Writing Titles and Paragraphs

The Content of a Business Document

Once you have determined the structure for your business document, it is time to work on the paragraphs. Your job is to entice your readers down into the main body of your document to give them a better understanding of your issues. To do this, you need to set some traps. You need to "bait" your paragraphs.

Here are the main ideas:
  • Make sure your paragraphs are important enough (from your readers' perspective) to be in the document.
  • Title each paragraph with a succinct summary of its contents.
  • Make sure your document flows, i.e., there is a logical reason for ordering the paragraphs.
So, the paragraphs in a business document should all start with a summarizing title. The texts of those paragraphs should cover only the subjects of the titles.

Title Each Paragraph with a Succinct Summary of Its Contents

Your paragraph titles are your bait. These are the words that will drag your reader from the summary at the head of your document into its belly.

Don't use single words like "Costs", "Support", "Insurance", "Challenges", "Proposals" for your paragraph titles. Use whole sentences that summarize the paragraph. Your readers should be able to skim-read the paragraph headings (which is probably what they'll do) and be left with all the document's key points.

Remember. You don't need to eat all the soup to know whether it's nice or not, but you do have to try some. If your paragraph heading is something that interests your readers, they'll read the whole thing. Here some important advice:
Your business document is not your big chance to show the rest of world how busy you've been or to tell them all about your project. It is not the medium to showcase your knowledge. If you treat it as such, you are increasing the risk of everyone ignoring your message.

You must only write about what the reader needs to know.
Whenever I mention this idea, someone always talks about the danger of missing out important detail. WIth business writing, less is always more, and readers are amazingly receptive to that idea. Besides, if they want more detail, they can get back to you.

Here's an idea: As soon as you question whether some point of detail is required in your document, it isn't. I wouldn't take that idea too literally if I were you, but it is a useful guide to help you determine what makes it into your document and what is "left on the cutting room floor." You are writing for your readers, not for you.

Writing the Paragraphs

A paragraph is a distinct section of writing covering one topic. A typical paragraph will be 5-7 sentences, but this is by no means a rule.

In a business document, which should include summarizing paragraph titles, the length of a paragraph is determined by the title. The text should all relate to the title. If you find yourself changing topic, you should be starting a new paragraph with a new title.

See Also

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