If you're like me, you know what it's like to craft an entire email - and then stop to wonder if you ever really made the point you wanted to.
A common response to this situation? Add more sentences - or even paragraphs - to ensure we've gotten our point across. But there's an issue with this practice of reiterating: it makes our writing longer, and readers don't typically want to read more when they could've read less.
So how can we ensure we've conveyed our whole main point, without risking adding repetition? Enter the Main Point Sentence (MPS).
An MPS can help us get our point out there ASAP, and avoids bogging down the reader in repetition - like this:
Without an MPS: All second shift employees will be required to adjust their shifts by thirty minutes. This will help us ensure coverage. You will be required to begin and end thirty minutes early starting Monday.
With an MPS: Starting Monday, all second shift employees should begin and end thirty minutes early to ensure coverage.
The MPS accomplishes a few things:
Clarifies our main point
Informs our readers ASAP
Avoids fluff due to its extreme focus on five "real" pieces of information
So how do we do it? And what are those five "real" pieces of information?
To write an MPS, gather the "5 Ws" (made famous by journalists!) and turn those into a sentence. By planning ahead and listing our 5 Ws, we ensure our sentence contains all the information our reader needs. Here's how it might work:
Who: new employees
What: create user profile
When: by the end of their first week
Where: on [link] website
Why: to access company info and platforms
MPS: New employees should create their user profile at [this site] by the end of their first week to access needed information.
The MPS above provides more than just instruction. It tells readers the due date and provides the location or link. By leading with this kind of sentence, our reader gets all the information they need, quickly.
One more thing to consider: Where should we place our MPS? Yep: at the beginning of our email or document. As always, we don't want to make our readers wait for the information they need. Place the MPS in paragraph one whenever possible!
There's one more benefit of using an MPS: This practice can help us get started when we're stuck. That's right: if you suffer from Blank Screen Paralysis, try jotting down your 5 Ws in your notes before even starting the email. This will give you your MPS, which in many cases will provide a perfect way to begin your email.