Professional Writing: Forms, Genres, and Contexts


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Apply the advice from this presentation to several professional writing contexts--from how to ask for a letter of recommendation to writing thank you cards. Designed to be an interactive presentation, the content is flexible enough to accommodate a wide range of academic and career goals. In particular, I have used this presentation to address undergraduates, mostly freshman. For example, the Letter of Inquiry discussion addresses some 'best practices' of requesting letters of recommendation.

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Professional Writing: Forms, Genres, and Contexts

  1. 1. Strategic Professional Communication Contexts, Genres, and Strategies Authored by Dr. A. Lockett
  2. 2. The Symbolic Capital of Professional Communication What are the financial, social, and emotional costs of poorly written professional correspondence? Workers Failure to Document Digital Labor Costs Billions per Day (HBR, 2015) How a Memo Cost Big Banks $37 Billion (WSJ, 2014) What Corporate America Can't Build: A Sentence (NYT, 2004)
  3. 3. Occasions for Professional Letters ● Inquiry Letters ○ Recommendation ○ Status of Application ● LOI (solicited/unsolicited) ○ Technical communication genre ● Application Letters ● Acceptance/Decline Letters ● Letters of complaint ● Acknowledgement of Rejection Letters ● Time extension requests
  4. 4. General Tips Regardless of your purpose, professional email correspondence should consist of three parts: Salutation (Greeting) Body Valediction (Conclusion) Tip: Use plenty of line breaks to separate important contents. (see model) Furthermore, always include a SUBJECT so that the recipient(s) are able to organize and find it quickly.
  5. 5. Email Communication Dear X: [establish a connection with the reader]. [Tell the reader why you are writing]. [Let the reader know what you would like them to do--preferably ask them a specific question]. [Thank them]. Sincerely, Y
  6. 6. Model of Professional Email Dear [Committee Member]: I hope this email finds you doing well! My name is X and I'm a Y major at [name school]. When I discovered X internship on, I couldn't wait to apply. However, the deadline didn't seem to be featured on the advertisement or Internship website. When are the application materials due? I apologize, in advance, if this was an oversight. Many Thanks, [Your Name and Contact Information]
  7. 7. Increasing Likelihood of Feedback ● The closing of your email should ask a specific question that invites your reader's response ● Use of good grammar and a respectful tone goes a long way ● Avoid needlessly apologizing and self-deprecation ● Eliminate the need for your reader to do extra work. ○ When you supply necessary information in the email, you show them that you are thorough, thoughtful, and generous--all traits that make writing more persuasive
  8. 8. The Letter of Recommendation Request is a Process 1) Request the Letter 2) If they agree, respond to recommender with specific information about their obligations ● For what purposes does this letter serve? ● Who should the letter be addressed to? ● Where should it be sent? ● In what format (print or electronic or form)? ● Include a resume (optional) 3) Always, always, always thank your recommender with a thank you card. 4) Notify them when you know whether or not you secured the opportunity.
  9. 9. Additional Tips Don't send recommenders requests too early or too late. Avoid lying to recommenders about the deadline. Professionals are busy individuals and an extra week to write a letter could be a relief. A general timeline is: 1 Month: About right. Ask the recommender if they would like a gentle reminder a week in advance. 2 Weeks: Pushing it unless you are familiar with the recommender. 1 Week: Expect to have your request declined unless this person really knows and cares about you, or you have an extenuating circumstance (e.g. you found out about the opportunity suddenly and it's a perfect fit for you.).
  10. 10. Thanking So you wrote a polite, well-written email? That's not the end of the communication. When someone writes you back, you need to THANK THEM. This shows volumes about your character--namely that you are respectful and appreciative. The conventions for expressing thanks vary, but here are some ways to deliver the message: 1. Polished formal e-mail. 2. Traditional Print Thank You Card 3. LinkedIn Recommendation
  11. 11. The Thank You Card Thank you cards are a lost art. If you want to set yourself apart from competitive applicants anywhere--write a thank you card. It may be useful to get in the habit of sending Thank You cards to friends and family when the occasion calls for it. Speaking of which, when is it appropriate to send one? ➢ Thank a recommender or a referral source ➢ Thank a funding source--scholarship, fellowship, birthday gift, etc. ➢ Acknowledge a Retirement (e.g. thank someone for their dedicated service) ➢ Express Gratitude for Good Instruction ➢ Express Gratitude for Good Advising ➢ Express Gratitude for a Job Well Done (e.g. a stylist, florist, etc.) ➢ Show Appreciation for Administrative Assistants who helped you with a process ➢ Show Appreciation for the Service Employees that feed you, clean your buildings, and landscape the institutions you inhabit daily.
  12. 12. Format I use the thank you card as a way to solidify a connection between me and my reader. I don't simply repeat the obvious--clearly it's a thank you card! -------------- Dear X: [specify what precisely you are thankful for.] [let the reader know how you find it useful.] [extend an act of generosity or feedback opportunity.]
  13. 13. Example of Thank You Card Text Dear [Recommender]: Your letter of recommendation was invaluable in my [X] application. I'm pleased to inform you that I was accepted to the program! Are you available in the next couple of weeks? I'd love to meet you for coffee and a chat. Much Appreciation, [The Recommended]
  14. 14. Want Models? Click here for some models of requests for information within professional contexts. They have been fully redacted and are examples of real communication that has occurred when I was a writing instructor various institutions during my graduate studies . Please don't hesitate to contact me if you have any additional questions/concerns about professional communication contexts.
  15. 15. Let’s Connect! ➢ Add me to LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin/in/alockett ➢ Add me on Twitter: @techneliving ➢ Visit my Portfolio: ➢ Email me: