Howdy. My name is __________, and I work at the University Writing Center. We are available to all TAMU students to help with any writing project. You can find out more about us by asking me, or by visiting our Web site at writingcenter.tamu.edu. [If you have time, talk about the hours and locations of the UWC]
Letters, memos, and emails can be either formal or casual. Always begin by thinking about audience. Since correspondence is written to such a specific audience, it is especially important. Make a blunder and you could offend someone.It’s important to figure out the appropriate level of style for the audience you will be addressing. One of the most common complaints about any form of correspondence is that it’s too informal or familiar. This is especially a problem with emails. Don’t be casual just because you are writing an email—decide first if a casual tone is right for the reader and the situation.
You can think about it like this. If you are writing to a potential employer, are you going to offer the hot dog or the salmon steak? Would you wear shorts or a suit to the interview? There isn’t just one right answer here. They may well be jobs for which shorts and a hot dog will be a better tactic.But there are guidelines. Casual or informal style can be used when making contact with friends and family,sharing news and announcements about personal milestones with co-workers or casual acquaintences, or sending invitations that are not work-related,
You can usually use more formal style when conducting business of any kind, in or out of school:Workplace communicationsCover letters for resumes or for transmitting reportsGrade appealsChecking in with a professor about classWriting to a government official
Audience is always important, in everything you write, but in correspondence it is essential because you usually are addressing specific people. Still, remember that especially with email and the ease of forwarding, your words may be read by people you didn’t intend to address.Consider Who will read and act on what you write?Who else may read it?Your words can easily be copied to others.They may be subject to scrutiny by courts and lawyers.Think carefully before you hit the send button or affix the stamp.
How might the way the correspondence will be used affect how you write it? quickly skimmed. If it is skimmed you have to use headings, or other means, to help readers find what they need. forwarded to someone else, in which case it may be read, copied, and distributed to readers unknown to you. If it is copied you might want to be careful about what you say in case it gets to the wrong people, etc.3. read carefully and saved for later reference. It may be used in another way than you intended such as in a meeting for discussing a particular point, or used to give instructions.4. Thrown away—so make sure what you wrote is memorable
Let’s look now at the differences between types of correspondence. Formality is determined by purpose and audience, and not by how the letter is formatted.Here hand out an example letter. If there is time, discuss the format.
Notice that the script font would really be a signature.
Memos, or memorandum, havetraditionally been written to an in-house reader.Memos always begin with a header thatincludes TO, FROM, SUBJECT (or RE for Regarding), and DATE. Sometimes other elements are included, such as ACTION or XC.Memos never have a signature at the bottom.Senders initial next to their names in the FROM line.
Emails are used both internally and externally for business correspondence. Don’t act as if all emails are informal because you may use them with friends or family. Determine formality by audience and purpose.Emails were originally modeled after memos, so they have an automatic TO,FROM, SUBJECT, DATE area.Many people add a personalized signature to emails. For formal situations, make sure it is professional and includes all your contact information.Consider it a letterhead.For professional or school purposes, use a professional email address, e.g. email@example.com. and NOT firstname.lastname@example.org.
And forget using IM talk, even in emails, unless you are writing in a casual style.
The opening paragraph of any correspondence is crucial. It should be explicit and clear at the outset:Who you areWhy you are writingWhat you wantEstablishing these basics is always crucial. Don’t rely on the reader’s memory! (Oh, he knows why I am writing. After all, he asked for a report.) You may think it’s obvious why you are writing, but think of your reader as very busy and distracted.
Another big mistake, besides misjudging tone and being too casual, is writing too quickly and not giving correspondence much thought. Although you might not have reason or time to spend as long on a letter or memo or email as a paper, you still need to follow a process of drafting and proofreading. Correspondence has to be readable and clear, and you’ll look especially bad if it is sloppy, careless, or incorrect.In drafting, it helps to break the organization into 3 basic parts.
How do you rate this opening line?Use this to encourage discussion. It is wordy and passive—who is reviewing (notice the repetition) the review procedures? Why? As a first sentence to a letter or memo, it’s confusing. Why are you getting a memo about this in the first place?Revise it in the active voice, as, for example, below.To ensure compliance with Texas law, the Human Resources department recently began revising employee review procedures. To be sure that the revisions are clear, we would like your input. We have attached a draft for your review. This shows who is writing, why, and what they want.
Here’s another way to fix it.Notice this is changed to active voice.
The body needs to make your major points and then back them up.A recommendation or suggestion needs to be accompanied by a reason. A generalization needs to be clarified and made more specific. Stay concise. If details must be presented, use exhibits.Maybe you improved company processes? By what percentage? Maybe you saved the company money? How much? Maybe you have an idea that will revolutionize the industry? Exactly how, and is there any way you can prove it?
To emphasize one of the most important points today, I want to come back to tone. That’s how you come across. A good way to test tone is to read aloud. Project yourself as reasonable, objective, and professional. This does not mean you cannot show passion or enthusiasm, but never do so at anyone else’s expense.Allow more time for designingmessages that may arise fromsensitive issues.Be as positive as possible. Avoid any phrases that suggest the reader is . . .carelessunintelligentlyingAnticipate the effects of negativeor unwelcome information.Analyze the reader as carefully aspossible before writing.
Get some discussion going.This is OK, but there is no reason, other than trust, to believe the claim. It sounds good, and at least I know specifically what Sean’s strengths are. But what has Sean done along these lines? Is he always on time for work? Does he meet deadlines even if he has to put in overtime without pay? Has he been a negotiator or peacemaker? Has he served as a mentor to a colleague? Has he stood up to a bully or ignored petty office gossip?
This is obviously better. It provides evidence for the claims.
Instructions for Consultant:Split into groups of 4 (depending on the size of the class)“Let’s Play a Game!”“I have two dice here. One die represents type of correspondence: 1.Typed Letter 2.Handwritten Note 3.Memo 4.E-mail 5.Cover Letter 6.Facebook Message“The other dice represents recipients: 1.Professor 2.Grandma 3.Current Employer 4.Future Employer 5.Congressman 6.College Station PD”“My partner and I will now model how the game will work.” (One consultant will sit down with a group)“One of you will roll both dice (roll dice) For modeling purposes, I will be the dice roller. I have rolled (cover letter and grandma).(One of the consultants will quickly talk over what their answers would be to the questions)(Melissa will then provide answers to the questions when Corene asks her). “Thanks Melissa.”“Does anyone have any questions?”“Now I need a volunteer.”(Play the game).**Some combinations will be more unusual than others. From the example above, students may not be able to think of an occasion when you would ever have to write a memo to your grandmother. Just encourage them to think outside of the box on the stranger pairs. If they still can’t think of anything, you could give them some ideas. For this example, you could say that maybe you would write a memo to your grandmother is she is also your CEO—remind them that you would have to separate your personal relationship from your professional relationship with your grandmother.**If you think that you might have trouble explaining some of the combinations on the spot, you might want to think of a couple of real-life situations when you prepare for the workshop beforehand. You can make notes to yourself if you think you might forget.Possible alternatives for the game:-If this doesn’t take very long or if the students don’t have much to say, then you could play another way. You could roll just the recipient dice (or think of a different recipient not listed on the dice), and then call out a situation from the following list:Formal ComplaintApologyResignationCongratulationsBusiness AdvertisementThank youRegretsFundraisingReport FindingsMake a SuggestionRecommendation LetterCondolences ClarificationAsk for Time OffAsk for HelpThen have the students think of which type of correspondence would be the best when writing to this recipient in this situation. This may generate more discussion than the two dice method if the class resists discussion.
Write on target. We can even answer rhetorical questions. 458-1455 writingcenter.tamu.edu
Letters Written to someone outside the organization Can be attached as documents to emails May be handwritten or typed
Block Format 1111 Bovary Drive Plainview, TX 79072 December 28, 2005 Dr. Candace Schaefer Fredericksburg Clinic 12345 Anabel Place Fredericksburg, TX 77840 Dear Dr. Schaefer: We are happy to inform you that your dissertation has been approved. We want you to know how pleased we are. Yours truly, Willie B. Nelson Willie B. Nelson
Modified Block Format 1111 Bovary Drive Plainview, TX 79072 December 28, 2005 Dr. Candace Schaefer Fredericksburg Clinic 12345 Anabel Place Fredericksburg, TX 77840 Dear Dr. Schaefer: We are happy to inform you that your dissertation has been approved. We want you to know how pleased we are. Yours truly, Willie B. Nelson Willie B. Nelson
Modified Block Format with Indented Paragraphs 1111 Bovary Drive Plainview, TX 79072 December 28, 2005 Dr. Candace Schaefer Fredericksburg Clinic 12345 Anabel Place Fredericksburg, TX 77840 Dear Dr. Schaefer: We are happy to inform you that your dissertation has been approved. We want you to know how pleased we are. Yours truly, Willie B. Nelson Willie B. Nelson
Btw can’t w8 2 cu lol Inappropriate for formal correspondence: Instant Messaging language Emoticons Spelling errors Exclamation points!!! Slang
Opening Paragraph I am writing to let you know that I have not received your work schedule for next week. As you know, if I don’t get a schedule by today at five, you will not be working next week. As a regular Kroger customer and a mother, I want to suggest that you offer sausage and other processed meats with no nitrites.
3 Basic Parts Opening:Who you are writing to, why, what you want Development:Details, evidence, and data Closing:Main points and information about further contact or action
Employee review procedures are currently being reviewed to ensure compliance with Texas law.
You recently asked for an update on employee review procedures. I have analyzed them and have determined they do comply with Texas law.
Provide Details, Evidence, & Data Better performance? Provide the numbers! Recommend firing? Include specific incidents or reviews of employee performance! Claim you can do the job? Provide proof of what you have done!
Tone Respectful Reasonable Objective Professional Sensitive
Comment on This Sean has the ability to do the job and will be a responsible and mature employee with a strong work ethic. I have no hesitation in recommending him for any job which requires people skills.
Sean has an excellent attendance record and rarely takes sick leave. He has led his team on a number of important projects, the most recent being a revision of the department’s policy and procedures manual. Primarily because of Sean’s suggestions, it now has numbered sections and is more readable. Two of his team members told me that if it weren’t for Sean, the project would have stalled.
Writing Letters Can Be Dicey On your turn: Roll the type die and the recipient die Now Discuss: After these rolls, each group will have 2 minutes to answer these questions. Under what circumstances would you write this letter? Have you ever written a letter like this? Using what you have learned, what would you need to keep in mind?
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