Has this ever happened to you?
You get ready to send an email or start writing a business report or draft a set of instructions, but you don’t know where to begin. A few words get typed. Maybe a couple of sentences work their way onto the computer screen and then you hit the backspace key to delete what you’ve just written.
This kind of writing is really inefficient.
My business writing goal for everything I write is to compose a clear, effective document for readers–one that is readable and memorable.
Memorable here is used loosely. My writing certainly isn’t to compose gripping creative nonfiction–it’s to get something done at work. Memorable just means that someone reads what I’ve written, understands why I’m writing, and knows what should happen next.
That sounds simple and it should be easy to do, right?
But some on-the-job writers have trouble getting to the point. Even with an email that should be simple to decipher, the main message is buried; the action is unclear.
One method for making your message clear is to start by writing a purpose statement. This one writing tip can improve your writing almost immediately. It works because a purpose statement…
- Is written first
- Directs your writing
- States why you’re writing
- Uses action words
Here’s how to make it work for you:
Start by typing, “The purpose of this (email, report, letter, policy, manual, instructions, chapter, section, proposal, white paper, executive summary, etc. ) is to (persuade, report, propose, recommend, present, announce, inform, request, show, thank, update, apologize, etc.).
The key part of writing a purpose statement is to write it all out. “The purpose of this ___ is to ____.” It’s important to make sure you select the best verb (action word) that describes what you’re trying to do.
It’s tempting to skip writing the entire phrase, but that’s exactly what will help set your purpose clearly on the page. The rest of the writing will be easier because everything in the document will support the purpose. If you have trouble clearly stating the purpose for writing, the document is going to have trouble, too.
Once you get the purpose statement down and the rest of the writing drafted, you can leave it as is or revise “The purpose of this __ is to __ ” to sound less formal.
It’s not important for the phrase to be there in the final version. What’s important is that you’ve used it to make sure the reason you’re writing is clear to you–and to your reader.