Organizing is what you do before you do something, so that when you do it, it is not all mixed up.
- A.A. Milne
Congratulations! You’ve officially made it halfway through the Write Like a Leader blog series. In part one, you learned how to target your readers and identify a key purpose. In part two, you mastered the art of writing with direct sincerity to earn your reader’s trust. In part three, you discovered how to streamline your written communication by sticking to one topic per document. And in part four, you gained insight into using your email subject line and headings to inspire faster understanding and action.
Today, we’re discussing how to arrange your ideas in a way that meets your readers’ needs and helps you get the response that you want.
BLOT for the win
Many people learned how to write in an academic setting, where it’s encouraged to save your main point for the conclusion. But in a fast-paced business environment, this method is ineffective. If your goal is to get key information to your readers quickly, you should lead with the “Bottom Line on Top” (BLOT). If you need a reminder of what your bottom line should be, ask yourself, “What is the most basic information that my reader needs to know—and why is it important for them to read this message and take action?” Once you’ve identified that, make it your first sentence. That way, you’re giving your readers the information they need to act up front and then backing it up with logically organized supporting data.
Winning over resistant readers
If, however, you need to deliver a controversial announcement or you anticipate that your readers will be resistant, it may be more strategic to start and end your message with more positive statements (AKA the “bottom line sandwich”). Rather than diving directly into the bottom line, build your case by establishing positive context, finding common ground, or acknowledging readers’ potential concerns. Then, after delivering the bottom line, end on a positive note by offering support or welcoming feedback.
A winning writing formula
Whether you’re writing a one-paragraph email or a ten-page proposal, here are six steps to help you organize your message most effectively.
- First, use analytical thinking to determine the attitude of your future readers (receptive, indifferent, or resistant).
- Group similar or related ideas so that your readers don’t have to waste their time searching.
- Place any conclusions or decisions first, then give supporting facts and reasons.
- If your audience is receptive or indifferent, place your bottom line on top.
- If your audience is resistant, put your bottom line between two positive statements.
- If your document is long, recap any key ideas or needs at the end.
Choosing the right sequencing strategy is a crucial writing skill that helps your readers stay receptive and take action. Want more leadership writing tips like this? Download the Write Like a Leader eBook now. Be on the lookout for part six of the series!