Plain business writing course (entry 13): Five reasons for structuring ALL documents

Have a look at this (you don't have to actually read it!):

FEEDBACK REPORT ON BUSINESS COMMUNICATIONS SKILLS SEMINAR 

From 6 to 8 April 2014 I attended a business communication seminar for front-line staff, organised by the PSP Personnel Group. The purpose of the seminar was to improve relationships with clients and staff and to improve general business communication skills. I was instructed to compile a feedback report by the Branch Manager, Ms Brenda Texeira, as I was sent as a representative of the Rondebosch Safeline Bank. The purpose of this report is to provide information on the contents of the seminar to colleagues who were unable to attend, evaluate the success of the training seminar, and make recommendations for the selection and attendance of delegates for future training seminars. The programme consisted of four three-hour sessions. Each session was divided into a one-hour lecture, a practical workshop, and practical group activities. Topics included tips for getting on better with clients, handling business phone calls, improving your writing skills, organising work, and time management. Evaluation was conducted continuously by means of assignments, case studies, oral work, and a compulsory one-hour exam. Upon completion of the seminar, each delegate received a certificate that indicated their specific promotion mark. Although there were a few logistical problems following the unforeseen absence of one of the lecturers, I think the seminar was fun and delegates received the training that they needed. I recommend that all front-line staff at Safeline Bank be given the opportunity to attend this very professional and extremely affordable alternative to in-house lunch-hour training sessions.

Not very inviting, right? And the main reason is that the reader is never given a break – a large chunk of information is chucked at you, with no sign posts to tell you what belongs together, and no 'map' showing any way points.

Compare it with the following:

FEEDBACK REPORT ON BUSINESS COMMUNICATIONS SKILLS SEMINAR 

Introduction

From 6 to 8 April 2014 I attended a business communication seminar for front-line staff, organised by the PSP Personnel Group. The purpose of the seminar was to improve relationships with clients and staff and to improve general business communication skills.

Purpose of report

I was instructed to compile a feedback report by the Branch Manager, Ms Brenda Texeira, as I was sent as a representative of the Rondebosch Safeline Bank. The purpose of this report is to provide information on the contents of the seminar to colleagues who were unable to attend, evaluate the success of the training seminar, and make recommendations for the selection and attendance of delegates for future training seminars.

Structure of seminar

The programme consisted of four three-hour sessions. Each session was divided into a one-hour lecture, a practical workshop, and practical group activities. Topics included tips for getting on better with clients, handling business phone calls, improving your writing skills, organising work, and time management.

Evaluation

Evaluation was conducted continuously by means of assignments, case studies, oral work, and a compulsory one-hour exam. Upon completion of the seminar, each delegate received a certificate that indicated their specific promotion mark.

Conclusion and recommendation

Although there were a few logistical problems following the unforeseen absence of one of the lecturers, I think the seminar was fun and delegates received the training that they needed. I recommend that all front-line staff at Safeline Bank be given the opportunity to attend this very professional and extremely affordable alternative to in-house lunch-hour training sessions.

That's better, right?

Rule 12: A well structured document forces you to focus and be logical; summarises the main points for your reader; is easier to read; motivates the reader to act; and looks nice and neat.

Here are five reasons for structuring all correspondence you ever write:

1. It forces you to focus while you write, and group your facts logically and in the right places. That way you won't send your reader a garbled collection of random thoughts.

2. It shows the reader what the main points are that your writing hangs from, like a micro-summary. In the example above these main points would be 'Purpose of report', 'Structure of seminar', 'Evaluation' and 'Conclusion and recommendation'. In this way the reader can see at a glance where you're going.

3. It will be easier to read. That means there's a much better chance that your reader will indeed be motivated to read what you've written.

4. A structured document that starts by explaining why you're writing it; supports your points; and ends with what you'd like the reader to do has the best chance of getting him/her to do just that.

5. It looks nice and neat, and shows that you have properly thought through your communication. That, in turn, demonstrates your respect towards your reader – and your reader is more likely to respect you by reading what you've written and acting on it.

To sum up: Focus your writing, summarise the main points, make your document easier to read, motivate your reader and neaten things by structuring your document properly.