Standard Business Document

A standard communication is achieved through a combination of elements. For example, you may use a conversational style in a traditional letter.

If you decide that it's appropriate to create a formal communication:

1. You should use a traditional format (such as a report, proposal, or letter).

2. Your style should be conventional.

3. Your tone should be no-nonsense, rational, or urgent.

If you decide that it's appropriate to create an informal communication:

1. You should use a nontraditional format (such as E-mail, a margin note, or a sticky note).

2. Your style should be relaxed and personalized.

3. Your tone should be friendly.

Consider the communications in Figures 1.1 and 1.2. One is formal, the other is standard, or less formal. Both address a typical business situation: The letter writer is requesting a partial refund for inadequate service.

In Figure 1.1, you'll note a rather formal tone. (The Formality Index was judged as 1 + 5 + 1 = 7.)

Now consider that the writer assesses the Formality Index as standard—not informal, but certainly more relaxed than the formal letter. (It is scored as 7 + 8 + 3 = 18.)

EXERCISE 3: How Formal Should Your Communication Be?

If you use the Formality Index to assess how your communication should be formatted and how it should sound, your readers will be more likely to respond as you intend. Think about the project you worked on earlier— writing a letter of reference to Mr. Smith on behalf of your favorite boss.

Answer the three questions in the Formality Index to determine the appropriate level of formality:

1. Do you know your target reader(s) well and personally?

2. Are they below you in "rank"?

3. Is the subject of your communication good news?

What did you decide? Most people evaluate this communication as one that's quite formal—did you? (Most people would score this between ten and twenty; for example, 1 + 2 + 9 = 12.)

Once you complete the Formality Index, you're ready to move on to the final tool of this chapter. This third tool, the Matrix of Persuasion, helps you classify your overall writing assignment. Doing so enables you to understand, strategically, how best to present benefits to your target readers.

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