Suppose you've just had outside auditors look over your financial records. They've spent three months with access to all your files and all your people. Today they hand you their report. Do you want to plow through all their facts—
everything they examined—to find that your company looks great? Or that one of your division managers has been cheating? Wouldn't you rather have the conclusion up front?
For instance, consider these two good starts for audit reports (each with the bottom line up front):
After three months of examining your records for the past year, we have found no major discrepancies.
After three months of examining your records for the past year, we have found the following:
• Your marketing division is systematically hiding its losses each month—totaling $300,000 for the past 6 months alone.
• The division manager and her assistant appear to be the only people involved.
• There were no other major discrepancies.
Notice that starting with the main point doesn't mean saying only what you're going to cover: "This report tells you the results of the audit we've been conducting for the past three months." No, starting with the main point means telling what you found. Starting with only the topic simply isn't enough—-just as a table of contents usually isn't enough to serve as the summary of a book.
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