CHAPTER 9: Writing negative Messages

Achieving Success in Today’s Competitive Environment
Communicating in Organizational Settings
Recognizing Effective Communication
Understanding What Employers Expect from You
Understanding Why Business Communication Is Unique
The Increasing Value of Business Information
The Globalization of Business and the Increase in Workforce Diversity
The Pervasiveness of Technology
The Evolution of Organizational Structures
The Growing Reliance on Teamwork
Communicating More Effectively on the Job
Connecting with Your Audience
The Communication Process
Barriers in the Communication Environment
Inside the Mind of Your Audience
How Audiences Receive Messages
How Audiences Decode Messages
How Audiences Respond to Messages
Minimizing Distractions
Adopting an Audience-Centered Approach
Fine-Tuning Your Business Communication Skills
Giving—and Responding to—Constructive Feedback
Being Sensitive to Business Etiquette
Applying What You’ve Learned to the Communication Process
Using Technology to Improve Business Communication
Keeping Technology in Perspective
Using Technological Tools Productively
Spending Time and Money on Technology Wisely
Reconnecting with People Frequently
Making Ethical Communication Choices
Distinguishing Ethical Dilemmas from Ethical Lapses
Ensuring Ethical Communication
Ensuring Legal Communication
Achieving Success in Today’s Competitive Environment
Your success in business depends on your ability to communicate.
Employers are frustrated by the poor communication skills of many employees, so communicating well
gives you a significant advantage.
Communication is the process of sending and receiving messages, but as this chapter explains, it is far
more complicated than it seems on the surface.
The essence of communication is sharing—data, information, and insights.
Effective communication benefits organizations in numerous ways:
 Stronger decision making and faster problem solving
 Earlier warning of potential problems
 Increased productivity and steadier work flow
 Stronger business relationships
 Clearer and more persuasive marketing messages
 Enhanced professional images for both employers and companies
 Lower employee turnover and higher employee satisfaction
 Better financial results and higher return for investors
Communication connects an organization with all its stakeholders:
The community
The nation
The world
Messages flow into, through, and out of business organizations in a variety of ways.
Internal communication is the exchange of information and ideas within an organization.
External communication is the exchange of information and ideas with others outside your
Both internal and external communicators involves formal and informal channels.
Formal internal communication flows in three directions:
A downward flow lets executives share decisions and other information that helps employees do their
An upward flow lets employees provide information that helps executives solve problems and make
intelligent decisions.
A horizontal flow (across or diagonally) lets employees share the information and coordinate the
tasks that help them solve complex and difficult problems.
Informal internal communication flows along the grapevine, a loose and changing network that operates
anywhere two or more employees are in contact.
The grapevine is
Used by savvy managers to spread and receive informal messages
Most active when employees believe the formal network is not providing the information they want
Formal external communication includes such message vehicles as announcements, promotional
materials, websites, and financial reports.
Information external communication includes such interactions as
Discussing work with friends
Meeting potential sales contacts at industry gatherings
Networking at social events
Talking with customers
Informal exchanges of information can now be enhanced by social networking software that indexes email and instant messaging address books, calendars, and message archives in order to detect connections
between names.
In some companies, social networking has evolved into virtual communities that unite people with similar
To make your messages effective, make them
Practical: Provide useful information.
Factual: Give facts rather than impressions.
Concise: Clarify and condense information.
Clear regarding expectations: State precise responsibilities.
Compelling: Persuade others and offer recommendations.
Employers expect you to be competent at a wide range of basic communication tasks, such as
Organizing ideas and information coherently and completely
Expressing and presenting ideas and information coherently and persuasively
Listening to others effectively
Communicating effectively with people from diverse backgrounds and experiences
Using communication technologies effectively and efficiently
Following accepted standards of grammar, spelling, and other aspects of high-quality writing and
Communicating in a civilized manner that reflects contemporary expectations of business etiquette
Communicating ethically, even when choices aren’t crystal clear
A number of forces make business communication a unique challenge:
The increasing value of business information
The globalization of business and the increase in workforce diversity
The pervasiveness of technology
The evolution of organizational structures
The growing reliance on teamwork
The importance of information in business continues to grow.
Knowledge workers are employees who specialize in acquiring, processing, and communicating
You’ll be expected to communicate valuable information that addresses such areas as
Competitive insights
Customer needs
Regulations and guidelines
Globalization is the increasing effort to reach across international borders in order to
Market products
Partner with other businesses
Employ workers and executives
Workforce diversity refers to all those differences among the people you come into contact with on the
job, including differences in
Sexual orientation
Cultural background
Life experience
Although technology is intended to enhance virtually every aspect of business communication, it can
sometimes impede communication, particularly if not used intelligently.
Staying on top of technology requires time, energy, and constant improvement of skills.
To avoid the communication breakdowns and delays inherent in tall organizational structures, many
businesses are adopting flatter structures that reduce the number of layers.
Flat organizational structures
Help communication flow faster and with fewer disruptions and distractions
Require more personal responsibility for communication
Flexible organizations pool the talents of employees with external partners, which increases the necessity
for giving and getting necessary information if communication is to remain effective.
Corporate culture is the mixture of values, traditions, and habits that give a company its atmosphere and
An open climate encourages
The free flow of information down, up, and across the organization chart
Candor and honesty, even when bad news must be conveyed
Teams offer organizations many potential advantages and require you to become more responsible for
Communicating More Effectively on the Job
Human communication is a complex process with many opportunities for messages to get lost, ignored, or
The eight phases of the communication process are repeated until both parties finish expressing
The sender has an idea.
The sender encodes the idea into a message.
The sender produces the message in a medium.
The sender transmits the message through a channel.
The audience receives the message.
The audience decodes the message.
The audience responds to the message.
The audience provides feedback to the sender.
In any communication environment, messages can be disrupted by a variety of communication barriers:
Noise and distractions, including both internal and external distractions—multitasking is a common
Competing messages can create message overload.
Filters can block or distort messages; filters can be both human and technological.
Channel breakdowns occur when the chosen communication channel fails to deliver a message.
The mere fact that a message reached its intended audience is no guarantee of successful communication.
For an audience member to actually receive a message, three events need to occur:
1. The receiver has to sense the presence of a message
2. The receiver has to select it from all the other messages clamoring for attention
3. The receiver has to perceive it as an actual message (as opposed to random noise)
Communicators can improve the odds of successful message reception by following five principles:
 Consider audience expectations regarding media and channels.
 Ensure ease of use, such as websites that are easy to navigate.
 Emphasize familiar words, images, and designs.
 Practice empathy so that messages address audience concerns.
 Design for compatibility to minimize the chance of technical glitches.
Even though a message may have been received by the audience, it still doesn’t “mean” anything until the
recipient decodes it and assigns meaning to it.
Assigning meaning through decoding is a highly personal process that is affected by
Individual experience
Learning and thinking styles
Hopes and fears
Temporary moods
Audience tend to extract the meaning from messages that they expect or hope to receive.
Each of us has an individual perception of reality.
Selection perception when audience members distort or ignore incoming information rather than alter
their perceptions of reality.
Vague language is a common—and easily correctable—cause of misperception
For audience members to respond to correctly decoded messages, three things must occur:
1. They must remember the message long enough to act on it.
2. They must be able to respond as the sender wishes.
3. They must be motivated to respond.
Minimize physical distractions by doing the following:
Reduce as much noise, visual clutter, and interruption as possible.
Don’t let e-mail, instant messaging, Twitter feeds, or telephone calls interrupt you every minute of the
Don’t send unnecessary messages.
Let people know the true urgency of your messages.
Overcome emotional distractions by
Recognizing your own feelings
Anticipating responses from others
Choosing your words carefully
Avoiding placing blame
Avoiding subjective reactions
An audience-centered approach means focusing on and caring about the members of your audience,
making every effort to get your message across in a way that is meaningful to them.
In order to focus on your audience, try to learn as much as you can about your receivers’
Personal concerns
Professional concerns
Recognize and adapt to the various communication styles you will encounter on the job.
To improve your own skills as a communicator, take advantage of opportunities, such as employer
training and the training offered in this course.
Constructive feedback is focused on the process and the outcome of communication, not on the people
Destructive feedback delivers criticism with no effort to stimulate improvement.
When you receive constructive feedback, try to
Resist the urge to defend your work or deny the validity of the feedback
Disconnect emotionally from the work and see it simply as something that can be made better
Step back and consider the feedback before diving in to make corrections
Don’t assume that all constructive feedback is necessarily correct
Etiquette is the expected norms of behavior in a particular situation.
To be sensitive to business etiquette, try to do the following:
Realize the fact that people can have different expectations about the same situation.
Don’t be overwhelmed by long lists of etiquette “rules.”
Rely on respect, courtesy, and common sense to get you through just about anything.
Use guidebooks and websites to learn about norms and customs in different countries.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions.
Using Technology to Improve Business Communication
You will encounter a wide variety of communication technologies on the job, including
E-mail and instant messaging
Podcasts and vidcasts
Electronic presentations (e.g., PowerPoint)
Online, virtual meetings
Virtual reality spaces such as Second Life
Social networking
Businesses are usually quick to explore and adopt any technology that promises more effective or less
expensive communication.
To use communication technology effectively, you need to
Keep technology in perspective
Use technological tools productively; some tools can waste as much time as they save
Disengage from the computer frequently to communicate in person
Making Ethical Communication Choices
Ethics are the principles of conduct that govern human behavior.
Ethical communication
Includes all relevant information
Is true in every sense
Is not deceptive in any way
Improving Your Performance in Teams
Advantages and Disadvantages of Teams
Characteristics of Effective Teams
Team Communication
Collaborative Writing Guidelines
Collaborative Writing Technologies
Group Dynamics
Assuming Team Roles
Allowing for Team Evolution
Resolving Conflict
Overcoming Resistance
Etiquette in Team Settings
In the Workplace
In Social Settings
Making Your Meetings More Productive
Preparing for Meetings
Leading and Participating in Meetings
Using Meeting Technologies
Improving Your Listening Skills
Recognizing Various Types of Listening
Understanding the Listening Process
Overcoming Barriers to Effective Listening
Improving Your Nonverbal Communication Skills
Recognizing Nonverbal Communication
Using Nonverbal Communication Effectively
Improving Your Performance in Teams
A team is a unit of two or more people who work together to achieve a common goal.
Organizations can create different types of teams:
Formal teams (such as committees) become a part of the organization’s structure.
Informal teams (such as a task force or problem-solving team) disband once they reach their goal.
Cross-functional teams pull together people
From a variety of departments
With different areas of expertise and responsibility
Participative management is the effort to involve all employees in decision making.
A successful team can provide advantages, such as
Increased information and knowledge
Increased diversity of views
Increased acceptance of solutions
Higher performance levels
Teams can also have disadvantages, such as
Groupthink—members are willing to abandon personal opinions in favor of group cohesion
Hidden agendas—private motives affect the group’s interaction
Free riders—noncontributing members aren’t held individually accountable
Cost—coordinating group activities costs time and money
The most effective teams
Have a clear objective and a shared sense of purpose
Communicate openly and honestly
Reach decisions by consensus
Think creatively
Know how to resolve conflict
Lack of trust and poor communication are the most common reasons for failure in teams.
Collaborative writing and presenting efforts
Let the team exploit each person’s unique skills
Require special effort to maximize productivity and minimize conflict
To collaborate effectively
Select collaborators carefully
Agree on project goals before you start
Give your team time to bond before diving in
Clarify individual responsibilities
Establish clear processes
Avoid writing as a group
Trying to compose as a group is usually slow and painful
For shorter projects, assign the actual writing to one person
For longer projects, assign sections to individual writers
Make sure tools and techniques are ready and compatible across the team
Check to see how things are going along the way
Collaborative writing technologies can help you manage complex projects.
Content management systems have formal processes, such as check-out and
check-in procedures, workflow rules, etc.; often used to manage large websites
Wikis are usually less formal and promote quick, direct collaboration
Enterprise wikis add features such as access control, rollback, etc.
Wiki benefits:
Simple to use
Freedom to post or revise material immediately, without authorization
Wiki writing guidelines:
Relax expectations of authorship control and recognition; it’s about the team
Encourage people to edit and improve content whenever then can
Focus on text content; formatting and design options are usually limited
Using editing and commenting tools appropriately (e.g., use the comment page, rather than
inserting comments directly into the content)
Experiment in the sandbox first to get used to the wiki’s capabilities
Group dynamics are the interactions and processes that take place in a team.
Productive teams tend to develop norms (rules) that are conducive to business.
Group dynamics are affected by
The roles played by team members
The current phase of team development
The team’s success in resolving conflict
Success in overcoming resistant
Team members can play various roles:
Self-oriented roles
Team-maintenance roles
Task-facilitating roles
As teams grow and evolve, they generally pass through five phases:
Another common model, proposed by Bruce Tuckman:
Conflict is a natural part of any team experience, and it is not necessarily bad
Conflict can result from
Intrateam competition for resources or recognition
Equally good but incompatible ideas
Poor communication
Lack of trust
Power struggle and ambiguous authority
Incompatible goals
Conflict can be constructive if it
Forces important issues into the open
Increases the involvement of team members
Generates creative ideas for problem solution
Conflict can be destructive if it
Diverts energy from more important issues
Destroys morale
Polarizes or divides the team
For the win-win strategy to work, everybody must believe that
It’s possible to find a solution that both parties can accept
Cooperation is better for the organization than competition
The other party can be trusted
Higher status doesn’t entitle one party to impose a solution
Conflict can be resolved through
Proaction: deal with conflict before it escalates
Communication: get opposing parties actively involved in resolution
Openness: Get feelings out into the open
Research: Get the facts before attempting a resolution
Flexibility: Make sure people consider all possible solutions
Fair play: Insist on a fair solution that doesn’t hide behind rules
Alliance: Unite the team against an “outside force” instead of each other
Examples of unethical communication include
Selective misquoting
Misrepresenting numbers
Distorting visuals
An ethical message
Is accurate and sincere
Avoids language that manipulates, discriminates, or exaggerates
An ethical dilemma involves choosing among alternatives that are not clear-cut:
Two conflicting alternatives that are both ethical and valid
Two alternatives that lie somewhere in the vast gray area between right and wrong
An ethical lapse involves making a clearly unethical or illegal choice.
To ensure ethical communication, three elements need to be in place and to work in harmony:
Ethical individuals
Ethical company leadership
The appropriate policies and structures to support employee efforts to make ethical choices
A code of ethics is an explicit written policy of ethics guidelines that helps employees determine what is
Ethics audits monitor ethical progress and reveal any weaknesses that need to be addressed.
Every employee has the responsibility to communicate in an ethical manner; the law is a good place to
start when making ethical decisions, but the law alone is not enough.
If you must rely on your own judgment, ask yourself the following questions about your business
communication efforts:
Have I defined the situation fairly and accurately?
What is my intention in communicating this message?
What impact will the message have on those who receive it or who might be affected by it?
Will the message achieve the greatest possible good while doing the least possible harm?
Will the assumptions I’ve made change over time? That is, will a decision that seems ethical now
seem unethical in the future?
Am I comfortable with my decision? Would I be embarrassed if it were printed in tomorrow’s
newspaper or spread across the Internet?
Improving Your Listening Skills
Effective listening
Strengthens organizational relationships
Enhances product delivery
Alerts the organization to opportunities for innovation
Allows the organization to manage growing diversity
Helps companies stay informed, up to date, and out of trouble
Helps build trust not only between organizations but also between individuals
You will become a more effective listener by learning to use several methods of listening:
Content listening emphasizes information and understanding, not agreement or approval.
Critical listening emphasizes evaluating the meaning of the speaker’s message on several levels (logic
of the argument, strength of evidence, validity of conclusions, implications of the message,
intentions of the speaker, omission of any important or relevant points).
Empathic listening emphasizes understanding a speaker’s feelings, needs, and wants (without
advising or judging).
Active listening means turning off your internal filters and biases and making a conscious effort to truly
hear and understand what the other party is saying.
Most people aren’t very good listeners—in general, people
Listen at or below a 25 percent efficiency rate
Remember only about half of what has been said in a 10-minute conversation
Forget half of that within 48 hours
Mix up the facts when questioned about material they’ve just heard
The listening process involves five separate steps:
A key challenge is that people think faster than they speak:
Most people can process 500 to 800 words per minute.
Most speakers usually talk at a rate of 120 to 150 words per minute.
Consequently, listeners’ minds have a lot of free time to wander.
To become a good listener, recognize and overcome potential barriers throughout the listening process:
Avoid interrupting or creating distractions that make it hard for others to pay attention.
Avoid selective listening, in which you pay attention only to those topics in which you have an
Focus on the speaker (because people think faster than they speak, their minds tend to wander).
Avoid prejudgment, and listen with an open mind.
Avoid misinterpreting messages because of the lack of common ground.
Don’t rely on your memory.
To remember material, you must first capture it in short-term memory, than successfully transfer it to
long-term memory.
Use four techniques to store information in long-term memory:
Associate new information with something closely related.
Categorize new information into logical groups..
Visualize words and ideas as pictures
Create mnemonics.
Improving Your Nonverbal Communication Skills
Nonverbal communication is the interpersonal process of sending and receiving information both
intentionally and unintentionally, without using written or spoken language.
Nonverbal cues affect communication in three ways:
Complementing verbal language (strengthening, weakening, or completely replacing words)
Revealing truth (often conveying more than the words spoken)
Conveying information efficiently (conveying nuance or volumes in a single instant)
Nonverbal communication can be grouped into six general categories:
Facial expression
Gesture and posture
Vocal characteristics
Personal appearance
Time and space
To be a better speaker and listener, pay closer attention to nonverbal cues in every situation:
Be aware of the cues you send when you’re talking.
Be aware of the cues you send when you’re not talking (through clothing, posture, and so on).
Be aware of the cues you receive when you’re listening.
Understanding the Three-Step Writing Process
Optimizing Your Writing Time
Planning Effectively
Analyzing Your Situation
Defining Your Purpose
Developing an Audience Profile
Gathering Information
Uncovering Audience Needs
Providing Required Information
Be Sure the Information Is Accurate
Be Sure the Information is Ethical
Be Sure the Information is Pertinent
Selecting the Right Medium
Oral Media
Written Media
Visual Media
Electronic Media
Factors to Consider When Choosing Media
Organizing Your Information
Recognizing the Importance of Good Organization
Defining Your Main Idea
Limiting Your Scope
Choosing Between Direct and Indirect Approaches
Routine and Positive Messages
Negative Messages
Persuasive Messages
Outlining Your Content
Start with the Main Idea
State the Major Points
Illustrate with Evidence
The writing process may be viewed as three simple steps:
Step 1. Planning business messages
Analyzing the situation
Gathering information
Selecting the right medium
Organizing the information
Step 2. Writing business messages
Adapting to your audience
Composing your message
Step 3. Completing business messages
Revising your message
Producing your message
Proofreading your message
Distributing your message
When writing business messages, try scheduling your time as follows:
Planning: Approximately one-half of your time
Writing: About one-quarter of your time
Completing: About one-quarter of your time
Effective communicators complete all three steps, although not necessarily in order.
A successful message starts with a clear purpose that connects the sender’s needs with the audience’s
All business messages have a general purpose:
To inform
To persuade
To collaborate
Your general purpose helps you define your overall approach
The information you need to gather
Your choice of media
The way you organize your message
The general purpose determines the degree of audience participation and message control:
Informing your audience requires little audience interaction.
Persuading your audience requires a moderate amount of audience participation.
Collaborating with audience members requires maximum audience participation.
Within your general purpose, each message also has a specific purpose, which identifies
What you hope to accomplish with your message
What your audience should do or think after receiving your message
To decide whether to proceed with your message, ask yourself four questions:
1. Will anything change as a result of your message?
2. Is your purpose realistic?
3. Is the time right?
4. Is your purpose acceptable to your organization?
Develop an audience profile by
Identifying the primary audience
Determining audience size and geographic distribution
Determining audience composition
Gauging your audience members’ level of understanding
Understanding audience expectations and preferences
Forecasting probable audience reaction
For many kinds of business messages, you can informally gather information to satisfy your audience’s
needs by
Considering other viewpoints
Reading reports and other company documents
Talking with supervisors, colleagues, or customers
Asking your audience for input
Find out what your audience members want to know:
Listen to their requests.
Clarify vague or broad requests by asking questions to narrow the focus.
Try to think of information needs that audience members may not even be aware they have.
Provide all the information your audience requires:
Use the journalistic approach (answering who, what, when, where, why, and how).
Be sure the information you provide is accurate (especially since your company is legally
bound by any promises you make).
Be sure your information is ethical (as honest and complete as you can make it).
Be sure the information you provide is pertinent to your audience (tailored to your audience’s
interests and needs).
A medium is the form through which you choose to communicate your message.
Although categorizing media has become blurred with the advent of so many multimedia choices, think of
media as being oral, written, visual or electronic.
Oral media include
Face-to-face conversation
Oral media have several advantages:
Providing immediate feedback
Allowing a certain ease of interaction
Involving rich nonverbal cues (both physical gestures and vocal inflection)
Allowing you to express the emotion behind your message
Oral media also have disadvantages:
Restricting participation to those who are physically present
Providing no permanent, verifiable record of the communication
Reducing the communicator’s control over the message
Ruling out the chance to revise or edit your spoken words
Written media include
Scribbled notes
Letters and memos
Reports and proposals
Memos are
Relatively brief (one to two pages)
Used for routine messages within an organization
Less private than letters
Are relatively brief (one to two pages)
Are used to communicate with people outside the organization
Perform an important public relations function (fostering good working relationships with outsiders)
Can be prepared as form letters to save time and money on routine communication
Reports and proposals are
Longer than letters and memos
Written in a variety of lengths
Usually fairly formal in tone
Written media have a number of advantages over oral media:
Allowing you to plan and control your message
Offering a permanent, verifiable record
Helping you reach an audience that is geographically dispersed
Minimizing the distortion that can accompany oral messages
Allowing you to avoid immediate interactions
De-emphasizing any inappropriate emotional components
Written media also have a number of disadvantages compared to oral media:
Offering little opportunity for speedy feedback
Lacking the rich nonverbal cues provided by oral media
Taking more time and more resources to create and distribute
Requiring special skills in preparation and production
Visual media include:
Visual media offer several distinct advantages:
Can convey complex ideas and relationships quickly
Often less intimidating than long blocks of text
Can reduce the burden on the audience to figure out how the pieces fit
The primary disadvantages of visual media include:
Can require artistic skills to design
Require some technical skills to create
Can require more time to create than equivalent amount of text
More difficult to transmit and store than simple textual messages
Electronic media include
Electronic versions of oral media (telephone calls, teleconferencing, voice-mail messages and audio
recordings such as compact discs and podcasts)
Electronic versions of written media (e-mail, instant messages, blogs, websites, wikis, and
text messaging)
Electronic versions of visual media (electronic presentations, computer animation, and video,
which can be distributed on DVD and online)
Electronic media have distinct advantages:
Delivering messages with great speed
Reaching a dispersed audience personally
Offering the persuasive power of multimedia formats
Increasing accessibility and openness in an organization
The chief disadvantages of electronic communication include
Being easy to overuse
Lacking privacy
Security Risks
Draining employee productivity
When deciding which media to use, consider
Media richness
Message formality
Media limitations
Sender intentions
Urgency and cost of message
Audience preferences
Common organization problems include
Taking too long to get to the point
Including irrelevant material
Getting ideas mixed up
Leaving out necessary information
Poor organization
Forces readers to piece your message together in a meaningful way
Leads readers to inaccurate conclusions
Tempts readers to stop reading or listening
Good organization helps you communicate more effectively:
It saves you time
It consumes less of your energy
It helps you get some advance input from your audience
It helps you divide the writing job among co-workers.
Good organization helps your audience
Understand your message
Accept your message
Save time
For more complicated persuasive messages or negative messages, try to define a main idea that
will establish a good relationship between you and your audience.
When unsure about your main idea, consider a variety of techniques for generating creative ideas:
Journalistic approach
Question-and-answer chain
Storyteller’s tour
Mind mapping
The scope of a message matches your main idea in every aspect, including the
Range of information you present
Overall length
Level of detail
Limit the number of main points to half a dozen or so, regardless of how long your message
will be.
Scope depends on
The nature of your subject
Your audience members’ familiarity with the topic
Your audience’s receptivity to your conclusions
Your credibility
When deciding on the sequence of your points, you have two basic options to choose from:
The direct approach is deductive: The main idea comes first and is followed by the evidence.
The indirect approach is inductive: The evidence comes first and is followed by the main idea.
Your approach may differ depending on likely audience reaction and the purpose of your message:
Routine and positive messages: Direct approach
Negative messages: Indirect approach
Persuasive messages: Indirect approach that captures attention
Creating an outline
Saves you time
Helps you create better results
Helps you do a better job of navigating through complicated business situations
Helps you plan for the transitions you’ll insert to make your message coherent and help your audience
understand the relationships between your ideas
Types of outlines include
The basic outline format (numbers or letters identify each point and are indented to show which items
are of equal status)
The organization chart format (showing thoughts as boxes organized into divisions, similar to the
charts that show an organization’s management structure)
To develop an outline, you usually
Start with the main idea (supported or explained by absolutely everything in the message)
State the major points
Illustrate with evidence
The main idea summarizes two things:
What you want your audience to do or think
Why they should do so
Your major support points will be suggested by one of the following:
The natural order of your subject (based on something physical, the steps in a process, the description
of an object, or a chronological chain)
The major elements of your argument (based on a line of reasoning)
Specific evidence helps audience members
Understand the more abstract concepts you’re presenting
Remember those concepts
Provide enough evidence to be convincing without becoming boring or inefficient.
To maintain audience interest, vary the type of detail:
Facts and figures
Example or illustration
Reference to authority
Visual aids
If your schedule permits, try to put aside your outline for a day or two before you begin composing your
Adapting to Your Audience
Being Sensitive to Your Audience's Needs
Using the “You” Attitude
Maintaining Standards of Etiquette
Emphasizing the Positive
Using Bias-Free Language
Building Strong Relationships with Your Audience
Establishing Your Credibility
Projecting Your Company's Image
Controlling Your Style and Tone
Using a Conversational Tone
Using Plain English
Selecting Active or Passive Voice
Composing Your Message
Choosing Strong Words
Using Functional and Content Words Correctly
Denotation and Connotation
Abstraction and Concreteness
Finding Words That Communicate
Creating Effective Sentences
Choosing From the Four Types of Sentences
Using Sentence Style to Emphasize Key Thoughts
Crafting Coherent Paragraphs
Elements of the Paragraph
Topic Sentence
Support Sentences
Transitional Elements
Five Ways to Develop a Paragraph
Using Technology to Compose and Shape Your Messages
Composing Effective E-Mail Messages
Following Company Guidelines—and Common Sense
Arranging Your E-Mail Messages
Adapting Your E-Mail Messages
Making E-Mail Subject Lines
Personalizing Your E-Mail Messages
Formatting Your E-Mail Messages
Shaping Your Documents with Word Processing Tools
By adapting your communication to the needs and expectations of your audience, you’ll
Provide a more compelling answer to the question of “What’s in this for me?”
Improve the chances of your message being successful
To adapt your message to your audience, try to
Be sensitive to your audience’s needs
Build a strong relationship with your audience
Control your style to maintain a professional tone
Improve your audience sensitivity by
Adopting the “you” attitude
Maintaining good standards of etiquette
Emphasizing the positive
Using bias-free language
Adopt the “you” attitude by
Replacing terms that refer to yourself and your company with terms that refer to your audience
Empathizing with your audience sincerely and genuinely
Avoiding the word you when its use would be impolite or accusatory
Following company policy regarding the use of personal pronouns
Maintain the highest standards of etiquette:
Be courteous to members of your audience.
Control your emotions and communicate calmly.
Be even more tactful in written messages.
Be prompt in your correspondence.
Emphasize the positive:
Soften the blow of negative news.
Criticize constructively without hammering on their mistakes.
Emphasize audience benefits rather than your own.
Avoid words that are hurtful or offensive to your audience (without carrying euphemisms too far).
Use bias-free language by avoiding words and phrases that unfairly and even unethically categorize or
stigmatize people in ways related to
Race and ethnicity
Credibility is the measure of your believability based on how reliable you are and how much trust you
evoke in others.
To establish your credibility, emphasize
Awareness of audience needs
Credentials, knowledge, and expertise
Communication style
Project the right image for your company by subordinating your own views and personality if necessary
and mastering your company’s style.
Style is the way that words are used to achieve a certain tone (the impression made by your words).
To achieve a conversational tone, try to
Avoid obsolete and pompous language
Avoid preaching and bragging
Be careful with intimacy
Be careful with humor
Plain English is a way of presenting information in a simple, unadorned style that your audience can
easily grasp without struggling through specialized, technical, or convoluted language.
Even though most people don’t like unclear writing, it is still pervasive because writers
Are unsure about their own writing skills and about their impact their messages will have
Plan their messages inadequately
Sometimes intentionally create distance between themselves and their audiences
Plain English does have some limitations:
It sometimes lacks the precision or subtlety necessary for scientific research, engineering
documents, intense feeling, and personal insight
It doesn’t embrace all cultures and dialects equally
To use the active voice, you
Place the subject (“actor”) before the verb
Place the object (“acted upon”) after the verb
To use the passive voice, you
Place the subject after the verb
Place the object before the verb
Combine the helping verb to be with a form of the verb that is usually similar to the past
Use the active voice to
Produce shorter, stronger sentences
Make your writing more vigorous, concise, and generally easier to understand
Generally avoid the passive voice because it
Is cumbersome
Is unnecessarily vague
Can make sentences longer
The passive voice is best in some cases to demonstrate the “you” attitude:
When you need to be diplomatic
When you want to avoid taking or attributing the credit or the blame
When you want to avoid personal pronouns to create an objective tone
As you compose your first draft, you
Can improve on your outline by rearranging, deleting, and adding ideas (as long as you don’t
lose sight of your purpose)
Try to let your creativity flow (don’t draft and edit at the same time)
Try to overcome writer’s block
You can jog your brain to overcome writer’s block by
Skipping to another part of the document
Working on nontext elements such as graphics
Switching to a different project
Starting to write without worrying about what you’re writing or how it sounds
The most successful messages have three important elements:
Strong words
Effective sentences
Coherent paragraphs
The words you choose to use must be correct and suitable:
Use functional and content words correctly.
Find words that communicate well.
Functional words (including conjunctions, prepositions, articles, pronouns) express relationships
and have only one unchanging meaning in any given context.
Content words (including nouns, verbs, adjectives, and adverbs) are multidimensional, and thus subject to
various interpretations.
Content words have two meanings:
The denotative meaning is the literal or dictionary meaning.
The connotative meaning includes all the associations and feelings evoked by the word.
In business communication be careful with words that have multiple interpretations and are high in
connotative meaning.
A word may be
Abstract (expressing a concept, quality or characteristic)
Concrete (standing for something you can touch or see)
Blend abstract terms with concrete ones to be as effective as possible.
To find the words that communicate, think carefully about the right words to use for each individual
Choose powerful words
Choose familiar words
Avoid clichés and buzzwords
Use jargon carefully
To make every sentence count, you
Select the optimum type of sentence
Arrange words to emphasize the most important point in each sentence
Four types of sentences are
Simple: one main clause (subject and predicate)
Compound: two main clauses
Complex: one main clause with one or more subordinate clauses
Compound-complex: two main clauses, at least one with a subordinate clause
To achieve the clearest writing possible, strive for variety and balance by mixing all four types of sentences.
You can emphasize key ideas through sentence style by
Choosing a sentence style that gives that idea the most space
Adding a separate, short sentence to augment the thought
Making a thought the subject of a sentence
Placing the key idea either at the beginning or the end of a sentence
A paragraph organizes the sentences related to the same general topic.
Readers expect each paragraph to
Focus on a single unit of thought
Be a logical link in an organized sequence of the thoughts that make up a complete message
A paragraph is made up of several elements:
Topic sentence—which gives readers a summary of the general idea that will be covered in
the rest of the paragraph
Support sentences—which explain, justify, or extend the topic sentence with specifics
Transitional elements—which show the relationship among sentences and between paragraphs
Well-developed paragraphs are
Unified (dealing with a single topic)
Well supported (containing enough information to make the topic sentence convincing and
interesting, without containing extraneous or unrelated sentences)
Coherent (appearing in a logical order so that readers are able to understand the train of
Transitions are words or phrases that tie ideas together by showing how one thought is related to another:
Transitions help readers understand the connections you’re trying to make.
Transitions smooth your writing.
Establish transitions by
Using connecting words
Echoing a word or phrase from a previous paragraph or sentence
Using a pronoun that refers to a noun used previously
Using words that are frequently paired
First put your ideas into a strong framework, and then use transitions to link them together even more
Use transitions to help readers understand your ideas and follow you from point to point:
Inside paragraphs to tie related points together
Between paragraphs to ease the shift from one distinct thought to another
Between major sections or chapters
Develop a paragraph in one of five ways:
Comparison or contrast
Cause and effect
Problem and solution
For information on effective instant messaging, e-mail, blogging, and podcasts, see Chapter 7.
Word-processing software provides a wide range of tools to help you compose your business documents:
Style sheets and templates
Auto completion
Auto correction
File merge, mail merge
Endnotes, footnotes, indexes, and tables of contents
Try to learn enough about word-processing features to be handy with them, without spending so
much time that the tools distract from the writing process.
Moving Beyond Your First Draft
Revising Your Message
Evaluating Your Content, Organization, Style, and Tone
Reviewing for Readability
Varying Your Sentence Length
Keeping Your Paragraphs Short
Using Lists and Bullets to Clarify and Emphasize
Adding Headings and Subheadings
Editing for Clarity and Conciseness
Using Technology to Revise Your Message
Producing Your Message
Adding Graphics, Sound, Video, and Hypertext
Designing for Readability
White Space
Margins and Justification
Type Styles
Using Technology to Produce Your Message
Proofreading Your Message
Distributing Your Message
Since the first draft is rarely good enough, plan on going over a document at least three times:
One pass for content, organization, style, and tone
One pass for readability
One pass for clarity and conciseness
Successful businesspeople improve the effectiveness of their communication by being willing to
go over the same document several times.
The nature of revision will vary according to the medium you’re using and the nature of each
message, but it is important to revise all the messages you send since audiences will equate the
quality of your writing with the quality of your thinking, decision making, and other business
Is the information accurate?
Is the information relevant to your audience?
Is there enough information to satisfy your readers’ needs?
Is there a good balance between the general and the specific?
To review organization, ask:
Are all your points covered in the most logical order?
Do the most important ideas receive the most space, and are they placed in the most
prominent positions?
Would the message be more convincing if it were arranged in another sequence?
Are any points repeated unnecessarily?
Are all details grouped together logically, or are some details still scattered through the
Ask whether you have achieved the right style and tone for your audience.
The beginning and the end of your draft have the greatest impact on your audience, so give them
extra attention during this first pass.
During your second pass, focus on readability:
Readers will save time and understand your messages better.
Your reputation for well-crafted documents will garner more attention for your work.
Many indexes have been developed over the years in an attempt to measure readability:
Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level score
Flesch Reading Ease score
Although readability formulas offer a useful reference point, they are all limited by what they are
able to measure:
They can measure word length, number of syllables, sentence length, and paragraph length.
They cannot measure audience analysis, writing clarity, or document design.
Help readers skim your message by
Varying the sentence length
Using shorter paragraphs
Using lists and bullets instead of narrative
Adding effective headings and subheadings
By varying sentence length, you can create a rhythm that
Emphasizes important points
Enlivens your writing style
Makes your information appealing to your reader
Each sentence length has its advantages:
Short sentences can be processed quickly, and they are easier for nonnative speakers to
Medium-length sentences are useful for showing the relationships among ideas.
Long sentences are often the best way to convey complex ideas, list multiple related points,
or summarize or preview information.
Each sentence length also has disadvantages:
Too many short sentences in a row can make your writing choppy.
Medium sentences lack the punch of short sentences and the informative power of longer ones.
Long sentences are usually harder to skim and harder to understand than short sentences
because they are packed with information that must all be absorbed at once.
Try to keep paragraph length short to medium:
Short paragraphs of 100 words or fewer are easier to read than long ones.
They make your writing look inviting.
They help audiences read letters, memos, and e-mail more carefully.
You can emphasize an idea by isolating it in a short, forceful paragraph.
Don’t go overboard with short paragraphs; for example, use one-sentence paragraphs only
occasionally and only for emphasis.
A list is a series of words, names, or other items.
By using bulleted or numbered lists, you can
Show the sequence of your ideas
Heighten the impact of list items
Help readers find your main points
Simplify complex subjects
Highlight the main point
Break up the page visually
Give readers a breather
Listed items can be separated by numbers, letters, or bullets, and they are easier to find if the
entire numbered or bulleted section is set off by a blank line before and after it.
Introduce lists clearly so that people know what they’re about to read:
Make the list a part of the introductory sentence
Precede the list with a complete introductory sentence, followed by a colon
Items in lists should be phrased in parallel form.
Headings serve several important functions:
Organization—showing readers at a glance how the document is organized
Attention—grabbing the reader’s attention
Connection—helping readers see the relationships between subordinate and main ideas
Headings may be
Descriptive—merely identifying the topic
Informative—guiding readers to think in a certain way
When you edit for clarity, ask yourself whether
Your sentences are easy to decipher
Your paragraphs have clear topic sentences
The transitions between ideas are obvious
Your statements are simple and direct
When editing for clarity, be sure to
Break up overly long sentences
Rewrite hedging sentences
Impose parallelism
Correct dangling modifiers
Reword long noun sequences
Replace camouflaged verbs
Clarify sentence structure
Clarify awkward references
Moderate your enthusiasm
When you edit for conciseness, you
Eliminate every word that serves no function
Replace every long word that could be a short word
Remove every adverb that adds nothing to the meaning already carried in the verb
When editing for conciseness, remember to
Delete unnecessary words and phrases
Shorten long words and phrases
Eliminate redundancies
Recast “It is/There are” starters
As you rewrite, concentrate on
How each word contributes to an effective sentence
How that sentence develops a coherent paragraph
How your words will affect readers
Making the mate Word processing software offers numerous features for entering and revising
text, including
Cut and paste
Search and replace
Tracking a document’s revisions
Spell checker
Grammar checker
Style checker
Keep in mind that spell checkers and grammar checkers can’t catch all spelling mistakes and are
no substitute for human editing.
When producing your message, be sure to
Look for effective ways to enhance your message with carefully chosen graphics, sound, video, and
hypertext links
Design your documents for readability
Use production technology wisely
Presentation software helps you create impressive visuals such as electronic slide shows.
Graphics software ranges from products that can create simple diagrams and flowcharts to
comprehensive tools geared to artists and graphic designers.
Sound bites can help you get your message across with embedded voice messages or other sound
Hyperlinks allow readers to jump from one document to another with the click of a mouse.
Document presentation can help or hurt readability in two ways:
Carefully done design elements can improve the effectiveness of your message (and thus
poorly done design elements can act as barriers, blocking your communication).
The design itself sends a nonverbal message to the audience, influencing their perceptions
of the communication before they read a single word.
Effective design helps you
Establish the tone of your document
Guide your readers through your message
Make your design elements effective by paying careful attention to the following design elements:
Important changes in this edition
Communication miscues highlight box on lawsuits stemming from recommendation letters
New model documents: Routine messages (Fig. 8.1), Effective message requesting action
(Fig. 8.2), Effective IM response to information request (Fig. 8.5), News release announcing
positive news (Fig 8.9), Congratulating a business partner (Fig 8.10)
Using the Three-Step Writing Process for Routine and Positive Messages
Step 1: Plan Your Message
Step 2: Write Your Message
Step 3: Complete Your Message
Making Routine Requests
Strategy for Routine Requests
State Your Request Up Front
Explain and Justify Your Request
Ask for Specific Action in a Courteous Close
Common Examples of Routine Requests
Asking for Information and Action
Asking for Recommendations
Making Claims and Requesting Adjustments
Sending Routine Replies and Positive Messages
Strategy for Routine Replies and Positive Messages
Start with the Main Idea
Provide Necessary Details and Explanation
End with a Courteous Close
Common Examples of Routine Replies and Positive Messages
Answering Requests for Information and Action
Granting Claims and Requests for Adjustment
When Your Company Is at Fault
When the Customer Is at Fault
When a Third Party Is at Fault
Providing Recommendations
Creating Informative Messages
Announcing Good News
Fostering Goodwill
Sending Congratulations
Sending Messages of Appreciation
Sharing Condolences
For a typical employee, most day-to-day business communication concerns fairly routine matters:
Orders and other product transactions
Company policies
Planning routine messages may take only a few moments.
Begin planning by analyzing your situation to make sure that
Your purpose is clear
You know enough about your audience to craft a successful message
Continue planning by gathering all information your audience needs to know:
Saves time for you and your audience
Saves you and your audience the trouble of additional messages to fill the gaps
Continue planning by selecting the medium most appropriate for your message and audience.
Finish planning by organizing your information effectively:
Defining your main idea (usually well defined for routine business messages)
Limiting your scope
Selecting direct or indirect approach (usually direct for routine, positive messages)
Outlining your content
With some practice, you’ll be able to write most routine messages quickly.
Be sensitive to your audience’s needs by
Maintaining a “you” attitude
Being polite
Emphasizing the positive
Using bias-free language
Strengthen your relationship with the audience by
Establishing your credibility
Projecting your company’s image
Using a conversational tone, plain English, and the active voice
Complete routine messages by
Reviewing content and organization
Reviewing readability
Editing and rewriting to make the message concise and clear
Designing your document to suit your purpose and your document
Being careful with font selection, use of white space, and so on
Reviewing for typos
Looking for errors in spelling and mechanics
Spotting alignment problems
Detecting poor print quality
Balancing cost, convenience, time, security, and privacy
You are making a request whenever you ask for something:
Routine requests have three parts:
Opening (where you clearly state your main request)
Body (where you give details and justify your request)
Close (where you request specific action)
To get right to the point smoothly and tactfully, you must
Pay attention to tone
Assume your audience will comply
Be specific
In the body of your routine request
Make your explanation a smooth and logical outgrowth of your opening remarks.
When possible, point out how complying with the request could benefit the reader.
When using a series of questions in the body of your routine request, remember to
Ask the most important questions first
Ask only relevant questions
Deal with only one topic per question
The close of your routine request contains three important elements:
A specific request (with a specific and appropriate time limit)
Information about how to reach you (e-mail, phone, office hours, best time to reach you, etc.)
An expression of appreciation or goodwill (without thanking the reader “in advance”)
Common examples of routine messages fall into several major categories, such as
Asking for information and action
Asking for recommendations
Making claims and requesting adjustments
Simple requests say
What you want to know or what you want readers to do
Why you’re making the request
Why it may be in your readers’ interest to help you
When requesting information or action, follow the direct approach.
Requests to company insiders are usually less formal in tone that requests to company outsiders.
Companies ask applicants to supply references:
References are people who can vouch for your ability, skills, integrity, character, and fitness for the
Before volunteering someone’s name as a reference, ask that person’s permission.
When requesting a recommendation, use the direct approach:
Open by clearly stating that you’re applying for a position and that you’re requesting a
Also in the opening, you might recall the nature of your relationship, the dates of your
association, and any special events that could spark a clear, favorable picture of you.
If you’re applying for a job, include a copy of your résumé.
If you don’t have a résumé, use the body of your letter to include any information that your
reader might be able to use to support a recommendation.
Close with appreciation, and include the full name and address of the person to whom the
letter of recommendation should be sent. (You might also mention a deadline.)
Include a stamped, preaddressed envelope for your reader to use.
A claim is a formal complaint you make when you’re dissatisfied with a product or service; an
adjustment is a claim settlement, another way of requesting satisfaction.
Be sure to document your initial complaint and every correspondence after that.
Maintain a professional tone in your claim letters, no matter how angry or frustrated you are.
When making claims and requesting adjustments, assume that a fair adjustment will be made
(especially in your first letter) and follow the plan for direct requests:
In the opening, make a straightforward statement of the problem.
In the body, give a complete, specific explanation of the details, providing any information
an adjuster might need to verify your complaint.
In the close, politely request specific action or convey a sincere desire to find a solution, and
suggest that the business relationship will continue if the problem is solved satisfactorily.
Because companies usually accept the customer’s explanation of what’s wrong, it’s important to
Be entirely honest and ethical when filing claims
Back up your claim with any copies of invoices, sales receipts, canceled checks, dated
correspondence, catalog descriptions, and any other relevant documents
Tell the reader exactly what will return the company to your good graces
When sending routine replies and positive messages, you have several goals:
To communicate the information or good news
To answer all questions
To provide all required details
To leave your reader with a good impression of you and your firm
Routine replies and positive messages
Have an opening, body, and close
Are generally of interest to readers
Usually use the direct approach
In routine replies and positive messages, be sure to
Open with your main idea (the positive reply or the good news) stated clearly and concisely
Provide all the relevant details in the middle
Close cordially, perhaps highlighting a benefit to your reader
Most routine and positive messages fall into six main categories:
Answers to requests for information and action
Grants of claims and requests for adjustment
Informative messages
Good-news announcements
Goodwill messages
Form responses may be used to reply to repetitive queries and are more effective if you
Put extra care into the standardized wording of the message
Try to accommodate as many individual situations and concerns as you can
When you’re answering requests and a potential sale is involved, you have three main goals:
To respond to the inquiry and answer all questions
To leave your reader with a good impression of you and your firm
To encourage the future sale
When you receive a claim or request for adjustment, you
Look at it as an opportunity to build customer loyalty
Assume that the claim is an honest statement of what happened
When your company is at fault, you need to be prepared for serious problems:
Know your company’s policies.
Know your company’s crisis management plan, which outlines communication steps.
For most routine responses to claims, you must
Acknowledge receipt of the customer’s claim or complaint
Take (or assign) personal responsibility for setting matters straight
Sympathize with the customer’s inconvenience or frustration
Explain precisely how you have resolved, or plan to resolve, the situation
Take steps to repair the relationship
Keep the lines of communication open
Follow up to verify that your response was correct
When responding to claims, avoid negative steps:
Don’t blame anyone in your organization by name
Don’t make exaggerated apologies
Don’t imply that the customer is at fault
Don’t promise more than you can deliver
ETHICAL DILEMMA: If responding bothers your conscience, how should you reply?
You have recently taken a job with a leading accounting firm—which just happens to be the
archrival of the accounting firm where you used to work. As you’re sitting in your office one
bright afternoon, Jack McDougal, the man who recruited you, sticks his head in your door.
“We’re about to gear up for the college recruiting season. I’d like your advice. As you know,
we compete for job candidates with the folks at your old firm. What’s our best bet for beating
them? Do they have any weaknesses we can exploit? What tactics do they use that we should be
using? Who are their best interviewers? What kinds of questions do they ask? What promises
does the firm make to lure new employees? What do you think starting salary offers will be this
McDougal notices your look of hesitation. He quickly adds, “I don’t expect you to
answer me right now, but in the next couple of days, why don’t you jot down some ideas in a
short memo. I’d really like your help on this. Recruiting is one of the most important things we
do here.”
Should you write the memo, and if so, what should you include?
Solution: When deciding what—if anything—to say, ask yourself how your former employers
would react if they saw a copy of the memo. Don’t say anything you would be embarrassed to
show them. If you decide to respond, you should limit your memo to your personal impressions.
You have the right to discuss your own experiences as a student who went through the
interviewing process. You can legitimately explain the factors that influenced you to accept a job
with your former employer, and you can comment on whether the experience lived up to your
You are on shakier moral ground, however, when you talk about specific interviewers
and their tactics or when you speculate on salary offers. You should probably leave those
topics alone.
Perhaps the best course is to level with McDougal. Tell him that even though your first
loyalty is to your new firm, you feel uncomfortable passing on information about your former
employer. When McDougal considers his request from your point of view, he will probably
respect your decision if you prefer not to prepare the memo.
When the customer is at fault, you have two options:
Refuse the claim and attempt to justify your refusal
Simply do what the customer asks
When the customer is at fault and you decide to grant the claim, you can
Open with the good news
Help your customer understand the situation by tactfully explaining in the body of your
message that the merchandise was mistreated
Close in a courteous manner that expresses your appreciation of the customer’s business
When a third party is at fault, no general scheme applies to every case, but you will want to
Evaluate the situation carefully
Know your company’s policies before responding
Respond with a message that explains how the problem will be solved
When writing a letter of recommendation, your goal is to convince readers that the person being
recommended has the characteristics necessary for the job or other objective the person is
When writing a letter of recommendation, you must include all relevant details:
Candidate’s full name
The position or other objective the candidate is seeking
Nature of your relationship with the candidate
Whether you’re answering a request or taking the initiative
Facts relevant to the candidate and the opportunity
A comparison of this candidate’s potential with that of peers (if available)
Your overall evaluation of the candidate’s suitability for the opportunity
When recommending a truly outstanding candidate, sound as believable as possible by
illustrating your general points with a specific example or two
If you must refer to a shortcoming, protect yourself by
Sticking to the facts
Avoiding value judgments
Placing your criticism in the context of a generally favorable recommendation
Before mailing a recommendation letter, ask yourself the following questions:
Does the person receiving this personal information have a legitimate right to it?
Does all the information I’ve presented relate directly to the job or benefit being sought?
Have I put the candidate’s case as strongly and as honestly as I can?
Have I avoided overstating the candidate’s abilities or otherwise misleading the reader?
Have I based all my statements on firsthand knowledge and provable facts?
If the person’s shortcomings are so pronounced that you don’t think he or she is a good fit for the
job, simply suggest that someone else might be in a better position to provide a recommendation.
Routine informative messages include
Reminder notices and policy statements
Employee notification of organizational changes, upcoming events, and so on
Customer/supplier notification of shipping and return policies, sales discounts, and so on
When you write informative messages, be sure to
Begin by stating the purpose (to inform) and the nature of the information you are providing
Provide necessary details in the body
End with a courteous close
Although most informative communications are neutral, some can be more sensitive and thus
require additional care: in such cases be sure you highlight the benefits to the reader.
Use the direct approach for good-news messages, such as
Opening new facilities
Appointing a new executive
Introducing new products or services
Sponsoring community events
A letter to a successful job applicant constitutes a legal job offer, so you should probably
State salary as a monthly amount
Keep the timing of performance evaluations and raises vague
Avoid implying that the newly hired employee will be kept on, no matter what
Good-news announcements are usually communicated by letter or press release (also known as a
news release—a specialized document used to share relevant information with the local or
national news media).
News release content usually follows the customary pattern for a positive message:
Open by announcing the news
Give details in the body
Close positively
News releases are not written directly to the ultimate audience (readers of a newspaper):
You write the news release to interest an editor or reporter in your story.
The editor or reporter will write the material that is eventually read by the larger audience.
Write a successful news release by
Making sure your information is newsworthy and relevant
Focusing on one subject
Putting your most important idea first
Being brief
Eliminating clutter
Being as specific as possible
Minimizing self-congratulatory adjectives and adverbs
Following industry conventions for style, punctuation, and format
The process of creating and distributing news releases is always improving with technological
advances, such as
Online distribution systems
Special media pages on company websites
Goodwill messages are friendly, unexpected notes with no direct business purpose.
To write effective goodwill messages, you must be sincere and honest:
Avoid exaggerating.
Back up any compliments with specific points.
One opportunity for sending goodwill messages is to congratulate someone for
Significant business achievements (promotion, filling an important civic position)
Successes in a nonbusiness competition
Another opportunity for sending a goodwill message is to show your appreciation and to
recognize the contributions of business associates, such as employees, colleagues, and suppliers.
Your message of appreciation
Makes the person feel good and encourages further excellence
May become an important part of someone’s personnel file
Must specifically mention the person or people you want to praise
The strategy for writing condolences includes
Opening with a brief statement of sympathy
Mentioning the loved one’s good qualities or positive contributions, or stating what the
person or business meant to you
Closing by offering your best wishes
Remember the following general suggestions when writing condolences:
Keep reminiscences brief.
Write in your own words.
Be tactful.
Take special care to be accurate, correct, and prompt.
Write about special qualities of the deceased.
Write about special qualities of the bereaved person.
White space
Is free of text and artwork
Provides contrast
Provides readers a resting point
White space includes
The open area surrounding headings
The space in margins
The vertical space between columns
The space created by ragged line endings
The space in paragraph indents (or extra space between unindented paragraphs)
The horizontal space between lines of text
Lines of type can be set
Justified (flush on both the left and right margins)
Flush left with a ragged-right margin
Flush right with a ragged-left margin
Centered with ragged-left and ragged-right margins
Justified type
Darkens your message’s appearance
Tends to make your message look more like a form letter (and less like a customized letter)
Is often considered more difficult to read (because of uneven spaces between words)
May cause excessive hyphenation (to maintain the justified right margin)
Allows a higher word density
Flush-left–ragged-right type
Lightens your message’s appearance
Gives a document an informal, contemporary feeling of openness
Is easier to read (because the spacing between words is the same)
Reduces hyphenation (because only long words are hyphenated at the end of lines)
Centered type is
Rarely used for text paragraphs
Commonly used for headings and subheadings
Flush-right–ragged-left type is rarely used in business documents.
The terms typeface and font refer to the physical design of letters, numbers, and other characters.
Each typeface influences the tone of your message.
Serif typefaces such as Times Roman
Have small crosslines (serifs) at the ends of each letter stroke
Are commonly used for text
Tend to look busy and cluttered when set in large sizes for headings and other display type
Sans serif typefaces such as Helvetica and Arial
Have no serifs
Are ideal for headings and other display type
Can be difficult to read in long blocks of text
Look best when surrounded by plenty of white space
Avoid using more than two typefaces in most documents.
Type style is any modification that lends contrast or emphasis to type, such as
Other highlighting and decorative styles
Use boldface type for subheads, but avoid overuse of boldface within the text.
Use italic type for emphasis.
Underlining, all upper case, and shadowed or outlined type can hinder legibility and slow your
readers’ progress.
When completing your business message, choose your type size to match the importance of your
message and the space allotted:
Small type is hard to read.
Large type looks unprofessional.
Desktop publishing software goes beyond word processing with more advanced layout
capabilities that accommodate photos, technical drawings, and other elements.
The production work for most business messages will most probably be done using a word
At a minimum, try to be familiar with the following word-processing features:
Templates and style sheets
Page setup
Column formatting
Paragraph formatting
Font formatting
Numbered and bulleted lists
Pictures, text boxes, and objects
Formal business letters usually follow certain design conventions. Most are printed on letterhead
stationery, which includes the company’s name, address, and other contact information. Other
parts of the letter include:
Inside Address
Complimentary Close
Signature Block
(See Appendix A: “Format and Layout of Business Documents” for details.)
Your attention to detail reflects your professionalism.
Review your document for
Undetected mistakes from the writing, design, and layout stages
Mistakes that crept in during production
Several techniques can help you proofread more effectively:
1. Make multiple passes.
2. Use perceptual tricks (such as reading each page backward).
3. Double-check high-priority items.
4. Give yourself some distance.
5. Be vigilant.
6. Stay focused.
7. Review complex electronic documents on paper.
8. Take your time.
The amount of time you need to spend on proofreading depends on
Document length
Document complexity
When planning your distribution consider
Security and privacy
Trial more interesting through the use of strong, lively words and phrases
Important changes in this edition
(This chapter is new in the ninth edition)
chapter OUTLINE
Choosing Electronic Media for Brief Messages
Memos and Letters
Instant Messaging (IM)
Text Messaging
Creating Effective E-Mail Messages
Treating E-Mail as a Professional Communication Medium
Adapting the Three-Step Process for Successful E-Mail
Creating Effective Instant Messages and Text Messages
Understanding the Benefits and Risks of Instant Messaging
Adapting the Three-Step Process for Successful IM
Creating Effective Business Blogs
Understanding the Business Applications of Blogging
Adapting the Three-Step Process for Successful Blogging
Creating Effective Podcasts
Adapting the Three-Step Process for Successful Podcasting
Assembling a Podcast System
Distributing Blog and Podcast Content
Publishing Your Content
Connecting with Audiences
lecture notes
Printed memos (for internal communication) and letters (for external communication) have been
used in the workplace for hundreds of years. E-mail and other electronic media have largely
replaced traditional printed memos.
E-mail is an attractive alternative to printed messages, given its high speed and low cost.
Instant messaging (IM) offers a faster and simpler alternative to e-mail.
Phone-based text messaging offers the near-instantaneous communication of IM with almost
universal portability.
Blogs are now a common feature in business communication. The ability to update content
quickly and easily make blogs a natural when communicators need to get messages out in a
Podcasts are used to replace or supplement conference calls, training courses, and other
communication alternatives.
Although most communication in business occurs through electronic means, there are many
situations in which print media are a better choice. Examples include:
When you want to make a formal impression
When you need to accompany products or other items that you are physically sending to
When you want to stand out from the flood of electronic messages
When you are legally required to provide information in printed form
Creating Effective E-Mail Messages
Be sure to recognize the differences between business e-mail and personal e-mail.
The consequences of poor judgment in the use of e-mail can be quite serious in business.
Electronic documents have the same legal weight as printed documents.
Be sure to discover if your company has an e-mail policy and follow it.
Be careful what you write: 25% of companies monitor internal e-mail; 50% of companies
monitor incoming and outgoing e-mail.
E-mail hygiene refers to all the efforts that companies are making to keep e-mail clean and safe.
Planning effective e-mail messages involves
Sending only those messages that are essential
Paying attention to e-mail etiquette
Making sure every e-mail you send is necessary
Using the “cc” function carefully
Being specific
Respecting the chain of command
When writing most e-mail messages, you don’t need to compose perfect works of literature, but
you do need to be careful and sensitive to your audience’s needs.
Burdening your audience with careless e-mail is a sign of disrespect.
Subject lines are one of the most important parts of e-mail messages.
Make sure your subject line is informative and compelling.
Do more than just describe or classify message content—build interest with key words,
quotations, directions, or questions.
Keep your emotions under control
Never allow yourself to send a flame e-mail
Ask yourself if you would say this to your audience face to face and if you are comfortable
with this message becoming a permanent part of the company’s communication history
Like other messages, e-mail requires revision, production, and proofing you as other messages.
Use your e-mail system’s ability to include a signature.
Pause to verify what you’re doing before you click “Send.”
Creating Effective Instant Messages and Text Messages
IM is now widely used for routine communication and for exchanges during online meetings.
Business-grade IM systems feature the basic chat, presence awareness (ability to see which
people are available to IM), remote display of documents, video capabilities, remote control of
other computers, automated newsfeeds from blogs and websites, and bot capability in some
Text messaging is beginning to find applications in business.
Unlike IM, text messaging is primarily a phone-based technology.
IM is currently more versatile and more widely used in business.
Business benefits of IM include the following:
Rapid response to urgent messages
Lower cost than phone calls and e-mail
Ability to more closely mimic conversation than e-mail
Available on a wide range of devices from PCs to mobile phones to PDAs
Isn’t as often misused as a broadcast mechanism as e-mail is
Potential drawback of using IM:
Security problems
Challenge of logging messages for later review and archiving
Need for user authentication
Challenge of logging messages
The three-step process helps with IM:
Planning: View every IM exchange as a conversation, and think through the overall exchange
Writing: IM for business requires a more formal style than personal IM; avoid IM acronyms
unless you are communicating with a close colleague
Completing: Don’t skip over the revising and proofreading tasks before sending the message
To use IM use successful in the workplace, pay attention to important behavioral issues:
Potential for constant interruptions
Ease of accidentally mixing personal and business messages
Risk of non-IM users being out of the loop
Vast potential for wasted time
Exchanges are at the mercy of others’ typing ability
Make IM more efficient by following these tips:
Only make yourself unavailable when you need to focus on other work
Don’t send confidential information if you’re not on a secure system
Be extremely careful about sending personal messages
Don’t use IM for important but impromptu meetings if you can’t verify that everyone will be
Don’t use IM for lengthy, complex messages unless your system is up for it—e-mail is better
for that
Avoid carrying on multiple IM conversations to minimize the chance of sending messages to
the wrong people
Make sure your IM system filters for spim (IM version of e-mail spam) is active and up to
Creating Effective Business Blogs
Blogs have the ability to redefine the very nature of business communication.
Good business blogs are able to do the following:
 Communicate with personal style and an authentic voice.
 Deliver new information quickly.
 Choose topics of peak interest to audiences
 Encourage audiences to join the conversation
Businesses now use blogs to accomplish the following:
 Project management: keeping project teams up to date
 Company news: informing employees about general business matters
 Customer support: answering questions and offering tips and advice
Public relations and media relations: sharing company news with the general public and
Recruiting: telling potential employees about the benefits of working at a firm
Policy and issue discussions: offering a public forum for discussing issues of interest to
an organization
Crisis communication: providing up-to-the-minute information during emergencies,
correcting misinformation, or responding to rumors
Market research: soliciting feedback from consumers and experts
Brainstorming: giving people a forum to toss ideas around and build on others’
Viral marketing: spreading the word about your company and your products
E-mail replacement: as spam filters and message overload make it more difficult to reach
people via e-mail, many companies use blogs to distribute information
News syndication: blogging allows individuals and companies to publish news and other
Planning blogs requires you to
Pay attention to your audience, your purpose, and your scope
Carefully consider the information your including (others to could link to it months or years
from now)
Evaluate the content and readability of your message, and proofread it before posting
Creating Effective Podcasts
Podcasting can be used to replace existing audio and video messages as well as training.
The three-step process adapts easily to podcasting
The planning step involves analyzing the situation, gathering information and organizing
your material
One vital planning step involves deciding whether to create a podcast for limited use and
distribution or to use a podcasting channel for widespread distribution
Be sure to include previews, transitions, and reviews
Decide if you want to speak from a completed script or a keyword outline
The best podcasts have a conversational feel, so unless you need to capture exact wording,
speaking from notes is usually best
In the completing step, remember that making edits is relatively difficult with audio and
video, so think through your notes or script carefully before you begin to record
Consider integrating your podcasting efforts with a related blog
Assembling a podcasting system can be very easy, depending on the degree of production quality
you want to achieve.
For basic podcasts, most personal computers probably have everything you need.
For higher production quality or greater flexibility, you’ll need additional hardware and
Distributing Blog and Podcast Content
To distribute your content effectively, get into the mindset of publishing it rather than sending
merely sending it.
Blog and podcast publishing requires action from both the publisher and the subscriber:
The publisher creates the content and submits it to a distribution channel.
The distribution channel delivers the content to anyone who has chosen to subscribe.
This process is known as syndication.
Publishers initiate syndication by creating a newsfeed.
Newsfeeds come in several formats, but RSS (really simple syndication) is the most
Audiences subscribe to content through software known as an aggregator or news reader,
which automatically alerts subscribers of new content on selected feeds.
Aggregators specifically for podcasts are known as podcatchers.
The most fundamental step for blog publishers is to add the feed capability to their blogs so that
interested parties can subscribe.
Publishers can have themselves listed in directories (such as Technorati, FireAnt, or Mefeedia).
Content creators can also make their material easy to find through tagging, which involves
assigning descriptive words to each post or podcast.
Important changes in this edition
New vignette featuring KPMG, which had to make a strategic decision about apologizing for
illegal accounting practices
Revised coverage of internal versus external audiences
Revised coverage of ethics and etiquette
Using the Three-Step Writing Process for Negative Messages
Step 1: Plan Your Message
Step 2: Write Your Message
Step 3: Complete Your Message
Developing Negative Messages
Choosing the Best Approach
Using the Direct Approach Effectively
Open with a Clear Statement of the Bad News
Provide Reasons and Additional Information
Close on a Positive Note
Using the Indirect Approach Effectively
Open with a Buffer
Provide Reasons and Additional Information
Continue with a Clear Statement of the Bad News
Close on a Positive Note
Adapting to Your Audience
Cultural Variations
Internal Versus External Audiences
Maintaining High Standards of Ethics and Etiquette
Exploring Common Examples of Negative Messages
Sending Negative Messages on Routine Business Matters
Refusing Routine Requests
Handling Bad News About Transactions
Refusing Claims and Requests for Adjustment
Sending Negative Organizational News
Communicating Under Normal Circumstances
Communicating in a Crisis
Sending Negative Employment Messages
Refusing Requests for Recommendation Letters
Rejecting Job Applications
Giving Negative Performance Reviews
Terminating Employment
When you send negative messages, you have five main goals:
To convey the negative news
To gain acceptance for the negative news
To maintain as much goodwill as possible with your audience
To maintain a good image for your organization
To reduce or eliminate the need for future correspondence on the matter
Follow the three-step writing process when writing negative messages.
Step 1: To plan your message
Analyze the situation
Gather information
Select the right medium
Define the main idea
Negative messages can be intensely personal to recipients, who have a right to expect a thorough
explanation of your answer.
The main idea in a negative message is more complicated than simply saying no.
Step 2: To write your message
Adapt to your audience
Compose the message
When writing negative messages, remember that your audience does not want to hear what you have to
The importance of diplomatic writing is amplified in negative messages:
Maintain a “you” attitude.
Strive for polite language.
Emphasize the positive whenever appropriate.
Choose bias-free words.
Establish your credibility by laying out your qualifications for making the decision in question.
Project and protect your company’s image.
Step 3: To complete your message
Revise the message
Produce the message
Proofread the message
Distribute the message
Revision is even more important for negative messages, because even the smallest flaw is magnified as
readers react to your news.
Determine whether to use the direct approach or indirect approach
Be sensitive to cultural variations
Maintain high ethical standards
When choosing between the direct and indirect approach for negative messages, consider the
following questions:
Will the negative news come as a shock?
Does the reader prefer short messages that get right to the point?
How important is this news to the audience?
Do you need to maintain a close working relationship with the audience?
Do you need to get the audience’s attention?
What is your organization’s preferred style?
How much follow-up communication do you want?
A negative message using the direct approach
Opens with a clear statement of the bad news
Proceeds to the reasons for the negative decision
Closes with a positive statement aimed at maintaining a good relationship
Stating the negative news at the beginning
Makes a shorter message possible
Requires less time for the audience to reach the main idea of the message
In most cases, follow the opening negative news with an explanation of why the news is negative
In some cases, explaining negative news is neither appropriate nor helpful.
The notion of apology can mean different things to different people:
Simply an expression of sympathy that something negative has happened
A complete admission of fault and responsibility for specific compensations or corrections
to atone for a mistake
In the event of a serious mistake or accident, you should
Immediately and sincerely express sympathy
Offer help, without admitting guilt
See the advice of your company’s lawyers before elaborating
The indirect approach helps readers prepare for the negative news by presenting reasons first.
Don’t confuse the purpose of the indirect approach:
It is meant to ease the blow and help readers accept the situation.
It is not meant to obscure negative news, delay it, or limit your responsibility.
When using the indirect approach, a negative message
Opens with a buffer
Provides reasons and additional information
Continues with a clear statement of the negative news
Closes on a positive note
A buffer is a neutral, noncontroversial statement that is closely related to the point of the
It establishes common ground with your reader.
It validates the request (if you’re responding to one).
Although some critics believe that buffers are manipulative, dishonest, and unethical, the fact is that
Buffers are unethical only if they’re insincere or deceptive
Consideration for the feelings of others is never dishonest
A good buffer is relevant and sincere:
Expressing your appreciation for being considered
Assuring the reader of your attention to the request
Indicates your understanding of the reader’s needs
Once you’ve written your buffer, evaluate it by asking four questions:
Is it respectful?
Is it relevant?
Is it neutral (implying neither yes nor no)?
Does it provide for a smooth transition to the reasons that follow?
The way you provide reasons in negative messages differs from the way you provide it in direct
Ideally, your explanation section leads the audience to your negative conclusion before you come
right out and say it.
When giving your reasons for the negative news,
Cover the more positive points first before moving to the less positive ones
Provide enough detail for your audience to understand your reasons
Be concise
By presenting your reasons effectively, you should convince your audience that your negative
decision is justified, fair, and logical.
In some cases, you can use the explanation section to suggest how the negative news might in
fact benefit your reader, but be careful that you don’t insult your reader.
Avoid hiding behind company policy to cushion your bad news.
Three techniques for stating negative news clearly and kindly:
De-emphasize the negative news.
Use a conditional (if or when) statement to imply that readers might someday receive a
favorable answer.
Tell your audience what you did, can, or will do (not what you didn’t, can’t, or won’t do).
De-emphasize negative news by
Minimizing the space or time devoted to it
Subordinating it in a complex or compound sentence
Embedding it in the middle of a paragraph or using parenthetical expressions
Even when implying the negative news, be sure your audience understands that it is indeed
Overemphasizing the positive is unethical.
When an implied message might leave doubt, state the negative news in direct terms
(avoiding overly blunt language that may cause pain or anger).
To write an effective close, follow these guidelines:
Avoid a negative or uncertain conclusion.
Limit future correspondence.
Be optimistic about the future.
Be sincere.
Be confident.
Even though negative news is unwelcome in any language, the conventions for passing it on to
business associates can vary from country to country; for example:
French writers take a direct approach.
Japanese writers protect their readers’ feelings by wording the negative news ambiguously.
Use the tone, organization, and other cultural conventions that your audience expects.
Giving negative news to internal audiences differs from giving it to external audiences:
Colleagues inside the company frequently expect more detail.
Many employees are disinclined to believe what they hear from management.
When writing negative messages to outside audiences, you should consider
The confidentiality of the internal information
How much detail to include
When sending negative news, you have the ethical obligation to
Communicate the information clearly and completely
Communicate the information promptly
Minimize the negative impact of your negative messages
Many of the negative routine messages that you’ll be writing fall into categories such as
Sending negative messages on routine business matters
Sending negative organizational news
Sending negative employment messages
When refusing routine requests, your goal is to
Give a clear negative response
Avoid generating negative feelings
Avoid damaging your or your company’s reputation
The direct approach works best for most routine negative responses:
Helping your audience receive your answer quickly and move on to other possibilities
Helping you save time
The indirect approach works best when the stakes are high for you or your receiver.
As you develop your routine negative messages, be sure to
Manage your time carefully
Avoid implying that a matter is still open once it is closed
Offer alternative ideas if you can
Refrain from offering additional assistance or information when you have none to give
When sending negative news about transactions, try to
Modify the customer’s expectations regarding the transaction
Explain how you plan to resolve the situation
Repair whatever damage might have been done
Negative news about transactions can be of two types:
If there are no customer expectations (say that you have not promised a delivery date, for
example), the message simply needs to inform the customer, with little or no apology.
If there are customer expectations, you need to adjust those expectations, explain how you’ll
resolve the problem, and sometimes include an apology (the scope of which depends on
the magnitude of mistake).
When refusing claims and requests for adjustment, the indirect approach is often the best choice.
When refusing claims, be sure to
Avoid accepting responsibility for the situation but do not blame or accuse the customer
Pay special attention to being tactful and courteous
Avoid language that might have a negative impact on the reader
Demonstrate that you have understood and considered the complaint
Resist the temptation toward name-calling and accusations of dishonesty
Defamation is a false statement that tends to damage someone’s character or reputation:
Written defamation is called libel.
Spoken defamation is called slander.
Someone suing for defamation must prove that
The statement is false
The language is injurious to the person’s reputation
The statement has been published
To avoid being accused of defamation, follow these guidelines:
Avoid abusive language.
Provide accurate information and stick to the facts.
Never let anger or malice motivate your messages.
Consult the legal department on any message that could have legal consequences.
Communicate honestly, saying what you believe to be true.
Emphasize a desire for a good relationship in the future.
When sending negative news about normal (noncrisis) organizational news, be sure to
Match your approach to the situation
Consider the unique needs of each group
Give each audience enough time to react as needed
Give yourself enough time to plan and manage a response
Look for positive angles but don’t exude false optimism
Minimize the element of surprise whenever possible
Seek expert advice if you’re not sure.
During a crisis, employees, their families, the surrounding community and others will demand
The key to successful communication efforts during a crisis is having a crisis management plan,
Defines operational procedures to deal with the crisis
Outlines communication tasks and responsibilities
Clearly specifies which people are authorized to speak for the company
When sending negative employment messages, the indirect approach is usually best.
When refusing requests for recommendation letters, your message
May be brief and direct if you are communicating with prospective employers
Must be diplomatic and tactful if you are communicating with a job applicant
When delivering negative news to job applicants, you
Choose your approach carefully
Clearly state why the applicant was not selected
Close by suggesting alternatives
The main goals of a negative performance review are to
Set organizational standards
Communicate organizational values
Improve employee performance by
Emphasizing and clarifying job requirements
Giving employees feedback on their efforts toward fulfilling those requirements
Developing a plan of action for continued efforts (carefully including both rewards and
Using the Three-Step Writing Process for Persuasive Messages
Step 1: Plan Your Message
Analyzing Your Situation
Gathering Information
Selecting the Right Medium
Organizing Your Information
Step 2: Write Your Message
Step 3: Complete Your Message
Developing Persuasive Messages
Persuasive Business Messages
Framing Your Arguments
Balancing Emotional and Logical Appeals
Emotional Appeals
Logical Appeals
Reinforcing Your Position
Anticipating Objections
Common Examples of Persuasive Business Messages
Persuasive Requests for Action
Persuasive Presentation of Ideas
Persuasive Claims and Requests for Adjustments
Marketing and Sales Messages
Assessing Audience Needs
Analyzing Your Competition
Determining Selling Points and Benefits
Anticipating Purchase Objections
Applying the AIDA Model
Getting Attention
Building Interest
Increasing Desire
Motivating Action
Maintaining High Standards of Ethics, Legal Compliance, and Etiquette
Common Examples of Marketing and Sales Messages
Persuasion is the attempt to influence the attitudes, beliefs, or actions of members of your
Persuasion is not about trickery or getting people to make choices that aren’t in their best interest;
persuasion gives your audiences a choice and helps them choose to agree with you.
Successful persuasive messages demand careful attention to all four tasks in the planning step:
Analyzing your situation
Gathering information
Selecting the right medium
Organizing your information
Persuasive messages can suffer from three common mistakes related to purpose:
Failing to clarify your purpose before you continue with planning
Failing to clearly express your purpose to your audience
Failing to realize that the decision you want someone to make is too complicated or risky to make all
in one leap
You can identify how many messages and the nature of each one by analyzing your audience.
To assess audience needs, take into account
Audience needs, using a tool such as Maslow’s hierarchy of needs (physiological, safety and
security, social, esteem and status, self-actualization)
Demographics: Determine the age, gender, occupation, income, and education of an audience
Psychographics: Determine the personality, attitudes, and lifestyle of your audience members
Culture: Determine your audience’s cultural expectations and practices
As you gather the information necessary to convince your audience, remember that most
persuasive messages are a combination of logical and emotional factors.
For straightforward persuasive messages, choose your medium as suggested in Chapter 4;
however, for promotional messages, the media options are far more numerous.
When organizing your persuasive messages, remember that
The most effective main ideas are about the receiver, not the sender
To limit the scope, include only the information needed to help your audience take the next
step toward making the ultimate decision
The best approach is based on your audience’s likely reaction to your message:
Most persuasive messages are indirect.
Even if you chose a direct approach, include at least a brief justification or explanation.
Your choice between the direct and indirect approaches is also influenced by the extent of
your authority, expertise, or power in an organization.
Because persuasive messages are generally uninvited and sometimes even unwelcome, critical
elements include
The “you” attitude
Positive language
Intercultural understanding
Organizational culture or subculture
Your credibility
To establish credibility in persuasive messages, go beyond the characteristics listed in Chapter 5:
Use simple language.
Support your message with facts.
Identify your sources.
Be an expert (or find one to support your message).
Establish common ground.
Be objective.
Display your good intentions.
When completing persuasive messages, make sure that you
Judge your argument objectively
Seriously appraise your credibility
Carefully match the purpose and organization to audience needs
Design your message to complement your argument
Proofread for any mechanical or spelling errors that would weaken your argument
Choose a distribution method that fits your audience’s expectations
The goals of your persuasive business messages are to convince your readers that your request or
idea is reasonable and that it will benefit your readers in some way.
Four strategies for persuasive messages are
Structuring your arguments
Balancing emotional and logical appeals
Reinforcing your position
Anticipating objections
When structuring a persuasive argument, effective businesspeople use the AIDA plan:
Attention: Your opening does more than simply introduce your topic; it grabs audience
attention and encourages them to hear more about your main idea.
Interest: Your explanation does more than present reasons; it incites the interest of your audience.
Desire: Your continued explanation does more than present benefits; it changes your
audience’s attitude.
Action: Your close does more than end on a positive note; it emphasizes reader benefits and
motivates readers to take specific action.
When using the AIDA plan, you can
Use either the indirect or the direct approach
Make subject lines interesting without revealing your proposal
Concentrate your efforts on achieving your primary goal
Finding the right balance between emotional and logical appeals depends on four factors:
The actions you wish to motivate
Your reader’s expectations
The degree of resistance you must overcome
How far you feel empowered to go to sell your point of view
An emotional appeal calls on human feelings, basing the argument on audience needs or
Make subtle emotional appeals by using the emotion surrounding certain words that help your
audience accept your message.
Remember that people need to find rational support for an attitude they’ve already embraced
emotionally; therefore, to be truly effective, emotional appeals must be accompanied by logical
A logical appeal calls on human reason, basing an argument on making a claim and then
supporting that claim with reasons or evidence.
When using logical appeals, you might use three types of reasoning:
Analogy: Reasoning from specific evidence to specific evidence
Induction: Reasoning from specific evidence to a general conclusion
Deduction: Reasoning from a generalization to a specific conclusion
Avoid faulty logic by making sure you
Don’t make hasty generalizations
Don’t use circular reasoning
Don’t attack your opponent
Don’t oversimplify a complex issue
Don’t assume a false cause for a given effect
Don’t use faulty analogies
Don’t include illogical support
Look for ways to bolster the strength of your position:
Look for more powerful words.
Consider using metaphors and other figures of speech.
Try using anecdotes and stories to put things in human terms.
Include reader benefits.
Plan the timing of your message.
Deal with audience resistance by
Anticipating as many objections as you can
Addressing these objections in your initial message, before audience members can bring
them up
Presenting all sides of the situation (both pros and cons)
Using “What if?” scenarios
Getting audience thoughts on the subject before putting your argument together
Turning problems into opportunities
Common examples of persuasive messages include
Persuasive requests for action
Persuasive presentation of ideas
Persuasive claims and requests for adjustment
When writing persuasive requests for action, you want to
Choose either a direct or an indirect approach (depending on whether your audience
anticipates your request)
Begin with an attention-getting device (showing readers you know something of their
Give facts, explain benefits, and enhance your appeal in the interest and desire sections
Gain credibility for you and your request
Make your readers believe that helping you will indeed help solve a significant problem
Close with a request for some specific action
In complicated, multistep persuasive efforts, the goal of your first message might be merely
convincing your audience to reexamine long-held opinions or admit the possibility of new ways of
The goal of a persuasive claim is to convince someone to make an adjustment in your favor, not
just to get a complaint off your chest.
Key ingredients of a good persuasive claim are
A complete and specific review of the facts
A confident and positive tone
An assumption that the other person is not trying to cheat you
When writing persuasive claims and requests for adjustment, you want to
Begin by stating the basic problem or reviewing what has been done about the problem so far
Include a statement that both you and your audience can agree with
Be specific about what you want to happen
Give your reader a good reason for granting your claim
Show how your audience is responsible for the problem
Appeal to your readers’ sense of fair play, goodwill, or moral responsibility
Tell your audience how you feel about the problem without getting carried away
Make sure your request is calm and reasonable
Developing Marketing and Sales Messages
Marketing messages
Usher potential buyers through the purchasing process without asking them to make an immediate
Focus on tasks such as
Introducing new brands to the public
Providing competitive comparison information
Encouraging customers to visit websites for more information
Reminding buyers that a particular product or service is available
Sales messages make a specific request for people to place an order for a particular product or service.
Strategies for marketing and sales messages include
Assessing audience needs
Analyzing your competition
Determining key selling points and benefits
Anticipating purchase objections
Applying the AIDA model
Maintaining high standards of ethics, legal compliance, and etiquette
When analyzing your audience for promotional messages, you
Assess their needs, interests, and emotional concerns (as you would for any business message)
Try to form a mental image of the typical buyer for the product you wish to sell
Ask what your audience might want to know about this product (How can it help them? Are they driven
by bottom-line pricing? Do they consider quality to be the most important aspect?)
Focusing on just one or two attributes of your product or service will grab audience attention and raise
interest level enough to encourage that audience to conduct further research.
In addition to analyzing your audience, analyze your competition and avoid similarity in
Words or phrases
Writing styles
Creative approaches
Selling points are the most attractive features of an idea or a product (product focus); whereas benefits are
the particular advantages that readers will realize from the product’s features (user focus).
Anticipating objections is even more important for marketing and sales messages because you won’t get a
second chance to explain yourself or present your case (as you might with many persuasive business
Purchase objections can include numerous concerns, such as
Perceived risk
Whether you highlight or downplay the price of your product, prepare your readers for it with words such
as luxurious and economical.
When price is a major selling point, give it a position of prominence
In the headline
As the last item in a paragraph
If price is not a major selling point, you can handle it in several ways:
Leave it out altogether.
De-emphasize it by putting the figure in the middle of a paragraph that comes well after you’ve
presented the benefits and selling points.
Break a quantity price into units.
Compare your product’s price with the cost of some other product or activity.
When using the AIDA plan in marketing and sales messages, you grab attention by opening with
Your product’s strongest benefit
A piece of genuine news
A point of common ground with the audience
A personal appeal to the reader’s emotions and values
The promise of insider information
The promise of savings
A sample or demonstration of the product
A solution to a problem
Evocative images; online audio, animation, and video
In the interest section of your sales message, you
Build on the intrigue you created in your opening
Offer support for whatever claims or promises you made in the opening
In the desire section, intensify your readers’ desire by
Highlighting important benefits
Using action words
Using colorful verbs and adjectives (but don’t overdo it)
Supporting your claims
Support for your claims may take several forms; your message may include
Testimonials from satisfied users
Articles written by industry experts
Competitive comparisons
Product samples and free demonstrations
Independent test results
Online movies
Guarantees that demonstrate your faith in your product
In the last section of your sales message, motivate readers to take action right away by
Putting a deadline in the offer
Simply reminding them that the sooner they order, the sooner they’ll enjoy the benefits
Making the response action as simple and as risk-free as possible
Maintaining your respectful, professional tone
Not resorting to gimmicks and desperate-sounding pleas for business
Making your final impression compelling and positive
Boost audience response by adding a P.S. that
Reiterates your primary benefit
Compels the reader to act quickly by emphasizing a deadline
To write ethical promotional messages, you
View persuasion as a positive force
Align your own interests with what is best for your audience
Provide information to aid understanding
Allow audiences the freedom to choose
Make every attempt to persuade without manipulating
ETHICAL DILEMMA: When does a little white lie turn gray?
It’s been a rough year for your company, a manufacturer of special-purpose construction
equipment. A competitor has come out with a line of machinery that costs half as much as yours
and performs almost as well in most situations. You still have the edge in serving customers that
operate in demanding environments like the South Pole and the Kalahari Desert, but for most
applications, your superior performance features are irrelevant.
You are discouraged by your inability to meet your sales quotas, which were established before
the competition launched its new line. However, your disappointment is minor compared to your
boss’s. He came into your office yesterday with a grim look on his face.
“If we don’t start bringing in some orders, we’re finished,” he said. “Everybody in the sales
department could get the axe. I’m counting on you to win the Simon job. I don’t care what you
have to do to get it, just do it.”
You are in the midst of writing a sales letter to Simon and Company, in which you analyze their
particular construction environment and operating requirements. It occurs to you that if you
revise your analysis to accentuate Simon’s problems, you might be able to win the job. Simon’s
management might buy the idea that they need “more machine” to handle their “extremely
demanding performance requirements.” You could then argue that your competitor’s equipment is
not up to the job. True, in your heart you know that 99 percent of the time, the competitor’s
machinery would be adequate for Simon’s needs, but what about the other 1 percent?
Should you revise your proposal to exaggerate Simon’s needs?
Solution: Emphasizing the unique benefits of your product is part of your job; exaggerating your
customer’s problems is not. Your proposal should present the facts in their true perspective. You
may point out that under extreme conditions your equipment is superior to your competitor’s
equipment, and you may give examples to illustrate your point. However, don’t overstate your
customer’s needs. Such a tactic is a distortion of the facts and insults the reader’s intelligence.
Pay close attention to the legal aspects of promotion:
Marketing and sales messages must be truthful and nondeceptive.
You must back up your claims with evidence.
Marketing and sales messages are considered binding contracts in many states.
In most cases, you can’t use a person’s name, photograph, or other identity without permission.
Before you launch a promotional campaign, make sure you’re up to date on the latest regulations
affecting spam (unsolicited bulk e-mail), customer privacy, and data security.
When giving a negative performance review, remember these guidelines:
Confront the problem right away.
Plan your message.
Deliver the message in private.
Focus on the problem.
Ask for a commitment from the employee.
When writing a termination letter, you have three goals:
To present the reasons for this difficult action
To avoid statements that might involve the company in legal action
To leave the relationship between the employee and the firm as favorable as possible
In termination letters, present specific justification for asking the employee to leave, and make
sure all the reasons are accurate and verifiable.