Case in point: emails. Emails to my friends are one thing. I can start in the middle, at the end, in mid-sentence, write gibberish or all annoying Twitter abbreviations (WTF! OMG!), and my friends both understand me and forgive me. Right, friends? But for more formal emails, emails to my kids' teachers or the principal of the school, emails to people I hope to interview for my column, email queries and pitches, I gotta start at the beginning. That's some hard writing, people. If you can relate to this problem, here's what you need to do: start in the middle. Yeah, screw a bunch of grammar lessons and etiquette rules, you've got a backspace button, you own the right to cut and paste. Use those resources! I do. I start those emails at the most frantic part, for instance I might write something like this:
Dear Important Person,
My son/daughter/rat/dog, Charles The Terror/hosta is in dire need of your assistance and it can't wait another minute. He/she/it just had a complete meltdown/hissy fit/chew-fest/photosynthesis and I don't know how to contain the mess. I need your help. I can't go on without your help. Please, won't you help?
This is a dramatization. I am normally only 1/8 this crazy.
When I finish vomiting out this blather, I stop and take a swig of coffee, breathe, roll my head around in a relaxing circle, then start again.
Dear Important Person,
How are you today? (See how I made it about them and not me? This helps people feel respected.) I hope spring has found you happy and healthy. (Don't lay it on too too thick. Do be sincere.)
I am writing to you today (I like to frame any requests I have or concerns with this phrase because it prepares the reader a little. Now he/she realizes I'm about to ask for something they may or may not want to give.) to ask for your help (Do phrase this so that the important person knows you look to them as an expert!) with my son/daughter/rat/dog, Charles The Terror/hosta. Since you are an expert with sons/daughters/rats/dogs named Charles The Terror/hostas, I immediately thought you might be of assistance. (Then explain the problem or why this person could help you.)
Thank you for your consideration. I appreciate any feedback you are willing to share. (Don't be afraid to grovel a little. It's flattering. Important people eat that sh*t up!)
So, you see you, too, can overcome the ADD email that starts in the middle of a panic attack and cultivate a lovely, rational communication with all manner of important people.
Let me know how it goes for you. Send me your before and afters for critique (only if you allow me to repost them, of course). I'll use pseudonyms for the shy.