How to write effectively on slack or email?

Harpreet Vishnoi
3 min readApr 18, 2021
Photo by Maxim Ilyahov on Unsplash

Usually it is our tendency whenever we are writing something to start from what is happening, what have you seen in data and analysis and then give recommendation or the punch line.

A better way to communicate is suggest by Barbara Minto ex-McKinsey consultant. She says “ideas in writing should always form a pyramid under a single thought”. Underneath the single thought, group and summarize the next level of supporting ideas and arguments.

Example:

‘How is your progress on X?’ Compare the two answers below:

  • Example 1: “umm, we’re checking the summer campaign data in Google Analytics. However we’re not sure about the date range, need to check with the marketing team. I have already sent an email, and am now waiting for their reply.”
  • Example 2: “It’s almost done. Just need to check the campaign date with the marketing team. I’m waiting for their reply. ”

Example 2 follows Minto Principle where you start with the punch line and then talk about supporting ideas and argument.

Here are the 3 steps to minto-ize every statement:

Step1: Start with the answer

What should we do? → You should do X.

Note:

  • People are busy and impatient they won’t be interested in your long paragraphs. Being direct and starting with your answer help people understand what you’re suggesting faster.
  • Are you answering the right question? If you have a doubt about what is being talked about. Jumping the gun can be dangerous. Remember shame in clarifying a question is less than what you might feel by executing something wrong. (Kobe Bryant use to say something similar.)

Situation A

Boss: “We should get the feature live by Monday”.

You: “When you say feature you mean text autocompletion in English language only right?”

Boss: “English and German both.”

You: “It can be done by Tuesday. Is that fine by you?”

Situation B

Boss: “We should get the feature live by Monday”.

You: “It will be done.”

Boss: On Monday “Why isn’t the german text autocompletion not working?”

You: “Well”

Step 2: Group your arguments for the answer.

  • I believe in my answer because these A,B & C reasons. This is called inductive reasoning and this is easier for reading and comprehending.
  • Giving 3 reasons is good enough to support an answer. (Vincent Wu, a Group PM at Google suggests 3 is a magic number which works for him.)

Step3: Present ideas in logical manner

  • You can rank ideas in most to least importance.
  • You can use SCQA to tell a story in a logical manner. SCQA — Situation, Complexity, Question and Answer.

Example:

(Punch Line) We should have in house design team.

(Argument)We will have more control over how design is implemented.

(Situation)Currently, we to setup up a meeting for any design changes which takes time.

(Complexity) Due to the process of setting up meeting and explaining business values to external designer, important time is lost which is taking a toll on customer requests.

(Question) What can we do to improve the delivery speed of the design and quality?

(Answer) Having an in house design team will solve this issue quickly.

Reference:

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Harpreet Vishnoi

Carnegie Mellon University| Product Manager | AI Developer