Thursday, September 19, 2013

Notes on the Thee-Step Writing Process


Whether you are creating conventional printed report or a message in the latest digital format such as podcasting, your goal is to create messages that have a clear purpose, meet the needs of your audience, and communicate efficiently and effectively.

Understanding the Three-step Writing Process

The three-step writing process consists of the planning, writing, and completing your messages.

·         Analyze the situation
Define your purpose and develop an audience profile
·         Gather information
Determine audience needs and obtain the information necessary to satisfy those needs
·         Select the Right Medium
·         Organize your information
Define your main idea, limit your scope, select a direct or an indirect approach, and outline your content.
·         Adopt to your audience
Be sensitive to audience needs, by using a “you” attitude, politeness, positive emphasis, and bias-free language. Build a strong relationship with your audience by establishing your credibility and projecting your image. Control your style with a conversational tone, plain English, and appropriate voice.
·         Compose the message
Choose strong words that will help create effective sentences and coherent paragraphs.
·         Revise the message
Evaluate content and review readability and then edit and rewrite for conciseness.
·         Produce the message
Use effective design elements and suitable layout for a clean, professional appearance.
·         Proofread the message
Review for errors in layout, spelling, and mechanics.
·         Distribute the message
Deliver your message using the chosen medium; make sure all documents and all relevant files are distributed successfully.


Planning Business Messages

I.  Analyzing Your Situation

Defining your purpose

Business messages have both general and specific purpose. The general purpose can be to inform, to persuade, or to collaborate with your audience. Within the scope of that general purpose, each message also has a specific purpose, which identifies what you hope to accomplish with your message.

After defining your purpose, verify that the message will be worth the time and effort required to create, send, and receive it. Ask these four questions:

·         Will anything change as a result of your message?

·         Is your purpose realistic?

·         Is the time right?

·         Is your purpose acceptable to your organization?

II. Developing an audience profile

Before audiences will bother to pay attention to your messages, they need to be interested in what you’re saying. The more you know about your audience members, their needs, and their expectation, the more effective you’ll be able to communicate with them.

Conducting an audience analysis involves the following steps:

·         Identify the primary audience

·         Determine audience size and geographic distribution.

·         Determine audience composition

·         Gauge audience members’ level of understanding

·         Understand audience expectations and preferences

·         Forecast probable audience reaction


Audience Analysis Notes
Project: A report recommending that we closed down the on-site exercise facility and subsidize private memberships at local health clubs.
·         Primary audience: Nicole Perazzo, vice president of operations, and her supervisory team.
·         Size and geographic distribution: Nine managers total; Nicaole Perazzo and five of her staff are here on site; three other supervisors are based in Hong Kong.
·         Composition: All have experience in operations management, but several are new to the company.
·         Level o f understanding: All will no doubt understand the financial consideration, but the newer managers may not understand the importance of the one-site exercise facility to many of our employees.
·         Expectations and preferences. They are expecting a firm recommendation, backed up with well-thought-out financial rationale and suggestions for communicating the bad news to employees. For a decision of this magnitude, a formal report is appropriate; email distribution is expected.
·         Probable reaction. Form one-on-one discussions, I know that several of the managers receiving this report are active users of the on-site facility and won’t welcome the suggestion that e should shut it down. However, some nonexercisers generally think it’s a luxury that the company cannot afford. Audience reactions will ranger form highly positive to highly negative since they’re the ones I need to convince.


III. Gathering Information

With a clear picture of your audience, your next step is to assemble the information that you will include in your message. For simple messages, you may already have all the information at hand, but for more complex messages, you may need to do considerable research and analysis before you begin writing.

 Uncovering audience needs

If you are given a vague request, ask questions to clarify to clarify it before you plan a response.

 Include any additional information that might be helpful, even though the requester did not specifically ask for it.

Providing required information

Test the completeness of your document by making sure it answers all the important questions: who, where, why, and how. In addition to delivering the right quantity of information, you are responsible for verifying the quality of information. As yourself these questions:

·         Is the information accurate?

·         Is the information ethical?

·         Is the information pertinent?

IV. Selecting the Right Medium

For Media advantages and Disadvantages
·         Provide for immediate feedback
·         Allow a certain ease of interaction
·         Involve rich nonverbal cues (both physical gesture and vocal inflection)
·         Allow you to express the emotion behind your message
·         Restrict participation to those physically present
·         Unless recorded, provide no permanent, verifiable record of the communication
·         Reduce the communicator’s control over the message
·         Other than for messages that are prewritten and rehearsed, offer no opportunity to revise or edit your spoken words
·         Allow you to plan and control your message
·         Reach geographically dispersed audiences
·         Offer a permanent, verifiable document
·         Minimize distortion that can accompany oral messages
·         Can be used to avoid immediate interactions
·         Deemphasize any inappropriate emotional components
·         Are usually not conducive to feedback
·         Lack the rich nonverbal cues provided by oral media
·         Often take more time and more resources to create and distribute
·         Can require special skills in preparation and production if document is elaborate
·         Can convey complex ideas and relationships quickly
·         Are often less intimidating  that long blocks of text
·         Can reduce the burden on the audience to figure out how the pieces fit
·         Can require artistic skills to design
·         Require some technical skills to create
·         Can require more time to create than an equivalent amount of text
·         Are more difficult to transmit and store than simple textual messages
·         Deliver messages quickly
·         Reach geographically dispersed audiences
·         Offer the persuasive power of multimedia formats
·         Can increase accessibility and openness in an organization
·         Enable audience interaction through social media features
·         Are easy to overuse (sending too many messages to too many recipients)
·         Create privacy risks and concerns (exposing confidential data; employer  monitoring of email and IM; accidental forwarding)
·         Entail security risks (viruses, spyware)
·         Create productive concerns (frequent interruptions; non-business websurfing)


V. Organizing Your Message

Good message organization helps you by reducing the time and energy needed to create needed to create messages and by making your messages more effective.

Good organization helps your audience by helping them understand and accept your message in less time.

To organize a message

·         Define your main idea

The topic in the broad subject; the main idea makes a statement about the topic.  Defining your main idea is more difficult when you’re trying to persuade someone or convey disappointing information.  For tough assignments like these, consider a variety of techniques to generate creative ideas:

-        Brainstorming

-        Journalistic approach

-        Question-and-answer chain

-        Storyteller’s tour

-        Mind mapping

·         Limit the scope

Limit the scope of your message so that you can convey your maid idea as briefly as possible.

·         Choose the direct or indirect approach

Ø  Direct approach. When you know your audience will be receptive to your message, use the direct approach.  Start with the main idea and follow the supporting evidence.

Ø  Indirect approach. When you audience is skeptical about or event resistant to your message, use the indirect approach. Start with the evidence first and build your case before presenting the main idea.

Direct Approach
Indirect Approach
Audience Reaction
Message Opening
Start with the main idea, the request, or the good news.
Start with a neutral statement that acts as a transition to the reason for the bad news.
Start with a statement or question that captures attention.
Message Body
Provide the necessary details.
Give reasons to justify a negative answer. State or imply the bad news, and make a positive suggestion.
Arouse the audience’s interest in the subject. Build the audience desire to comply.
Message Close
Close with a cordial comment, a reference to the good news, or a statement about the specific action desired.
Close cordially.
Request action.


·         Group your points

Once you have chosen the right approach, it’s time to figure out the most logical and effective way to provide your provide your supporting details.

-        Start with the main idea

-        State the major points

-        Illustrate with evidence

Writing Business Messages

I. Adapting to Your Audience

Audiences are more likely to respond positively when they believe that the messages address their concerns.

Being sensitive to your audience needs

In any business message, you can use all the right words and still not be sensitive to your audience members and their needs.

Using the “you” attitude

You can best implement the “you” attitude by expressing your message in terms of the audience’s interests and needs.

Instead of this
Write this
To help us process this order, we must ask for another copy of the requisition.
So that your order can be filled promptly, please send another copy of the requisition.
We are pleased to announce our new flight from Atlanta to New York, which is every hour on the hour.
Now you can take a Delta flight from Atlanta to New York every hour on the hour.


Even so, using “you” and “your” requires finesse. If you overdo it, you’re likely to create some rather awkward sentences, and you run the risk of sounding overly enthusiastic and artificial

Avoid using “you” and” your” when doing so

·         Makes you sound dictatorial

·         Makes someone else feel guilty

·         Goes against your organization’s style

Maintaining Standards of Etiquette

Although you may be tempted now and then to brutally frank, try to express the facts in a kind and thoughtful manner.

Instead of this
Write this
Once again, you’ve managed to bring down the website through your incompetent programming.
Let’s review the last website update so that we can identify potential problems before the next update.
You’ve been sitting on our order for two weeks, and we need it now!
Our production schedules depend on the delivery of parts and supplies, but we have not received the order you promised to deliver two weeks ago. Please respond today with a firm delivery commitment.


Use extra tact when communicating with people higher up the organization chart than you or outside the company.

Emphasizing the positive

You can communicate negative news without being negative.

Instead of this
Write this
It is impossible to repair your laptop today.
Your computer can't be ready by Tuesday. Would you like a loaner until then?
We wasted $300,000 advertising in that magazine.
Our $300,000 advertising investment did not pay off; let’s analyze the experience and apply the insights to future campaigns.


Show your audience members how they will benefit by responding to your message.

Instead of this
Write this
We will notify all three credit reporting agencies if you do not pay your overdue bill within 10 days.
Paying your overdue bill within 10 days will prevent a negative entry on your credit record.
I am tired of seeing so many error s in the customer service blog.
Proofreading your blog postings will help you avoid embarrassing mistakes that generates more customer service complaints.


Try to avoid words with negative connotations; use meaningful euphemisms instead.

Instead of This
Write This
Cheap merchandise                                                            Economy merchandise
Failing                                                                                    Underperforming
Fake                                                                                       Imitation or faux

Using Bias-Free Language

Overcoming Bias in Language
Gender Bias
Using words containing men
Artificial, synthetic, manufactured, constructed, human-made
Humanity, human beings, human race, people
Workers, workforce
Executive, manager, businessperson
Sales representative, salesperson, clerk
Using female-gender words
Actress, stewardess
Actor, flight attendant
Using special designations
Woman doctor, male nurse
Doctor, nurse
Using he to refer to everyone
The average worker . . . he
The average worker . . . he or she
Average workers . . . they
Identifying roles with gender
The typical executive spends four hours of his day in meetings.
The consumer . . . she
The nurse/teacher . . . she
Most executives spend four hours a day in meeting.
Consumers . . . they
Nurses/ teachers . . . they
Identifying women by marital status
Mrs. Norm Lindstrom
Norm Lindstrom and Ms. Drake
Maria Lindstrom
Ms. Maria Lindstrom
Norm Lindstrom and Maria Drake
Mr. Lindstrom and Ms. Drake
Racial and Ethnic Bias
Assigning stereotypes
My African-American assistant
Speaks more articulately than I do.
Jim Wong is an unusually tall Asian.
My assistant speaks more articulately than I do.
Jim Wong is tall.
Identifying people by race or ethnicity
Mario M. Cuomo, Italian American politician and ex-governor of New York.
Marion M. Cuomo, politician and ex-governor of New York
Age Bias
Including age when irrelevant
Mary Kirazy, 58, has just joined our trust department.
Mary Kirazy has just joined our trust department.
Disability Bias
Putting the disability before the person
Crippled works face many barriers on the job.
An epileptic, Tracy has no trouble doing her job.
Workers with physical disabilities face many barriers on the job.
Tracy’s epilepsy has no effect on her job performance.


Protecting the Company’s image

Your company’s interest and reputation take precedence over your personal communication style.

Controlling your style and tone

Most business messages aim for a conversational style that is warm but businesslike.

·         Avoid obsolete and pompous language.

·         Avoid preaching and bragging.

·         Be careful with intimacy.

·         Be careful with humor. 

Formal, Conversational, and Informal Tones
When it’s used
Reserved for the formal occasions
Preferred for the most business communication
Preferred for communication with friends and close associates
Dear Ms. Navarro:
Enclosed is the information that was requested during our telephone communication of May 14, As mentioned at that time, Midville Hospital has significantly more doctors of exceptional quality that any other health facility in the state.
As you were also informed, our organization has quite an impressive network of doctors and other health-care professionals with offices located throughout the state. In the event that you should need a specialist, our professionals will be able to make an appropriate recommendation.
Most sincerely yours,
Samuel G. Berenz
Dear Ms. Navarro
Here’s the information you requested during our phone conversation on Friday. As I mentioned, Midville Hospital has the best doctors and more of them than any other hospital state.
In addition, we have a vast network of doctors and other health professional with offices throughout the state. If you need a specialist, they can refer you to the right one.
If you would like more information, please call any time between 9:00 and 5:00, Monday through Friday.
Samuel G. Berenz
Hi Gabriella:
Hope all is well. Just sending along the information you asked for. As I said on Friday, Midville Hospital has more and better doctors that any other hospital in the state.
We also have a large group of doctors and other health professionals with offices close to you at work at home. Need a specialist? They’ll refer you to the right on.
Just give me a ring if you want to more. Any time from 9:00 to 5: 00 should be fine.
Take care,


Using Plain English

Audience can understand and act on plain English without reading it over and over.

Selecting Active and Passive Voice

Active sentences are usually stronger than passive ones.

Use the passive sentences to soften bad news to put yourself in the background, or to create an impersonal tone when needed.

Choosing Active or Passive Voice
In general, avoid passive voice in order to make your writing lively and direct.
Dull and Indirect in Passive Voice
Lively and Direct in Active Voice
The new procedure was developed by the operations team.
Legal problems are created by this contract.
Reception preparations have been undertaken by our PR people for the ne CEO’s arrival. 
The operation team developed the new procedure.
This contract creates legal problems.
Our PR people have begun planning a reception for the new CEO.
However, passive voice is helpful when you need to be diplomatic or want to focus attention on problems or solutions rather than on people.
Accusatory or Self-congratulatory in Active Voice
More diplomatic in Passive Voice
You lost the shipment.
I recruited seven engineers last month.
We are investigating the high rate of failures on the final assembly line.
The shipment was lost.
Seven engineers were recruited last month.
The high rate of failures on the final assembly line is being investigated.


II. Finding words that communicate well

When you compose your business messages, think carefully to find the words that communicate exactly what you want to say.

·         Choose powerful words

·         Choose familiar words

·         Avoid clichés and use buzzwords carefully

·         Use jargon carefully

Finding Words that Communicate with Power
Weak Phrases
Wealthy businessperson
Growth cycle
Hard times
Stronger Alternatives
Economic boom
Unfamiliar Words
Familiar Words
Find out, learn
Close, bring about
Ready, study
Growth, increase
Clichés and Buzzwords
A uphill battle
Writing on the wall
Call the shots
Take by storm
Cost an arm and a leg
A new ballgame
Fall through the cracks
Think outside the box
Run it up the flagpole
Eat our won dog food
Mission critical
Plain Language
A challenge
Be in charge
Fresh start
Be overlooked
Be creative
Find out what people think about it
Use your own products
Get rid of


Crafting Coherent Paragraphs

Most paragraphs consist of

·         A topic sentence that reveals the subject of the paragraph

·         Related sentences that support and expand the topic

·         Transitional elements that help readers move between sentences and paragraphs.

Transitions are words or phrases that connect ideas by showing one thought is related to another. Transitional elements include:

·         Connecting words. Use words such as and, but, or, nevertheless, however, in addition, and so on.

·         Repeated words or phrases. “A system should be established for monitoring inventory levels. This system will provide . . .”

·         Pronouns. “Ms. Arthur is the leading candidate for the president’s position. She has excellent qualifications.

Some transitions serve as mood changers:

·         Additional detail: moreover, furthermore, in addition, beside, first, second, third, finally

·         Causal relationship: therefore, because, accordingly, thus, consequently, hence, as a result, so

·         Comparison similarly, here again, likewise, in comparison, still

·         Contrast, yet, conversely, whereas, nevertheless, on the other hand, however, but, nonetheless

·         Condition : although, if

·         Illustration: for example, in particular, in this case, for instance

·         Time sequence: formerly, after, when, meanwhile, sometimes

·         Intensification: indeed, in fact, in any event

·         Summary: in brief, in short, to sum up

·         Repetition: that is, in other words, as I mentioned earlier.

Five techniques for Developing Paragraphs
Comparison or contrast
Cause and effect
Problem and solution
Giving  examples that demonstrate the general idea
Using similarities or differences to develop the topic
Focusing on the reasons for something
Showing how a general idea is broken into specific categories
Presenting a problem and then discussing the solution
Some of our most popular products are available through local distributors. For example, Everrett & Lemmings carries our frozen soups and entrees. The J. B. Green Company carries our complete line of seasonings, as well as the frozen soups. Wilmort Foods, also a major distributor, now carries our new line of frozen desserts.
When the company was small, the recruiting function could be handled informally. The need for new employees was limited, and each manger could comfortably screen and hire his or her staff. However, our successful bid on the Owens contract means that we will be doubling our labor force over the next six months. To hire that many people without disrupting our ongoing activities, we will create a separate recruiting group within the human resources department.
The heavy-duty fabric of your Wanderer tent probably broke down for one of two reasons: (1) a sharp object punctured the fabric, and without reinforcement, the hole was enlarged by the stress of pitching the tent daily for a week or (2) the fibers gradually rotted because the tent was folded and stored while still wet.
Successful candidates for our supervisor trainee program generally come from one of several groups. The largest group, by far, consists of recent graduates of accredited business management programs. The next largest group comes from within our own company, as we try to promote promising staff workers to positions of greater responsibility. Finally, we do occasionally accept candidates with outstanding supervisory experience in related industries.
Selling handmade toys online is a challenge because consumers are accustomed to buying heavily advertised toys form major chain stores or well-known websites such as However, if we develop an appealing website, we can compete on the basis of product novelty and quality. In addition, we can provide unusual crafts at a competitive price: a rocking horse or birch, with a hand-knit tail and mane; a music box with the child’s name painted on the top; a real teepee made by Native American artisans.


Completing Your Business Message

I. Reviewing the message

Evaluate content and review readability and then edit and rewrite for conciseness and clarity.

Keeping your paragraphs short

Short paragraphs are easier to read than long ones.

Using lists and bullets to clarify and emphasize

Lists are effective tools for highlighting and simplifying material.

Instead of this
Write this
Owning your business has many advantages. Once is the opportunity to build a major financial asset. Another advantage is the satisfaction of working for yourself. As a sole proprietor, you do not have to reveal your financial information or plans to anyone.  
Owning your own business has three advantages:
·         The opportunity to build a major financial asset
·         The satisfaction of working for yourself
·         The freedom to keep most of your financial information private


Adding subheadings and headings

A heading is a brief title that tells readers about the content of the section that follows. Subheadings indicate subsections within a major section; complex documents may have several levels of subheadings.

Use headings to grab the reader’s attentions and organize material into short sections.

Rewriting hedging sentences

Sometimes you have to hedge or qualify a statement when you aren’t entirely sure of something, when you can’t predict an outcome, or when you don’t want to sound arrogant. However avoid, hedging to the point that you lose authority.

Instead of this
Write this
I believe that Mr. Johnson’s employment record seems to show that he may be capable of handling the position.
Mr. Johnson’s employment record shows that he is capable of handling the position.


Imposing parallelism

When you use parallel grammatical patterns to express two or ideas, you show that they are comparable thoughts.

Instead of this
Write this
To waste time and missing deadlines are bad habits.
Interviews are a matter of acting confident and to stay relaxed.
Wasting time and missing deadlines are bad habits.
Interviews are a matter of acting confident and staying relaxed.


Correcting dangling modifiers

Instead of this
Write this
Working as quickly as possible, the budget was soon ready.
After a three-week slump, we increased sales.
Working as quickly as possible, the committee soon had the budget ready.
After a three-week slump, sales increased.


Rewording long noun sequences

Stringing too many nouns together as modifiers can make a sentence difficult to read.

Instead of this
Writing this
The aluminum window sash installation company will give us an estimate on Friday.
The company that installs aluminum window sashes will give us an estimate on Friday.


Replacing camouflaged verbs

Watch out for word endings such ion, tion, ing, ment, ant, ent, ence, ance, and ency. Most of them “camouflage” a verb changing it into a noun or an adjective.

Instead of this
Write this
The manager undertook implementation of the rule.
Verification of the shipments occurs weekly.
The manager implemented the rules,
The shipments are verified weekly.


Clarifying sentence structure

Subject and predicate should be placed as close tighter as possible, as should modifiers and the words they modify.

Instead of this
Write this
A 10 percent decline in market share caused by quality problems and an aggressive sales campaign by Armitage, the market leader in the Northeast, was the major problem in 2008.
The major problem in 2008 was 10 percent loss of market share caused by quality problems and an aggressive sales campaign by Armitage, the market leader in the Northeast. 


Clarifying awkward references

Be careful with directional phrases such as the above-mentioned, as mentioned above, the aforementioned, the former, the latter, and respectively. They often force readers to jump form point to point to figure out what you are saying.

Instead of this
Write this
The Law Office and Accounting Office distribute computer supplies for legal secretaries and beginning accountants, respectively.
The Law Office distributes computer supplies for legal secretaries; the Accounting Office distributes those for beginning accountants.


Moderating your enthusiasm

An occasional adjective or adverb intensifies and emphasizes your meaning, but too many can ruin your writing by making you sound insincere. 

Instead of this
Write this
We are beyond delighted to offer you a position on our staff of exceptionally skilled and highly educated employees. The work offers extraordinarily challenges and a very large salary.
We are pleased to offer you a position on our staff or skilled and well-educated employees. The work offers challenges and an attractive salary.


Deleting Unnecessary words

To test whether a word or phrase is essential, try the sentence without it. If the meaning does not change, leave it out.

Instead of this
Write this
For the sum of
In the event that
On the occasion of
Prior to the start of
In the near future
At this point in time
Due to the fact that
In view of the fact that
Until such time as
With reference to


Avoid the clutter of unnecessary or poorly placed relative pronouns (who, that , which):

Instead of this
Writing this
Cars that are sold after January will not have a six-month warranty.
Employees who are driving to work should park in the spaces that are marked “Staff.”
Cars sold after January will not have a six-month warranty.
Employees driving to work should park in the spaces that are marked “Staff.”


However, a well-placed relative pronoun and articles prevent confusion. Notice how the meaning changes depending on where that is placed in these sentences:

Instead of this
Write this
The project manager told the engineers last week the specifications were changed.
The project manager told the engineers last week that the specifications were changed.
The project manager told the engineers that last week the specifications were changed.


Shortening long words and phrases

Short words are generally more vivid and easier to read than long ones.

Instead of this
Write this
During the preceding year, the company accelerated productive operations, an action predicted on the assumption that the company was operating at a financial deficit.
Last year the company sped up operations. The action was based on the belief that the company was losing money.


You can use infinitive in place of some phrases, you can shorten your sentences and make them clearer.

Instead of this
Write this
If you want success as a writer, you must work hard.
He went to the library for the purpose of studying.
The employer increased salaries so that she could improve morale.
To be a successful writer, you must work hard.
He went to the library to study.
The employer increased salaries to improve morale.


Eliminating redundancies

In some word combinations, the words tend to say the same thing.

Instead of this
Write this
Absolutely complete
Basic fundamentals
Follows after
Reduce down
Refer back
Repeat again
Collect together
Future plans
Return back
End result
Actual truth
Final outcome
Surrounded on all sides


Recasting “It is there/There are” starters

Instead of this
Write this
It would be appreciated if you would sign the lease today.
There are five employees in this division who were late to work today.
Please sign the lease today.
Five employees in this division were late to work today.




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