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If, on the other hand, you think your readers are so biased against what you have to say that you have to sneak up on their blind side, then you might well choose the once-upon-time format. You hold up the reader’s first cherished idea, then refute it. Next, you hold up the reader’s second most cherished idea, then knock it down. Finally, you present the only remaining option––your conclusions and recommendations––and hope you have left the reader no alternative but to accept your position. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t.

Unless your document is so short or of such great interest that all readers will feel compelled to read every single detail, avoid this arrangement. Novelists and screenwriters get away with such a structure,… but most business writers create far less intrigue.

TIP 2: Consider Your Audience for the Proper Approach as You Organize Your Ideas

When writing any document, always make the reader’s interest central. And remember, for the most part, readers don’t care about your trouble, only your results.

Decide how your readers will use your document, and narrow your message to suit their interests. Choose details to be included on the basis of the audience’s experience, biases, uses, and knowledge of your subject.

TIP 3: When Writing to a Mixed Audience, Rank Readers by Importance

Name names. Most reports and many letters and email messages go through several people for approval. And even if the document doesn’t need the approval of others, it is often passed on simply to inform them.

When writing to a mixed audience, first rank readers by importance. Then broaden your document to include all levels of readers and their diverse interests in your subject. List names or at least groups of readers your work needs to satisfy: top management; general professional staff, such as engineers, accountants, and geologists; specialists in a particular field such as inspectors, machine operators, auditors, and so forth.

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