Focusing the Content

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Focusing the Content

Focusing the Content

When creating a business document, keep several things in mind. We have already talked a great deal about the audience and the purpose of the document, and now it is time to bring that all together and talk about how to focus the content so it meets the audience's needs and fulfills the purpose of the document.

Some guidelines to focusing the content are:

  1. State the main purpose early in the document.
  2. Consider what response you want from the reader.
  3. Tell the reader what you plan to cover in the rest of the document.
  4. Keep the focus narrow enough to hold the reader's attention.

Let's look at each of these guidelines in detail.

Stating the Main Purpose Early in the Document

This is sometimes referred to as the thesis or theme of the document. It is essential to let your reader know within the first few lines or paragraph what the document is going to be about.

Your reader will make a decision early on in the reading whether or not to continue and stating the theme or thesis early helps him or her make that decision. Don't make the reader wade through several paragraphs to determine what the main idea is.

Considering What Response You Want from the Reader

If you just want the reader to read and understand the information, it needs to be presented in a logical fashion, moving from one idea to the next in an order that is easily understood.

If you want the reader to respond by doing something, you need to appeal to the emotions of the reader, as well as present the information using strong rhetoric and declarative statements.

For example, if you use verbs like "says" or "relates" or "comments" you will lead your reader to make a conclusion or summary of the content. But, if you use strong power verbs, you will persuade your reader to take action or to see your writing as more analytical and incisive.

Some power verbs to consider are:

  1. "affirm"
  2. "challenge"
  3. "emphasize"

Telling the Reader What You Plan to Cover in the Rest of the Document

Once you have stated the thesis or main idea early in the document, you need to provide your reader with information about what is going to be covered in the rest of the document.

The sentences following the main idea need to include a preview of the information to follow. This will engage the reader and ensure he or she continues to read. Here is an example:

(Thesis or main point) We need to allocate at least twenty-five percent of our marketing budget to trade show participation. (what will be covered in the rest of the document) The following information about dates, costs, and locations of trade shows will help us launch our new product line.

Keeping the Focus Narrow Enough to Hold the Reader's Attention

When creating a business proposal, letter, memo, or other business document, it is important to keep the reader engaged. If your focus is too broad, the reader will become confused or distracted while trying to keep everything straight.

The key is to balance the amount of information so you provide enough to keep the reader involved, but not too much or too little. If your focus is too narrow, you will find you do not have enough to write about.

One way to narrow the focus is to review the subtopics in your outline.

Make sure they are narrow enough to provide interesting information, but not so narrow that there is not enough information to write about. A broadly focused document (one with all the information possible about the topic) may actually become very boring for the reader, who has to wade through all the detail to get to the point of the project.