My Wednesday posts are now devoted to all things wordy - grammar, etymology, writing, the works.
If it involves language, I'll be talking about it here.
Right after I finished university, I worked for a company that was headquartered here in Winnipeg and had regional offices across Western Canada. At that time all of the company's printed materials were printed here and then distributed to the regional offices. I was responsible for sending them out.
One day I received a request from a manager to send out a substantial number of a particular sales form - let's call it "Form F." I hadn't worked there very long and wasn't familiar with all of the forms. When I looked at Form F, I questioned to myself why that manager would require that form, but I was too timid to question him, so I sent them anyway.
They were the wrong forms. Someone had erroneously labelled two different forms as Form F and I had unknowingly chosen the wrong one. So, my boss immediately implemented what he called "The Broadfoot Principle," wherein anyone in the company, regardless of their position, could feel comfortable asking questions of anyone else in the company if something was unclear to them - there would be no hierarchy when it came to information sharing.
I find it best to start with the basics, and in this case that means the five Ws: who, what, where, when, and why. Whether you're sending an email to a friend, composing a blog post, or writing a speech for your company's president, these five questions will always serve you well.
- Who: Who is my target audience?
- What: What is my central point?
- Where: Where will my message be read?
- When: When will this information be pertinent?
- Why: Why is this information important?
You can see how each of these questions impacts on a different aspect of your message and can only help in making that message clearer. So the next time you're facing a blank page and wondering where to begin, think of the Broadfoot Principle, and start asking questions - the answers will help you get focused.
Questions, comments, complaints? You know what to do.