Introducing the Direct Pattern
One of the most important decisions you will make as a professional writer is whether or not you should address an issue directly or indirectly with your reader. This decision requires careful thought because the choice you make will determine how your reader responds to your message. This may, in turn, affect not only the success of your message but your future relationship with your reader.
- For example, if you choose to be indirect when you should be direct, your reader may grow impatient or miss the point of your message altogether.
- On the other hand, if you choose to be direct when you should be indirect, you may receive an angry or emotional reply from a reader who stopped reading after the first line. (We will look at the indirect pattern in more detail in a separate lesson.)
In either case, you make your job more difficult by creating tension between yourself and your reader, which means you will have to work twice as hard to get your message across later — that is, in case your reader does not block that second attempt altogether…
When to Use the Direct Pattern
The direct pattern provides an efficient structure that ensures the most important information is quickly transmitted to a reader who may or may not have time to read a lengthy message. The direct pattern assumes that
- You already know how your audience will react to your message;
- You don’t need to take particular care to be persuasive or diplomatic.
Thus, the direct pattern is used when the writer knows that the reader will appreciate a message that gets straight to the point and highlights the most important information in a format that is easily read, easily understood, and easily acted upon.
Among the most important skills in communication is to adjust your style according to the audience to meet their needs as well as your own. You would speak differently to a customer or manager compared with how you would to a long-time co-worker who has also become a friend. In each case, these audiences have certain expectations about your style of communication, and you must meet those expectations to be respected and maintain good relations. This section reviews those style choices and focuses especially on the six major characteristics of good writing common to both formal and general-level writing.
Informative messages require little from the reader: they do not contain calls to action or requests that require persuasion. They may not even require acknowledgement from the reader. However, if the information is important enough to share, then you want to make sure that it is received. Otherwise, why send it at all?
To ensure that the most important information is received by your (potentially busy) reader, informative direct messages conform to the following structure:
- Focuses on what you want your reader to know;
- Does not include unnecessary preamble or information;
- Ensures that the reader receives the most important information even without reading further.
- Contains background information, explanations and rationales, and other details;
- May explore pros and cons or reader benefits;
- May contain multiple short paragraphs to ensure readability.
- May summarize the message (for longer messages);
- May stress important upcoming deadlines;
- May ask for feedback by a certain date and explain that deadline;
- Ends with a positive closing statement.
Persuasive messages are a little more demanding for the writer because they require something from the reader. For example, you may be requesting information or a favour that requires effort or agreement from the person to whom you are writing. Alternatively, you might be making a request for funding or competing against others for an opportunity. In any of these cases, even if you are confident that your reader will respond positively to your message, it is important that you put some effort into persuasion by thinking about your reader’s needs.
You will notice that persuasive direct messages follow a structure that is very similar to that used for informative messages. However, it is essential to note the differences because they will have a significant impact on how your message is received:
- Focuses on what you want your reader to do
- Again, it avoids unnecessary preamble and information
- Ensures that your reader understands exactly what you are expecting from him/her even if he/she reads no further
- Contains background information, explanations and rationales, and other details
- May explore pros and cons or reader benefits
- May contain multiple short paragraphs to ensure readability
- Ends with a positive closing statement with steps for action
- Remember, you want to make it easy for your reader to acquiesce to your request: tell him/her what they need to know and what they need to do
- If you don’t, you may receive a response that is not as positive as you had hoped!
- When should you use the direct pattern of delivering information?
The best times to use the direct pattern of delivering information are when you know that your reader is anxious for the information you are providing, will be pleased by or indifferent to the information, or is at least mildly interested in what you have to say. When you analyse your audience correctly, you increase the chances that your message will be received in a positive way.
- What are the key characteristics of the direct pattern?
A message that uses the direct pattern effectively will frontload the essential information, ensuring that the most important information comes first. All supporting information comes after. You can test the effectiveness of your message by asking yourself, “if my reader only reads the first sentence or two, will he/she still understand the purpose of my message?” If the answer is “no,” you may need to take an even more direct approach.
- What are the benefits of the direct pattern?
One of the most important benefits of the direct pattern is that it saves time for the reader. This has the additional benefit of reducing frustration for readers who are anxious for the main point, which in turn helps to establish the right frame of mind. This benefits you as the writer because it means your reader will be more receptive to the information you are providing, as well as to any requests you might make.
- What are the drawbacks of the direct pattern?
The successful use of the direct pattern depends on reader receptivity. If you are too hasty in delivering sensitive or unwelcome information, it is very possible that your reader will respond in a negative way. Remember, strong emotional responses distract readers from what is being said and can cause them to misinterpret your message or even stop reading. They might also respond with equal haste in a manner that causes communication to break down even further.
Please read through the following scenario. Once you are familiar with the expectations and requirements of your employer, create your own post by answering the following questions:
- What information is necessary?
- What information is superfluous?
- What factors must be taken into consideration when choosing a theme? Why?
- Which statements need to be phrased more tactfully? Why?
You are the events coordinator at the Crossroads Marketers Group, and your manager has asked you to draft an e-mail to the staff about the upcoming “Fall Fling” party.
This party to celebrate the end of summer always has a themed costume element, and you must come up with the theme. The party will be held off-site at The Barking Frog in London, ON. The address is 209 John Street, which most people should be familiar with.
Dinner and dancing are the main activities, and the event will be catered with a BBQ Buffet. Dinner is included in the price of the ticket. The venue has a cash bar because the company doesn’t want to pay for everyone’s alcohol all night, but attendees will also receive two free drinks with the price of the ticket. Although no children are allowed (the event is strictly 19+), employees are allowed to bring guests. Tickets are $15 dollars for staff and $20 for guests, and must be purchased in advance by contacting the events coordinator (i.e. you) to make reservations.
The party will begin at 7pm on October 5, 2020 and finish at 1am. Your manager wants you to make that sure no one is drinking and driving. Reservations must be made by September 25th.