Discuss when the direct-approach message structure may be inappropriate. Give specific examples.

Module 4.1: Direct Approach

In memos, letters, or emails, you have to organize your writing so that it efficiently communicates your message. Usually, the direct approach is most effective.

The Direct Approach

In the direct approach, you present your main idea first (See pages 59-60 for a review).

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Main Idea First: To save time and prioritize, business readers usually want to to know your main point immediately, so explain your purpose for writing in the first few lines to let them know why they should keep reading.

The textbook divides common message types into requests and replies:

  • Requests for information or reader action should begin with the main idea that the writer is communicating to the reader — a brief statement of the request.
  • Replies answer requests for information or action. Always include a clear and specific subject line, and open by reminding the reader of their original request to you. Openings might include: “As you requested…”, or “In response to your request…”. If the requester wrote several people or some time ago, they may not immediately remember why they wrote to you.

Now, please review the examples:

  • Direct Replies in Figure 7.5 in the text
  • Direct Request, Figure 7.1 and 7.2 in the text

Details Follow: The middle paragraphs provide specific details, facts, and figures, and develop the idea further. Ensure you provide all the details the reader needs to understand your message and to make an appropriate decision. Prioritize details and present the most important ones first.

Use graphic highlighting, such as lists, headings, etc., to emphasize important information. Make your document easy to scan, but don’t just note ideas in point-form. Most paragraphs should offer thoughts in complete, coherent sentences, and lists should have a proper lead-in.

Finally, Action: This last paragraph describes the next step to be taken by the reader. If you want a specific action taken, state exactly what that action is, when it needs to be done and why. People are more likely to comply if given a deadline and logical reasons for the deadline and/or action, especially if those reasons are benefits to them (yes, the “you approach” again!).

If you don’t require your reader to take specific action, you can finish with an invitation for feedback or questions. These conventional endings aren’t required, but provide closure and convenient contact information for questions or clarification.

Personalize your ending with specific details. Don’t use a generic closing expression. Avoid cliched, over-used, or old-fashioned phrases like “feel free”, or “at your earliest convenience”.

  • “Please contact me at [email protected] or (123)456-7890 if you have any questions about the implementation of Project X.”
  • “Please contact me before our next project meeting on Friday if you have any proposed changes to this budget or need further details.”
  • “I would appreciate your feedback before our next project meeting on September 5. I will call you next week to arrange a meeting.”

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