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Make your message a ‘must read’

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in Workplace Communication

Starting off a letter or an e-mail message with a drab opening ("This is in response to ..." or "Enclosed please find") is a sure-fire way to put your readers to sleep just in time to miss your most important points.
Add variety—and persuasiveness—to your messages by starting sentences with words that grab readers. Here's how:

1. Shower "you" with attention. People love to read about themselves. "You" can be the most attention-
grabbing word you ever use. Example: "You may recall that last week we discussed ..."
2. Drop a name. Mention someone early in your message to help readers place your message and/or you in perspective. Otherwise, they'll look for reasons to stop reading.
3. Drop their name. Even more so than "you," people love to read or hear their names. So, use it early and often in your message.
4. Praise them. When it comes to persuading people via e-mail or letter, flattery will get you somewhere. Example: "First, I want to thank you, Ms. Lenz, for sending us your feedback in such a timely manner."
Note: Don't go overboard. E-mail messages tend to heighten people's skepticism. Offer one sincere compliment and move on to your main points.
5. Challenge them to help you solve a problem. Asking for someone's help—especially after you've praised her—sends the message that you consider the person important and knowledgeable. Example: "I'm hoping you can help me with an especially difficult staffing decision."
Note: Don't pose the request as a question; that allows readers to mentally say "No."
6. Ask a question. That forces readers to engage themselves in the conversation. Example: "When was the last time you ...?"
7. Find common ground. Launch an argument by agreeing with a point the reader has made. Example: "I agree with you, Mr. Peters, when you say our service last week did not meet our usual standards. That's why ..."

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