Learning Objectives After studying this chapter, you will be able to: Explain the importance of adapting your messages to the needs and expectations of your audience. Define the “you” attitude and its role in successful communication. Discuss four ways of achieving a businesslike tone with a style that is clear and concise. Explain the meaning of plain English and its value in business communication. Briefly describe how to select words that are not only correct but also effective. Explain how sentence style affects emphasis within your message. List five ways to develop coherent paragraphs. Identify the most common software features that help you craft messages more efficiently.
With a solid plan in place (see Chapter 3), you’re ready to choose the words and craft the sentences and paragraphs that will carry your ideas to their intended audiences. Planning business messages. To plan any message, first analyze the situation by defining your purpose and developing a profile of your audience. With that in mind, you can gather information that will meet your audience’s needs. Next, select the right medium (oral, written, or electronic) to deliver your message. With those three factors in place, you’re ready to organize the information by defining your main idea, limiting your scope, selecting an approach, and outlining your content. Planning messages is the focus of chapter3. Writing business messages. Once you’ve planned your message, adapt to your audience with sensitivity, relationship skills, and style. Then you’re ready to compose your message by choosing strong words, creating effective sentences, and developing coherent paragraphs. Writing business messages is discussed in this chapter. Completing business messages. After writing your first draft, revise your message to make sure it is clear, concise, and correct. Next produce your message, giving it an attractive, professional appearance. Proofread the final product for typos, spelling errors, and other mechanical problems. Finally, distribute your message using the best combination of personal and technological tools. Completing business messages is discussed in Chapter 5.
Whether consciously or not, audiences greet most incoming messages with a question: &quot;What's in this for me?&quot; If your intended audience thinks a message does not apply to them or does not offer them anything useful or interesting, they'll be far less inclined to pay attention to it. By adapting your communication to the needs and expectations of your audience, you'll provide a more compelling answer to this question and improve the chances of your message being successful. To adapt your message to your audience, do the following: Be sensitive to your audience’s needs. Build a strong relationship with your audience. Control your style to maintain a professional tone.
Even in simple messages intended merely to share information, it's possible to use all the right words and still not be sensitive to your audience and their needs. You can improve your audience sensitivity by doing the following: Adopting the &quot;you&quot; attitude Maintaining good standards of etiquette Emphasizing the positive Using bias-free language
Approach in your messages by adopting a “you” attitude ––that is, speaking and writing in terms of the audience’s interests, hopes, and preferences. On the simplest level, adopt the “you” attitude by replacing terms that refer to yourself and your company with terms that refer to your audience. In other words, use you and yours instead of I, me , mine, we, us, and ours. Too many business messages have an “I” or “we” attitude. The message tells what the sender wants, and the audience is expected to go along with it. The “you” attitude isn’t just a matter of using one pronoun rather than another; it’s a matter of genuine empathy. It’s the thought and sincerity that count, not the pronoun. The important thing is your attitude toward audience members and your appreciation of their position. On some occasions, you’ll do better to avoid using you . For instance, using you in a way that sounds dictatorial is impolite. If someone makes a mistake, you may want to minimize ill will by pointing out the error impersonally. You might say, “We have a problem,” instead of “You caused a problem.” When using the “you” attitude, consider the policies of your organization and the attitudes of other cultures. In some cultures, it is improper to single out one person’s achievements because the whole team is responsible for the outcome. Some companies have a tradition of using a formal, impersonal style. In such cases, confine your use of personal pronouns to informal letters and memos.
Good etiquette is not only a way to show respect for your audience, it also helps foster a more successful environment for communication by minimizing negative emotional reactions. Some situations require more diplomacy than others. If you know your audience well, a less formal approach might be more appropriate. However, when you are communicating with people who outrank you or with people outside your organization, an added measure of courtesy is usually needed. Written communication and most forms of electronic media generally require more tact than oral communication.
Another way of establishing a good relationship with your audience is to emphasize the positive side of your message. When you’re criticizing or correcting, don’t hammer on the other person’s mistakes. Avoid referring to failures, problems, or shortcomings. Focus instead on what he or she can do to improve. Emphasize what’s in it for him or her, not why you want that person to do something. In general, try to state your message without using words that might hurt or offend your audience. Substitute mild terms (euphemisms) for those that have unpleasant connotations. However, don’t carry euphemisms to extremes. If you’re too subtle, people won’t know what you’re talking about. It would be unethical to speak to your community about relocating refuse when you’re really talking about plans for disposing of toxic waste. In the end, people respond better to an honest message delivered with integrity than to sugar-coated double-speak.
Bias-free language avoids unethical, embarrassing language blunders related to gender, race, ethnicity, age, and disability. Gender bias. Avoid sexist language by using the same label for everyone (don’t call a woman chairperson and then call a man chairman ). Reword sentences to use they or to use no pronoun at all. Vary traditional patterns by sometimes putting women first ( women and men, her and his ). Racial and ethnic bias. The central principle is to avoid language suggesting that members of a racial or an ethnic group have stereotypical characteristics. The best solution is to avoid identifying people by race or ethnic origin unless such a label is relevant. Age bias. As with gender, race, and ethnic background, mention the age of a person only when it is relevant. When referring to older people, avoid such stereotyped adjectives as spry and frail. Disability bias. Avoid mentioning a disability unless it is pertinent. If you must refer to someone’s disability, avoid terms such as handicapped, crippled , or retarded. Put the person first and the disability second.
Focusing on your audience's needs is vital to effective communication, but you also have your own priorities as a communicator. Sometimes these needs are obvious and direct, such as when you're appealing for a budget increase for your department. Other times, the need may be more subtle. For instance, you might want to demonstrate your understanding of the marketplace or your company's concern for the natural environment. Two key efforts help you address your own needs while building positive relationships with your audience: establishing your credibility and projecting your company's image.
Your audience's response to every message you send depends heavily on their perception of your credibility , a measure of your believability based on how reliable you are and how much trust you evoke in others. With colleagues and long-term customers, you've already established some degree of credibility based on past communication efforts, and these people automatically lean toward accepting each new message from you because you haven't let them down in the past. With audiences who don't know you, however, you need to establish credibility before they'll listen fully to your message. Whether you're working to build credibility with a new audience, to maintain credibility with an existing audience, or even to restore credibility after a mistake, consider emphasizing the following characteristics: Honesty. Demonstrating honesty and integrity will earn you the respect of your colleagues and the trust of everyone you communicate with, even if they don't always agree with or welcome the messages you have to deliver. Objectivity. Audiences appreciate the ability to distance yourself from emotional situations and to look at all sides of an issue. They want to believe that you have their interests in mind, not just your own. Awareness of audience needs. Let your audience know that you understand what's important to them. If you've done a thorough audience analysis, you'll know what your audience cares about and their specific issues and concerns in a particular situation. Credentials, knowledge, and expertise. Every audience wants to be assured that the messages they receive come from people who know what they're talking about. To establish credibility with a new audience, put yourself in their shoes and identify the credentials that would be most important to them. Endorsements. If your audience doesn't know anything about you, you might be able to get assistance from someone they do know and trust. Performance. It's easy to say you can do something, but following through can be much harder. That’s why demonstrating impressive communication skills is not enough; people need to know they can count on you to get the job done. Confidence. Audiences also need to know that you believe in yourself and your message. Communication style. If you support your points with evidence that can be confirmed through observation, research, experimentation, or measurement, audience members will recognize that you have the facts, and they'll respect you. Sincerity. When you offer praise, don’t use hyperbole, such as “you are the most fantastic employee I could ever imagine.” Instead, point out specific qualities that warrant praise.
Style is the way you use words to achieve a certain tone , or overall impression. The right choice depends on the nature of your message and your audience. Most business messages aim for a conversational tone, using plain language. To achieve such a conversational tone in your messages, try to avoid obsolete and pompous language, intimacy, humor, and preaching or bragging. Plain English is a way of writing and arranging technical materials so that your audience can understand your meaning. Because it’s close to the way people normally speak, plain English is easy to understand. If you’ve ever tried to make sense of a legal document or credit agreement, you can understand why governments and corporations today are using plain-English. Your choice of active or passive voice also affects the tone of your message. You’re using active voice when the subject (the “actor”) comes before the verb and the object of the sentence (the “acted upon”) follows the verb: “John rented the office.” You’re using passive voice when the subject follows the verb and the object precedes it: “The office was rented by John.” Using the active voice produces shorter, stronger sentences and makes your writing more vigorous, concise, and generally easier to understand. Using the passive voice makes sense (1) when you want to be diplomatic about pointing out a problem or error, (2) When you want to point out what’s being done without taking or attributing either the credit or the blame, and (3) When you want to avoid personal pronouns in order to create an objective tone.
Your choice of active or passive voice also affects the tone of your message. You are using active voice when the subject (&quot;actor&quot;) comes before the verb, and the object (“acted upon”) comes after the verb: &quot;Joe rented the car.&quot; You're using passive voice when the subject follows the verb and the object precedes it: &quot;The car was rented by Joe.&quot; As you can see, the passive voice combines the helping verb to be with a form of the verb that is usually similar to the past tense. When you use active sentences, your messages generally sound less formal and make it easier for readers to figure out who performed the action. In contrast, using passive voice de-emphasizes the subject and implies the action was done by something or someone. Use the active voice to produce shorter, stronger sentences and make your writing more vigorous, concise, and generally easier to understand. The passive voice is not wrong grammatically, but it is often cumbersome, is unnecessarily vague, and can make sentences longer. Nevertheless, using the passive voice can help you demonstrate the &quot;you&quot; attitude in some situations: When you want to be diplomatic about pointing out a problem or error of some kind. When you want to point out what's being done without taking or attributing either the credit or the blame. When you want to avoid personal pronouns in order to create an objective tone.
Anyone who earns a living by crafting words is a wordsmith —including journalists, public relations specialists, editors, and letter and report writers. Unlike poets, novelists, or dramatists, wordsmiths don’t strive for dramatic effects. Instead, they are concerned with using language to be clear, concise, and accurate. To reach their goal, they employ the following techniques: Choose strong words. Choose words that express your thoughts most clearly, specifically, and dynamically. Nouns and verbs are the most concrete, so use them as much as you can. Adjectives and adverbs have obvious roles, but they often evoke subjective judgments. Verbs are especially powerful because they tell what’s happening in the sentence, so make them dynamic and specific. Choose familiar words. You’ll communicate best with words that are familiar to your readers. However, keep in mind that words familiar to one reader might be unfamiliar to another. Avoid clichés. Although familiar words are generally the best choice, beware of terms and phrases so common that they have become virtually meaningless. Use jargon carefully. Handle technical or professional terms with care. When deciding whether to use technical jargon, let your audience’s knowledge guide you. For example, when addressing a group
A paragraph is a cluster of sentences all related to the same general topic. It is a unit of thought, separated from other units by skipping a line or indenting the first line. Each paragraph is an important part of the whole. Every properly constructed paragraph is unified; it deals with a single topic. The sentence that introduces that topic is called the topic sentence . In informal and creative writing, the topic sentence may be implied rather than stated. In business writing, the topic sentence is generally explicit and is often the first sentence in the paragraph. The topic sentence gives readers a summary of the general idea that will be covered in the rest of the paragraph. The sentences that explain the topic sentence round out the paragraph. These support sentences must all have a bearing on the general subject and must provide enough specific details to make the topic clear. In addition to being unified and well developed, effective paragraphs are coherent; that is, they are arranged in a logical order so that the audience can understand the train of thought. When you complete a paragraph, your readers automatically assume that you’ve finished with a particular idea. You achieve coherence by using transitions that show the relationship between paragraphs and among sentences within paragraphs. Transitions , words or phrases that tie ideas together, show how one thought is related to another; they help readers understand the connections you’re trying to make.
Five of the most common paragraph development techniques are illustration, comparison or contrast, cause and effect, classification, and problem and solution. Your choice of technique depends on your subject, your intended audience, and your purpose. Paragraphs can be developed in many ways. In practice, you’ll often combine two or more methods of development in a single paragraph. To add interest, you might begin by using illustration, shift to comparison or contrast, and then shift to problem and solution. However, before settling for the first approach that comes to mind, consider the alternatives. Think through various methods before committing yourself. If you fall into the easy habit of repeating the same old paragraph pattern time after time, your writing will be boring.
Writing Business Messages
Three-Step Writing Process Planning Writing Completing Analyze Situation Gather Information Select Medium Get Organized Revise Produce Proofread Distribute Analyze the Audience Compose the Message
Adapt to the Audience Relationships Sensitivity Style and Tone
Audience Sensitivity Adopt a “ You” Attitude Demonstrate Business Etiquette Emphasize the Positive Use Bias-Free Language
The “You” Attitude Instead of This Use 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. You should never use that type of paper in the copy machine. That type of paper doesn’t work very well in the copy machine. Instead of This Use This
Emphasize the Positive Instead of This Use This <ul><li>Cheap Merchandise </li></ul><ul><li>Fake </li></ul><ul><li>Used Cars </li></ul><ul><li>Failing </li></ul><ul><li>Elderly Person </li></ul><ul><li>Pimples and Zits </li></ul><ul><li>Bargain Prices </li></ul><ul><li>Imitation or faux </li></ul><ul><li>Resale Cars </li></ul><ul><li>Underperforming </li></ul><ul><li>Senior Citizen </li></ul><ul><li>Complexion Problems </li></ul>
Bias-Free Language Age Gender Disability Racial or Ethnic
A Strong Audience Relationship Establish Your Credibility Build the Company’s Image
Establish Your Credibility Performance Self Confidence Sincerity Communication Style Honesty and Objectivity Audience Awareness Credentials/Expertise Endorsements
Controlling Style And Tone Sentence Structure and Vocabulary Conversational Tone Plain English Active and Passive Voice
Using the Right Voice Subject + Verb + Object Joe rented the car. Active Voice Object + Verb + Subject The car was rented by Joe. Passive Voice Characteristics Characteristics Direct Concise Vigorous Indirect Tactful Reserved
Finding Words That Communicate Use Strong Words Avoid Clichés Use Familiar Words Minimize Jargon
Coherent Paragraphs Topic Sentences Support Sentences Transitions
Paragraph Development <ul><li>Illustration </li></ul><ul><li>Comparison or Contrast </li></ul><ul><li>Cause and Effect </li></ul><ul><li>Classification </li></ul><ul><li>Problem and Solution </li></ul><ul><li>Demonstrate with examples </li></ul><ul><li>Use similarities and differences </li></ul><ul><li>Focus on reasons and outcomes </li></ul><ul><li>Categorize a general idea </li></ul><ul><li>Pose a problem, offer a solution </li></ul>Technique Description