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[letter]Limit Each Paragraph To One Idea In Your Letters

Whether you are writing a regulation or a letter, the idea of limiting paragraphs to one idea is an important key to clarity. Here's a segment from a Veterans Administration's letter. The letter and the rewrite are taken from their Reader Focus Writing Handbook. In the first example, the original in one paragraph is not only overwhelming, it's hard to understand just what you are entitled to without reading it several times.

One Paragraph Example:  In this first example, so much information is given in the paragraph that it's hard to understand any of it.
If, due to your active military status, you will suffer a reduction of income and find it difficult to maintain your mortgage obligation, the Act provides that the interest rate of your mortgage can be reduced to 6 percent per annum until your period of active duty has ended. You will incur no penalty or obligation to repay the forgiven interest amount. Therefore, you should inform the holder of your mortgage (or its agent) of your inability to continue the payments required by your mortgage contract. If you have already fallen behind in your monthly payments, the holder of your loan can defer payment of the delinquent amount until your period of active duty has ended, and at that time you should make arrangements for a repayment schedule.

Two Paragraph Example:  In this second example, the information is broken into two separate paragraphs: one about the type of protection you can receive; the other about how to qualify. Notice that the first paragraph is even easier to follow because it uses a vertical list.
This is the protection you can receive until your period of active duty service has ended:
  • Your mortgage holder can reduce your annual interest rate to 6%.
  • You will not have to pay a penalty or the forgiven interest amount (the amount above the 6% rate).
  • Your mortgage holder can postpone payment of any money you may now owe.

To qualify for this protection, you must tell the mortgage holder that you will lose income while you are in active service, and it will be hard to keep up your mortgage payments. You should also make arrangements for a repayment schedule.

Reminder:  Remember to show the mortgage holder a copy of your order to report to active duty.