Eng 209/WI Business Writing

Module 2: The You Attitude and Reader Centered Writing/Direct Request and Good News Messages

 

Mod 2 Introduction

Mod 2 Lecture Mod 2 Readings Mod 2 Activities Mod 2 Discussion

Mod 2 WA


Module 2 Assignments #2 Direct Requests and #3 Good News
The two writing assignments gives you hands-on practice with the direct approach, a hard-working routing business. You'll also learn two more business letter formats. 

 

WA #2 Direct Request Letter

Assignment: Write a modified block format letter that asks for information, using the direct approach. Limit your letter to 1 page. Worth: 40 points.

Follow these directions for writing a successful direct request letter (WA 2):

  1. Download and read the Writing Assignments Casebook. The casebook describes your choice of writing scenarios, including what your role is as the writer, who your reader is, what your goal is for the assignment, how you might organize your paragraphs, and what you might include in your letter. Look for Writing Assignment #2, choose the topic and writing scenario, and study the information to help you create your own letter.
     

  2. Download and read the Barklay's Catalog. You'll find a copy in the tools menu to the left of your screen in Laulima. As you will see in the casebook, the writing assignments in our class are written for specified scenario and audience. To encourage you to learn and apply the keys of effective business writing, especially the You-Attitude, all of your writing assignments revolve around Barklay's, a fictitious delicatessen and gourmet market that exists only in Ms. Hurley's imagination. Depending on the assignment, you will be employees or customers of Barklay's or of Barklay's charity, Angeline's Angels. Module 2 prepares you to write for work with hands-on practice with analyzing, identifying, and targeting your writing to that audience.  Read "Welcome to Barklay's." Then skim over the remaining pages to learn what's contained in the catalog.
     

  3. Download and read the grading criteria for WA 2 and WA 3 (.pdf), very helpful which tells you what your work will be graded on.
     

  4. Download these samples of WA 2 Direct Request (.pdf). The samples do not mirror your assignment exactly, but they do give you a good idea of how the direct approach is used in routine requests.
     

  5. Download the modified block letter template in the Templates webpage. In a modified block letter, every new paragraph starts at the left margin, but the date and the signature block line up on the same tab (NOT right aligned or centered.) To use the template, simply substitute your words for those in the template. Or you may create one from scratch, if you prefer.
     

  6. In case you need another copy, here are the dirty dozen errors to avoid (.pdf) (avoid the words and phrases listed here) and formatting checklist for business letters (.pdf)
     

  7. Submit both letters (writing assignments #2 and #3) as ONE two-page document and NOT as two separate documents. Ms. Hurley should be able to scroll from one letter to the next.

  • Save this multipage document as yourlastname_wa2and3 (for example: smith_wa2and3)
  • Submit in Assignments by the deadline.

Direct request letters are routine business letters that ask the reader to do something for us that s/he wants to do. Because we don’t need to convince the reader to fulfill our request, we use the direct approach, which states your request up front.

  • begin with the main idea -- the request. Because the reader wants to fulfill our request, we don't need to persuade him/her to respond. 
  • don't begin by introducing yourself or the reason why you're making the request. That comes later.
     
I. Main Idea Begin with your request, major statement or question (such as your reason for writing to this person, purpose of adjustment, statement of order or reservation)

State reason(s) if desirable justifying the request (such as reasons for interest in product or service, why you’re interested in the applicant, why you want a particular action done)

State reason for writing to this particular reader (especially when inquiring about a person/applicant)

II.
Explanation
Give details to help the reader respond to your request correctly (such as cost, size, color, quantity, catalog number, payment method, deposit, shipment, special instructions, all facts pertaining to order or claim)  

Use devices for easy reading and easy answering (such as numbered questions, bulleted lists, use of charts)

Develop the you attitude (such as emphasizing company’s/product’s/ service’s qualities or your faith in the reader instead of anger, threats, sarcasm, or exaggeration

III.
Motivation and Polite Closure
Provide clear action (what action you want the reader to take and when), easy action (enclosing reply envelope, phone number office hours or other helpful info), appreciation, polite closure to build goodwill.

Close your letter effectively. As in all letters, let the reader know what he or she should do next or establish goodwill - or both. Avoid thanking the reader, especially when you don't state a specific reason for your appreciation. Give the address to which the reply should be sent. If appropriate, enclose a stamped addressed return envelope. A useful polite closure for direct requests is, "If you have any questions, please call me at…".

Follow these general guidelines

  • Pay attention to tone. Even though you expect a favorable response, the tone of your initial request should not be demanding ("Send me your catalog #2345"). Soften your request with words such as "please."

  • Assume your audience will comply. An impatient demand for rapid service isn't necessary. Generally make the assumption that your audience will comply wit your request once the reason for it is clearly understood.

  • Avoid beginning with personal introductions. Don't be tempted to begin your request with a personal introduction such as "I am the senior corporate writer in the corporate relations department of Unum Provident, and i am looking for information that..." This sentence that focuses on "I' and buries the main idea means the request gets lost.

  • Punctuate questions and polite requests differently. A polite request in question form requires no question mark.: "Would you please help us determine whether Kate Kingsley is a suitable applicant for this position." A direct question within your message does require a question mark: "Did Kate Kingsley demonstrate an ability to work smoothly with clients?

  • If you have more than one question, list and number them. So that your reader can more easily fill your request, list your questions in a numbered of bulleted list. Keep the number t a minimum and make are they all relate to the same subject. 

For example, this paragraph is harder to read:

Please provide the following information about the dependability and cooperation of Keala Montfort. She is applying for a position as a manager trainee, How long did she work for you? What is your opinion of her creativity and ability to work with as a team member? How would you rate her disposition in dealing with co-workers and with customers? 

This list is easy to read:

Please provide the following information about the dependability and cooperation of Keala Montfort. She is applying for a position as a manager trainee:

1.      How long did she work for you? 

2.      What is your opinion of her creativity and ability to work with as a team member? 

3.      How would you rate her disposition in dealing with co-workers and with customers? 

WA #3 Good News Letter

Assignment: Write a simplified format letter that replies positively, using the direct approach. Limit your letter to 1 page. Worth: 40 points.

Follow these directions for writing a successful good news letter (WA 3):

  1. Review the information on the direct approach, above
     

  2. Look for WA 3 in the Casebook to choose your writing topic and to learn about the audience, purpose for writing, and other necessary information.
     

  3. Review the Barklay's Catalog for necessary background information.
     

  4. Reread the grading criteria for WA 2 and WA 3 (.pdf), which tells you what your work will be graded on. 
     

  5. Download these samples of WA 3 Good News2 (.pdf) which give you a good idea of how the direct approach is used in good news letters.
     

  6. Download the simplified letter template in the Templates webpage. In a simplified letter, every new paragraph starts at the left margin, but the date and the signature block line up on the same tab (NOT right aligned or centered.) To use the template, simply substitute your words for those in the template. Or you may create one from scratch, if you prefer.
     

  7. Submit both letters (writing assignments #2 and #3) as ONE two-page document and NOT as two separate documents. Ms. Hurley should be able to scroll from one letter to the next.

  • Save this multipage document as yourlastname_wa2and3 (for example: smith_wa2and3)
  • Submit in Assignments by the deadline.

Good news messages convey good news for the reader. Neutral messages don't convey happy news, yet they are good news in that the reader will not be disappointed. These are messages that will be received favorably by our reader and use the direct approach.

Good news letters use the Direct Approach. Since we know the reader will be glad to accept the message, we use the direct approach which states the good news up front.

  • begin with the main idea: the good news. 

  • don't begin by introducing yourself or the reason why you're writing. That can come later. 

I.
Main Idea: Initial Statement of Good News or Main Idea

Positive opening telling the reader what s/he wants to hear first (credit granted, shipment sent, favor accepted, request granted)

Courteous comment, appreciation for remittance/order, congratulations

Verification of information: description, costs, quantity, charges, dates, delivery

II.
Explanation,
which may include:

All needed details (answer all questions, including 5 W’s, give complete instructions, stress reader benefits, positive emphasis, helpful

Resale material, with reader benefit, when appropriate (emphasize what company can do for the reader, give reader choices)

Educational material (explain product use, legal aspects, confidentiality, directions for filling out forms, instructions)

Sales promotion, if appropriate (give needed details on products and services)

To acknowledge orders:

  • Begin by expressing appreciation for the order and
    welcome the new customer. Describe the merchandise ordered in general terms. Indicate in your first sentence that you are fulfilling the reader's request.
  • In the body, provide all necessary educational information about the product. Give details of shipment, including approximate arrival time. Explain charges (shipping, insurance, credit charges, or discounts for quick payment). Provide Information about related products, and credit application, if appropriate.
  • In the closing, remind the reader of the benefits to be
    derived from the order.

To give good news about claims and adjustment requests

  • Immediately state your willingness to honor the reader's claim, without negative comment. Accept your reader's account as entirely accurate unless good business reasons demand a different interpretation of some points. Thank the reader for taking the time to write.
  • In the body, explain how you'll remedy the problem. Minimize or, if possible, omit any disagreements with your reader's interpretation of events. If appropriate, provide an objective, non-vindictive, impersonal explanation. Apologize only under extreme circumstances. Maintain a supportive tone through such phrases as "Thank you for;' "May we ask," Please let us know;" and "We are glad to work with you." Admit your firm's faults carefully. Avoid shifting the blame to others, implying general company inefficiency, and making unrealistic promises about the future. Be careful when handling the customer's role in producing the problem
  • In the closing, remind the reader how you have honored the claim and clarify any actions that your reader must take. Encourage the customer to look favorably on your company or the product in question. Encourage the customer to continue buying other goods from you but avoid seeming greedy. Clarify any actions that your reader must take.

III.
Positive, Friendly Closure

Appreciation to reader

Action: Clear statement of action desired and easy action (offer of further help, enclosed forms or envelope)

Goodwill: Willingness to help further; forward look to future use of goods and services; good wishes, compliment or request

Polite closure: if more effective, don't end with "If you have any questions, please call me at ..." when "Please call in your order today" encourages the reader to act.

 

sources: M.E. Guffey, Essentials of Business Communication, Bovee and Thill, Business Communication Today, Kitty Locker, Business and Administrative Communication, Leslie Munro Eng 209 Booklet, Writing Routine, Good News, and Goodwill Messages PowerPoint presentation by Courtland Bovee, John Thill, and Barbara Schatzman, Business Communication Today

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