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In contrast, an indirect plan can be effectively used for bad news or unfavorable memos, letters, or reports. In an indirect plan, Sterkel suggests placing your main idea in middle of your material. First, you develop and present your supporting ideas to act as a buffer. You state your reasons for a decision, offer a compromise,
and close. Sterkel suggests that the indirect plan is effective for persuasive documents because you get the readers' attention, give details, minimize obstacles, anticipate action, and close.
Build Strong Arguments
In addition to the use of organizational plans, we suggest building stronger arguments in your documents and presentations by eliminating two common logic and structure problems:
• Unsupported statements
• The so-what problem Unsupported Statements
We often see inexperienced managers who fall into the trap of making unsupported statements: They state their ideas as facts; they fail to support their points with data; they use invalid data; and/or they fail to use appropriate statistical analyses of data. As a result, readers are left floundering on their own to develop the missing data or analyses. Often, writers fail to supply the data to prove their point or to properly analyze it because they were not thinking clearly or had not properly evaluated the logic of their arguments.
Remember, facts must be supported by verifiable information. Citing highly credible sources in your document strengthens your image and avoids any suggestion of plagiarism.
The So-What Problem
Larry Matteson, retired vice president at Eastman Kodak, while teaching at the Simon Graduate School of Business at the University of Rochester, often emphasized the ''so-what" problem to MBA candidates. As writers and as managers, we often fail to make connections among our ideas for our readers. We assume they know where we are going. We assume they know how to get there. We even assume they agree we should go there! All these assumptions are faulty, and they prevent us from building organized arguments that help our readers see not only our end points, but also the processes and data that helped us get there. In addition, we fail to tell them the reasons we should get there—the so-what!
Avoid the so-what problem. Make your statements, give your assumptions and supporting data, and eliminate extraneous information. Close the loop and make
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Lauren Vicker, Ron Hein - "The Fast Forward MBA in Business Communication"
certain that your reader understands your point, your conclusion, the value you are trying to point out. Make certain your readers get to the end of your memos, reports, or proposals without a lingering, "So what?"
Use Figures and Tables
One of the most effective ways to help your readers grasp and follow the logic and structure of your materials is to help them visualize your ideas. Graphics, tables, figures, and graphs help accomplish this in at least three ways.
First, properly designed graphics explain complex information in ways that highlight the relationships among ideas, thus providing insights into those relationships. Rather than writing two or three paragraphs of text to provide a conceptual overview of the material, it is often possible to show complex relationships visually.
Second, graphics, tables, and figures force a writer to analyze and better understand, from a reader's perspective, the ideas that are being presented. Tables and figures do not lend themselves to rambling.
Third, graphs, figures, and tables simplify and emphasize key points. Figures, tables, charts, and graphs catch a reader's eye and help to isolate your key points. By focusing a reader's attention in this way and by visually displaying the connections between your ideas, your argument becomes easier to follow.
Designing an Effective Table or Figure
Creating an effective table or figure involves an analysis process, a design process, and consistency.
First, you need to decide what you want to accomplish. This is the audience analysis task that comes with the prewriting questions and the audience analysis for presentations (see pages 24-27 and 109-117).
Second, you need to decide how to emphasize your key point or simplify the complexity of the information. For example, Figure 4.1 shows how you can simplify a complex set of information by eliminating implicit information (the zeros that function as placeholders, in this example). Further, you can add highlighting (by changing color or fonts or by adding italics or bolding) so that readers see at a glance the key points in a complex figure.
In addition, use an effective label or title, one that calls attention to the point you want to emphasize.
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