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5. WRITING EFFECTIVELY

 

Introduction

 

Writing is a basic management skill. Being able to write well makes you more useful to your organisation and improves your chances of promotion. Writing badly can be costly. It can lead to wrong decisions, to confusion and irreparable damage being done to your reputation. A clear, concise, logical and unified message written in plain English helps the reader to understand and, thus, enables them to make decisions and take actions on the basis of the information and so exercise their democratic rights as citizens.

 

Characteristics of good business writing

 

Emphasis in this area is on editing so that your writing style is suitable for middle management administrative writing. Good business writing is usually not so individualistic, such as writing poems, good business writing has the same characteristics. It is:

 

Readable - as easy as possible to understand

 

Appropriate - suitable for your purpose, message and receiver, and

 

Mechanically sound - uses correct spelling, grammar, punctuation and business formats.

 

Readability - means that it is understandable because of its clear style of writing. Writers sometimes try to impress readers. They purposefully choose long words and write lengthy, complicated sentences in order to show off their command of the language. In this way, they often sacrifice understanding for the impression they hope to make. When readers become aware of this they stop concentrating on the meaning of the writer’s message and may decide to read no further.

 

Many factors affect readability, such as:

 

Word choice

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The following six rules should help you to make better word choices.

 

Avoid unfamiliar words.

 

To help make your writing clear, use words that are familiar to your reader. Some examples are shown in Figure 5.1.

 

 

Don’t Say

Say

Prior to

Before

Subsequent to

After

Accomplish

Do

Determine

Find out

Advantageous

Helpful

Facilitate

Help

Encounter difficulty in

Find it hard to

Pursuant to your request

As you asked

Requirements

Needs

Initiate

Begin/start

 

Figure 5.1 Unfamiliar words

Source: Galvin, Prescott and Huseman, 1992, p. 86.

 

 

Avoid technical jargon.

 

Technical terms have a precise meaning, specific to a particular subject or organisation. They are useful when you write to an informed reader who understands the precise meaning of the term. Only use these when your reader is informed and understands the technical meaning. Avoid them when you are dealing with an uninformed reader who may simply ‘turn off’ or become ‘worried’ by the information. A computer salesperson who writes to a computer-illiterate person: ‘It’s a PS/2 Model 8 with dual FDD and an 80 meg ESDI HD’ will surely fail to communicate.

 

Technical terms used in an unsuitable context can exclude the reader from understanding and sharing important ideas. When you use technical terms, use them to help your reader understand rather than to show how clever or superior you are as a writer.

 

Avoid useless repetition.

 

Sometimes we repeat ideas for effect – to impress them on the reader’s mind. Television advertisements contain many repetitions of a product’s name so that we will not forget it. When you write, you can deliberately repeat ideas to create a rhetorical effect.

 

 

 

But do not make the careless mistake of uselessly repeating the same idea as in these sentences:

 

å The two cares were exactly identical. (exactly)

 

å His pay raise was small in size. (in size)

 

å If you can not use the new facsimile, return it back to me. (back)

 

Repeat ideas for effect, not because you forgot to proof-read. The words in parentheses can be omitted from each sentence with no loss of understanding.

 

Avoid wordy expressions.

 

Wordy expressions are simply dead weight in a sentence. Many sentences beginning with ‘There are’, ‘It is’, or ‘There is’ are wordy sentences. Figure 5.2 illustrates how you can say the same thing without phrases that make your sentences begin slowly.

 

Don’t Say

Say

There are three fine restaurants in Oxford Street.

Three fine restaurants are in Oxford Street.

It is important that all employees read the company handbook.

All employees should read the company handbook.

There is little time left for us to make a decision.

We have little time left to make the decision.

 

Figure 5.2 Wordy expressions and slow starting sentences

 

 

Wordy phrases are dead weight, no matter where they appear in your sentences.

Consider the following examples:

 

Wordy Concise

A long period of time A long time (or two weeks)

At the present time Now (or the date of writing)

Consensus of opinion Consensus

Due to the fact that Because

During the month of November During November

For the purpose of For

In many cases Often

In some cases Sometimes

In the near future Soon

The majority of Most

On the occasion of On

I personally I

In the event that If

With reference to About

 

 

 

 

Avoid trite phrases.

 

Trite words and phrases are worn out, commonplace expressions. Because they are overused, trite phrases have lost their meaning. They too are dead weight in your sentences, and can reduce your credibility as a writer. Although some trite phrases can be simply deleted from a sentence, others have fresher replacements.

 

Here are some examples:

 

Trite Replacement

Advise Tell

Enclosed please find Enclosed is

Numerous and sundry Many

Permit me to say

It has come to my attention I have learned

Under separate cover Separately

Please be advised

Up to this writing Until now

In accordance with your request As you requested

Kindly Please

 

 

Avoid words that are too general.

 

Galvin, et al, (1992) states that words that are too general leave readers unsure of what is being said. By using words that are as specific as possible we can help readers create the images that we want in their minds.

 

For example, if we say ‘A vehicle was parked at the kerb’, the reader is not sure just what kind of vehicle we mean – truck, bus, car or other vehicle. To create a more vivid image for the reader, we should move from the general to the specific. Thus to say ‘A Pajero was parked at the kerb’ conveys a much clearer picture.

 

 

Here are some examples of vague, general expressions and more effective specific language:

 

Abstract

Specific

The majority of stockholders voted for the new plan.

Sixty-four per cent of our stockholders voted for the new plan.

You will receive your refund cheque soon.

You will receive your full refund of $132.19 by 15 July 1999.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sentence and paragraph construction

 

The length of your sentences affects your readability. If sentences are long people tend to forget the beginnings before they get to the ends. Apart from sentence length, writing is usually clear and easy to read if both sentences and paragraphs are:

 

Unified - paragraph unity: one central idea per paragraph and the topic sentence presents the main idea of your paragraph.

 

Coherent - coherent sentences and paragraphs are understandable because they ‘stick together’. Four devices for improving paragraph coherence are:

 

Parallel structure – it is particularly important to use parallel structures where you are enumerating a series of endings to a sentence root, such as in questionnaire items. Compare these two versions:

 

Poor Parallel

 

Nutranut is my favourite shampoo because it is:

 

a. clear instructions a. easy to use

b. the brand has a good reputation b. reputable

c. it doesn’t cost much c. inexpensive

 

Notice how each ‘parallel’ option correctly completes the ‘root’ sentence.

Linking words – linking words such as also and in addition are used to join sentences, but also as transition words linking paragraphs. Linking words are extremely important because they articulate the logical relationships between bits of information and ideas. Compare the differences in clarity and coherence in the following sentences about the risks of transporting nuclear materials.

 

Nuclear powerstations themselves are solidly built. The containers used for the transport of nuclear materials are not.

 

Although the powerstations themselves are solidly built, the containers used for transport of nuclear materials are not.

 

Another use for linking words is to express explicitly the writer’s attitude. Thus the sentence above can be modified to:

 

Although the powerstations themselves are solidly built, unfortunately the containers used for transport of nuclear material are not.

 

Enumerating – a third device for enhancing paragraph coherence is by giving a specific numeric or chronological label to each of our ides, such as:

 

You will want to own a Dynamic clothes dryer for several reasons. Firstly, it costs only 9 cents for the average load. Secondly, it has a one-year guarantee on all parts. And thirdly, the Dynamic comes in three brilliant colours – harvest gold, fresh green and sunflower yellow.

 

 

Signposting – assigns brief headings to our major ideas, such as:

 

You will want to own a Dynamic clothes dryer for several reasons:

 

Cost – only 9 cents for the average load.

Guarantee – one year on all parts.

Colours – three brilliant colours: harvest gold, fresh green and sunflower yellow.

 

 

OUTLINING - is a convenient way to group ideas together, and organise paragraphs and groups of paragraphs into a logical arrangement. This ensures that your ideas are well organised from the start. Use the AIDA technique in the case of sending a persuasive message.

 

 

2. Appropriateness - the best business writing gets results because the writer has accurately assessed a unique situation and written appropriately. It is generally appropriate to write in a style that is:

 

active - emphasises actions by using the ‘active voice’. Where the subject performs the action expressed by the verb. Active voice communicates directly and lets the reader know who is doing the action. The subject is placed before the action to give a stronger link between them and to show who or what is doing the action. The sentence ‘Jane hailed the taxi’ is active voice. Jane is the person doing the action of ‘hailing the taxi’.

 

This technique creates a stronger feeling that something is happening because the subject and the action are held together in the structure of the sentence. The sentence ‘The taxi was hailed by Jane’ is passive voice because the subject of the sentence ‘taxi’ is the passive receiver of the action ‘was hailed’. Overuse of passive voice can create sluggishness. Compare the following sentences in both active and passive voice.

 

Active voice

Passive voice

The business reached the highest sales figures for the year this month.

Record sales figures for he year were reached by the business this month.

Liam completed the assignment.

The assignment was completed by Liam.

The third year Management students prepared the project.

The project was prepared by the third year Management students.

Barbara completed the work.

The work was completed by Barbara.

 

Figure 5.3 Active and passive voice.

Source: Dwyer, 1993, p.205.

 

 

 

 

 

positive - stresses what is possible, avoid using negative words.

 

Compare these messages:

 

Negative: You failed to enclose a cheque with your order, therefore, it is impossible to send you the merchandise.

Positive: As soon as your cheque arrives, we will send your order via parcel post.

 

When writing in business, you want to create as positive a climate as possible. Thus, avoid using ‘negative’ words such as delay, cannot, impossible, inconvenience, and trouble as long as this does not make your writing obscure or sound evasive and insincere.

 

tactful - is considerate of the receiver’s feelings, do not insult the reader’s intelligence and demean the reader personally. In business you should try to write to your reader’s level, neither above nor below.

 

You can demean readers in several ways by:

 

a. Unwitting put-downs,

b. Categorising them,

c. Using an accusatory or judgmental tone, and

d. Using sexist language.

 

personal - treats receivers as individual people rather than numbers or objects - YOU and We & I. Your writing should focus on your reader’s needs, not on yourself. Consider the following:

 

We and I You

We have mailed a cheque. You will receive your cheque in the mail.

 

Our savings accounts pay You will earn 6 per cent interest from

6 per cent interest. Your savings account.

 

I want to express my Thank you for your help with …

appreciation …

 

 

Use non-discriminatory language

Linguistic discrimination in communication is a style of writing or speaking which gives preference to the masculine form (sexist) or belittles people with other cultural backgrounds (racist). It is a style which needs to be eliminated from workplace communication (Bendeich, 1997, p. 88).

 

 

 

 

 

Despite an increased participation by women in government, public life and the workforce, linguistic discrimination (sexist language) still exists. Gender-specific language fails to reflect the role that women play and the status that they hold in society.

 

The choice of language often carries hidden meanings and can be offensive and demeaning to those who are discriminated against. Sexist language is one way in which one gender is given more prominence and importance in a written document. Some strategies suggested by Dwyer, (1993) for removing sexism in language are:

 

å Avoid the use of male-dominated terms to describe occupations or roles that are shared by both men and women, for example, ‘chairman’.

 

å Eliminate the unnecessary mention of a person’s gender for example, ‘lady doctor’

or ‘female engineer’.

 

å When using a pronoun to refer to an individual whose gender is not specified, avoid simply using the male pronoun ‘he’. Either restructure the sentence to avoid the pronoun or to make the sentence plural, or simply use the plural pronoun ‘they’ even when a single person is referred to. The Macquarie Student Writers Guide suggests this approach.

 

Non-discriminatory, inclusive language includes all readers. Readers are invited to take action on the basis of the information provided. Even if your organisation is currently female-dominated, as in nursing, or male-dominated, as in engineering, changing attitudes and trends in education mean that women and men are working in all industries. Resentment and communication barriers can occur when language is addressed exclusively to one sex. It is discriminatory.

 

Sexist

Non-sexist

Each student must submit his assignment by August.

Each student must submit the assignment by August.

When a person is employed he must contact personnel.

When people are employed they must contact personnel.

My girl will answer the telephone.

My assistant will answer the telephone.

You and your wife are invited to the Christmas Party.

You and your partner are invited to the Christmas Party.

 

Lady-lawyer

Actress

Manpower

Workman

Foreman

Mankind

 

Lawyer

Actor

Staff, workforce or labour

Worker, employee

Supervisor

People, the human race or humankind

 

Figure 5.4 Discriminatory language

Source: Dwyer, 1993, 9. 206.

 

 

 

 

 

3. Mechanically sound written material is free of:

 

spelling, punctuation and grammatical errors, and

format problems.

 

Correct grammar enhances understanding and credibility. Format refers to the physical arrangement of the written material.

 

The mechanics of writing are the technical aspects of what we write. They are the finishing touches we put to our documents which help to communicate our message as clearly, quickly, effortlessly and pleasantly as possible. Two of the main reference sources for ensuring our communications are mechanically sound are the good old dictionary and a thesaurus.

 

You can add polish and professionalism to written workplace documents by knowing how to express numbers, when to capitalise, and when abbreviations are acceptable and when they are not. Improve your skills and learn how to extend your vocabulary so that you can choose just the right word to convey exactly what you want to say and be sure that it has been spelt correctly.

 

 

 

 

Activity 5.1

 

Write a set of instructions for each of the following:

 

a. how to start a car

b. how to evacuate your building in an emergency

c. how to use the yellow pages

d. how to use a library catalogue

how to make up a bibliography.

 

Show your instructions to another student or friend. Seek feedback to see if they understand your instructions. Is there relevant information missing? Check your work against the writing characteristics described in this session.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

WRITING EFFECTIVE BUSINESS LETTERS

 

Bendeich, (1997) mentions that business letters are formal written communications through which an exchange of information takes place between business organisations and their clients, customers, suppliers, service providers and statutory authorities.

 

This exchange may take place by the traditional transmission through Australia Post, via a document exchange network established for professions who have regular interchanges of communication with one another, or transmitted electronically by fax or through a computer network.

 

Letters are often the only contact a business has with its clients so their presentation and style should represent the organisation'’ professionalism, client-focus and standards of excellence.

 

Along with the strategies for better productivity like Best Practice, Total Quality Management, Benchmarking and Work Teams, a client-focuses approach to communication has seen a move away form bureaucratic or archaic language to plain English.

 

The traditional typed letter has almost disappeared into oblivion. With the advent of word processing, document creators are aware of he importance of appearance and individuality in the preparation of business letters.

 

The modern business letter has a specific purpose, incites the receiver to read it and encourages action on it. It is clear, concise and courteous, attractive and attention-getting in appearance, accurate in detail, consistent in style, with information well spaced and appropriately presented.

 

 

6.1 Good news and neutral letters

Despite the ever-growing use of telephones, facsimile machines and other electronic media, letters will continue to play a crucial role in the conduct of business. Letters provide the most personal contact that much of the public has with business organisations and governmental agencies.

 

As such, modern managers are expected to be able to write cohesive letters, and they should be able to write them quickly. It is not easy to write effective letters quickly, but it can be simplified through a systematic approach.

 

In many letters you will be transmitting either good news or routine, neutral information to the reader. In this type of letter you are either complying with or requesting routine information, so the reader is unlikely to be displeased with your message. Therefore, you should get straight to the main point and then provide the secondary details.

 

 

 

This way of ordering ideas is variously called ‘descending order of importance’, ‘direct’ or ‘deductive’ arrangement. You will notice we use this order throughout our coverage of good news and neutral letters.

 

The good news and neutral letters approach is most appropriate for the following types of letters:

 

placing orders;

acknowledging orders;

requesting credit;

extending credit;

making routine claims;

approving adjustments on claims;

requesting routine information;

granting routine requests; and

pre-written messages.

 

 

Standard components of a business letter

Although letters may differ in appearance, they are similar in the basic parts they include. The reader has certain information needs that the following components are intended to satisfy:

 

Return address of the sender – most business organisations are written on stationery that has the company letterhead, including address, at the top. When writing a letter on plain paper most people use a semi-block layout (see figure 6.1.1) so the return address of the sender is placed in the upper right-hand corner of the letter.

 

Since this return address is the first information on the page, it establishes the top and right-hand side margins. The sender’s address must include street, a number and name, or a post office box number, the town or city, and the state and postcode.

 

The date when the letter was written – all letters and reports should be dated, since the date will tell the reader something about the context in which the letter was written. The date will also simplify the filing of a letter, as the arrangement of correspondence within a given file folder is usually chronological.

 

The standard form for dates is, using open punctuation: 24 February 1998. Numerals such as 4/8/94 can be misleading as this could be the eighth or the fourth month. Spell the month out in words.

 

Inside address of the receiver – the inside address is the reader’s address. It is placed between the date and the salutation, two lines below the date. This includes the name, title and address of the person to whom the letter is being sent.

 

 

Salutation – this is the writer’s greeting to the reader. It is placed two lines below the inside address or the attention line. The most frequently used salutations in business letters are ‘Dear Mr …, Mrs …, Ms …, Miss …’. When writing to a company ‘Dear Sirs’ is often used, as is a salutation of Dear Sir/Madam’.

 

However, all these forms of salutation are cold and impersonal. It is important to try and find out your receiver’s name and use it. If you have the time, you may choose to ring the organisation and ask the name of the person to whom you are writing.

 

Body of the letter – each part of the body has a particular purpose.

 

The beginning has two purposes; to open courteously and, when appropriate, to link the letter to previous transactions. The middle or body of the letter presents details and information and contains content appropriate to the purpose of the letter. The message puts the reader in a position to take action on the basis of the document. The ending has two purposes: to indicate the future action and to close courteously. The closing paragraph states the actions to be taken by the reader.

 

Close – the complimentary close should match the form of address used in the salutation. For a business letter that opens with ‘Dear Sir’ or Dear Madam’, close with ‘Yours faithfully’ followed by your signature name and job title or designation. When you write to a person you have met, a specific person in the organisation or a person who has corresponded with you before, use their name in the salutation or opening and ‘Yours sincerely’ in the complimentary close.

 

Signature block – the writer’s signature and name follows the complimentary close. It may be appropriate to place the position or job title of the writer under the signature and typewritten name.

 

Additional parts – an attention line can be used when you want your correspondence to go directly to a particular person. This is placed between the inside address of the receiver and the salutation. A subject line can also be placed between the salutation and the first paragraph of a letter as an appropriate heading. In addition, reference initials, enclosures and identification of carbon copies may be included.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Figure 6.1.1 Full-block style

 

 

Thus, using an acceptable letter format is an important part of creating an effective company image. Companies differ somewhat in the formats they use. In general, writers use single spaces within the parts of a letter and double spaces between the parts. Some organisations provide employees with a manual or style sheet prescribing a certain style.

 

The two main styles of letter placement are:

 

1. Full-block- every line begins at the left margin.

 

2. Modified-block –the date begins at the centre of the page or is centred horizontally. The closing and the signature block are normally aligned with the date.

 

 

 

The following guidelines provided by Galvin, et al, (1992, pp. 116-123) will offer you a basis for establishing your own techniques. Remember, good news and neutral letters should be direct, specific and complete.

 

 

Placing Orders

 

When you order something the process is simplified if you have a company order form. When you do not have one you should follow the good news and neutral letter plan.

 

 

 

ORDER LETTER GUIDE

 

Only write a letter if you do not have a company order form.

 

Start with your main point. ‘Please send’ or ‘Please ship’ are appropriate openings and are likely to result in a fast response.

 

Provide all the details necessary for the seller to fill the order now. If details such as catalogue number, size, colour and price are omitted, further correspondence will be necessary and a delay will result.

 

Indicate the payment plan you will follow.

 

Include shipping instructions if you have a preference.

 

Close with your expectations of an appropriate delivery date.

 

 

Figure 6.1.2 Order letter guide

 

 

 

 

Routine Claims

 

When making a routine claim you should write n the assumption that a reasonable person would say ‘yes’ to your request so you should use a direct sequence of ideas. Tell the reader immediately the actions you are seeking and the reasons for the request. If your request is unusual, however, sometimes it may be more appropriate to write a persuasive letter.

 

 

 

 

 

Example 6.1 An effective claim letter

 

Will you please send another Australian Flora and Fauna Dictionary to replace the one I am returning in the attached package?

 

This book arrived with many of the illustrations blurred, especially those between pages 200 and 300. Enclosed is the invoice which accompanied the book.

 

If an unsoiled copy is unavailable, I shall appreciate a full refund.

 

 

 

 

 

ROUTINE CLAIM GUIDE

 

When making a claim, write promptly.

 

Request a specific action in the first sentence.

 

Provide all necessary details (e.g. date and place of purchase) and copies of relevant document (e.g. receipts, invoices, delivery dockets, and letters).

 

Explain why each action would be desirable.

 

Show confidence in the reader’s judgement and your appreciation for the action you are seeking.

 

Avoid sarcasm, name-calling and threats.

 

 

Figure 6.1.3 Routine claim guide

 

 

 

 

Approving adjustments on claims

 

Timing is important with adjustment letters. An adjustment that you can approve is an excellent opportunity to improve public relations as long as you respond quickly. A prompt letter will make you look good, whereas a slow response could be taken to indicate that you are not customer-oriented and only interested in profits.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Example 6.2 A good adjustment letter:

 

You will receive a brand new Deluxe Glide steam iron later this week. It will give you many years of excellent service.

 

Thank you for calling attention to your problem and returning the other iron to us. Our technicians are analysing its performance in order to learn how to improve our inspection procedures.

 

You should receive our summer sale catalogue nest week. It is full of high quality products which we are pleased to stand behind.

 

 

Sometimes a customer seeks to register a complaint or make a suggestion rather than request a specific adjustment. In such cases the writer should apologise, show that appropriate action would be taken and seek further business.

 

 

 

 

 

ADJUSTMENT APPROVAL GUIDE

 

Reply promptly.

 

Indicate immediately that the adjustment is being granted.

 

Grant the adjustment wholeheartedly.

 

Play down the negative aspects by avoiding negative words.

 

Briefly explain the reason for the problem or imply it when describing the measures you are taking to prevent it recurring.

 

If the reader must take some action, indicate specifically.

 

Look toward future business.

 

 

Figure 6.1.4 Adjustment approval guide

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Granting routine requests

 

Directness is a desirable characteristic in any good news or neutral letter. When you can say ‘Yes’ to a request made by another, you should do so enthusiastically. Since it is the answer that the reader is hoping for, you should say it immediately. Set his or her mind at rest as quickly as possible.

 

Example 6.3

 

I will be happy to give your year 6 class a tour of our plant on the afternoon of 5 May 1998.

 

Your students will be especially interested in the assembly line, but they are also welcome to inspect our research labs. We are the leaders in our field in some applications of robotics.

 

The enclosed brochures will acquaint your students with our full line of products. If you will have them read and discuss the brochures prior to your visit, it may make the tour more interesting.

 

I look forward to meeting you and your class in the foyer of Building B at 1pm next Wednesday.

 

 

 

REQUEST RESPONSE GUIDE

 

Say ‘YES’ in the first sentence.

 

Do so wholeheartedly, showing interest in the request.

 

Explain any actions to be taken or procedures that should be followed.

 

Point toward the future.

 

 

 

Figure 6.1.5 Request response guide

Activity 6.1

Write appropriate letters to:

A local air conditioning company installed an air conditioning system in your offices last May. The system is not working satisfactorily and obviously needs some adjustments. As the hot weather is approaching, an inspection of the system is required urgently.

Telstra/Optus requesting that the telephone service to your company’s North Sydney offices be discontinued from the last Friday this month.

 

6.2 Letters of refusal

Successful business organisations are besieged with numerous written requests, ranging from the acceptable to the extremely unreasonable. Whatever the merit of a request, you must respond to it with restraint and with an interest in keeping the goodwill of the person making the request.

 

Therefore, every letter of refusal has an important public relations function:

 

EVERY BUSINESS LETTER IS A SALES LETTER

 

While good news is transmitted most effectively in a direct manner, bad news should be presented indirectly. Denying a writer’s request is not easy. A direct turndown early in a letter often results in the reader not reading any further and thus remaining unaware of the logical reasons for the refusal.

 

If possible, the writer of the letter of refusal should point out how the reader may benefit from the refusal or suggest alternatives. A key to writing successful letters of refusal is to know the facts of the situation. A writer can develop a line of reasoning that the receiver is likely to understand and accept. The most common types of refusal letters are adjustment and credit refusals.

 

 

 

Adjustment refusals

 

You are denying a request considered to be reasonable by the customer. This is a delicate process, for the writer is implying that the request, viewed by the customer as reasonable, actually is not.

 

As with all letters of refusal two main purposes exist:

 

to state the refusal, and

 

to maintain a positive relationship with the reader.

 

By maintaining a positive relationship with customers, the adjustment-refusal writer will usually be able to retain their business. A poorly written adjustment refusal can irritate and frustrate the reader.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dwyer, (1993) states that a genuine adjustment is a justified request to change, replace or make an adjustment to a transaction that has already taken place. Examples may include requests to replace damaged goods or missing parts, to replace an incomplete order or to correct an error on an account. An adjustment refusal is given when the organisation believes that the request for an adjustment is unjustified, that the problem was no caused by the organisation or that a problem does not exist.

 

 

 

ADJUSTMENT REFUSAL GUIDE

 

Make your opening comment neutral and relate it to the subject of the letter.

 

Keep the opening brief.

 

Imply neither ‘Yes’ nor ‘No’ in the opening.

 

Convey a positive rather than an apologetic tone in presenting the reasons for your decision.

 

If possible, show how the reader may actual benefit from the decision because of the reason you state.

 

Present the reasons so that the reader anticipates a refusal.

 

Make your refusal clear, but do not over-emphasise it.

 

Avoid mentioning the refusal in the ending. End the letter on a positive note if possible.

 

Figure 6.2.1 Adjustment refusal guide

Source: Galvin, 1992, p. 134.

 

 

When dealing with someone who has already received a written refusal and explanation, yet persists in requesting an adjustment, a writer may find the direct approach suitable for a second letter. When the reader ignores the first ‘indirect’ letter in which an adjustment is refused and simply repeats the request, the writer is justified in becoming more to the point.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Credit refusals

 

Denying a person credit while keeping that person’s business is a challenge to the writer of credit refusals. Many people today regard credit as a right that cannot be denied them. These attitudes complicate the task facing the writer.

 

When denying credit, strive to sell the reader on becoming a cash customer. Other common reasons may be that the applicant has too small or too unsteady an income or, perhaps, no credit experience upon which to base a decision or, the applicant has spent too little time at one address. The most usual request for credit and, therefore, the most usual credit refusal is for a loan or for a credit card. Rather than view this type of letter as a denial of credit, the writer might use it to convince the applicant to become a cash customer or to pay COD (cash on delivery).

 

 

Example 6.2.1

 

Thank you for your recent application for a charge account at Astor Brothers.

 

Much information is considered before opening a new charge account, and your application was considered carefully. It appears that once you are employed on a full-time basis it may be possible for you to receive an Astor Brothers credit card.

 

Until then please allow us to serve you on a cash basis. With our Autumn fashions about to arrive, you may also enjoy our convenient lay-by plan.

 

 

 

Credit Refusal Guide

 

Begin with a neutral idea with which the reader will agree.

 

Explain the reason(s) for the decision.

 

State the refusal briefly using positive language.

 

If possible, offer an alternative such as paying cash or using COD purchasing.

 

Close with a look toward the future and without an apologetic tone.

 

 

Figure 6.2.2 Credit refusal guide

Source: Galvin, 1992, p. 136.

 

 

 

Steps in transmitting bad news

 

Following these steps will help ensure an effective letter.

 

Start with a neutral comment, that indicates some form of agreement - let the reader know the subject of the letter, but do not imply either a ‘yes’ or ‘no’.

 

Present an explanation in a positive manner - the reasons for the refusal should precede the actual refusal. By getting the recipients to read the reasons, you increase the likelihood of them being understood and accepted.

 

Clearly state the refusal - many refusals can be easily inferred by the reader. The clearer the relationship between the reasons and a refusal, the less necessary it is to state the refusal explicitly.

 

End on a positive note - at the close of the letter the reader should be left aware of the writer’s concern rather than of the refusal. Do not bring the refusal up again. Do not apologise for the refusal.

 

 

 

 

Activity 6.2

 

6.2.1. Write a letter of refusal to:

 

A job applicant whose application has been unsuccessful.

 

A customer whose request for a free sample of your new product is being refused.

 

A prospective club member whose membership application is to be refused because registration is currently closed due to full membership.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

6.2.2 To correct and rewrite a claim letter.

 

Instructions

 

Rewrite the following claim letter to Specific Electronics Australia.

Use your own address.

 

Dear sir or madam

 

I am absolutely beside myself this morning - and it’s all your fault. If I have asked you once, I have asked you a thousand times to come and pick up that lousy VCR that I had the poor judgement to consider buying from you people over a month ago - and I’m still waiting, but I’m not going to wait much longer.

 

If you think I’m going to pay you over $300 for that piece of junk, you’ve got another thing coming. And stop keep sending me all those boring bills. And the second thing you can do is get over here and pick it up before I throw it out with the rest of the garbage.

 

I don’t understand how an outfit like yours has stayed in business this long. In any case, I’m sure you can’t last much longer - and I want to get my business with you straightened out before you do go under. Let’s see some action - OK?

 

Very sincerely yours

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

6.3 PERSUASIVE LETTERS

 

 

A business correspondent should be able to persuade others through letters. The most common types of persuasive correspondence, that can readily illustrate the key aspects of persuasive letter writing are sales and collection letters.

 

Sales letters

 

Sales letters use the same technique and order of information as other persuasive letters. The practice you get in selling ideas and courses of action in sales letters should help you to become more effective in other areas of persuasion. They aim to motivate the reader to act by gaining attention and interest which leads to desire and action.

 

To achieve this, you need to know what you want to sell, the nature of the target group who will buy the service or product, and your competitors. The AIDA formula is again useful in ordering the information in a sales letter – see Figure 6.3.1.

 

Sales letters generally fall into two categories, solicited and unsolicited; as do letters of application when selling yourself for future employment.

 

Solicited

This type of sales letter is easier to write because the receiver had previously expressed interest in the product, sought further information, or made a specific enquiry.

 

Unsolicited

Most people are not really interested in reading an unsolicited sales letter. That makes writing this type challenging because you have to stimulate a relatively uninterested reader.

 

 

Preparation

 

It is important to become completely familiar with a product, idea or service before trying to write a sales letter. You must know:

 

exactly what it can do and how it works;

the materials from which it is made;

the expertise involved in its development;

the outstanding features of the product;

the ways in which it differs from its competitors;

its price;

the extent of the maintenance required, and the expertise required to use it, and

the warranty or guarantee, if any, that accompanies the product.

 

 

Become familiar with the intended customers.

 

You need to appeal to the interests of the reader for the resulting letter to be effective. Often a sales letter is mailed to thousands of prospective buyers. For such letters it is worthwhile to devote much effort to finding out the nature of the intended readers, such as:

 

Income level

Occupation

Age

Marital status

Education level

Geographic location

 

For example, if you are trying to attract customers for a lawn-care service, the letter will be geared to home owners who live in the suburbs.

 

You must work out exactly how the physical characteristics and capabilities of the product will benefit the reader. The physical characteristics of a certain brand of running shoes are a combination of lightweight rubber, canvas and colour. The benefits to the owner of such shoes, however, might be these kinds of factors:

 

Save the owner money because they will last longer than other running shoes.

 

Make the runner faster because the shoes are very lightweight.

 

Improve the runner’s appearance because the shoes are so stylish and available in many different colours.

 

Provide more comfort because of the many different sizes available.

 

Provide more safety through the unique double-deep tread design.

 

It is the benefits, or ‘psychological’ features, that convince the reader to buy. Your letter has to make your customer perceive the BENEFITS of your product.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Steps for effective sales letters

 

Whether you are selling an idea, a product or a course of action, using the AIDA formula has proven to be effective:

 

Attract the reader’s ATTENTION.

Catch the readers attention in the subject line or introductory paragraph.

Stimulate the reader’s INTEREST.

Use the introductory paragraph to focus on the reader’s self interest, the benefit to them.

Develop a DESIRE within the reader.

In the middle paragraphs, emphasise the central selling point, create a desire and give the price.

Encourage the reader to take a specific ACTION.

 

 

Close with the actions to be taken by the reader.

 

Figure 6.3.1 Writing strategy for a sales letter.

 

 

 

1. Attention

 

Unless the first sentence of a sales letter attracts the reader’s attention, the reader will probably discard the letter. One way to accomplish this is to identify one of the most significant features of the product you are trying to sell. If possible, suggest how the reader stands to benefit from using the product.

 

Some of the more common methods used are:

 

Make a thought provoking statement: ‘The best thing about our new line of purses is something you can’t see.’

 

Present a startling fact: ‘95 out of 100 families would be bankrupt if they missed just three pay days.’

 

Offer a bargain: ‘Imagine, two pairs of shoes for the price of one.’

 

Describe something that is currently happening: ‘Today more than 500 families enjoyed the Press Journal with breakfast.’

 

Present a direct challenge: ‘Try to tear the enclosed piece of rubberised plastic and you’ll understand why our seatcovers won’t wear out.’

 

An opening is more likely to attract attention if it is written in an original manner. The reader is also more likely to continue reading if the opening paragraph is short - a maximum length of eight lines is recommended.

 

 

 

Attention-Getting Guide

 

Present what the reader will view as the major benefit of the product that you seek to sell.

 

Relate the product to the reader rather than to the writer (use a ‘YOU’ orientation).

 

Write an original opening statement. Make the first paragraph interesting enough to appeal to the reader and so short that the reader will have to read subsequent paragraphs to get the important details.

 

 

Figure 6.3.2 Attention-getting guide

 

 

 

2. Interest

 

There should be a natural link between the attention seeking step and the interest step. The main purpose of the interest section is to make the reader want the product. You are striving for an ‘I think I would like to have that’ reaction. Also during this stage you should start to emphasise the reward(s) to be derived from the product rather than the actual product. Instead of selling the reader a lawnmower, stress the good feelings associated with having an attractive lawn. In this way the reader goes beyond the product to the pleasure experienced from its use. In the interest step, therefore, you are both describing the product and suggesting value to the reader.

 

The writer should also emphasise a central selling point throughout the letter. For example, the writer of a sales letter for a correspondence course tried to stimulate interest in this way:

 

Attention: You do not need a university degree to get a good job.

 

Interest: You have probably read newspaper articles about how job opportunities are declining today. At the same time, however, there are occupations in which opportunities are expanding. The electronics field is one in which there is a shortage of technicians. Not only is there a shortage now, but the Australian Bureau of Statistics reports that in the next 10 years the demand for electronic technicians will increase by 42 per cent. That means that for every 10 electronic technicians now working, four more will be needed.

 

In this example, Galvin, et al (1992) states that the writer used the availability of jobs as a central selling point. If you have successfully stimulated the reader’s interest, that interest may now be changing to a desire for the product.

 

 

3. Desire

 

The desire section should make the reader feel a need for the product. The writer should move the reader from the ‘like to have that’ category to the ‘really want that’ position. Emotional appeals will apply to the feelings of the receiver; while logical appeals will apply to the receiver’s thinking abilities. By relying on an appropriate appeal, the writer helps readers justify the desire for the product.

 

4. Action

 

The action close should indicate the specific action the reader should take. If you want the reader to complete the enclosed form and mail it in, say so as specifically as possible. Nutting and White (1991) suggest using the last two or three sentences in the letter to help readers see exactly what you are asking of them. The best endings use direct, active language, and the theme should be one of action or activity.

 

Styles will vary according to how strongly you wish to stress the desired outcome. You may:

 

Make a direct request for reader action;

 

List a series of actions needed - list all steps, explaining how they are to be carried out and in what order;

 

Suggest special advantages for the reader if and when the action takes place;

 

State a condition, related to the action- propose a bargain, using the ‘If you do X, we will do Y’;

 

Describe action you will take if reader agrees;

 

Summarise action already detailed, and

 

Propose action sometime in the future.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sales Letter Guide

 

Begin with a brief statement with a question likely to attract Attention.

 

Be sure that the opening statement is clearly related to the product being offered.

 

Gain the reader’s Interest by emphasising a central selling point likely to appeal to the reader.

 

In the Desire section you should try to develop a need within the reader by providing additional evidence of the value of the product. Also remind the reader of the central selling point.

 

Minimise resistance to the price by de-emphasising it. Mention some of the strong points of the product while referring to price.

 

Indicate briefly and specifically what the reader should do, and restate the reasons the reader should take the desired Action.

 

 

Figure 6.3.3 Sales letter guide

 

 

 

Collection letters

 

An effective collection letter will collect an overdue payment and still maintain the customer’s goodwill. This is one of the most difficult letters to write. Building up a business through advertising and public relations is costly and all that hard work should not be jeopardised through offensive letters of demand.

 

The underlying reason for collection problems is that companies do extend credit. If a business offers no credit it has no collection problems, although, this inevitably leads to a decline in profits and sales. Some collection problems are due to a misunderstanding of the terms of the credit agreement. Although, by taking greater care in explaining the operation of a charge account, companies can prevent some future collection problems.

Dwyer (1993) suggests the types of appeals suited to collection letters are appeals to fair play, co-operation, reputation, pride and self-interest. Each of these demonstrates that the desired action is reasonable and in the best interests of the reader. Positive appeals focus on co-operation, fair play and pride, whereas negative appeals focus on self-interest, for example, losing a credit rating. The positive appeal is the one that is most likely to get the desired response and lead to effective relationships between the organisation and the reader.

 

 

 

 

Give consideration to the:

 

Client’s previous payment record

Current financial position you are in and whether you have cash flow problems

Length of association you have had with the client, being more patient with long-term associates, and

The extent and age of the debt.

 

A number of letters may be written to collect money from those who are slow to pay. Some organisations break the collection process into four stages:

 

Reminder stage

Strong reminder stage

Enquiry stage

Urgency stage.

 

 

Sometimes, if the client has been an old-established and regular paying customer, the client may receive a letter which reads this way:

 

Dear Mr Johnson

 

It has come to our attention that your account has been outstanding for ... months.

 

As you have been a valued customer over ... years, perhaps your omission to pay is due to some oversight.

 

However, it is possible that you may be experiencing some financial difficulties, in which case we may be able to assist you.

 

Because our firm values your custom and the good relationships it has enjoyed with you over the years, please ring me on extension 246 and we can make arrangements to discuss the matter further with you.

 

Yours sincerely,

 

 

 

First notice

 

Perhaps you have overlooked this month’s account. The amount is $97. If you have paid it, please ignore this notice.

 

J Scott & Sons

 

 

Second notice

 

TO REMIND YOU YOUR INSTALMENT IS OVERDUE

 

We have lapses of memory. We would appreciate your adjusting your account for $97 by the next closing date.

 

J Scott & Sons

 

 

 

Third notice

 

Maybe you are having some financial problems. We would appreciate some discussion with you about your outstanding account enclosed. If we do not hear from you, please finalise the account by ...

 

J Scott & Sons

 

 

 

Final notice

 

FINAL NOTICE

As no attempt has been made to finalise your account, the matter will be handed to our solicitors on ...They will commence proceedings for the debt.

 

J Scott & Sons

 

 

After final notice

 

LEGAL ACTION ADVICE NOTICE

We are requested to collect your debt for $97. To avoid court and collection costs the full amount is required by the plaintiff by return. If no action is taken by you, it will be assumed you have no intention to pay.

 

Randolph Grey

 

Or, on a less familiar note:

 

I have noticed your account is now three months overdue.

If you are experiencing some financial difficulties, would you please ring me on extension 246 and arrangements can be made to discuss the matter further with you.

 

Yours sincerely

 

If no reply is received, the ‘After Final Notice’ is sent.

 

 

 

 

Activity 6.3

 

Write a letter suitable for distribution in suburban letterboxes. You are the proprietor of Speedy Cycle Centre and you are now marketing a new lightweight bicycle which is ideal for city riding. Point out the advantages to be gained in bicycling for either business or pleasure, and stress the qualities of the machine. Recent tests made by cycle experts have shown the model to be maneuverable and speedy, but steady. It is economical and spares are readily available.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

6.4 MEMORANDA

 

 

The Memorandum (Memo)

 

A memorandum is a written message for use within an organisation. In some organisations memos are handwritten or typed and circulated by an internal mail system. In others they are keyed into a computer and distributed electronically. Either way, memos have a vital role in a business’ internal communication system. They can help to keep the various parts of organisations in touch with each other. The memo is the most widely used form of written communication within organisations.

 

Every organisation has to try to find an appropriate balance between written and oral communications. If too little is written down an organisation can lose its sense of identity and purpose. On the other hand, putting too much in writing is equally counterproductive.

 

Effective written communication is vital for both your organisation and you. Without accurate and well written communication there is no way that management can accomplish the coordination necessary for smooth operation.

 

By providing this written information you can establish a reputation for efficiency and effectiveness with people in upper management. In this way well written memoranda and reports may very well build your reputation and pave the way to promotion.

 

Memoranda have advantages over spoken messages when:

 

A record is required - filed either manually or electronically. If things go wrong, you will be able to prove it was not your fault.

 

Complex information is to be transmitted - when a spoken message contains a lot of highly specific detail or is in some other way complex, it can be easily misunderstood or misremembered or partially forgotten.

 

Many workers are to be reached simultaneously - if you must transmit the same information to a number of co-workers, contacting each one individually is time consuming. A memo can reach a large number of individuals easily.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Preparation of memoranda format

 

The memorandum format as already stated is intended to ensure consistency in internal communication. In order to guarantee consistency most organisations provide employees with pre-printed forms that contain a basic memo format which reads as follows:

 

 

 

TO:

FROM:

DATE:

SUBJECT:

 

Note: This appears normally at top left side of page.

 

 

By providing such formats, a company can ensure that certain types of information will always appear in the same places on all memos. It is easier to find and read a particular memo in a file if all the memos are uniform in the placement of this information.

 

Memos vary considerably in length. Some are brief, perhaps no more than a few sentences, while others may be three or four pages long. Because the memo is seen as less formal than the letter and is designated for internal use only, some writers do not take much care when preparing memos. Memos often generate further communication and this is easier if point form has been used.

 

Memos are used for many routine purposes:

 

requesting information - memos requesting information are a part of an organisation’s life. The reader may be able to write a paragraph in reply on the original memorandum and return it to the sender immediately.

 

Organise memos so they can:

 

State the key idea - the purpose

Present the details

Tell the reader what you would like done and provide additional specific information such as deadlines, future contacts and benefits.

 

giving instructions - try to cover the subject so that the reader will not have any unanswered questions.

 

 

 

 

 

 

serving as ‘cover’ for all messages (called memos of transmittal) - used to introduce the reader to a longer, accompanying message. Serves to introduce something. A memo of transmittal is often used to remind the receiver of any agreed changes to the original brief and sometimes it can forewarn the receiver of unexpected matters. It often arranges for further communication.

 

making announcements - personal transfers, meetings or policy changes. They are often posted prominently on company bulletin boards.

 

 

 

Example 6.4.1

Instruction memo

Source: Dwyer, 1993, p. 321.

 

 

 

MEMORANDUM

 

To: All Staff

From: Elaine Thomas

Administrative Officer

Date: 12 May 1993

Subject: Operating instructions for New Copying Machines

 

 

A new photocopier has been installed in the general office.

All staff are welcome to use it.

 

To ensure the copier’s survival, it is important to

keep the following procedures in mind:

 

Use the machine for no longer than 30 minutes at a time.

After use, allow the machine to cool for at least five minutes.

Make sure the switch is turned off after use.

 

Please speak to me if you have any questions about the machine.

 

 

 

Activity 6.4.1

 

REVIEW Questions

 

a. What is a memorandum?

b. What are the advantages of the memo?

c. Give two examples of routine memos.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Memorandum Guide

Use your organisation’s memo format correctly.

 

State your purpose clearly. A memo should not leave the reader wondering why it was written. Present only relevant information. Unless information is related to the purpose of the memo, it should not be included.

 

Organise your thoughts. Work from the most important to the least important idea. Present them in point form so that readers can easily follow the message.

 

If the memo is longer than a page, divide it into sections to aid the reader in retaining the main points.

 

Tell readers exactly what you want them to do next. If this is in your last point they may well do it before they put your memo down.

 

 

Figure 6.4.1 Memorandum guide

 

 

Activity 6.4.2

 

To compose various memoranda.

 

Instructions

 

Compose memoranda on all of the following topics.

 

A. You have worked a considerable amount of overtime at Bourdon, Swanson & Associates without extra pay or using flexi-time. Christmas is coming and you would like to take several days off consecutively in lieu of pay.

 

B. You would like to know the dates of your annual vacation, as you are planning an overseas trip.

 

C. You have spent some of your own money on stationery requisites and morning tea foodstuffs for several visitors to the office. The amount is about $30 altogether, and you would like to be repaid as you are planning to go away for Christmas.

 

NEXT CHAPTERS 7 AND 8