personal pronouns; note that “you” can put pressure on) 2) Sentence length 3) Imperative/Question/Conditional: “Do this…”; “Can you…”; “If you could…” 4) Contractions (can make writing less formal, and soften negatives) 5) Choice of words/phraseology (formal to colloquial/humor, etc.) To assure that your tone is appropriate, have someone read your message before sending it or leave it for 24 hours and reread it, and set a tone objective before you begin writing.