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Communication Savvy - Structuring Correspondence


What does a Hell’s Angels motorcycle gang member have in common with a method for structuring your English correspondence? They are both a BIKER!

BIKER is a simple structure that allows you to plan and write in an effective way. It’s useful to have a proven skeleton structure for your English correspondence. All you need to think about are the appropriate words to hang on each part of the skeleton. This is especially helpful when you are writing with negative information or where you want your message to have an impact.

So what does BIKER mean and how does it work?

B for Background

Here you describe the context for the correspondence, such as what the letter, fax or e-mail is about. It could be that you want to explain why you are writing to a reader who has little or no knowledge of the situation. Or you might simply be confirming that you know the situation as well as your reader does.

Dear Mr Ford

Order nr 3576/05

On 15 April 2017 we ordered 50 office desks and chairs from your company for our new offices. You promised they would be delivered in two batches with final delivery no later than June 14 as we would be moving into the new offices on June 21. The first batch of 25 was delivered on June 7.

The heading is part of this background information and should be kept as short and clear as possible. By the end of the first paragraph your reader should clearly understand the situation.

I for Issue

What is the issue you wish to address in this correspondence? In other words, what’s the problem? What is the reason for writing? Make sure you separate the issue or problem from the background description. It then has more impact on the reader.

It is now June 18 and the second batch of 25 desks and chairs still has not been delivered. We have rung your office several times without getting a definite delivery date. You now have only three days to complete the delivery before our staff moves into the new premises.

A clear description of the problem allows the reader to really focus on possible solutions.

K for Key

What are the possible keys to unlock the problem? And which key do you prefer?

The best solution would be for the delivery to take place before June 21. Failing this, we suggest two possible options:

1. We transport 25 old chairs and desks from our old office to the new premises. We then invoice you for the costs.

2. You provide temporary replacement desks and chairs from your stores at your cost. We would also expect a 10 per cent discount off the price of the second batch to compensate for the inconvenience.

State up front what the best solution would be for you. Then offer other options.

E for Execution

What do you want to happen now? What do you want the reader to do? What are you going to do? What’s the plan you want to execute?

If you are unable to deliver by June 21, please tell us what you intend to do about the situation and which of the suggested options you prefer. Please reply to this mail by the end of business today.

It’s good to make clear deadlines for any actions you want carried out.

R for Rapport

End with some rapport building. You might still be conducting business in the future – so separate the person from the problem. Keep the relationship alive by being firm but also open and polite.

You have always handled our previous orders in an efficient way and dealt with any complaints promptly and politely. We are sure that you will be able to deal with the present problem equally effectively

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