What the Three Pigs Can Teach Us
About Writing Recommendations

by James on January 7, 2009

The Three Little Pigs of nursery rhyme fame can teach us a lot about writing  recommendations. Specifically, the third little pig knew that a building without structure was destined to fail.

A solid structure allows your recommendation to stand up to pressure; what are you recommending, what information is needed to understand the recommendation, why should I agree, and what needs to be done now.

Begin at the end.

Use the opening sentence to tell the reader what you are recommending, how much it will cost, how long it will take, and who is responsible for making it happen. If they already understand the subject matter, the issues you are addressing, this may well be all they need to read.

“Yes. This makes sense. We should do it. Approved.”

Provide the information needed to decide.

This section provides the background a reader needs to understand the subject, and the context from which to assess your recommendation. Give the reader three to five facts directly related to the recommendation. Keep it short and on point. No need for the great American novel, just the objective facts.

Why should I act on the recommendation?

Use this section to answer the question, “Why should I do this?” No more than three rationale points. If you need more than three points to justify the recommendation, it probably isn’t a good idea.

OK, I’m sold, now what?

In the last section identify what needs to be done to put the recommendation in motion. Be specific. What steps need to be taken, in what order, what’s the timing, and who is responsible for each step?

Hip Shots

  • Recommendations shouldn’t be hard to decipher. Use structure to keep your writing clear. Tell the reader in the beginning what you think they should do.
  • Context is important. Provide the objective facts the reader needs to know to make an informed decision.
  • Use your three strongest arguments for why the recommendation is a smart thing to do.
  • Make it an action document. Be clear about the next steps required to make the recommendation happen.
  • Write short. Keep your writing tight, clear and focused; one word rather than two, short words and sentences, and on topic.
  • Don’t make it hard work to read. The whole thing should fit on a single page. Provide additional material in the Appendix.

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