Methodical System That Produces Results

By dividing the task of writing into three distinct steps, you'll find the process of writing easier and discover shortcuts that will save you time. The three steps are Step One Get Your Thoughts in Order Step Two Create a Draft on Paper (or on Your Computer) Within each chapter, there are several exercises. Intended to ensure that you practice using the tools, the exercises are challenging and fun. Additionally, the exercises will help you prove to yourself that you'll be able to remember and...

Persons Name Is Dear to Them

You have many options in salutations, from using someone's name to employing the generic To Whom It May Concern. When you start a letter or other communication with someone's name, you signal to that person that you know who he or she is. That connection encourages the person to read on. In certain circumstances, you should adhere to formal protocol. Specifically, when writing letters to any member of the diplomatic corps, the military, or elected officials, it's usually best to adhere strictly...

Add Numbers or Statistics in Every Sentence

Generalities are hard to understand, and often they're dull and uninteresting. Converting general statements into specific statements engages readers' interest by increasing believability. One of the easiest ways to add specificity is to add numbers or statistics. For example, if you send an E-mail to your boss informing him or her that the holiday party you were charged with organizing will come in under budget, that's good news, but some bosses might say that it sounds too good to be true....

Adjectives May Diminish the Impact of Your Nouns

Likewise, adjectives often diminish the power of the nouns they modify. Sometimes the modifying words or phrases distract the reader by adding unnecessary information. For example, which of these two sentences is stronger The hotel's computerized fire alarm system will be tested on Tuesday. The hotel's fire alarm system will be tested on Tuesday. The fact that the system is computerized may be relevant in some contexts (in an application to win an insurance reduction because of updated...

Aim to Use Dynamic Pronouns

Using the pronouns you and your is one of the easiest ways to focus on your readers. Consider the revised sentence discussed above Your microbiological tests will be turned around more quickly, and you'll enjoy a higher degree of accuracy than was previously available, because our new facility is now open and ready for your business. Try starting a sentence using either you or your to announce that your new lab is open that doesn't mention a benefit. Go ahead, try it. As soon as you turn the...

Be Appropriately Formal

One issue that you need to consider is whether to use first or last names. In our informal society, it is common to use first names even when we don't know people well. A better choice, however, is to use last names until you have established a relationship. Many people are offended by the presumption of intimacy that results from an inappropriate use of someone's first name. A letter from a stranger addressing you by your first name may not receive the kind of attention the sender seeks. I...

Be Certain Titles and Names Are Consistent

Be vigilant in maintaining parallel construction in your use of titles and names. For instance, if you refer to the chairman of the board as Mr. Jones, you should refer to everyone by their title and last name, from the janitor to the secretaries, from long-term senior executives to new entry-level employees. Likewise, if you refer to someone whose title is Dr., maintain parallel construction in referring to any other people in the same communication. For instance, if you write about Dr. Smith,...

Big Picture Use The Matrix Of Persuasion

We've focused on you and your needs (your objective) and your readers and their needs (those benefits that are likely to motivate them). We've considered the proper level of formality a time-saver if you consider it early on in the writing process. Now it's time to pull your thinking together by pausing for a moment and considering the big picture. The Matrix of Persuasion allows you to analyze your overall writing assignment. In the Matrix of Persuasion, two variables are contrasted Is your...

Bookend No Convey Goodwill

Using the Bookend No organizational structure allows you to make bad news palatable. It won't convert bad news into good news, nor will it make the recipient happy, but it is the best way to convey negative information. The Bookend No organizational structure starts with a positive statement, leads into the negative news, and finishes with another positive statement. Note that you can't fake it, i.e., if you have nothing positive to say, you can't use this organizational structure. It works...

Bulleted Lists

Bulleted lists organize information and help your readers scan quickly. In such lists, it's important to start each bullet with the same part of speech. Notice the following two lists are both properly constructed, although they're different from one another. Both lists explain the updates currently being installed on a company's website. Once the update is completed, visitors to our website will be able to search for past articles from the newsletters contact any employee by E-mail consult...

Business Writing Should Be Conversational in Tone

In academic and the most formal writing, traditional standards the formal ones we learned in school still apply. In most kinds of business writing, however, the standard you should use to gauge excellence isn't adherence to academic or traditional rules it's conversation If you would speak it in a professional interaction, you can feel comfortable writing it. It's important to note that this standard, business conversation, does not imply that sloppy or incorrect grammar is acceptable. Just as...

Choose Your Organizational Structure

Selecting an organizational structure before you begin to write makes the actual writing process easier and more straightforward. If you recognize that you have several separate issues that need to be addressed, you might decide to use the category structure. Having made that decision, the next step is clear identify your categories. On the other hand, if you decide to write using a chronology structure, you won't list categories instead, you'll start at the beginning and continue on...

Come Up with New Ideas Using the Hub Spokes Model

Charlie, a paralegal in a large law office, explains, When I try to outline, I feel as if my brain is in a straight jacket. I go blank. It just doesn't work for me. Hub & Spokes is an alternative approach. Instead of following a prescribed organizational format with strict hierarchical rules, Hub & Spokes allows you to follow your thoughts in an easy-to-track manner. In the center of a blank piece of paper, draw a circle. Jot a summary of your objective and...

Concise Communications Succeed

In the last chapter you learned how to use two tools to revise your first drafts. By adding specificity with numbers, facts, statistics, and examples, you increased your communications' credibility and your readers' comprehension. By using the FURY principle, you selected the most appropriate words and phrases for your communications when you determined whether your choices were Familiar or Unique, if they would add Richness, or if they were Your favorites. In this chapter we discuss four...

Convenient for appropriate convenient to nearby

Des Moines is convenient for all of us. Des Moines is convenient to Chicago. differ about (something) differ from (something else) differ with (a person) different from (distinct) different than (compared to) We differed about research methodology, not personnel. My current research differs from Josie's in significant ways. I differ with Josie over the methodology we plan to use. My research is different from Josie's. I view it in a different way than Josie does. knocked on (to rap or tap on...

Create The Right Image

Now that you understand the importance of setting an action-oriented objective, and you are able to identify benefits likely to target various personality types, you're ready to evaluate the appropriate level of formality. Using the Formality Index, you'll answer three simple questions to determine how formal or informal your communication should be. This process helps select the format (e.g., E-mail vs. letter), the tone (e.g., Dear Mr. Jones vs. Dear Richard), and the style (e.g., chief...

Diplomatic No Avoid Confrontations

When you need to say no but want to either retain the relationship or, at the very least, avoid alienating your readers, consider the Diplomatic No. By focusing on the process by which the decision to say no was derived, you avoid saying anything personal. Form letters and press releases are often written using the Diplomatic No organizational structure. Sonya (see above) said that she talked to more than two dozen candidates during the hiring process. She decided to send a form letter to a...

Direct No Protect Yourself

When asked to do something illegal, unethical, or immoral, it's important to be clear and unequivocal in saying no. The Direct No organizational structure is the most appropriate approach. Kya, a high school guidance counselor, explained that one morning she walked into her office to be greeted by a fax from an overseas contact. I'd met him during a holiday trip some years earlier. His business was helping students of his country apply to American colleges and universities. The fax said that...

Divide Compound Sentences to Improve Readability

One easy way to fix overly long sentences is to break them into two or more separate units. This fix works easily with compound sentences. A compound sentence is made up of two or more independent clauses sentences connected with a conjunction. Eliminate the connector, and you're left with two shorter sentences. Consider, for example, this sentence We received notice of your intention to attend the trade show, and we will send you full details by the end of the week. The sentence is clear and...

Exercise Add a Snappy Close

It's easy in retrospect to carefully understand why some of us lean toward selecting Florida but we should use objective, not subjective, criteria to make the decision. If we do that, we must go with Georgia. What do you think Is it benefit oriented and memorable Brad said, It's pretty clear and the text anticipates an argument some committee members might make, which I think is good. The fact that the last line is short helps make it memorable. But it's not benefit oriented. I can do better....

Exercise Add Examples to Make Dull Copy Come Alive

Shelley, a high school teacher, intends to distribute a brief explanation of how she will be calculating grades to her students. Think back to your years in school, and recall the various ways your teachers assessed your performance. Take Shelley's first draft and revise it to add specificity through numbers and examples that illustrate her points. Your grade this year will be calculated based on your overall improvement. I will use a variety of tools to assess whether you understand the...

Exercise Add Specificity

In your own draft, and in Brad's, look for opportunities to add examples, numbers, or facts. Because your work on Brad's report is speculative in nature, feel free to make up likely numbers or statistics. The goal of this exercise isn't to belabor the details rather, it is to ensure that you understand the importance of adding specificity and to be certain you know where and how to integrate examples and numbers. How many specific references did you add to your own draft and to Brad's Here's...

Exercise Add Specificity to General Statements

In the following example, rewrite the text by adding numbers or statistics. Read the explanatory paragraph, and then revise to add specificity. Harriet, president of a floral supply company, wants to send an E-mail to motivate her employees to do their best work despite gloomy economic conditions. Six months ago, all associates in her company had their pay cut by 5 percent managers had their pay cut by 15 percent. Although business is still down, Harriet wants to report a slight upswing in...

Exercise Add Specificity to Increase Reader Understanding

Van, vice president of a finance company, needed to send an E-mail to alert managers that budget cuts were going to be instituted. Read Van's opening sentence below and revise it by adding specific facts, numbers, or examples to improve clarity and increase credibility. Use your imagination to make up relevant specifics, then compare your revision to the three alternatives that Van came up with. Van's E-mail began, In anticipation of a financial slowdown, every manager is expected to develop...

Exercise Analyze Personality

Consider members of a senior executive committee. You can't know these individuals, of course, but for the purpose of this exercise, speculate on the kinds of people you would expect to comprise Brad's audience. What do you think What personality mix would you expect to find in the members of this midsize manufacturing company's senior executive committee If you said every personality type, you're probably right. That's almost always what you find in a mixed group. Remember, when you determine...

Exercise Calculate Your Average Sentence Length

Take your time as you work with the four concepts described above to improve the drafts. Sentences, you'll recall, should average fewer than fifteen to twenty words. Identify and correct misplaced modifiers and undefined technical terminology. Look for negative sentence constructions or words and rewrite to accentuate the positive. And be certain there's consistency throughout the communication. Did you make significant changes Brad did. He said, I made every one of those errors and I spotted...

Exercise Calculate Your Empathy Index and Revise to Increase Reader Focus

Calculate your first draft's Empathy Index, revise to improve it, and focus on your lead. Do the same with Brad's first draft. Brad used italics to indicate references to his readers and underlining to indicate references to himself. See if your calculation of Brad's Empathy Index agrees with his. Using proprietary stochastic simulation techniques, incorporating data collected from numerous sources of government and other public data information as well as data collected from interviews...

Exercise Confirm That Its Positive

Read both versions, your own and Brad's, to confirm that the message is delivered in a positive manner. If you discover a negative construction, rewrite it to make it positive. Did you find any negative language If so, did you rewrite the words or phrases to make them positive in tone Brad did. He said, I found it very interesting. I was able to turn around the negative tone of the last answer and in doing so made the communication much stronger. Brad noted that phrases and words such as we are...

Exercise Correct Common Grammar Errors

Complete the following sentences, ensuring proper subject verb and noun pronoun agreement. 1. Roberta said she'd go to work for_paid 2. The cabinet, along with the files,_to Willy. 3. The staff expressed_support for the 4. You went to the party with_ 5. The mayor, as well as his deputies,_the initiative was a success. (say says) 6. Neither the conductor nor the pianist_aware of the 8. The report, with all of its attachments,_a strong 9. I'll go to the meeting with_leaves first. How did you do...

Exercise Get a Draft on Paper

In creating your first draft, you want to write with the organizational structure you've selected in mind. Are you going to adopt Brad's idea and start with a PAR paragraph followed by Q& A Or are you going to use another structure or a combination of structures Remind yourself of the vocabulary that's best to use to reach Producers, as well as the words and phrases that are likely to speak to the other personality types. (If you need help, see Table 1.1 on page 9.) Focus on your starting...

Exercise Get Your Thoughts Down on Paper

You have been asked to write a reference letter for a colleague whom you respect and admire. Think about who this might be. It might be someone you went to school with, or it might be someone you have worked with in the past or work with now. Whomever you choose, think about the job this person would logically be applying for at this point in his or her career. Think about the person who would be conducting the interview. That stranger the person your colleague is hoping will hire him or her is...

Exercise Maintain Parallel Construction

Read the drafts, looking for inconsistencies within sentences and within sections. If you find any, revise the writing so that there is consistency throughout. Did you notice any inconsistencies in the two drafts Brad did. He explained, I used the word or too much in one sentence. Also, using or was inconsistent because previously I'd used commas. Once I rewrote that sentence, I realized that I should use the word and, not or, in any case. I also decided that I needed to add the word potential....

Exercise Make It Clear

The next task is to look for misplaced modifiers and undefined jargon or technical terminology. Did you find any If so, correct them. Brad said, Rereading the sentence about getting a fresh view, I realized that there was a misplaced modifier. Of course the risk manager knew about doing business in Florida and Georgia it was my assistant who lacked knowledge. I revised the sentence to read 'To get a fresh view, one of my assistants with no knowledge of the risks involved in doing business in...

Exercise Proofread for Perfection

In the last chapter you learned to be vigilant in proofing your work so that your documents are correct before they leave your office. Now review your draft and Brad's, correcting any errors you find. Did you find many errors Brad did. He said, I found all sorts of errors. I had subject verb agreement, word usage, and grammar issues. Here are the errors Brad identified and his comments. 1. All data is verified by fact checkers. I revised the verb to maintain the past tense, Brad explained. All...

Exercise Revise to Create Proper Emphasis and Increase Clarity

Barry, a sales manager for a large printer, explains, I'm always wordy. I find myself writing run-on sentences and I don't use modifiers well. Take a look at Barry's E-mail draft asking his sales staff for their analysis of why sales are down. After looking thoroughly at your reports on last month's sales calls describing who you saw and what objections to closing the sales were raised, and reviewing those special and extraordinary events such as the blizzard in the upper Midwest, as well as...

Exercise Select an Organizational Structure

Of the nine organizational structures detailed in Chapter Two (see page 26), five are useful to convey positive information. Given that Brad had stated that his recommendation is good news, he knew that he would select one of those five. As you review them, remember your goal to persuade the executive committee to adopt your recommendation without further analysis. 3. PAR (problem or opportunity action results) Which structure do you think is best Each of the five structures would work there is...

Exercise Select Words with FURY

Use the FURY principle to select powerful words as you revise Amanda's E-mail to add some pizzazz. Amanda, a human resources manager for a large steel manufacturer, needed to send an E-mail to supervisors informing them that performance appraisals were due by November 15. It's boring, she explained, and I couldn't think of how to add a little pep to such an ordinary business communication. Here's Amanda's original E-mail All performance appraisals are due by Nov. 15. If you have any questions...

Exercise Understand Your Overall Writing Assignment

Consult Exhibit 1.1 (page 21) to refresh your memory as you determine which quadrant Brad's project is in. Are the committee members likely to be on Brad's side Can they do as he asks How did you assess Brad's writing challenge Brad said, Some members are on my side they want what's best for the company. Some others aren't on my side, although they probably wouldn't see it that way. But I know that a couple of people are pretty entrenched in their views and their view is that they want...

Exercise Use the Hub Spokes Model

Hub Model Figure

Draw a circle in the center of a sheet of paper and write a summary of your objective and audience analysis inside. Focus on the key words that will affect your targeted personality types, the desired level of formality, your goal to persuade or educate, and the organizational structure you've selected. Once you're ready to concentrate, draw spokes out from the center circle and jot notes to yourself. Take as long as you need, stopping only when you're out of ideas. When you're done, look for...

Exercise Write a First Draft

You're now ready to write a first draft. In Chapter Two, you created an outline or a Hub & Spokes model for a reference letter for a colleague. Review your outline or model to remind yourself of the points you want to make. What is your most compelling benefit Where do you want to start What's your objective While there are countless ways to write a letter of reference, effective ones share some qualities a sincere tone, relevant information, and an offer to follow up. Get your thoughts in...

Exercise Write a Third Draft

In the following example, Stuart, an analyst for a city government agency, has followed the steps outlined in the book thus far. My boss told me it is imperative that I be precise in my writing, explains Stuart, and I agree. She needed a report about school renovations. I want the report to be clear and straightforward. My objective is to arm my boss with plenty of facts and figures for her next town hall meeting. She's a top adviser to the mayor, so she appears with him often and needs to be...

Explain Everything Unless All Your Readers Will Understand

In Chapter One, we discussed how acronyms impact readers' perceptions about the formality or informality of your communications. Acronyms and technical terminology need to be explained, defined, or referenced unless 100 percent of your readers understand the jargon. Keep in mind that even if most of your readers know what you mean, some might not. Be sensitive to guests and newcomers. Acronyms can be useful as shorthand, but they can be confusing to readers who aren't familiar with your...

Find Comfortable Break Points to Shorten Complicated Sentences

Another reason sentences can be difficult to follow is that they're long and complicated. Whereas compound sentences include two independent clauses connected by a BOY'S FAN word, complicated sentences follow a different pattern. Typically, a long, complicated sentence starts with a logical structure It begins with the subject, followed by the verb that goes with the subject, then the object. (The subject is the doer of the action implied by the verb and the object is the receiver of this...

Finish Naturally

Allowing your text to end where it ends naturally is an easy and effective technique. I ran out of things to say, explains Fred, a graphic designer. I was writing a proposal to get a new computer setup. I'd made my points clearly and needed to end with a bang. Using the list of closing approaches as a checklist was very helpful. The action I wanted my boss to take was obvious and saying something like 'Call me and authorize this purchase' is totally inappropriate. I considered closing with a...

Focus on Verbs to Add Power to Your Writing

Ensure that your standard business communications are engaging by selecting active verbs. Verbs action words serve as the pivots of sentences. Selecting dynamic verbs adds energy to your writing. The principle of FURY can help you pick targeted and compelling verbs. I write the instruction manuals for our appliances, explains Gary, an engineer for an appliance manufacturer. I find I say the same things over and over again. For example, one sentence might read, 'The dial on the right is for...

Follow the Rule of First Reference

No matter how high you score on the Empathy Index, no matter how strong your reader focus, try to adhere to the Rule of First Reference, which says that your first reference should be to your readers, not yourself. It's not always possible to do, but if you can, it's a good idea. Compare these two leads I am pleased to report that last year's numbers are better than expected. Thanks to your hard work, last year's numbers are better than expected. Note that the first example isn't terrible or...

Follow the Rules No Matter How It Sounds to Your

Many people make subject verb agreement errors because they mistakenly trust their ear. But your ear may have been trained to hear something as correct when it's not. Be certain that your ear guides you correctly before relying on how it sounds. Mistakes frequently occur when using specific words that are always, by definition, either singular or plural. For example, use a singular verb after each, everyone, everybody, nobody, someone, every, one, another, and much. Use a plural verb after few,...

He McGraw Hill Compcntti

All rights reserved. Manufactured in the United States of America. Except as permitted under the United States Copyright Act of 1976, no part of this publication may be reproduced or distributed in any form or by any means, or stored in a database or retrieval system, without the prior written permission of the publisher. The material in this eBook also appears in the print version of this title 0-07-140570-4 All trademarks are trademarks of their respective...

If You Use a Generic Salutation Stay with the Standards

Least effective of all is a generic salutation. However, there are times when it's the best solution. In standard business letters making a common request, for example, a generic salutation may be the most appropriate way to go. Frank needed to request a replacement hose for his vacuum cleaner. The vacuum cleaner company had announced that the hose was defective and customers could send for a free replacement. Starting the letter with 'To Whom It May Concern' was easy and effective. The...

Ignore Phrases and Clauses That Separate Subjects from Verbs

Intervening, modifying phrases often add interesting details or important qualifications. However, it's easy to become confused about which word in a sentence is the subject. For example, consider this sentence The briefcase (subject, singular) containing all the reports was (verb, singular) in Max's car. It's easy to see why you might be confused the noun closest to the verb is plural (reports). Nevertheless, the modifying phrase containing all the reports should be ignored in making the...

Level One Check Clarity and Grammar

Danielle, a graphic designer, says, I send E-mails back and forth to other designers and to the writers within the company all day long. I want my communications to convey a professional image, but they're usually short and simple, so what's most important for me to proof is that my meaning is clear and my grammar is correct. Beyond that, proofing would be a waste of time. Note that the first level of proofing is appropriate for Danielle because her communications have these attributes low...

Level Three Proof EverythingBe Methodical

There are two kinds of third-level projects communications for which you are responsible for writing to someone else's specifications with little or no direction, and communications for which the consequences of errors are severe. My boss sends me E-mails with at best a rough draft of a message, explains Heidi, executive assistant to a consumer products company's senior vice president. The projects range from an E-mail to all vice presidents about some policy change to a five-page proposal to...

Modifying Phrases May Confuse Your Readers

Misplaced modifying phrases sometimes result in odd, even humorous interpretations. Be certain to position the modifying word or phrase as close as possible to the term that is being modified. Consider, for example One of our executives has been sent to a counselor with a drinking A counselor with a drinking problem It would be better to write One of our executives with a drinking problem has been sent to a counselor. The modifying phrase with a drinking problem needs to be next to what is...

Motivate Your Readers to Action

Some professional writers say that they write their last sentence first so they'll always know where they're heading. It's an interesting approach. Think about it this way You expressed your purpose in writing as a statement of action your objective. By writing the end first, you can use it to guide you as you write your communication. For example, if your objective is to have all team members submit their activity reports by the 15th of the month, you might consider closing your message by...

No with an Alternative Share Ideas

Sometimes, even though you need to say no to something, you might have an idea that would be of value to your readers. The No with an Alternative organizational structure is appropriate when you have a viable alternative to suggest. It might be used on a website or in a letter. Fran said that she used the No with an Alternative organizational structure on her website. When we decided to stop producing a certain brand of shampoo, we knew there'd be some disappointed customers. But it was a done...

PAR Problem [or Opportunity ActionResults Get to the Bottom Line

When the outcome is the most significant part of your message, the PAR organizational structure is the form to use to highlight your results. PAR is an effective organizational structure in r sum s and sales letters. By focusing on your bottom-line accomplishments, i.e., the impact your actions had on your employer, you help your reader see why employing you is in his or her best interest. Marianne wanted a new job. When I began the process of looking for a new job, I was completely frustrated....

Read It with a Critical

Even if you only have minutes to conceive, draft, revise, and produce a finished message, take a breather before your final read through. Time allows you to read it with a fresh perspective, and you're likely to spot errors you might not have caught otherwise. Brad said, I didn't realize that I hadn't mentioned the Illinois site even once until my final read through. Only then did I notice that my closing paragraph on diversification needed to refer to Illinois, too. I'm convinced that taking...

Rewrite Sentences to Avoid Misusing Their

The fourth question is May I ever use their as a neutral pronoun The answer is no. Even though many people use the word their as a gender-neutral pronoun in business conversation, employing this usage in writing should be avoided it is considered too informal. There's no question that English lacks a gender-neutral pronoun and that it would be handy to have one. The question is what to do without it. Consider, for example, this sentence Mohammed and Hannah have initiated a discussion project so...

Select The Best Word To Express Your Meaning

It's important that you avoid clich s. Words and phrases that are trite fail to make believable points. To succeed at encouraging action, you need to find fresh ways to express yourself. FURY is an acronym designed to assist you in selecting specific words and phrases. FURY stands for Familiar (e.g., sponsorship is a better word choice than aegis, for example, even though it's longer) Unique (i.e., technical terminology and industry jargon) Rich (e.g.,pizzazz is better than good) Four favorite...

Select Words and Phrases Easily

Hannah, a self-employed weaver, explained that she sends letters to specialty gift stores asking them to consider carrying her products. I have a lot of trouble, Hannah says, finding new ways to say the same thing. Here's how Hannah's most recent letter began As you plan your fall inventory assortment, I invite you to add a selection of my afghans and placemat sets to your product mix. Handwoven, they are of the highest quality wool and in unique colors. Hannah wanted to replace two terms that...

Separate a Dependent Clause from an Independent Clause

A dependent clause at the beginning of a sentence should be separated from the independent clause that follows it by a comma. (Dependent clauses often start with the words after, although, as, because, if, since, when, or while, among other words.) Although Mr. Samuels meant it for the best, his comment was counterproductive. As it turned out, we were able to attend the conference. Because of the change in leadership, the project deadline was extended. If a dependent clause follows or...

Signal Formality with Your Sign Off

Traditional forms of ending a communication include Sincerely and Yours truly. Modern but still professional forms include Regards, With regards, Best regards, and Cordially. Using the traditional forms of ending your communication creates a formal tone. Employing more modern forms generates an informal tone. Consult your Formality Index from Chapter One to decide which approach is best. With the traditional forms, you generally sign (or type in an E-mail) your full name. With modern forms, you...

Speak to an Interest You Share

Sometimes it's not cost-effective to use people's names. In some mass mailings, for example, even with a mail-merge capability, the cost of adding individual names may not be deemed an appropriate expenditure. Instead, ask yourself why you're writing to these people and how that relates to something they want or need. By honing in on why your readers might want to read your communication, it becomes easier to identify what the shared interest is. Julia, a manager of software development at a...

Specifics Increase Believability

Click Here for Terms of Use. Even messages that are more informational and matter-of-fact than persuasive need to be believable. Your sincerity and passion need to come through in order to motivate your readers to act. One of the ways you can achieve a professional tone is by adding specific details. Numbers, facts, statistics, examples, and illustrations all contribute to the credibility of your communications. Weave them into your text to increase...

Spell Names Correctly

It goes without saying that if you use people's names, you need to be certain that you've spelled them correctly. A misspelled name implies a lack of care or concern, sloppiness, or incompetence. Be careful to get it right. The only way to confirm the proper spelling of a name is to call and ask. Simply copying a name from a directory or a phone book, for example, only proves that you have transcribed the name accurately, not that you have written the correct name. Also, people's names change....

Tactic Four Parallel Construction

Adhering to the principles of parallel construction facilitates readers' comprehension of your messages, reduces your writing and revision effort, creates a pleasing rhythm to the writing, and adds professionalism to your communications. You should adhere to the decisions you make consistently throughout a document, and often throughout all of the documents produced within an organization. Some examples of parallel construction issues are titles, names, and honorifics sentence or clause...

Tactic Two Clarity

If your readers have to study your communications to understand your message, you're slowing them down and making them work unnecessarily hard. Reader confusion often results from a lack of writer preparation. However, even when you've followed the steps outlined in this book, you might leave your readers confused because of two specific issues 1. misplaced or misused modifiers 2. unexplained acronyms or technical jargon Selecting and positioning modifying words and phrases correctly and...

Tell Your Readers What to Do Next

Giving a specific action instruction increases the likelihood that your readers will act. For example, Maureen, benefits manager in the human resources department of a paper manufacturer, wrote an article for her company's employee newsletter about mutual fund options newly available in the 401(k) retirement plan. We were scared that the floodgates would open and we'd be overwhelmed with calls, she explained. So I ended the article by saying 'For further information about the new options, to...

Try to Avoid Splitting Infinitives

Inserting an adverb between to and the verb, called splitting the infinitive, often results in awkward or confusing sentences. It frequently weakens your writing, although there are certain circumstances, discussed below, where it's an appropriate alternative. For example, consider the sentence He must strive to even meet the extended deadline. The sentence is not only awkward in construction, it's unclear as well. Is he having trouble meeting the deadline or is the deadline unrealistic Isn't...

Understand the Project

Brad's company manufactures customized novelty items such as snow globes, tote bags, key chains, and other impulse-purchase and promotional items. The company ships orders directly from its factories to retail outlets, its primary customer base. More than 40 percent of sales come from small gift stores located in tourist areas in Florida. Almost 60 percent of sales are spread among various retailers in thirteen other states. The company has two factories, one in St. Petersburg, Florida, and the...

Use Your Readers Names

Referring to your readers by name is one of the easiest ways to increase your Empathy Index. You need to be careful, however, because overuse of someone's name can sound like an affectation, as if you're a phony or obsequious. In the discussion later in this chapter regarding salutations, you'll learn that using someone's name at the start of your communication is almost always a good idea (e.g., Dear George, or Dear Dr. Janson). You might also consider closing with a reference to your reader...

Vary the Pace While Increasing Your Empathy Index

A positive Empathy Index ensures that your writing is benefit oriented and reader focused. You can use any of the four techniques, or you can use a combination of the four. For example, notice how all four approaches are integrated in the following memo from Mary Jo, a crises hot line executive director, to the hot line's volunteers. Mary Jo uses pronouns, refers to shared interest, addresses her readers by job title, and allows inference to her readers to be made as well. It's easy to skip...

What Do You Know Its Quiz Time

Now that you know how to determine which level of editing is appropriate for your projects, it's time to discover whether you are able to identify common errors. The following quiz will help you assess your own level of knowledge about common grammar, punctuation, capitalization, and spelling issues. It's important that you acknowledge your abilities and inabilities as a writer and proofreader. Until you know what errors you don't catch, and learn strategies to find problems and fix them, you...

Write About Shared Interests

Another approach to ensuring a positive Empathy Index to is to mention specific interests, activities, or experiences that your readers share. For example, instead of saying The company is pleased to announce that the ABC software upgrade will be installed on Wednesday, allowing more research to be done in-house, say Researchers will be glad to know that the ABC software upgrade will be installed on Wednesday, allowing more research to be done in-house. The term researchers is an example of a...

Write Excellent First Drafts

Write Polished First Drafts 51 Write with Your Readers in Mind 51 Exercise 7 Calculate the Empathy Index 57 Exercise 8 Rewrite to Improve the Empathy Index 59 Copyright 2003 by Jane Cleland. Click Here for Terms of Use. Your Salutation and Lead Set the Tone 62 Hook Your Readers' Interest with a Compelling Lead 66 Exercise 9 Add Urgency Through Time-Sensitive Vocabulary 68 Add a Snappy Close 70

Write with Confidence

Putting It All Together Use the Three-Step Process 169 A Methodical Approach 169 Step One Get Your Thoughts in Order 173 Exercise 25 Write an Objective 174 Exercise 26 Analyze Personality 174 Exercise 27 Use the Formality Index 175 Exercise 28 Understand Your Overall Writing Assignment 176 Step Two Create a Draft on Paper (or on Your Computer) 177 Exercise 29 Select an Organizational Structure 177 Exercise 30 Use the Hub & Spokes Model 178 Exercise 31 Get a Draft on Paper 180 Step Three...

Write With Your Readers In Mind

Click Here for Terms of Use. In order to calculate your Empathy Index, count the number of references to your target readers them. Count references to your readers by Next, count references to yourself and your organization us. (When the word we refers to both the reader and writer, don't count it.) When the two numbers are subtracted (us from them), you should end up with a positive number. The higher the positive number, the more reader focused the writing. The...

You Have Three Choices in Punctuating Compound Sentences

Whenever two or more independent clauses (i.e., phrases that could stand alone as sentences) are joined together, there are always three punctuation options. 1. Split them into separate sentences. 2. Use a semicolon to separate the clauses. 3. Use a comma before the conjunction that connects the clauses. Consider, for example, the following sentence. Notice how it can be punctuated properly three ways. There is no right or best choice among the three they're all acceptable alternatives. As you...

Level Two Evaluate Clarity Grammar Organization and Completeness

Nancee, a self-employed makeup artist, writes sales letters, proposals, business correspondence, E-mails, and Web copy. I hate to write she explains. But in business, I have to. So I do. What I've learned over the years, though, is that people hire me for my expertise and upbeat personality, not my writing ability, or as I like to joke, my writing inability Still, I know how important it is that I convey a highly professional image. Proofing matters a lot. In evaluating Nancee's circumstances,...

Integrate Proofing Into The Writing Process

In the last chapter, you learned four easy-to-use tactics to improve your writing. You discovered how to achieve conciseness, enhance clarity, establish a positive tone, and maintain parallel construction. In this chapter, we're going to look at the level of proofreading that is appropriate for your projects and discuss the types of errors, omissions, and inconsistencies for which you'll need to proof. You'll also be alerted to the most common grammatical and punctuation errors found in...

Confirm Your Text Is Clear And Professional

In the last chapter, we reviewed different levels of proofreading. You learned how to determine which of the three levels of proofreading is appropriate for your various projects and how to check your work within each level. You also took a quiz to help you understand how much you know about common grammar and punctuation quandaries. In this chapter, you'll learn strategies to remember the basic grammar, word usage, and capitalization rules for business writing. You'll also take part in several...

Use Commas to Separate Units of Information

Commas indicate a pause in the sentence. In business writing, you need to use commas in the following circumstances 1. to separate independent clauses 2. to separate dependent and independent clauses 3. to separate a quote from its attribution 4. to set aside intervening, modifying phrases 5. to separate units within a list (sometimes a semicolon is required) These five circumstances account for most of the comma usage in business writing. By learning these rules and adhering to them, your...

Hi Sales Team

Leaving eyeglass frames scattered over the counter looks chaotic and unappealing to customers entering our stores. It also creates confusion in customers who are trying on frames, making it hard for them to make a choice. Effective immediately, please ensure that frames aren't left haphazardly on the counter. Thanks for your cooperation. Best, Les A positive two is a good score. Although it could be even stronger, Les did a fine job of maintaining a reader focus in his first draft. 7. How are...

Analyze Your Target Readers

In order to create the sense of urgency needed to get your target readers to take the action that you want them to take, you need to understand their needs and wants, and you need to address them with the proper level of formality. Together, these two steps understanding what's likely to motivate your readers and identifying the appropriate level of formality enable you to write to your specific audience these steps comprisse the second tool of this chapter. Before you write, you need to think...

Capitalize For Emphasis

If you capitalize all letters within an E-mail, you're likely to hear from your reader, Stop shouting at me All caps are considered shouting. When you capitalize a word you are adding emphasis or importance, or otherwise highlighting the word. Be cautious about conveying the significance resulting from capitalizing a word. The points that follow outline when it's proper to capitalize words and when it's considered optional. (Note that you don't capitalize seasons except in a title or if...

Grammar And Punctuation Update

Several grammar and punctuation rules have changed since you learned them in English class, and in order to produce professional writing, you need to be aware of the new criteria. The answers to the five questions that follow serve as guidelines to help you use up-to-date standards in your business writing. The five questions are 1. May I start a sentence with a transitional word such as and or but 2. May I end a sentence with a preposition 4. May I ever use their as a neutral pronoun 5. How...

Capitalize on the Power of Inference

Starting sentences with a verb, a writing technique using the imperative mood, is a forceful way to make a point, and it implies the pronoun you. For example, if you write, Attend the meeting and let me know whether an agreement is reached, the reference to your reader is understood. You're really saying, You attend the meeting and you let me know whether an agreement is reached. In this example, note that we would count two references to your reader, because you are implying the pronoun you...

Punctuate For Clarity

Punctuate to ensure that your meaning is clear. Inserting punctuation marks consistently helps your reader understand your intent. There are several rules, but many punctuation issues are a matter of opinion or style There is more than one acceptable alternative. By deciding how you'll handle these style dilemmas once and for all, you'll save time and ensure clarity. Once you know which rules you need to follow, you are in a good position to make decisions that suit you and to apply them...

Level Three Everything

Andrea, the owner of the insurance consulting firm who discovered that her boilerplate business letters needed to be proofed using Level Two standards says, My proposals are more complex, even though I send out only one proposal per subject and they're not huge. Five to ten pages is quite modest by some proposal standards. I once saw a grant proposal that ran over a hundred pages. But still, this is my bread and butter. It is essential to me that my proposals are perfect in every way. I used...

Visual Layout Ensure Easy Access to Information

Using a visual layout makes sense when you have long units of copy containing more than five facts, statistics, or numbers. For example, consider an annual report that asks readers to compare the past four quarters' revenue figures within a paragraph of text. No problem. But now imagine being asked to compare the past twelve months' revenue figures within a paragraph of text. Impossible. Instead of narrative text, use a bar chart to make the information easy to access and easy to understand....

Challenge Your Readers with a Question

Ending with a question involves readers by inviting them to think. I wanted to challenge people to come up with ideas, Max says. Creative director of an internal advertising department in the textile industry, Max ended a staff E-mail looking for new promotional ideas with T-shirts and baseball caps. Tote bags and pens. We need a fresh approach. Any ideas He explained, Ending with a question helps people focus. Sarah, a freelance writer, wanted to win approval for an article idea. She ended her...

Separate Modifying Phrases

Modifying phrases add information, often providing valuable or interesting details that clarify or expand ideas. Setting off these phrases with punctuation helps the reader understand the relationship between the modification and the main thought. Whenever you punctuate a modifying phrase, there are always three options, and the marks are properly used in pairs. 1. Use commas to convey neutrality. 2. Use parentheses to indicate that the modifying phrase is an aside. 3. Use dashes to highlight...

Use Time Sensitive Vocabulary to Increase Urgency

Certain time-related words and phrases inspire action, such as now, today, before the deadline passes, right away, time is of the essence, and by the end of business today or in an hour, or by any other specified deadline . This time-sensitive vocabulary creates a sense of urgency while maintaining a professional, business-like tone. While the above and similar phrases create a sense of timeliness, try to avoid the clich d generic phrase as soon as possible or its abbreviation, ASAP . It is...

Certain Words Require Certain Prepositions

Certain words must be followed by certain prepositions in order to achieve clarity. Learning these combinations will help you conform to professional standards in business writing. The following list of common combinations clarifies which preposition to use when. account for to explain or justify something missing account to to explain or justify something to someone He needs to account for his absence at the client meeting. He will have to account to Mr. Peterson for missing the client...

Exercise Revise for Conciseness

Gloria, an administrative assistant in a silk flower company, said, My boss sends out proposals to hotel executives. Her ideas are good, but she's wordy. I always have to revise her writing, but it's important that I preserve her meaning. Read the following paragraph from one of the proposals Gloria needs to revise, and rewrite it so that it's clear, focused, and appropriately short. As the leader in the silk flower industry, we create arrangements that are lush and full and always custom...

Start Sentences with Words That Hook Your Readers Interest

The first question is May I start a sentence with a transitional word such as and or but Many of us learned in school that we were never to begin sentences with words such as and, but, because, so, therefore, or any other transitional expression. But just as in normal business conversations we begin sentences with and, but, because, so, therefore, and other similar words and phrases, it is accepted practice to use these words and phrases to begin sentences in business writing if doing so sounds...

Exercise Revise in a Methodical Manner

In the following first draft of an E-mail to retail sales staff, Les, the merchandising manager of a one-hour eyeglasses store chain, wants to institute a policy that the in-store sales staff shouldn't leave eyeglass frames scattered on the counter. Les explained that he struggled with how to word the E-mail. I didn't want to issue an edict, he explained. I wanted to position it as a sales strategy. Read Les's first draft, answer the questions, and then revise the E-mail, addressing the issues...

Exercise Capitalize Correctly

Rewrite the sentences below, making all appropriate corrections. 1. the team leader is ms. feeney. 2. the keynote speaker, dr. leon williams, chairman, will speak on wednesday. 3. the first draft of the budget is due friday, january 1. 4. payments for unemployment taxes are sent to the new york department of taxation. 5. uncle joel and aunt maria are staying at the sheraton hotel on the avenue of the americas. 6. i just finished watching cnn news on channel 2. 7. we want to visit red rocks when...

Adverbs May Weaken Verbs

Instead of adding words and phrases that modify verbs, it's often better to select the most exact verb. Choosing an on-target verb adds impact to the sentence and may eliminate an unneeded adverb. In the following examples, note the effectiveness of choosing the precise verb. The committee carefully considered the proposed reorganization. The committee deliberated the proposed reorganization. The word deliberated means carefully considered. The negotiations quickly fell apart when the partner...

Organize Your Thoughts Methodically with a Traditional Outline

In a traditional outline, numerals and letters are used to create a hierarchy of information. Your primary points are labeled with large roman numerals. Subpoints under primary point use capital letters. The next level down uses regular numbers, followed by lowercase letters, and so on. Following the strict outlining conventions, you need at least two points within each category, although in business writing, there is far more flexibility. Sarah, a director in a health care company, decided to...