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Business Communication

Format Lesson

Susan Jennings

on 27 February 2014

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Transcript of Business Communication

Business Communication Fundamentals
Step 1: Planning
Many people fail to communicate effectively because they do not think about what they want their message to accomplish and how they want their audience to respond. 

Instead of spending a few minutes planning their message, they jump ahead to composing the message.
Wise communicators will address four key components prior to composing their message. They follow the same process whether they are composing a simple email message or a complex report.

These components are:




Preparing Business Documents
You only get one chance to make a good first impression. 

The way business communication looks and sounds gives the receiver his or her first impression of the sender. 

This impression given of the sender and his or her company or organization is affected by the choice of medium, paper quality, the design of the letterhead, and the layout on the message. 

Any one or combination of these elements that are not professional can detract from the effectiveness of the message despite the actual content of the message.
Creating effective business documents requires one to engage in a three step process:

Step 1: Planning

Step 2: Composing

Step 3: Editing

In this module, we will review the fundamentals of preparing effective business documents using these steps of planning, composing, and editing.
Step 2: Composing
Step 3: Editing

The reason you are communicating and the outcome you want to achieve

What is the purpose of this communication?

to inform
to persuade
to report
to analyze
to propose

What is the desired outcome?

Just as you have to enter a desired destination into your GPS to get accurate directions and find the best route, you must determine the desired outcome to find the best route of transmitting your messages. What action do you want your receiver to take based on your communication? Your answer to this question will help you organize your message more effectively.
Analyzing your audience helps you determine specific content to include.

Messages often have both primary and secondary audiences. 

Primary Audience

The direct recipient of your message--the person(s) to whom your message is addressed. 

Secondary Audience

Anyone else who may hear about or receive a copy of your message whether from you or from the primary audience. 
For example, if you email your supervisor about initiating a department blog and he likes the idea, he may forward your message to the vice president of operations. Your supervisor is your primary audience; however, the vice president is your secondary audience. 
How will the possibility of secondary audiences influence your message content?
Consider these questions when analyzing your audience:

What does the primary and secondary audiences already know?

What information does the audience need to know--and why?

When does the audience need this information?

How will the audience react to this information?
If your purpose is primarily persuasive, also consider these questions:

What questions or objections will my audience have?

How will my audience benefit from my idea or proposal?
In planning your message, consider the content that should be included. Ask yourself these questions:

1. Do I know enough about the topic or situation to compose the message?

If not, how do I obtain this information?

2. Do I have enough data to support my main idea?

If not, do I need to do additional research?

3. Where shall I go for additional data?



4.Where should I state the main point?

Direct organization?

Indirect organization?
The direct organizational plan is used for good news and neutral news. It eases the job of the audience by stating the purpose at the beginning, thereby saving them time and mental energy.

Direct Organizational Plan:

Present the main idea in the first paragraph

Provide supporting information and related details in the middle paragraph

Conclude with a call to action, applicable deadlines, and contact information
The indirect organizational plan provides the rationale prior to stating the purpose. This plan is effective when you are communicating negative news to people who will not expect it, when you anticipate that your audience will be resistant, or when you need to provide explanation before your main point makes sense.

Indirect organizational plan

Open with a general statement about the topic that indicates the purpose

Provide supporting information and relate details in the middle paragraph

Conclude with a call to action, any applicable deadlines, and contact information.
When an artist decides to create an art piece he or she must decide what medium to use . . . oil paint, charcoal, watercolor, clay, wood, etc.

In communication you must also make a choice of the medium you will use. As technology has progressed, the choices have expanded.
Making a choice about the best medium to use is challenging. You can use several methods to communicate a message. 

Your responsibility is to determine which medium is preferable for your purpose.
Consider these advantages and disadvantages when selected the most appropriate channel to use for your message
Face to Face Communication
(one-to-one conversation)

Allows personal explanation targeted to an individual

Provides for immediate feedback

Is not efficient for disseminating information to many people

Is not usually permanently documented (recorded)
Face to Face Communication
(one-to-one conversation)
(several people)

Disseminates information to many people

Provides for immediate feedback

Is documented by minutes
(several people)

Can be difficult to schedule

Is time consuming

Allows personal explanation targeted to an individual

Allows short messages to be delivered via voice mail if individuals are now available

Can provide for immediate feedback if the person answers the phone.

Is time consuming if individual calls need to be made to several people

Is not usually permanently documented (recorded)

Allows quick communication

Disseminates information to one or many people

Creates a permanent record if saved or printed

May not be a private and secure medium for sending sensitive content

Does not ensure immediate feedback because not everyone checks email regularly
Text Message, Instant Message

Allows quick communication

Creates a permanent record (if saved)

Is not efficient if message is long, complex, or sensitive

Does not ensure immediate feedback
Written Messages
Printed hardcopy
memos, letters, and newsletters
(printed hardcopy generally to audiences
within the organization)

Can accompany original documents of forms that need signatures

Can be used for employees who have no access to email

Creates a permanent record

Incurs costs to copy to many people

Is delivered more slowly than email

Does not provide immediate feedback
(printed on letterhead and generally sent to audiences
outside the organization)

Projects a more "official" or formal image than email

Can accompany original documents, such as forms with signatures

Creates a permanent record

Incurs cost of letterhead and postage

Takes at least a day to deliver

Does not provide for immediate feedback
(printed hardcopy, html-designed email, or attachment)

Disseminates a lot of information to many people simultaneously

Creates a permanent record
permanent record

Incurs cost to copy and distribute by mail

Does not provide for immediate feedback

Makes information available to anyone with access

Can be password protected to limit access

Enables combinations of text, video, and audio through podcasts, MP3 files, webcasts, webinars, and web-conferencing tools

Is easy to keep up to date

May provide for feedback (wikis)

Is not effective with audiences who have limited Internet access

Requires the audience to access the site

May not reach the audience

Does not provide for immediate feedback

May not provide a permanent record, unless web files are archived
Allows you to communicate to a community of people who have linked with you and expressed an interest

Allows interactive communication

Is easy to keep up to date
Requires the audience to access the site

May not reach the audience

May reach unintended audiences
Wikis, Blogs, and Microblogs

Advantages Disadvantages
Encourages discussion

Is easy to keep up to date

Allows interactive communication

Provides a complete record
Is not effective with audiences who have limited Internet access

Requires the audience to access the site or actively request messages be sent to them

May not reach the audience
Wikis, Blogs, and MicroblogsBroadcasts Short Messaging Bursts Through Micro-Blogging Tools such as Twitter and other SMS Applications
Once you have your organizational plan, you are ready to compose your message. Composing involves more than putting words on the page or speaking them aloud. It is a multi-step process. 

First, you will want to apply the decisions you reached in your planning. 

Next you will want to create a draft. Do not try to create the perfect document on the first attempt. Simply organize your points to create the sequence of thoughts you want to convey. 

Then edit your draft. 

Two primary areas to consider in editing are grammar/mechanics and formatting.

Review your message for grammatical correctness. Numerous resources are available to assist you in correcting your written (or spoken) messages. 

Check these sites:

AARC Online Writing Lab Resources (OWL) -- http://mytutor.sfasu.edu/owl

This is an on-campus resource that provides review and reinforcement for basic grammar principles.

Free Rice Review of Grammar and Vocabulary -- http://www.freerice.com

This site provides both grammar and vocabulary review. (You can also use it for review in other subjects.) The format make review and reinforcement enjoyable.
Email Messages

A professional business email message includes the following elements:

Email address(es)
Subject line
Body (Paragraphs)
Complimentary closing
Signature block
Email Addresses 

The recipient(s) address(es) are placed in the "To:" line. The addresses of any secondary recipient(s) should be placed in the "CC:" 
Subject Line 

Always include a short, but meaningful subject line. 

The salutation addresses the message to the primary audience. How the message begins sets the tone for the rest of the document. 

Formal business emails frequently use "Dear" followed by the receiver's courtesy title and last name followed by a colon.

Example: Dear Dr. Johnson:

Informal messages may begin with a more casual salutation, such as Hi, Paula. 

In some cases, the salutation is incorporated into the first sentence of the message:

Yes, Paula, you may use Conference Room 3 for your committee meeting.

Whether you use a person's first or last name in the salutation depends on how you address the individual in face-to-face settings. If a person has asked you to call him/her by the first name, address your email accordingly. However, when emailing new clients or customers, do not assume they want you to use their first names. It is better to err on the part of formality. Courtesy titles of Mr., Ms., Dr., etc. are preferred.

Short email messages may include just a few lines of text. Longer messages should use effective paragraphing techniques to organize the content logically.

Keep the first paragraph short (50 words or less) and get to the point of the message. Assume your audience is reading your message on a smartphone or other handheld device. Make sure the main idea appears on the first screen without the reader having to scroll. 

The middle paragraph should be relatively short. Average paragraphs are 100 words in length.

End with a short paragraph requesting any action, indicating any deadlines, and maintaining the goodwill with the audience.
Complimentary Closing 

In formal situations, use a closing such as "Sincerely." In less formal messages, "Thanks," or "Regards," will suffice.

The closing is followed by a comma with your name on the next line.

Using your first name is fine in informal messages to people who will immediately recognize your email address. However, if you are writing to someone who does not know you, use your first name and last name. 

Do not use a personal title such as Mr. or Ms. unless the recipient does not know you and cannot identify your gender from your first name.
Signature block 

Include an electronic signature block that displays all relevant contact information including your name, position title, department, company, mailing address, email address, phone number, and fax number. You may wonder why you should include your email address here if it appears in the "From" line at the top of the message. If your message is forwarded, the email system may display your name instead of your email address, so the recipient will not know your email address. Further, if the recipient prints your email message, your email address may not be include in the printout.

Some companies are now also requiring a disclaimer or privacy statement at the end of the email message.

Memos are similar to email messages with the exception that they are either printed and distriubted as hard copies or sent as email attachments. Memos are generally intended for internal audiences (people within an organizaiton rather than clients or customers) and can be designed on letterhead or plain paper. In many business circles emails have nearly replaced the printed memo. It is, however, important to know how to format one should you need to.
Memo Formatting Guidelines

Top Margin. Begin three blank lines below the company letterhead. If no letterhead is used, begin at the top margin established by your software.

Memo Headings. The page title "Memorandum" is an optional heading. If used, it should be centered 2-3 lines below the letterhead.

Four headings are required: TO:, FROM:, DATE:, and SUBJECT:. Use colons to separate headings from the text that follows the labels and use the tab key to move from the colon to the text. Using spaces to move from the heading to the text will not exactly align the text.

TO:/FROM. Be consistent with courtesy titles and position titles. If you are writing to Mr. Anthony Simms, use the courtesy title of Mr. or Ms. before your name. If you include Mr. Simms' position title (Regional Vice President), include your title as well. If the memo is informal and addressed to "Anthony," with no position titles, use your first name in the FROM line and do not include your position title. Because email has virtually replaced memos for informal messages, most memos are considered slightly more formal. Therefore, you would want to use both courtesy and professional titles in most situations.

Date. Write out the date's month (contrary to the templates provided in Microsoft Word). Use the month, day, year format for US messages. 

January 1, 2012

Subject line. Use a short (three- to five-word) subject line to indicate the topic of your message. Use one or two blank lines after the SUBJECT line to separate the memo headings from the message.
Formatting Guidelines

Salutation. Memos do not use salutations since the recipient's name is prominently displayed on the TO line.

Body. If the content of the memo is very brief, write the message in a single paragraph. If the content is lengthy, write multiple paragraphs. Make the first paragraph short (two to three lines) and get to the point. In a lengthy memo, keep the middle paragraphs short as well--roughly 100 words maximum. Be sure each paragraph has a purpose and begins with a topic sentence. Single space the paragraphs. Use one blank line between paragraphs. 

Second page heading. For long memos that extend beyond one page, format second and subsequent page headings as follows:

Mr. Anthony Simms, Page 2
September 1, 2011

Closing. Do not use a complimentary closing or a signature block in a memo. However, if your message requests a reply, be sure to indicate your telephone number and/or email address in the last paragraph.

Please call me at 555-1522 by Friday with your response.

Attachment notation. If you are attaching additional documents to your memo, describe them in the message. Then, remind the audience of the attachments by placing an "Attachment" notation at the end of the memo. Leave one blank line between the last paragraph and the attachment notation. You can include the number of attachments in parentheses or you can name the attachments.

Attachments (3)



Summer Work Schedule
Proposed Budget
Certificate of Completion

Letters are generally intended for external audiences--people outside the organization such as customers or clients. They may also be used for formal correspondence with an company, such as letters of resignation or letters offering a promotion. Letters are printed on letterhead or sent as email attachments. Many companies use electronic letterhead templates so that the letters attached to emails will look the same as printed letters.

Letter styles.You may choose between two letter styles. However, the most commonly used format in business is the block style letter as shown in the example that follows:

Block style--Place all letter components at the left margin and do not indent paragraphs.

Modified block style--The date, complimentary closing, and signature block BEGIN at the center of the document. (They are not centered in the document.) Paragraphs may or may not be indented, depending on your preference.
Punctuation styles. You may choose between two punctuation styles as well:

Open punctuation style--use no punctuation at the end of the salutation or after the complimentary closing.

Mixed or Closed punctuation style--uses a colon (:) after the salutation and a comma after the complimentary closing.

OPEN PUNCTUATION -- Open punctuation is used when no punctuation follows the letter opening, the salutation, or after the letter closing, the complimentary close.

Dear Dr. Jennings


MIXED PUNCTUATION -- When a colon follows the opening (salutation or greeting) and a comma follows the complimentary close of a letter, mixed punctuation has been used. Open punctuation and mixed punctuation are the only two acceptable ways to punctuate the salutation and closing of a business letter. NOTE: This says when a COLON follows the opening -- NOT a comma after the opening. You never use a comma following the salutation in a business letter.

Dear Dr. Jennings:

Standard Letter Parts
The following components should appear in all business letters.

Following the list of standard parts, you will find additional components that may be required in certain situations.

Letterhead. The letterhead for most businesses will be either preprinted stationary or a template that prints the letterhead automatically. Traditionally the letterhead will contain the company name and address of the company. Often it will also include phone number, fax number, email address, and/or website address.

Date. The date should be the date the letter is mailed. In business format the date should be set out with the Month Day, Year. Do not use any abbreviations in the date.

January 1, 2011

The date should be positioned so that the letter is approximately centered vertically on the page. This is determined by the length of the letter you are typing. Three blank lines below the letterhead is a good starting point, although it may need to be adjusted after the letter is completed. Leave three blank lines following the date.

Letter address. The letter address, also called the inside address, is begun on the fourth line space below the date. The letter address usually contains the courtesy title, name (first and last), title, company name, and address of the person or company you are writing to.

Dr. Susan Evans Jennings
Stephen F. Austin State University
Box 13060 SFA Station
Nacogdoches, TX 75962-3060

If the letter is addressed to a company, the address may include an attention line (second line of the address) to call the letter to the attention of a specific person, department, or job title.

Stephen F. Austin State University
Attention: Department of General Business
Box 13060 SFA Station
Nacogdoches, TX 75962-3060

You should use the two-letter state abbreviation in your letter addresses. The two-letter state abbreviation is two CAPITAL LETTERS with no period. 

Leave one blank line between the letter addres and the salutation.

Salutation. The salutation or greeting begins on the second line space below the letter (inside) address. The salutation usually begins with "Dear" and contains the addressee's courtesy title and last name.

At this point, you must decide whether you will use open or mixed punctuation. For open punctuation, no punctuation follows the salutation (do not type a colon after the salutation). For mixed punctuation, insert a colon after the salutation.

Dear Dr. Jennings


Dear Dr. Jennings:

Leave one blank line between the salutation and the body of the letter.

Body. Begin the body of the letter on the second line space (leaving one blank line) below the salutation. If using the block letter format, the paragraphs of the body should be in block format--all lines beginning at the left margin. If using the modified block format, paragraphs may be blocked or indented.

Single-space within each paragraph. Use word wrap to determine line endings. Do not press the enter key at the end of every line.

Leave one blank line)between paragraphs. When completing the last paragraph of your letter, leave one blank line before the complimentary close.

Complimentary Closing. Key the complimentary closing on the second line space below the last line of the letter body.

Do not key a comma following the complimentary close when using open punctuation. Leave at least three blank lines below the complimentary closing for the signature.

Signature Space. Leave at least three line spaces for the sender's signature on the printed copy.

Typed Name. Key the name of the writer on the fourth line space below the complimentary close. Although not preferred, the name may be preceded by a personal title such as Mr., Mrs., Miss, Ms., or Dr. if desired. A personal title is especially helpful if the name of the sender is not obviously male or female. The company title of the sender can also be included in the closing lines immediately following the name and separated by a comma on the same line.

Susan Evans Jennings, Professor

If the name or title is long it is also acceptable to place the company title on the following line. Single space the closing lines.

Susan Evans Jennings

Optional Letter Parts

Additional letter components that may be required in certain situations are listed below. They are listed in the order in which they would appear within the letter.

Reference Line

The reference line, when used, is placed a double space below the letter address, a double space above the salutation.

Dr. Betty S. Johnson
Stephen F. Austin State University
Nacogdoches, TX 75965-3060

Re: Student Number 000005555

Dear Dr. Johnson
Subject Line

The subject line, when used, is placed a double space below the letter salutation, a double space above the first paragraph. It can be preceded by the word subject, but does not have to be. It can be typed in upper and lower case letters or all upper case letter.

Dear Dr. Jennings

Subject: Departmental Meeting

If something besides the letter is enclosed in the delivery envelope, an enclosure notation should be included. It is acceptable to simply key the work enclosure; however, it is also acceptable to use enclosure and list the enclosure. There should be a blank line before and after the enclosure notation.



Enclosure: Contract
Copy Notation

A copy notation indicates that a copy of the letter is being sent to another person as well as the letter addressee.

c Dr. Ann Wilson

The postscript was originally used as a tool for including information that was originally left out of a letter. Before computers it would have been necessary to completely retype the letter to include the information in the body of the letter. That is no longer the case as it is easy to insert the information anywhere in the document.

Today, a postscript--when used--is placed at the very end of the letter. It is used to emphasize information. Simply type the postscript as you would a letter paragraph. There is no need for a notation before it.
Second Page Headers

If a letter must be carried over to a second page, a second page header will be necessary. The second page header should include the name of the person who is receiving the letter (title, first name, last name), the page number, and the date. The second page header should be single spaced and the letter begins a double space below the header. The font style and size of the header should match that of the letter. There should be one-two blank lines after the header, before continuing the letter.

Dr. Susan Jennings
Page 2
September 1, 2011

The basic "rule of thumb" is that you double-space (leave one blank line) between each part of the letter including between paragraphs. The exception to the rule is that you use a quadruple space (leaving three blank line) after the date and after the complimentary close. The line spacing should be set at 1.0 -- not 1.15 as the default was in Word 2007.
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