Being a Better IT Pro – Get to the Point

When writing emails or other communications, state your point or request right at the beginning.

For instance, if you need the server team to reboot the server, tell them in the first sentence that you want them to reboot the server. Most IT folks attempt to reason through things logically and if you’re like me, you like to systematically prepare your argument or request. However, the problem with this approach – especially in emails – is it buries what you’re trying to convey to your reader. The further down the email something is, the more likely it will be missed or won’t be read at all. That won’t do.
What drove this home for me was reading about how journalists prepare news articles. They are supposed to use an “inverted pyramid” structure where the most important details are placed at the top of the article. The reason for this is primarily due to editing and layout. If the most important facts are at the top, then I can chop from the bottom without actually having to read the article.
When it comes to business communications, likely no one is trying to piece articles together to fit well on the printed page. However, most folks are deluged with emails on a daily basis. Therefore, the longer the email, the less likely it’s going to be read. If it is read, there’s a good chance the reader will skim the first few sentences and then move on to the next email. As a result, if your point or your request is not in those first few sentences, it will be missed. Therefore, an inverted pyramid works best with respect to email as well.

Let’s look at a simple example:

Bad:
Today we had a problem with SQL Server SalesSQL04. We are seeing symptoms of a memory leak. However, this server supports the main sales application and we can’t reboot it until after hours. If you all would, please reboot the server at 9 PM.

Good:
At 9 PM, we need SalesSQL04 rebooted.

We are seeing symptoms of a memory leak. However, the server supports the main sales application and we can’t reboot it until after hours.

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