Exercise Get Your Thoughts Down on Paper

You have been asked to write a reference letter for a colleague whom you respect and admire. Think about who this might be. It might be someone you went to school with, or it might be someone you have worked with in the past or work with now.

Whomever you choose, think about the job this person would logically be applying for at this point in his or her career. Think about the person who would be conducting the interview. That stranger—the person your colleague is hoping will hire him or her—is the person who has asked for this written reference.

1. What's your objective? For example, do you want the recipient of your reference letter to call you for further details?

2. What sort of personality would you expect the person you're writing to to have? You don't know the person, of course, but based on the job, what would you expect? (Remember that if you can't tell someone's personality, you target the Producer.)

3. Which of your colleague's attributes, skills, or abilities is likely to be of greatest value to a prospective employer?

4. How formal should the tone be?

5. In which quadrant of the Matrix of Persuasion does this project fall?

6. Which organizational structure should your letter employ?

7. Use either a traditional outline or the Hub & Spokes model to identify key points you want to make.

How did you do? Were you able to quickly go through the seven steps? Are you ready to write a first draft? In this chapter, we continued the process of getting our thoughts in order before we begin to write. We reviewed nine organizational structures, and we discussed two approaches to getting thoughts that are in your head down on paper. Now it's time to put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard.

Chapter Three

Write Excellent First Drafts

In the last chapter, we compared nine organizational structures and considered which one to use under various circumstances, and whether to use each structure alone or in combination. We also discussed two systems for getting your thoughts in order: outlining and the Hub & Spokes model.

In this chapter, you'll learn three tools that will allow you to generate first drafts that are so polished, they mimic second drafts. The tools will help you save time by streamlining the initial revision process. Rather than create a rough first draft, it's more efficient to create a refined first draft. Your draft may still require revision, but the rewriting process will be easier and quicker because your draft has already integrated three standards of excellence:

1. a focus on your readers by maintaining a positive Empathy Index

2. a targeted salutation and high-impact lead to catch their interest

3. a response-generating close that motivates them to act

Given your writing is likely to be more effective if it is reader focused, you need to be able to assess whether your communication is focused too heavily on yourself or your organization. The Empathy Index measures reader focus. By comparing the number of references to your readers to the number of references to yourself or your organization, you get a snapshot of how benefit oriented your communication is and how engaging it is.

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