How Do I Write More Persuasive Memos?
By Anne Fisher

(FORTUNE Magazine) – Dear Annie: I recently joined a large company after working for startups, and there is one big difference. With my previous employers, most important stuff was communicated in person, face to face, but here everything runs on memos. I'm not getting very far with writing memos that actually persuade people to do things. Apart from copying the way other people here write them, how can I learn? -- Vinny

Dear Vinny: You might take a look at a really useful book called Write to the Top: Writing for Corporate Success ($14.95, Random House), in which author and coach Deborah Dumaine quotes George Bernard Shaw, who said, "The single biggest problem with communication is the illusion that it has taken place." A few of Dumaine's tips for getting action: Start with a subject line that succinctly sums up your request. "Begin with your real purpose," she says. "Rarely are enclosures or attachments your most important point, so don't begin with them." Supply only enough background information to orient the reader to what's going on; don't bury your request in a blizzard of detail. In closing, be sure your reader knows what you want: "Request specific action--what, when, and how. Use headlines such as 'Action requested,' 'Deadlines,' and 'Next steps.'" Then, too, you're already on the right track. A few peeks at your colleagues' memos (the last one you got that persuaded you to do something, for example) should show you what works best at your company. Beyond that, it just takes practice.

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