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Using SCRAP to discuss problems in an email

In order to make sure your message is clear and easily understood by your readers, you need to pay particular attention to its structure.

In general, a good way to increase clarity is to spend a minute or two thinking about the purpose of your email and how best to achieve it. Decide which information you will need to include and how this should be presented. Start with the main piece of information and place secondary information in the following sentences or paragraphs.

Your organisation may have developed templates to follow when dealing with routine issues, particularly when it comes to responding to customer enquiries, requests and complaints.

When the main purpose of your email is to communicate a problem and your proposed way to resolve it, you can follow the SCRAP structure. This is an effective way to help your readers follow your line of thinking by including the following five key themes and sequencing them in a logical manner:

Situation: Start positively, explain the situation and your purpose for the email
Complication: explain clearly the problem
Resolution: explain your proposed solution to the problem
Action: clearly state what you would like to happen next, the actions for the recipient and for you
Politeness: includes thanking or praising the recipient, showing solidarity and apologising.

The following email attempts to deal with a problem, but it is not clearly structured. Identify its strengths and weaknesses. Think of ways it could be rearranged to follow the SCRAP structure. Then move on to read the feedback.

Dear Sandra,

We showed the demo to the Board yesterday. While their reaction was very positive, they argue that a few features that were considered ‘nice to have’ at the time of the brief should now be considered essential.

Many thanks for sending the demo of the last version of our new website. You have done a great job delivering it on time and within budget.

Would it be possible to meet you early next week to discuss the additional features now required, and the associated budget and timing?

Therefore, I am afraid that we have some more work to do.

Following the meeting, I had a separate session with the Marketing Director who agreed a small incremental budget and a new lead time to complete the work to the full satisfaction of our Board.

Many thanks again for all the good work and I look forward to a productive meeting next week.

Kind regards,


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Business Fundamentals: Effective Communication

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