Shirley's Articles / Business Writing

Four Point Plan For Structuring Messages

Many communications are short and routine. You can write or dictate them without any special thinking or preparation. However, documents that are not so routine need more thought and careful planning. This four-point plan provides a useful but simple framework for structuring all written communications:

  1. INTRODUCTION (Background and Basics)
    Why are you writing?
    Set the scene.
    Maybe refer to a previous letter, contact or document.
  2. DETAILS (Facts and Figures)
    Give information/instructions.
    Ask for information.
    Provide all relevant details.
    Separate into paragraphs.
    Ensure logical flow.
  3. RESPONSE or ACTION (Conclusion)
    Action the reader should take.
    Action you will take.
    Give a deadline if necessary.
  4. CLOSE (A simple one-liner)
    Sometimes all that is needed is a simple one-line closing sentence.

Here is an example of the four-point plan in this email message.

Date 14:10:03 12:30:45
Subject 25th anniversary video
Dear Suzie
Thank you for inviting me to visit your studios last week. I was most impressed by your new facilities. « Intro
I am delighted that you can accept our invitation to produce a video to celebrate the company’s 25th anniversary. This is a very special landmark in our history, and it is important that this video portrays both past, present and future. « Details
I look forward to receiving a draft outlining your thoughts for this special video. Please send this to me by 30 October together with your approximate costings. « Action
If you need any further information please give me a call on 62757272. « Close
Best wishes

John Wang
Marketing Manager
ST Electronics

Remember: A well-structured business document is the core of effective communication.

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Shirley is an international bestselling author. She has established herself as a leading authority in email and business writing skills. Her international bestseller Model Business Letters, Emails & Other Business Documents 7th edition sold over half a million copies worldwide and has been translated into 17 languages. Her book Email Essentials reached #2 in the USA for publishers Marshall Cavendish International. Find out more about Shirley at

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