Would a List Be More Efficient? Part I

Often the answer is yes.

Picture this situation: You’re a police chief in a small city. The mayor sends you a proposal for dealing with homelessness and asks for feedback. You study the proposal, jot down some notes, and write a letter with changes and additional ideas. You include a list of community leaders who might be interested in forming a task force.

Question: Does your entire letter to the mayor have to be written in list format?

Of course not. After you write your response to the proposals, your list of task force members becomes a separate paragraph.

It’s common sense: There’s no need to waste  time writing a separate sentence for each person you’re recommending:

Father John Sullivan from St. Michael’s Church would be an asset to the task force. Captain Toni Lever from the Salvation Army would be an additional asset to the task force. I can also recommend Paula Cohen, principal of Tracy High School. 

A list is much more efficient.

Recommendations for the task force include:

-Father John Sullivan from St. Michael’s Church
-Captain Toni Lever from the Salvation Army
-Paula Cohen, principal of Tracy High School

But time and again, when I’ve urged police officers to incorporate lists into their reports, their panicked response is “I can’t write my whole report as a list!” Nobody is asking you to do that.

Write your report the way you normally would. Include a list of stolen items (or whatever). Then go back to writing your narrative as usual.

We’ll have more to say about lists in the next post.List 2

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