This is the study material for Certificate IV in Business Management. And is to be read with the study guide.
1. THE NATURE OF COMMUNICATION
The communication process is often very complex, with success depending on such factors as the nature of the message, the audience’s interpretation of it, and the environment in which it is received. The receiver’s perception of the source and the medium used to transmit the message may also affect the ability to communicate, as do many other factors. Words, pictures, sounds, and colours may have different meanings to different audiences, and people’s perceptions and interpretations of them will vary.
Communication has been variously defined as ‘the passing of information’, ‘the exchange of ideas’, or the process of establishing a commonness or oneness of thoughts between a sender and a receiver (Belch and Belch, 1995, p. 154). These definitions suggest that for communication to occur, there must be some common thinking between two parties and information must be passed from one person to another.
As humans, we communicate through a pattern of speech-listening (oral communication), writing-reading (written communications), nonverbal signals and body language, signs, graphics and pictorials. Communication is channelled through written documents, telecommunications networks via satellite stations, submarine cables, optical fibres and microwave signals, or publishing and broadcasting media.
Communication is used to give and receive instructions, to share information and to report facts and activities. Information is communicated through written documents and spoken exchanges, and a combination of both.
The three main forms which communication takes in business situations are:
The communication process
The communication process takes place in various situations for different reasons with the potential for many interpretations. Over the years, a basic model of communications has evolved of the various elements of the communications process, as shown in Figure 1.1. Two elements represent the major participants in the communications process, the sender and the receiver. Another two are the major communications tools, message and channel.
Four others are the major communication functions and process: encoding, decoding, response, and feedback. The last element, noise, refers to any extraneous factors in the system that can interfere with the process and work against effective communication. Other models also include the context or setting as a variable in the process.
Figure 1.1 A model of the communication process
Source: Belch and Belch, 1995, p. 154.
The seven main elements in the communication process are:
Sender/encoder – the sender or source, of a communication message is the person or organisation who has information to share with another person or group of people. Unique to each individual and integral to all the communication they engage in is a back ground of accumulated attitudes, experiences, skills, cultural conditioning and individual differences that influence how that individual communicates.
The process begins when the source encodes an idea or feeling and then selects the appropriate words, symbols, pictures, and the like to represent the message that will be delivered to the receiver(s).
Message – the message is the ideas or feeling transmitted from the sender to the receiver to achieve understanding. It makes a connection between the sender and the receiver.
Channel – a communication channel is the means or technique used to send a message, for example, a conversation, letter, telephone call, radio or television program. Choose a channel that suits your communication purpose, your needs as the sender and the needs of the receiver.
Receiver/decoder – the receiver is the person or persons with whom the sender shares thoughts or information. Decoding is the process of transforming the sender’s message back into thought. Once again, Belch and Belch (1995) state that this process is heavily influenced by the receiver’s frame of reference or field of experience, which refers to the experiences, perceptions, attitudes, and values he or she brings to the communications situation. For effective communication to occur, the message decoding process of the receiver must match the encoding of the sender. Simply put, this means the receiver understands and correctly interprets what the source is trying to communicate.
Context or setting – context is the situation or setting within which communication takes place or the circumstances that surround a particular piece of communication. The same message can have a completely different meaning depending on the situation since emotions and reactions to ideas and events vary in different situations. For example, communication at a conference, in the lunchroom, at a formal meeting or in the office takes place in different settings. It may use different language, relationships and authority to achieve the different communication purpose in each situation. When people communicate over a pleasant lunch, they are more likely to talk openly and arrive at an understanding than they would in the work environment with the interruptions of the telephone and other people.
Feedback/response – the receiver’s set of reactions after seeing, hearing, or reading the message is known as a response. Feedback is important because it is that part of the receiver’s response that is communicated back to the sender. Feedback, which may take a variety of forms, closes the loop in the communications flow and lets the sender monitor how the intended message is being decoded and received. Check with the receiver to establish that your understanding of their feedback is correct. On occasion you may be wrong. Ask the receiver to rephrase the feedback to check their understanding and to check your own interpretation.
Noise sources – these are extraneous factors that create unplanned distortion or interference in the communication process and can lead to misunderstanding. Send a message by electronic mail to a person who is afraid of technology and unable to access the computer screen and the likely result is that communication barriers appear through poor choice of channel. Write a memo or business letter to this person and the message is easily understood and accepted.
The scope for such distortion is wide, such as:
Barriers to Communication
When the message is distorted in some way and poor interpretation of the meaning occurs, direction is lost. In the workplace maintaining effective communication is essential in achieving improvements in quality, productivity, client service and staff morale. Although at times, the structure of an organisation can cause barriers to communication with the poor flow of information within the hierarchy.
Some of the factors that cause communication barriers are:
MYTHS AND REALITIES ABOUT THE
NATURE OF COMMUNICATION
In the boxes provided place the correct response with a
(M) or (R).
MYTH = M
REALITY = R
r We communicate primarily with words.
r Nonverbal communication is the silent language.
r Communication is a one-way activity.
r Communication is a two-way activity.
r You can never give someone too much information.
2. ORGANISATIONAL COMMUNICATION
Communication takes place within a company for a number of direct and indirect reasons. Primarily, it is necessary for passing information between people working in the same company and between the company and other organisations. However, communication - written, oral or even nonverbal - is also used by management to direct and motivate employees and to evaluate their performance. Information flow is crucial to any organisation and the better the communication flow, the more successful the company or organisation.
Communication can be used by an organisation’s management as a means of control to get employees to conform to company objectives, directives or work procedures. For this purpose, management may use employee assessment schemes, manuals of work procedure or company plans that set targets for each section. The difficulty is for management to find a balance between control, motivation and efficiency.
An organisation’s management, including supervisors of small groups, can use communication as a tool to motivate employees. When an organisation is willing to acknowledge and provide feedback on the achievements of individuals and groups, job satisfaction and performance are improved. This can involve verbal praise, letters or memorandums that keep people in the organisation feeling that they are an important part of it and that what they are doing is appreciated.
Balancing needs and goals
Communication within the organisation has another important role. The interests and expectations of the organisation and the goals and needs of people working in the organisation need to be balanced. To achieve this balance, both the employer and employee need to understand one another. Good communication is, therefore, essential. When an organisation and its members seek to improve communication skills, the organisation’s capacity to achieve its goals is improved. It becomes a better organisation, more able to respond to change and meet challenges.
The possible differences between the needs of the organisation and the individual are shown in Figure 2.1.
Figure 2.1 Differences in organisational and individual goals
Source: Dwyer, 1993, p.97.
Structures in organisations
Business organisations consist of people who work together to achieve common goals. At least that is the theory, but in practice, the organisation may be affected by the failure of everyone in it to agree with or work towards the common objectives. Organisations are the systems by which individuals co-operate so there can be the specialisation of functions and skills to provide goods or services to customers (Dwyer, 1993, p. 497).
The organisation’s framework is developed by the specialisation of functions and the different levels of communication within the hierarchy. An organisation’s structure should suit its purpose and assist in achieving its goals.
While all organisations have a formal and an informal structure, the formal structure is deliberately developed to provide official links between people in the organisation. The better the communication, the stronger and more effective the links.
The formal structure of an organisation can be characterised by three important features:
The level of these three features and the interactions that occur determine the nature of the organisation.
The greater the number of job functions and titles in an organisation, the higher the level of complexity. The more levels within the organisation, the more complex it becomes because there are more levels between the least powerful members of staff and senior management. The two extreme structures are those that are tall and those that are flat. An organisation with a tall structure is one with many different levels of management as illustrated in Figure 2.2.
Tall Structure - large public sector corporations, and large companies. This structure has been established largely because this is how managers think they can retain control over the whole organisation. It also indicates that the organisation is trying to meet the demand of a very large market or public service and that managers believe there are financial and personnel advantages in centralised control.
Figure 2.2 An organisation
with a tall structure
Flat Structure - very few levels of management so that there may be only one or two decision makers to pass through in order to reach the Managing Director. The effectiveness of communication will depend on how well managed the organisation is and on the extent of horizontal links.
Figure 2.3 An organisation with a flat structure and horizontal links.
Formalisation refers to the standardisation of the job and the granted levels of employee independence and discretion in the job that enables a high degree of control over work. High formalisation means little control or independence, therefore, little power. Conversely, low formalisation in a job means that employees have a high degree of independence and discretion in the job.
The effectiveness of communication in an organisation will also depend on how centralised the decision making is and where the decisions are made. Usually ones with tall structures, are highly centralised and where many junior decision makers have to use memorandums, short reports or submissions to ask for a decision. Flat structures are decentralised and decisions are made at lower levels in the organisation.
Formal communication channels
There are four directions in which communication can flow in an organisation:
The informal organisational structure
People tend to do the jobs they prefer and to help the co-workers they like. Some people within the group will accept help but will not reciprocate, whereas others will not offer or receive help and prefer to work alone. In any organisation, people establish links or networks of communication with a group or between groups that are not formally recognised and these operate separately from the official lines of communication.
The five advantages of the informal organisational structure are:
Often the informal links or networks of communication within an organisation are not so clearly defined. The four main disadvantages are:
There is no doubt skill in communicating can be increased through training and practice. Dwyer, (1993) states that organisations operating in a stable, highly structured environment make greater use of organisation charts, rules, policies and job descriptions. Such organisations are labelled ‘mechanistic’.
Whereas, organisations operating in a dynamic, highly flexible environment may have no organisation charts and few job descriptions or standing plans. These flexible organisations are labelled ‘organic’. They are able to adapt quickly to meet the demands of the changing business and workplace environment.
When the formal and informal networks combine, communication improves. Managers and employees do not always have the ability to communicate effectively, or the necessary organisational and interpersonal skills to do so. Promoting effective communication within an organisation requires employees who are willing and able to:
To communicate openly, share your intentions, feelings and needs relevant to your work. Provide feedback that is descriptive and specific. Listen actively, directly confront differences and circulate information (Dwyer, 1993, p. 512).
Assume that you are the sales manager of a company that manufactures and sells office furniture. Describe how you would need to vary your sales strategies depending on whether you are dealing with potential customers with ‘tall’ or ‘flat’ organisational structures.
Choose any working environment you have experienced as a full or part-time worker. Discuss the following aspects of that organisational environment.
The relative importance of formal versus informal communication.
The significance of the grapevine.
The channels used by your superiors to communicate with you.
The channels open to you to communicate with your superiors in the
3. INTERPERSONAL SKILLS
Interpersonal communication takes place whenever two or more people interact on a one-to-one basis or in small groups. When the consequences of your behaviour match your intentions, your interpersonal communication is effective. Others perceive your message as you intend it to be received. Successful interaction with others requires confidence and the skill to assert yourself. When confidence and skill are present, effective interpersonal relationships can develop that can satisfy different emotional needs, for example, recognition, esteem or a sense of belonging.
Dwyer, (1993) states that at work, those who seem very successful in interpersonal communication appear to relate easily and positively to those around them with good listening, speaking and nonverbal communication skills. They also have the ability to use assertion without alienating others. Overall, their perception of messages is accurate and their approach to people is motivated and confident.
In an effort to become a better communicator and to develop better interpersonal skills, models for evaluating success has much to offer and will give criteria against which to measure your own interpersonal effectiveness.
THE HUMANISTIC MODEL
The Humanistic Model suggests that people who operate effectively in interpersonal relationships show five general qualities:
The inclination of a person to respond frankly and spontaneously to people and situations, and the ability to acknowledge personal feelings and thoughts as their own. Each person’s feelings some from the interaction between their attitudes, thoughts, prejudices and the real situation that is taking place. To demonstrate openness, you show others your genuine feelings and reactions to a situation.
The ability to understand and feel as the other person feels. As you develop skill in understanding another person’s experience, opinions and values, you will be able to comprehend their motivations and attitudes and recognise that past experiences may affect the present situation.
The ability to supply descriptive and spontaneous feedback to another person in a provisional or tentative manner. This feedback indicates that ‘For the time being I think I understand. Would you like to tell me more?’ As you describe rather than evaluate another person’s behaviour, that person receives feedback that can increase knowledge of the self.
Spontaneous reactions to the other person or situation, open-mindedness to the situation and the ability to describe the situation rather than pass judgement all help to develop a supportive atmosphere that lets them self-disclose and interact openly.
This is the ability to communicate in a confident way whilst also acknowledging the other person. As you demonstrate a positive attitude to yourself, others reflect this positive self-regard, particularly when it is also accompanied by a positive attitude toward the person to whom you are communicating. Each person needs to be acknowledged by others.
Equality refers to an interaction that recognises each person in the interaction as worthwhile and with something to contribute. In an interaction based on equality, each person sends and receives information in the communication process and gives acceptance and approval to the other person.
Occasionally, in an open atmosphere, people will express disagreement or challenge negative behaviour. Rather than doing this to win an argument or point, the disagreement is because of concern about the behaviour and its effect on the relationship.
This model emphasises the importance of openness, empathy, supportiveness, positiveness and equality as characteristics contributing to interpersonal effectiveness. A person with these qualities is able to develop and maintain satisfying interpersonal relationships (Dwyer, 1993, p.67).
THE PRAGMATIC MODEL
This model emphasises the specific interpersonal skills that lead to satisfying interpersonal relationships. Five are presented in this model. They are:
The ability to feel comfortable with the other person and the situation. Nonverbal communication conveys a great deal about ease or anxiety in a situation. Tone of voice, posture, use of space and dress all send the receiver a message about the sender’s level of confidence.
Refers to the sense of contact the other person receives from the person communicating. It refers to what is happening ‘here and now’. As you talk, use the other person’s name and respond with appropriate feedback and demonstrate liking, interest and attention to the other person. Nonverbal expressions, such as eye contact and an attentive and open posture, further complement this verbal communication.
3. Interaction management
The balance between the sender and listener as each acts on the other. In an effective interaction, each person is able to contribute to the communication flow in a meaningful and satisfying way. Both parties are satisfied. Successful interaction management is helped by self-monitoring which identifies those parts of your communication that are appropriate or inappropriate. It is worth considering, for example, how much you wish to self-disclose in different situations.
Refers to involvement, both as a sender and receiver in the interpersonal interaction. Important aspects of expressiveness reflect your genuineness, openness to others and willingness to give appropriate and informative feedback in the interaction. You should communicate this involvement with vocal qualities such as voice tone, rate of speech, choice of words, facial expressions and body movement.
Is the ability to attend to and focus on the other person in an interpersonal interaction. This means seeing the situation from the other person’s point of view and expressing empathy with verbal acknowledgement of the other person’s feelings. For example, ‘I can understand why you are disappointed’ or show interest with 'Really' or 'When did that happen?'
Nonverbal focusing with direct eye contact, leaning forward, nods and other gestures all show attention and interest in the other person. The most important skills in interpersonal communication are speaking , questioning, listening, the use of nonverbal communication and the ability to use feedback (Dwyer, 1993, p.68).
Techniques for effective communication
Effective communication leads to increased understanding and more satisfying relationships. It is based on a willingness to communicate, an empathy with the other person and the ability to use and adjust your communication to the other person’s situation in a way that also recognises your needs and rights.
As you communicate, choices are made between a range of relationship skills. Each of us is personally responsible for the choices we make. The more knowledge we develop in relationship skills, the greater our capacity to relate to others.
Adopt the following strategies in your everyday life and evaluate your performance in one month. Have your interpersonal skills improved? If not, what areas do you need to concentrate on? Think about it, they do work!
The following six interpersonal strategies will enable you to display openness, empathy, supportiveness, positiveness and equality:
An assertive person can stand up for their rights. Assertion comes from high self-esteem and an acceptance of yourself. An assertive person realises the type of behaviour suited to a particular situation and recognises their own behaviour is assertive, aggressive or non-assertive.
Skills in assertion
Paraphrasing, or giving an understanding and reflecting response, is suited to three interpersonal situations:
Paraphrasing the other person’s message gives an understanding response that shows your desire to understand rather than evaluate them. Thus, it is important to communicate a desire to understand rather than evaluate and restate in your own words to paraphrase more effectively.
Feedback lets the sender understand how the message is being received and helps the receiver confirm whether their perception of the message is correct or incorrect. Effective feedback creates trust and openness, and in an organisation, appropriate, constructive feedback creates an open and encouraging organisational climate.
Feedback lets the sender understand how the message is being received and helps the receiver confirm whether their perception of the message is correct or incorrect. In the communication process, feedback can be the:
By practicing and using feedback skills well, you come closer to understanding the verbal, nonverbal and undercurrent messages sent by others. Indicate through spoken communication that you are receptive and willing to listen to the other person. Check your understanding of the other person’s message with a mirror question, for example, ‘So what you’re saying is …’ before you give your response.
Different types of feedback used within organisations and businesses are:
positive feedback from superiors
positive feedback from co-workers, and
Dwyer, (1993) states that negative feedback is not necessarily detrimental to the receiver; the result depends on how the feedback is provided. Positive feedback from superiors and peers encourages the repetition of that behaviour and acknowledges the role and contribution the individual makes to the organisation. People also self-evaluate their own work and interactions with other people. Self-evaluation lets the person compare the results or behaviour with their perception of the results.
Feedforward is information sent before the main message. An appropriate constructive feedforward lets you say something about the message yet to be sent. Dwyer, (1993, p.78) states that feedforward has four functions in the communication process:
Networking is the exchange of ideas and information with other people and is important as it builds your contacts and develops your interpersonal skills. Your network contains satisfying personal relationships, casual acquaintances and your co-workers in the workplace environment.
As you develop your network, your contacts and confidence increase and the positive and open contact you receive from others provides you with support and a sense of belonging. The willingness to contact and interact with others as an equal demonstrates this confidence.
Self-disclosure occurs when a person is willing to be open with another person and can lead to increased self-awareness and self-understanding. The Johari Window illustrates four different aspects of self by showing the areas known and unknown to yourself, and known and unknown to others. As we disclose more about ourselves and receive feedback from others, the blind area and hidden area in the Johari Window become smaller, while the known or public area becomes larger.
Self-disclosure does not mean you have to reveal intimate details about your past. It means letting the other person know your feelings and reactions to the current situation. Ideas and feelings are shared. As you self-disclose, you also provide feedback to others on how their behaviour is affecting you.
A factor which has a significant effect on interpersonal behaviour is self-concept: the mental image or idea that each person has of themselves that stems from past experience and interactions with others. It is how we see ourselves which will influence the way we relate to others, our capacity or readiness for self-disclosure and our ability to give and receive feedback in interpersonal relationships.
The Johari Window concept
Dwyer, (1993) suggests an approach to understanding our self-concept is offered in the Johari Window, named after the theory’s originators, Joseph Luft and Harry Ingram. This theory explains the parts that make up each person’s self-concept in two broad divisions. These are:
the areas of yourself unknown to you.
The Johari Window is used to divide these two broad divisions further into four main areas:
The Public area covers those things known about yourself and known to others. Free and open communication takes place in this area. Self-image or self-concept is created from the information in the public area and hidden area, the two areas known to you.
The Hidden area covers the things you are aware of but hide from others. This enables a front or cover for hurts, disappointments, weaknesses or other things to be built as a protection or barrier rather than to self-disclose to others. Although self-disclosure leads to an increase in what others know about you, it also can reduce the size of the hidden area.
The Blind area covers those things unknown to yourself but known to others. You are unaware of some of your reactions or feelings, whereas others perceive and know how you react. This window suggests that each person has a blind area, that is, no knowledge of some characteristics, even though others may perceive and identify these from the public area.
The Unknown area covers those other aspects of yourself about which you and others are unaware. Self-disclosure leads to an increase in what others know about you and reduces the size of the hidden area.
Figure 3.1 The Johari Window
(Dwyer, 1993, p.84)
The challenge is to extend and develop your interpersonal skills further.
The rewards are the opportunity to communicate, to set goals and plan in a way that meets and extends your own abilities while maintaining a balance in your interpersonal relationships with family, friends and co-workers.
By listening well, you are able to avoid directing and leading, blaming, judging or evaluating the other person. Skill in listening lets you enjoy the company of others or to interact in a group environment.
A variety of listening skills can be learnt and developed with practice. Listening is so important that it is worth a section based on its own merits and an undertaking of practicing the different skills in each type of listening.
There are four main types of listening:
1. Attending listening
A method of attending listening, is when you focus on the speaker by giving your physical attention to the other person. You use your whole body and the environment you create to provide feedback that assures the speaker of your total attention.
This is achieved by the following considerations:
Environment - create an environment without distraction or interruptions, e.g. ensuring there are no telephone calls during the conversation.
Eye contact – show attention to the speaker and be supportive.
Orientation – use your posture to attend to the other person, such as, lean slightly forward toward the speaker in a relaxed way.
Personal space – position yourself at a comfortable distance from the speaker. This can vary from elbow length to arm’s length.
An open position - maintain an open position with arms and legs uncrossed. At times, if you copy the body language of the other person inconspicuously, they will feel as if you are similar to their self and therefore feel more comfortable in your company.
Body movement – also reflects interest or lack of interest. People who tend to move about a lot indicate boredom and distraction.
Interest – show an interest in the speaker.
2. Encouraging listening
Encouraging listening indicates that the listener is willing to listen and invites the speaker to disclose their thoughts and feelings. This form of listening encourages the speaker to further discuss the point.
Use the following strategies to provide the feedback that will encourage the speaker to continue.
3. Reflecting listening
Reflecting listening restates or mirrors to the speaker both the feeling and the content in the message. This indicates that you accept the speaker and understand the message. There are several techniques you can use to provide feedback in reflective listening. These are:
4. Actively listening
Active listening is a way for the listener to relate back to the speaker exactly the total message received, that is, both the content and the feeling. Active listening focuses attention and provides feedback to match the perceived message and the intended message, and is suited to problem solving and counselling. However, only use it if you genuinely want to listen.
Actively participating in the conversation with the other person is a conscious attempt to empathise with the other person in terms of the content and feelings and to let the other person express and recognise those feelings. For example, a response, ‘You seem to be feeling down about this …’ lets the other person either agree or disagree to the reflecting response.
Listening is not a passive activity; it is an active, participative, creative process that demands intelligence and sensitivity. It is listening with openness, hearing what the other wants to say before passing judgement on their statement. It is a skill that requires concentration and practice.
Efficient listening will result in improved learning and remembering, better interpretation of instructions and feedback on job performance, which in turn will enhance your career success. It will also enrich your personal relationships through a better awareness of what is going on both career-wise and socially.
Bendeich (1997) suggests that several basic skills can be applied to listening which will develop your competence and make your listening more effective. They are:
å Why you need to listen;
å The purpose of what is being said;
å What the act of listening will do for you; and
å What the speaker is saying that you can use.
5. WRITING EFFECTIVELY
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:
Many factors affect readability, such as:
To help make your writing clear, use words that are familiar to your reader. Some examples are shown in Figure 5.1.
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.
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:
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:
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
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:
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:
Coherent- coherent sentences and paragraphs are understandable because they ‘stick together’. Four devices for improving paragraph coherence are:
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.
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.
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:
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.
Figure 5.3 Active and passive voice.
Source: Dwyer, 1993, p.205.
Compare these messages:
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.
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.
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 …
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.
Figure 5.4 Discriminatory language
Source: Dwyer, 1993, 9. 206.
3. Mechanically soundwritten material is free of:
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.
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
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.
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:
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:
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.
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.
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
Figure 6.1.2 Order letter guide
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
ROUTINE CLAIM GUIDE
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:
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
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.
REQUEST RESPONSE GUIDE
Figure 6.1.5 Request response guide
Write appropriate letters to:
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.
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:
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
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.
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).
Credit Refusal Guide
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.
6.2.1. Write a letter of refusal to:
6.2.2 To correct and rewrite a claim letter.
Rewrite the following claim letter to Specific Electronics Australia.
Use your own address.
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 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.
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.
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.
It is important to become completely familiar with a product, idea or service before trying to write a sales letter. You must know:
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:
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:
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:
Figure 6.3.1 Writing strategy for a sales letter.
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:
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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:
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
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:
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:
Sometimes, if the client has been an old-established and regular paying customer, the client may receive a letter which reads this way:
Perhaps you have overlooked this month’s account. The amount is $97. If you have paid it, please ignore this notice.
J Scott & Sons
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
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
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.
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.
If no reply is received, the ‘After Final Notice’ is sent.
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.
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:
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:
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:
Source: Dwyer, 1993, p. 321.
To: All Staff
From: Elaine Thomas
Date: 12 May 1993
Subject: Operating instructions for New Copying Machines
a. What is a memorandum?
b. What are the advantages of the memo?
c. Give two examples of routine memos.
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
To compose various memoranda.
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.
7. PREPARING A WRITTEN APPLICATION FOR AN EMPLOYMENT INTERVIEW
The written application is the only source of information a potential employer has to decide if you should be invited to an interview. Applicants are short-listed and called for an interview because of the quality of their written application. Therefore, it is important to make it interesting, informative and persuasive. A job application has two parts:
The covering letter is the letter of transmittal for your resume. It aims to introduce your qualifications for the job to the employer and to persuade the employer to invite you to an interview.
A resume is the summary of your personal data including education, skills, qualifications, work experience, references, hobbies and interests. It is also referred to as a Curriculum Vitae or CV.
A ‘report’ as an attachment to a letter
Nutting and White (1991) state that it is a mistake to include more than one or two paragraphs of detailed information in the body of a business letter, yet often when you write a letter there is much more information you need to share with the reader. The best example of this is a ‘report’ about yourself, (your personal resume). A resume should never be included with a letter.
Other types of information that should be presented in similar attachments include facts and figures on a firm’s financial position, a statement presenting a series of problems, or complex technical data. Each is in effect a report in that it contains collected and collated information arranged according to type, so it makes sense to present it in a way that will make it clear and easy to follow.
Whether you are looking for a first job, a promotion or a change in career, the marketing approach is a sound basis for getting a job and the preparation for an effective resume. As with any marketing, you need to consider several things, such as:
Letters of Application
If your letter of application is well written and mentions abilities that the employer is looking for, he or she will then turn to your personal details (resume), which should be attached but separate from the letter. If the details in the resume confirm the positive first impression, your application will go into a pile of ten to twelve (the ‘short list’) from which people to be interviewed will be selected. It is also advisable to use the AIDA formula mentioned in Module 5 when compiling your letters, as this type is best suited for writing persuasive messages.
There are two types of letters that are written in applying for jobs:
Whether your letter is handwritten or is prepared on a wordprocessor, certain writing techniques should be observed:
Remember what the employer is looking for: quality, originality, personality, and skills. Finally, ensure you proof-read your letter correctly and check that you have used correct grammar and spelling. Always ask someone else to check the letter for you.
This letter will be more effective if it is addressed specifically to a Personnel Officer or Human Resource Manager and will have more impact if addressed to them personally. Obtain their name through a telephone call to the company.
Make the letter effective by:
The letter could be hand delivered and presented personally, giving the company representative a chance to see you in person and make an instant appraisal of you. If the letter is posted, follow up in a couple of days with a telephone call to ensure that the letter has been received and to reinforce your presence on the company.
Phone: 047 126108
264 Coral Point Road
Landsdown NSW 2276
Mrs P Davidson
Human Resources Manager
Jade’s Clothing Company
New England Highway
Rutherford NSW 2320
Dear Mrs Lawrence
I am currently undertaking a graphic arts course at the Hunter Institute of Technology and am excelling in the area of graphic design.
I understand that your company now has its own document design department. I would be extremely interested in working for your company if a position becomes available.
I pride myself on my innovativeness and initiative and set very high standards of excellence in any work I undertake. I have established definite short and long term career goals and my determinedness to achieve them should be an asset to any company which employs me.
I am attaching a resume which briefly profiles me and my career so far. I have my own transport and am available for an interview at any time. I will telephone you in a few days to discuss whether there is any likelihood of employment with your company.
Ms Rebecca Ryan
PLANNING your application letter
Have a clear purpose – explain why your name should be on the interview list rather than why you ought to be given a job.
Create interest in your application
Make your letter stand out from the crowd
Explain why you want the job
The OPENING PARAGRAPH
First impressions are important so try to write an opening that sounds different from competitors with their familiar openings: ‘I am writing to apply for’, ‘I wish to apply for’, ‘In reply to your advertisement for’.
Identify a common interest by talking about yourself and the reader together. Express a mutual interest or describe a common goal that unites you.
Give one good reason why… If you like the type of work, explain that this particular position has a special appeal for you.
Identify the actual advertisement – name the source and give the date it appeared.
The BODY OF THE APPLICATION LETTER
Summarise your skills, experience and abilities. It is better to be brief than to say too much; up to three-quarters of a page.
Explain what you can do rather than who you are – illustrate your understanding of the advertisements needs and show how you could be the very person to meet them.
Summarise studies, training and qualifications. Employers are attracted by the winner image. If you are a high achiever, if you enjoy hard work or like taking responsibility, say so.
Mention referees – name people who can be contacted, and who are prepared to verify what you say.
Avoid oversell – be careful! It is easy to sound ‘pushy’ or overconfident if you say ‘I am sure that after reading my letter you will agree that I am the right person’.
CLOSE ON A POSITIVE NOTE
Close on a positive note that confirms your confidence in yourself.
You could do this by:
Asking straight out when interviews will be held e.g. ‘Please would you contact me and advise when you will be conducting interviews? My phone number is 9223 0985.
Saying how you can be contacted if you prefer a less direct close e.g. ‘If you require further details, please contact me either at 23 Birrell Street, Bondi Junction or by telephone on 9324 5007. Could you also let me know when you will be holding interviews?’
Asking for more information e.g. ‘My home phone number is 9453 4563. Could you please advise me when I can call and see someone personally to find out more about the position?’
Always indicate your availability. As well as a postal address, always give a telephone number. After the closing ‘action’ paragraph, say ‘Yours faithfully’ or ‘Yours sincerely’ (either is now considered correct). Often ‘Yours faithfully’ is used when writing to a named position, such as, Marketing Manager or Personnel Officer, and ‘Yours sincerely’ when addressing a named person, such as, Mr Edward Johnstone. In the salutation you are then able to continue with – Dear Edward. Always sign a letter, and type or print your name clearly underneath.
7.1 Preparing a professional resume
With access to computers, successful resumes are now more than a simple typed document. They incorporate effective design skills, are able to be updated when circumstances change and are able to be adapted to suit the specific job being applied for.
If your resume is to receive favourable consideration it must first attract the attention of the person who will read through the applications. Write it in clear and concise language, use a lot of white space and make it fast and easy to read. Try to create your own little bit of individuality so that it will not look like every other CV submitted for consideration.
An effective resume or CV should:
The most common types of resumes are:
The basic or general resume – designed for general jobs in your trade or profession. It is also suited for those who have just left school or have little work experience. This type includes all the parts of a resume with appropriate headings. Figure 7.1.1 illustrates the layout and function of each part of a basic resume.
Figure 7.1.1 Layout and function of
each part of a basic resume (Dwyer, 1993, p. 453).
If you use the headings suggested above, it is easy to list your experience from your most recent to your earliest position and to describe your responsibilities and achievements in each position. Highlight your particular strengths with action words such as achieved, adapted, initiated, installed, prepared, reported or researched.
These action words add strength to your writing and indicate that you had the responsibility and were able to follow projects through to completion.
Layout and function of each
part of a specific resume (Dwyer, 1993, p.456).
Personal details – be brief. Give only those details the employer needs. State the date of your birth rather than your age. Do not include your marital status or family details, and give only highlights of your education and your highest qualifications.
Current employment – describe your present job first. Name the position and the firm. Say how long you have been in the job, the type of work you are doing and the location.
Previous full-time employment – give the actual title of each position held, the full name of each firm or employer, and the location. List your duties and/or responsibilities to give a better picture of your work experience. State the year and month each position started and ended. (The earlier the position, the lower it will be on the list and the less detail is needed).
Special activities associated with work – list special duties you have performed or any special project team or committee you have worked on. If you have been responsible for controlling, leading or supervising other staff, emphasise this even if it was only on a temporary basis.
Part-time experience – mention jobs held while at school or before obtaining your first full-time job.
Membership of professional or statutory bodies e.g. member of the Australian Institute of Management (AIM), trade associations.
Schooling – give only the briefest outline of your primary and early secondary subjects. But do list the names of schools or colleges, the years spent at each and the levels of education achieved.
Studies since leaving school – people who undertake regular part-time study when they are working are seen as being energetic and ready to take responsibility.
Other activities – list awards, scholarships or other outstanding achievements.
Sporting or recreational activities – mention prizes, trophies or competitions that you have won.
Travel – highlight work, study or business experience overseas or interstate.
Family background, health, travel restrictions, other constraints – if you have good health, say so. If the employer has read as far as this, he or she is probably interested in your family background and marital status and any conditions that may prevent you from doing some types of work or from travelling.
Other information – such as hobbies and interests and other personal development programs, such as the Duke of Edinburgh Award.
Your photograph – many successful applicants say that including a photograph helps to get interviews, as long as the picture is of high quality, clear, and shows you to good advantage.
Referees – give names, titles, positions (business), addresses and phone numbers. No more than two – unless explicitly specified.
How easy to read is your resume? – CHECKLIST
Can it be scanned rapidly?
Is it credible?
Is it well organised?
Personal history listing – must be complete and it must cover every year from the time you finished high school: gaps suggest the possibility of activities you do not want to talk about.
Details of specific subjects studied – in some cases it is worth adding a summary as an appendix to the resume for subject names that need more explanation (Nutting & White, 1991, pp. 241-249).
Sort through all your records and locate the educational awards you have received.
Trace your employment profile from your first job to your current employment.
Assemble any references and testimonials you have or arrange for current references to be provided from appropriate people.
Start a portfolio for storing newspaper clippings, articles from staff newsletters or any documentation which might add credence to your capabilities and assist you in the future in gaining any job you may want.
Write, design and typeset your personal resume, preferably on computer so that you may update it when circumstances change, or adapt it to suit a specific job application. Check the different types of resume formats found on the wizard template on your computer.
Compile a portfolio containing awards, references, testimonials and, if applicable, samples of work you have done relevant to your trade or profession which you could take to an interview as evidence supporting your suitability for a job.
Compare your documentation with that of others in your group and ask business acquaintances to evaluate your presentation and give you feedback on its suitability.
Arrange to have a professional studio photograph taken which you could incorporate into your resume. This is optional as it is recommended purely as personal choice.
8. RESEARCH SKILLS
Dwyer (1993) suggests that an awareness of the need for motivation and an ability to organise your own activities is important. Appropriate motivation, suitably structured research and study periods, effective management of time, and ideally, the creation of a comfortable study environment will improve the result of your research and learning efforts.
Thinking is viewed as an abstract activity, with the process unable to be seen. It gives the ability to recall, comprehend and apply information, and then to use the three higher level thinking processes:
To be able to move through each of these levels of thinking activities, you must be able to listen, record, research, read and write in a purposeful way to achieve your goals.
Sources of information
Researchers talk in general terms about primary and secondary sources of information. Primary sources of information are the people or organisations that take the action or cause the events that become part of society’s store of information. Secondary sources of information are published and stored after the event has taken place. In other words, primary information is not yet available and needs to be obtained and collected and secondary information already exists and is available.
Many primary sources of information are available. Some of these are as follows:
Secondary sources of information
Libraries collect and store information on many different areas of interest. Their special area of expertise in collecting and storing information in a form that can easily be found, make them an invaluable source of secondary information. Additional library services available to library members, and the public include:
The media also produces information in newspapers, magazines, television, radio and film. Although, read the media critically and separate and identify the facts from opinions.
Careful, focused research will make more efficient use of your time by enabling you to locate relevant research material appropriate to your project. When gathering information from the range of sources indicated, make sure you record in your notes full details of the source of your information.
You will need these details when you present your essay, project or report. You should always reference source material and acknowledge the author or speaker.
When you write reports, assignments and business documents with information you have obtained from either primary or secondary sources, you must acknowledge your source by using notations. They can be inserted in three different places in the document:
Bibliographies or list of references
A list of references gives details only of those works cited in your report or essay. A bibliography gives details of works cited in the text as well as other relevant material you read when writing the report. These may include:
Arrange your list of references or bibliography in alphabetical order by authors’ surnames rather than by title. Reference accurately and consistently. There are two main methods of presenting a list of references or a bibliography:
Check the method of notation and documentation preferred by your instructor, employer or organisation. For this subject, students are required to utilise the following method:
The Author-Date System (HARVARD method)
EFFECTIVE NOTES SUMMARISE IDEAS
AND HELP YOUR MEMORY
An effective set of notes is an important learning tool. A good set of notes summarises what has been written or said. It is also a memory aid. As you revise and edit the notes, ask yourself what did the speaker or author want the audience to know, understand, be aware of, or be able to do.
Once you decide the answer, highlight the main points and inter-relationships. Then ask yourself what should I be able to do or reproduce as a result of the talk, writing or research, and what immediate steps do I need to complete to be able to do the task?
A well-planned lecture, talk or audiovisual, and a well-planned piece of written material will be clear, concise and logically ordered. Either will enable you to create a set of useful notes.
Useful notes have a structure that identifies the introduction, an outline of the main points in the body of the lecture or written material presented in an orderly sequence of numbered headings made up of key words and phrases, followed by subheadings that indicate the supporting details.
Steps in note-taking (oral sources) and note-making (written sources)
Features of an effective set of notes
Your notes need to be purposeful and formatted in a consistent manner. Notes filed for future reference must use simple techniques like a clear tittle that identifies the topic, a reference to identify and acknowledge the source. These elementary techniques make it easy to retrieve and use the information:
Figure 8.1Creating a set of notes
Source: Dwyer, 1993, pp. 170-173.
9. WRITING SHORT REPORTS
Short reports communicate different types of information to a variety of people within and outside an organisation. Their main purpose is to provide objective information that justifies ideas or proposals, to give information on the progress of a project, or to present information periodically. Short reports collect and move information through the organisation.
As a writer of short reports, your purpose may be to inform, to persuade or to encourage some action. The contents may vary from simple to complex. Organise and design the short report in a way that guides the reader to the main points and to an understanding of the content.
Effective planning ensures efficiency in report writing. Your document is easier to read because it provides:
The six STEPS in planning a short report provide a logical outline which should allow you to work swiftly to produce a complete but concise report.
1. Identify your purpose.
Take time to clarify your task precisely.
2. Consider your reader.
3. Identify your information needs.
4. Gather information purposefully.
Research information from both primary and secondary sources.
5. Sort your information.
Organise information that is important into sections under suitable headings.
6. Arrange sections in a suitable sequence.
Order of information
Three different ways of ordering information in a short report are:
This gives accurate information on which to base decisions or to communicate information to others in the organisation.
Three typical short report formats:
1. a title page
2. an introduction
3. sections with headings in the body
5. recommendations (when required)
Minimum acceptable standard includes a subject line plus the seven basic parts of a business letter:
1. the writer’s address
2. the date
3. inside or reader’s address
6. complimentary close
7. signature block.
Minimum acceptable standard includes five components:
1. reader’s name
2. writer’s name
4. subject line or title
Three specific types of short report
Format the short report to suit your writing purpose and different situations. There are three widely used short reports that use the memorandum format but may, of course, be written using the letter report format or short formal report format:
When compiling your next short report, fill out the following checklist to ensure its success.
Is your report a systematic and logical statement of facts?
Does it supply information to someone who may need it as a basis for making a decision?
Does it recommend a suitable and appropriate course of action?
Writing Short Reports
Very Well Successfully Unsuccessfully
in an order suitable for
for the type of report
Learning to write effective reports can pay enormous dividends because reports are used to share important ideas at the middle and higher levels of management.
The following summary provides useful guidelines to adopt when attempting to write effective business reports:
Source: Nutting and White, (1991, pp. 199-200).
A ROUGH DRAFT
Steps in writing a short/long report
Once you have completed planning your work you are ready for the actual writing. The task will not be too difficult if you do it in three steps:
In following these steps, you will first use your outline as a guide to writing the actual text of your assignment or report. Once this is completed, you will edit the text. Finally, you will move to the packaging step, where you will add other parts to the front and back of the text material to suit your particular situation.
Three steps in writing
1. Drafting the text
Begin by writing the body, not the introduction or conclusion. As you write the body, you will often discover that your conclusions change. Once your conclusions have changed you will have to change the introduction, for it must point readers in exactly the right direction from the start. That is why it is often sensible to write the introduction last.
Try to write your first draft quickly. Just get stuck into it. Don’t worry too much about correctness or economy of style at this stage. Don’t even worry if ideas are in the right order. You can correct errors later and rearrange sentences and paragraphs to conform with your outline. The most important thing to achieve during your first draft is a quick and complete flow of ideas into words.
If you adopt this approach it becomes very important that you edit your work carefully and write a careful second draft. You should apply the characteristics of effective written communication.
The coherence and clarity of your writing can be dramatically improved if you use headings, tables and figures.
Parts of a long report can include:
Write a short (four to six pages) business report on a topic of your own choice.
Include the following:
11. PRESENTATION SKILLS
The art of preparation begins with you. It is normal to be nervous in front of an audience, but you can turn anxiety to anticipation if you plan properly. If you haven’t prepared yourself, if you haven’t set goals that mean something to you personally – your presentation stands only a slim chance of success.
You have to prepare yourself. You have to see yourself as "someone worth listening to." You can’t approach the presentation with hesitation and doubt. You have to believe in yourself and your abilities, because if you don’t, no audience will either.
Within business organisations, there are a number of occasions, which call for a speech or presentation. Some examples of the talk or speech you may be asked to make are:
Usually such business presentations or speeches aim to:
A number of different approaches to speaking in public are available, such as:
In planning and delivering this type of speech:
Preparing the presentation
In this stage your aim is to order the information logically and to use clear, concise language. While your primary aim is to prepare a presentation suited to the needs of your audience, you will also prepare the material in a way that suits your own needs as a speaker.
There are four steps to complete in this stage:
2. Rewrite for the ear – writing for the ear you prepare the speech as a spoken rather than a written channel of communication.
Read your speech aloud and listen for:
3. Practise and revise the content – prepare some questions and be ready to answer questions. Before you begin the speech, indicate when you will handle questions. This may be throughout the talk, at breaks between the main ideas, or at the end of the presentation.
4. Organise the visual aids – the decisions on the kind of visual aids are influenced by the size of the audience, the layout of the room and the content and purpose of the presentation.
Planning the presentation
The preparation stage of your presentation has six steps:
1. Define the purpose
2. Analyse the audience
6. Plan and organise material.
Delivering the presentation
Dwyer (1993) states that when you speak in public, you send one continuous message to the audience. As there is no opportunity for the two-way communication offered in conversations and group discussions, it is harder for you to establish and maintain a relationship with the audience and to engage their attention.
To be effective a presenter must combine the content, explanation, supporting information, visual aids, choice of words, vocal qualities and body movement or nonverbal communication in away that catches the audience's attention. You can establish and maintain a relationship with the audience throughout the delivery.
Visual aids in presentations
Visual material is an important signal to people, therefore use it to improve any presentation. The term ‘multi-sense’ recognises that people receive messages in a number of different ways. This means that a delivery with a variety of communication channels will have a stronger effect than a delivery depending only on voice and body movement.
Each visual aid should be simple with only one idea presented because too much detail can distract from the main point. Visual and audiovisual aids include:
Prepare the visual aids to add to the message rather than to distract the audience. Visual aids keep the listener and presenter active as well as heightening the learning and understanding process through variety.
An effective visual aid:
To speak well you need to carefully plan and prepare your work, choosing an approach that suits your natural communication style and matching your verbal and nonverbal behaviour to the presentation.
Aim to establish and maintain a confident well-paced delivery that looks natural and comfortable. The first few times you give a business presentation or speech, you may feel nervous or suffer stage fright.
Anxiety is a normal response to any situation that involves risk. Nervousness can be positive if it provides the extra emotional or physical energy necessary to successfully deliver the presentation. Careful preparation and a practiced delivery reduce anxiety.
A range of nonverbal behaviours modify or change the spoken words in your presentation by repeating, contradicting, substituting, complementing and accenting the words. Some behaviours that affect the presentation are:
Check the equipment to make sure the overhead projector, video cassette recorder, electrical outlets, seating arrangements, pens, paper and anything else you might need are available and in working order (Dwyer, 1993, p. 656).
12. TIME MANAGEMENT
Time management is a self-management tool
and is a valuable but limited resource.
It enables you to use time well so that you complete the tasks
and achieve the goals that you decide are important.
Time is finite and irreplaceable and cannot be stored.
It is always there; you cannot stop it!
In developing effective time management, it is useful to be aware of the different sorts of time, the different levels of priorities and the different strategies available for scheduling time and priorities, such as:
In the workplace environment, organisational time is that time taken up with doing what the organisation expects you to do. When you allocate time to the tasks and responsibilities on your job description, you are on the way to meeting the organisation’s expectations of you.
Dwyer (1993) states once you identify the nature of tasks, aim to complete them in a way that matches the organisation’s needs and objectives, and your needs and objectives. The tasks are completed within the organisation’s time. There are three kinds of organisational time within any organisation:
Identifying time wasters
Time wasters are common to most of the population but the causes and solutions lie with each individual. The most effective way to solve the causes of time wasting is to create solutions that suit you. Identifying the cause and finding a solution is easier when you are able to recognise the three main categories of time waters:
Strategies for dealing with time wasters
Time wasters reduce your efficiency and effectiveness and prevent you from reaching your goals. Strategies for removing the more common time wasters experienced at work are:
Time management skills
Time management improves the way you use time. A number of strategies can be used to manage your time. Developing practical strategies to set priorities requires skills in:
Dwyer (1993) suggests that you choose from among these strategies to help you get more done and to complete important activities before you do the less important activities. The benefit to you is increased satisfaction and achievement.
Decide what must be done by setting work priorities and rank these activities as primary, secondary and urgent.
Goals are set to achieve the intended outcome. When you are involved in the planning process you can see the reason for the plan, its goals and sub-goals, and can recognise your contribution to it. Personal or team goals give a focus, purpose and direction to activities at work. In setting goals, whether personal and team, it is useful to keep in mind the SMART formula.
SMART states that effective goals have five characteristics:
Benefits gained from time management
When you use your time effectively, you know what you want to accomplish. By eliminating time wasters, you have more time to do the important tasks well. This helps you to meet new challenges in a way that is less rushed and helps you stay effective and productive. The best time managers select from a range of time management tools that are portable, adaptable and comfortable to use. Effective time managers organise, plan and communicate well.
Time management is a tool that lets you engage in a process of:
Time is a resource just as money or office space is a resource. Find out how you use it. A log of activities timetable or daily plan or diary help you manage your time. As you plan and manage your time, these tools give you the facts and information on how you use your time (Dwyer, 1993, p. 128).
Planners like those suggested in Figure 12.1 help you to see where you are heading. Nutting and White, (1991) suggests not to buy expensive wall charts; a small one that you draw up yourself and which fits in a folder is better. Use a similar type of planner to work out daily schedules or to keep track of any tasks where you need to follow a routine pattern.
Stay flexible in your approach to time. Do not overorganise; leave some spare slots for unforeseen interruptions. Remember that most human beings underestimate the time it will take to perform any task. Allow for this, and your plan will be more effective.
Figure 12.1 Weekly study planner
Draw up a study timetable for this subject, using the model presented in the above figure or one of your own design. It is also a good idea to provide yourself with an incentive when you reach your deadlines. Always have a day off and reward yourself with some small pleasure, e.g. going to the movies, a walk with friends, going dancing or a box of chocolates. Whatever you like!
Activity 12.2 Time Management - Checklist
Aim to be successful in all your time management endeavours. With practice you will improve your performance.
How well do you manage your time?
Tick the appropriate boxes with your response.
I am able to:
Very Successfully Unsuccessfully
use of time
Follow the Ten-Step plan once again to improve your skills and you should have little difficulty in reaching assignment deadlines.
Ten-step plan to effective time management
Source: Dwyer, 1993, pp. 121-135.