Put What You Want to Get Done in One Paragraph

Adapted from Writing to Get Things Done® (WGTD) Seminar

Productivity Tip

To pique the interest of your readers, give them your “bottom line” up front. This writing tip is common sense, but not common practice.

Common Sense

It’s common sense if you want to get things done.  You get things done by being up front and clear with the reader. Put your most important idea in the opening paragraph, and then make everything that follows support it.

It’s common sense if you want to be read. The first questions readers ask of any document are, “How does this document affect me? Do I have to do anything?”  When readers can’t find these answers quickly or clearly, they stop reading. They put it down in their “to read later” file with good intentions.

Not Common Practice

This writing tip is not common practice – which is unfortunate for readers, writers, and the organizations in which they work. Look at most of the emails and other documents that you read (and maybe write!).  Most business professionals put the most important thing to the readers – what they need to do – in the most difficult to find place: in the middle, near the end, or absent all together. Only a tiny percentage of emails – even those written by senior executives – state what needs to get done in paragraph one. This results in confusion that hinders progress and derails projects.

Try It and See What Happens

Putting what you want to get done in paragraph one is a simple yet effective way to get things done. This common-sense tactic is rarely used. Make it common practice and see what happens.


  1. Use a Forecasting Subject Line
  2. Put What You Want to Get Done in Paragraph One
  3. Five Ways to Make It Easy for Your Readers
  4. Avoid Worn-out Clichés in Your Opening Sentence
  5. Avoid Worn-out Clichés in Your Closing Sentence
  6. Follow Basic Email Etiquette for Greater Productivity
  7. The Harmful Effects of Rambling Prose
  8. A Strategic Advantage that Begins at the Keyboard
  9. Use Plain Language
  10. Use Short Sentences
  11. Use Short, Simple Words
  12. Write in Active Voice
  13. Avoid Hidden Verbs
  14. Finesse With Tone
  15. Find Your Hidden List
  16. The Productivity Checklist
  17. How to be Read in Government and Corporate America—Use the Models of Writing to Get Things Done® (WGTD)
  18. Clear Communication Drives Productivity
  19. With Procedure Writing, Point of View is Everything
  20. In the Heat of the Moment—If It Feels Good, Don’t Do It
  21. Make Your Procedure a Thing of Beauty—Use an Appropriate Format
  22. Make Your Procedure a Thing of Beauty—Use an Appropriate Format (Example 2)
  23. A Tribute to the Gregg Reference Manual—the gatekeeper of business grammar since the 1950s
  24. The Benefits of Writing—Supported by a Phone Call


Stan Berry has devoted over 35 years to improving the writing skills of over 100,000 business and government professionals. After completing his Master’s degree from Yale University, he co-authored five books on writing that he uses in his seminars. He’s been a member of the American Society for Training and Development (ASTD) since 1975 when he served as the newsletter editor and on the Board of Directors for the Twin Cities Chapter. Contact Stan online or call 612-578-1487.