A few years ago, I came across an effective technique for writing effective messages. The rule which goes under the acronym the ABC-rule, is merely a small part of a book called the Hamster Revolution. Yet it is one of the most effective techniques I know – the rule is simple to apply and easy to remember, helping to remove clutter and provide clarity.
As we all experience on a daily basis, in a world of information overload we are surrounded by “wall of words” and weak subject lines that make little or no sense. Although we know our messages are not very effective, we sometimes don’t always know how to take action on it (have a look out for the “Knowing Doing Gap” and watch for a brief summary coming up on this blog). This little “trick” is something you can take action on starting today – and it starts with you:
The ABC method:
In its core, the ABC method splits the body of the message into three parts: Action, Background and Close (ABC)
A – Action summarizes your purpose – stating clearly what you want – avoid clutter
B – Background presents your key points – stating why you want it – a little context
C – Close clarifies the next steps – stating what happens next – you could say how or when you intend to follow it up
The book also makes a point of stating the essence of the message in the subject line. If you’re able – write an executive summary in the subject field. Examples of such subject headers are:
“Info – Sales figures Q4 2008”
“Action – Send your me your input for the strategy meeting by wednesday 3rd”
The moral of the story:
Clarity is obviously a blessing – especially for the recipient – he doesn’t have to ask or assume. I have also found that from my experience – as a “side-effect” from applying this rule – clarifying my e-mail messages have lead to clarifying my own thoughts – and more importantly intensions.