ES2002 Business Communication Letter Writing: Style and Tone
Style and Tone
Style – words and sentences a writer chooses to produce a desired response in readers
Tone – the unwritten or unspoken message; the message “between the lines”
“ The parking lot is sparsely used at 8 a.m.; likewise at 5 p.m. As managers – you either do not know what your EMPLOYEES are doing; or YOU do not CARE. … You have a problem and you will fix it or I will replace you. … What you are doing, as managers, with this company makes me SICK.”
The 4 Ps
Write in a style that:
Reflects appropriate reader-writer relationship
Doesn’t convey sense of superiority/anger/condescension
Doesn’t embarrass reader
Reflect appropriate reader-writer relationship (a) With effect from 14 July, I suggest your goods be delivered at 7.00 am sharp instead of the usual 6.30 am. I seek your cooperation in this respect. (b) My suggestion is that we deliver your goods promptly at 7.00 am instead of the usual 6.30 am. I hope this arrangement is convenient for you. Be Polite Reflect appropriate reader-writer relationship
1(a) How do you expect us to send you the forms you requested if you carelessly omitted the identifying numbers.
(b) If you will send us the form numbers, we will be glad to send you all the papers you requested.
(b) We are sure you recognise the fact that we cannot grant everyone’s request for a grant. Avoid sounding superior, angry, condescending 2 (a) Although money for your grant is unavailable this semester, we hope you will reapply next semester. Be Polite Avoid sounding superior, angry, condescending
Don’t embarrass reader (a) As you did not respond within ten days, it should be clear to you that you did not qualify for the free gift. (b) You probably did not notice that your order was mailed after our special gift order had expired. Be Polite Don’t embarrass reader
Use positive words/phrases
Stress what can be done
Use positive words and phrases (a) There are no more places for the May 15 seminar and there will be no similar seminar organised until October. (b) Due to its popularity, all places for the May 15 seminar have been filled. A similar seminar will be organised in October and we will be happy to reserve a place for you, if you like. Be Positive Use positive words and phrases
Stress what can be done (b) The problem would not have happened if you had connected the wires properly. (a) The problem will be resolved if you connect the wires according to the instructions given. Be Positive Stress what can be done
(1) You will have to wait for Mr Suppiah to handle your complaint. (2) As soon as Mr Suppiah returns, he will answer your enquiry. Which is better?
Adopt a “you” attitude
Use personal pronouns
Avoid pompous language / attitude
Definition of “you” attitude “… a style of writing that looks at things from the reader’s perspective and expresses genuine consideration for the reader”
Adopt a “you” attitude (a) We are happy to announce that we have increased the size of our store building. (b) Now you will find a wider choice of merchandise in the greatly enlarged building. Be Personal Adopt a “you” attitude Oh great! So?
We call to your attention …
I am sending the enclosed check …
You will be interested to know …
You will be happy to receive …
Adopt a “you” attitude Be Personal Adopt a “you” attitude
Use personal pronouns (a) If there should be any questions concerning the matter, please call the number listed on the letterhead above. (b) We look forward to working with you. Meantime, if there is anything further that we can do for you, please let us know. Be Personal Use personal pronouns
Which is better? (2) You must pay the full amount of your loan immediately. (1) The full payment of the housing loan is due. There are instances when the omission of personal pronouns is appropriate. Be Personal Use personal pronouns
Avoid pompous words/phrases 1(a) I, as a frequent borrower, wish to inform you that I am pleased with the improvement in quality of the National Library over the years. (b) As a regular user of the National Library, I would like to express my appreciation for the improvements made in the last 10 years. Be Personal Avoid pompous words/phrases
Avoid pompous words/phrases 2(a) I want to cogitate further on the matter before giving a definitive answer. (b) I want to think about the matter a little more before giving a final answer. Be Personal Avoid pompous words/phrases
Generalise experiences; simplify examples
Generalise experiences; simplify examples (b) There was one time where I spent nearly 40 minutes waiting for two buses on Service 197 which drove past without stopping. And then there was another time when … (a) For example, I once waited 40 minutes for a service 197 bus because two previous buses passed without stopping. Be Professional Generalise experiences; simplify examples
Be objective (a) On top of that, the bus drivers of such on-coming buses would seize the opportunity to steer right and bypass the bus stop. (b) Furthermore, the bus drivers who tailgate other buses also tend to bypass the bus stop. Be Professional Be objective
Maintain dignity (b) Since you are a valuable customer, we hope you will give us another chance to prove that we can do a good job. (a) As a valued customer, you can rest assured that we will take every precaution to ensure that you get the best service in the future. Be Professional Maintain dignity
(a) Your phenomenal contribution to our understanding of tax laws is remarkable .
(b) We would like to thank you for helping us gain a better understanding of tax laws.