5 Steps to Writing Recommendations that Sell

by James on April 6, 2011

Plowing through emails I was once again reminded that the fine art of effective business writing is dieing. Rambling expositions on subjects and ideas without beginning or end. Effective business writing has impact.  Like writing effective presentations, it isn’t hard, you just need to follow a 5 step process.

I learned the following from my first boss. The steps he taught me have helped me be an effective writer. In particular, they help me write recommendations that result in action. Perhaps his business writing advice can help you too.

Plan What You Want to Say

Your writing shouldn’t be hard to decipher. Clear business writing has structure and provides all the information the reader needs to understand your subject. Think about what you are recommending and why they should agree. Also, think about what information they will need to get support from their boss and/or peers.

Use a Structure to Say It

Use the following structure to keep your recommendations focused:

  1. Plan what you are going to say. Gather the facts you need. Marshal your arguments before you start to write.
  2. 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. “This recommends that…” If they already understand the subject matter this may well be all they need to read in order to take action.
  3. Then provide the background the reader needs to understand the recommendation. Give them the three to five facts that are directly related to what you are telling them.
  4. Provide the rationale to support your point of view. But no more than the three most important points, the three strongest reasons why it’s a good idea. If you need more than three, it’s probably not a good idea.
  5. Finally identify next steps, with an indication of who is responsible and when the action is due.

And a bonus point, people are busy so business writing should be short and to the point. The whole thing should be no longer than a page.

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