Capitalize on the Power of Inference

Starting sentences with a verb, a writing technique using the imperative mood, is a forceful way to make a point, and it implies the pronoun you. For example, if you write, "Attend the meeting and let me know whether an agreement is reached," the reference to your reader is understood. You're really saying, "You attend the meeting and you let me know whether an agreement is reached." In this example, note that we would count two references to your reader, because you are implying the pronoun you twice.

The imperative is a tried-and-true approach that reaches your readers in a strong and directive manner. By using a forceful tone, you imply an urgency that encourages a response.

In some circumstances, the imperative is not appropriate. For instance, in an E-mail to your boss, you might not be comfortable saying "Review the attached report." Because the imperative sounds like you're issuing an order, most people wouldn't be comfortable addressing their boss in this manner. Instead, soften the imperative by writing "Please review the attached report." That one word, "Please," adjusts your tone sufficiently and still maintains a strong appeal. Use your judgment about when to add the word please.

One approach to making the decision is to read the text aloud; if it sounds too brusque, add the word please. Contrast these examples:

Call today. Please call today.

Fill out the form. Please fill out the form.

Attend the meeting. Please attend the meeting.

Notice how adding please allows you to achieve a friendly, polite tone without diminishing the strong, directive attitude that comes from using the imperative.

You might phrase the announcement of the new microbiology lab as "Send us your microbiology tests and discover the difference in quality and speed our new facility makes." Or you could say, "Please send us your microbiology tests and discover the difference in quality and speed our new facility makes." Which do you prefer? Some people feel that the tone is less professional when you add the word please in this circumstance, almost as if you're begging. Others think it's courteous and more formal. Neither is right, just as neither is wrong in this example; the sentences have a different feel from one another, that's all.

Part of your decision will be based on your comfort level. Not everyone is comfortable using the authoritative tone of the imperative. And some people perceive that using please adds a tone of pleading that sounds unprofessional in standard business writing. Use your best judgment on a case-by-case basis.

Sometimes you imply a reference to the reader by constructing your sentence to create a sense of connection between you, the writer, and your readers. For example, in the sentence "It's important to check your credit on an annual basis," you're implying a reference to the reader. Depending on the target audience, this sentence is really saying "It's important (if you own a home) to check your credit on an annual basis," or "It's important (if you intend to buy a home) to check your credit on an annual basis," or "It's important (for you) to check your credit on an annual basis."

Implying a reference to your readers is a subtle and effective technique, and it serves to increase your Empathy Index.

Business Correspondence

Business Correspondence

24 chapters on preparing to write the letter and finding the proper viewpoint how to open the letter, present the proposition convincingly, make an effective close how to acquire a forceful style and inject originality how to adapt selling appeal to different prospects and get orders by letter proved principles and practical schemes illustrated by extracts from 217 actual letter.

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