This simple acronym will help you remember three simple but critical points when drafting a letter requesting some kind of action from the recipient. You want to skillfully guide your reader to your desired outcome; you can accomplish this with ROT.

RESPECT: Your letter is a one-way conversation. It’s important that your reader feel invited into the discussion with respect and courtesy. If your first few words are bullying or threatening, the defenses go up and the ability to hear your message is compromised. But if the reader hears at the outset that your letter is seeking a mutually satisfactory solution, she is much more likely to proceed with an open mind.

ORGANIZATION: At the same time your reader is looking at your request or appeal, her phone is ringing, her email is dinging and her boss is asking for the status of an assignment. Don’t make her work to find the point of your letter. She should know within the first few sentences exactly what you are seeking. Respectfully state your concern or complaint, provide a timeline of events leading up to the reason for your dissatisfaction, then clearly state what course of action you want. If she has to go back and re-read your letter trying to figure out what you want from her, you have wasted her time and patience. Your letter will go the bottom of the stack while she catches up on Words With Friends.

THOROUGHNESS: You know exactly why you are composing this letter and what events led you to the point of exerting the time and effort to put your complaint or request into writing. But your reader doesn’t have that advantage. Avoid the common error of assuming prior or background knowledge. This doesn’t mean being condescending (that would not be respectful!). It means providing your recipient with the same information that you have; dates, events, names and supporting documents if they apply. Read your final draft out loud, or better yet, ask someone else to read it and look for black holes of missing information.

A respectful, organized, thorough letter represents you as a reasonable individual seeking a legitimate resolution to a real problem. A little ROT goes a long way.