Get to the point

When it comes to clear and concise writing in the business world, there is one technique that will transform your communication. It may seem counter-intuitive – but it will revolutionize your writing.

It’s simply this: when you are communicating a message – whether that’s in an email, memo, report, or proposal – state your main point first and then follow up with background information.

This might sound really obvious but it’s amazing how often this point is ignored throughout the business world. It’s no wonder since everything else teaches us the opposite.

When we tell jokes, we build-up to the punchline (the main point). When we watch movies, it takes a whole 90 minutes before we get to the climax and ending (main point). When we read books, we have to get through 200 pages before we find out who gets the girl, solves the mystery, or saves the world (the main point).

We’re taught to communicate the building blocks of any story before getting to the big, Hollywood ending. However, when it comes to business writing, you need to turn this on its head.

Take these two examples.

Example 1: The conclusion is made at the end of the passage. Although the information before it is important, it should be used after the main point is made.

Number one tip for buying at auction
When a real estate agent advises a vendor to take a property to auction, it is in his interests to get the highest price possible. He may under-quote the selling price to interested parties in order to drum up interest.

At the auction, the bidding may exceed this quoted price, but still, the property may not truly be on the market, because the reserve price has not yet been reached. When it has been reached, the auctioneer will announce: “The property is now on the market”. Only then should you consider bidding, because there is absolutely no point in bidding, and showing how keen you are when it is not even on the market.

Example 2: The main point is made first. It is then followed by supporting information.

Number one tip for buying at auction
Never bid until the reserve price has been reached. There is no point in bidding until then because the property is not even on the market. If you bid early, you are showing that you are keen on the property. The real estate agent will be able to identify you as an interested party and may be able to place dummy bids against you.

Of course, as he is acting for the vendor, it is in his interest to get the highest price possible. Also, don’t be surprised if the reserve price is not reached until bidding has gone on for a while. Real estate agents often under quote selling prices in order to get people interested in coming to the auction.

In the world of business, chances are the people who are reading your document are busy. It’s important to get to the point immediately, even for the simple reason that they may not have the time to plow through the rest of the document.

So, in business writing, get to the punchline first. You’ll get your message across efficiently and your readers will thank you for it.

Valerie Khoo is Managing Director of the Sydney Writers’ Centre in Milsons Point, Sydney. As one of Australia’s leading centers for writing training, the center runs short courses to help people write with confidence and improve their business communication skills. Valerie blogs about storytelling and small business at

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