Business letter writing skills pdf

powerful business writing for executives and business writing skills course cape town
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Powerful Business Writing PRESENTED BY NATIONAL SEMINARS GROUP, A DIVISION OF ROCKHURST UNIVERSITY CONTINUING EDUCATION CENTER, INC. S O M E T H I N G N E W T O D A Y ©2005 Rockhurst University Continuing Education Center, Inc. • Print 08/05 • 5023330a COM1 A Presentation for American Public Works AssociationFor information on this course and others, please contact Valerie Francis Senior Training Consultant Rockhurst University Continuing Education Center, Inc. National Seminars Group & Padgett-Thompson 800-344-4613 ext. 3009 vlfrancisnatsem.comSuccess skills today are fast paced, ever changing and built on individual initiative. Tips to increase your learning:  Identify your training goals and clarify what you need to learn. Meet fellow attendees and begin constructing a support network.  Browse the resource library to continue your learning. Some people thrive in formal learning situations. Others prefer a self-directed approach such as listening to audio programs, viewing videos or interacting with CDs and manuals. Whatever your learning style, the benefits you receive will be unequivocal if you focus on the following ideas:  Use all your senses as you train.  Get involved, discuss issues and use the workbook as a tool. The workbook is your agenda, reference guide, review source and note-taking device. Accelerate your learning by using it to trigger ideas, provide follow-up and extend the training. Learning never stops for highly effective individuals. Knowing how to learn is what differentiates levels of excellence. Skills Needed for 21st Century Thinking Taking charge when you are not in charge  Gaining acceptance for your plan of action  Building “webs”  Replacing authority with information Managing ideas, not resources  Becoming comfortable creating change  Being perceptive: “seeing the patterns”  Balancing imagination and logic This training provides you with continuing education credit from Rockhurst University Continuing Education Center, Inc. If you are a licensed professional who needs special documentation or would like information about our other credit seminars and self-study programs, call our Continuing Education Specialist at 1-800-258-7246.Workshop Agenda Turn Ideas Into Writing: Tips for Getting Started Quickly . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .2 Make Sure Your Message Is Clear and Your Writing Is Error-Free . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .6 Use Contemporary Writing Techniques and an Inviting Tone to Stimulate Reader Interest . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .11 Conveying Professionalism and Credibility in Your Writing . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .13 Writing Letters, Memos and Reports That Are Organized and Reader-Focused . . . . . . . . . .15 How to Influence, Persuade and Sell . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .24 Practical Solutions to Real-World Writing Challenges . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .28 Suggested Resources . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .32 COM1040204Turn Ideas Into Writing: Tips for Getting Started Quickly Assess your writing comfort level and expertise. February 3, 2004 Ms. Jane Smith, Vice-Presdent Acme Plumbing Co. 86772 West Monroe Chicago, Illinois 46892-302 Dear Ms. Smith; Upon receipt of you’re letter dated, December 7, 2003, I put in the mail to you some up to-date information about our line of waterless products.I’m’ sure you have receive it by this time. Irregardless of your background with waterless appilances, I think you will find this new product meets the needs of your customers. It’s most popular features are listed in the brochure. We have been up to our elbows I new orders. I would like for you to think about the possibility of handling this product. A Order form is is attached for you to order you prototype. We hope to hear from you so soon. Very truly yours: Mr. William Bowen President Strategic Industries, Inc Enclosure COM1040204 2Turn Ideas Into Writing: Tips for Getting Started Quickly, continued Answering Three Key Questions Can Cut Your Writing Time 30 to 40 Percent 1. 2. 3. Five Simple Ways to Plan and Organize Even the Most Complex Writing Tasks 1. Define your purpose for writing. 2. Brainstorm and cluster. 3. Freeform write. 4. Revise, edit, format. 5. Proofread. Step 1. Define Your Purpose for Writing COM1040204 3Turn Ideas Into Writing: Tips for Getting Started Quickly, continued Step 2. Brainstorm and Cluster Clustering ideas is an essential preliminary step for the writer to gain clarity about what he or she intends to say. The process of stating the ideas and concepts and organizing them alerts the writer to sloppy thinking, redundancies, lack of specificity, weak arguments and contradictions. Other Uses of Clusters: • Solving problems. • Planning projects. • Appraising performances. • Making “to-do” lists. • Clarifying goals. • Outlining a major report or proposal. • Preparing for a complex phone call. • Studying. Cluster textbook sections as you read them instead of “highlighting.” Put the page number of the text at the bottom of a cluster page. Keep clusters in order in a notebook. Study for tests from clusters. If unsure of what a particular cluster means, review that section of the text. That’s the only part of the book you have to read a second time. • Preparing for confrontation. Make clusters of emotional issues and responses before beginning this difficult conversation. •Taking notes. Jot down ideas that come to mind as others are talking. You’ll better retain what you want to say when it’s your turn to talk. • Generating group ideas. This is good way to elicit contributions from the most hesitant of team members. It is also a good way to get candid input, since it can be done anonymously, and it allows ideas to be judged on their own merit instead of by who contributed them. COM1040204 4Turn Ideas Into Writing: Tips for Getting Started Quickly, continued Step 3. Freeform Write •Turn off the interior editor. • Set a time limit and write as fast as you can without stopping. • Don’t worry about spelling, punctuation, grammar or style. • If you can’t think of a sentence, write a sentence fragment or a list of words. • If you run out of things to say, write the same sentence over again until something occurs to you. Step 4. Revise, Edit, Format Expect to do a draft or two Step 5. Proofread Proofreading is a technical skill that will develop with practice. COM1040204 5Make Sure Your Message Is Clear and Your Writing Is Error-Free Six Questions Every Piece of Writing Should Answer 1. Who: 2. What: 3. Why: 4. Where: 5. When: 6. How: Commonly Confused Word Pairs and Groupings You’ll Never Mix Up Again Find a full list on page 16 in your reference guide Business Grammar & Usage. A An article used before a singular word with a consonant sound: We will spend a month in Vermont and a week in Maine. An An article used before a singular word with a vowel sound: She ate an apple and an orange. Accept To take, agree: I accept the offer. Except To exclude, omit: It’s OK, except for this. Affect To influence or produce change in: The new policy does not affect our job situation. Effect To bring about a result, cause: The president will effect many changes. Assure To declare confidently: I assure you everything is all right. Ensure To make sure or certain: To ensure quick payment, file your taxes now. Insure To protect against risk or loss with insurance: I need to insure my car. COM1040204 6Make Sure Your Message Is Clear and Your Writing Is Error-Free, continued Between Used when speaking of two: Just between you and me, I don’t agree. There were no secrets between Jane and John. Among Used when speaking of more than two: He was among a prestigious group of three who were honored at the ceremony. Cite Refer to: He cited new sales figures. Site Location: The new building site is in Dallas. Sight Scene: The skyline was a beautiful sight. Comprise To include, contain: The whole comprises parts. The country comprised several republics and states. Compose To make up: The whole is composed of parts. The country is composed of several republics and states. Explicit Clearly expressed: The rules are explicit and cover every situation. Implicit Implied: The implicit manner she used left me guessing. Farther A greater actual distance: The journey to Tokyo was farther than the previous trip to Taiwan. Further To a greater degree or extent: This move will further our sales impact on the western states. Fewer Refers to physical numbers of items: He ordered fewer magazines this year. Less Refers to matters of degree or value: It was less important to her than it was to him. The boy drank less milk than his sister. Imply Suggest: I do not mean to imply that we move forward on this idea. Infer Conclude, deduce: I inferred from the article that time management is key in all business areas. Its The possessive form of it: The performance of its CEO will determine the outcome. It’s A contraction of it is: It’s the nature of the business. Lay To put or place an object: He lays neatly folded newspapers on the tray. Lie To recline: I lie in bed as I write this. That Refers to inanimate objects or animals without a name; used to introduce phrases or words that must remain part of the sentence: The tree that died will be cut down. Which Refers to animals without a name or inanimate objects; used to introduce parenthetical or explanatory phrases: I’m wearing my favorite dress, which happens to be blue. COM1040204 7Make Sure Your Message Is Clear and Your Writing Is Error Free, continued Present Details Clearly and Explanations Simply • Be specific. • State your conclusion first. • Use bulleted lists to make long, tedious details more readable. •Avoid beginning sentences with “it is,” “there are,” etc. • Highlight important points (sparingly). — Underscore — Bold face — Italics — Larger font sizes —ALL CAPS —Use white space intentionally Four Simple Cures for the Most Common Sentence Ailments 1. 2. 3. 4. COM1040204 8Make Sure Your Message Is Clear and Your Writing Is Error Free, continued Avoid Errors Most Commonly Made in Letters and Memos Use These Six Surefire Ways to Eliminate Errors 1. Use a spelling checker. 2. Read backwards. 3. Read out loud. 4. Highlight as you move along if you’re working on-screen. 5. Read hard copy line by line. 6. Double-check by looking for these common errors: • Run-on sentences and sentence fragments. • Punctuation in general. • Commas in particular. • Quotations. • Subject-verb agreement. • Sentence length. • Apostrophes. • Capitalization. • Spelling. •Paragraphing. • Omissions. COM1040204 9Make Sure Your Message Is Clear and Your Writing Is Error Free, continued Shortcuts to Handling Grammar and Spelling Problems Make Good Grammar a Habit • Conscientiously apply the rules of grammar to your conversation. Eliminate spoken grammatical errors and watch them disappear from your writing. •Pay special attention to subject-verb agreement and pronoun usage, case (subjective and objective), and number (singular and plural). •Use words you know. • Use a spell checker, but be aware of its limitations. •Perform the daily exercises in your working reference Business Grammar & Usage. Quick References You’ll Want to Keep Close by Every Time You Write • Check out the NPP handbook, The Essentials of Business Writing. The more you know, the more confidence you’ll have in your ability to communicate well. • Use a spelling dictionary. Mark words you look up. If you look up the same word three times, put it on your spelling “hit list.” • Use a hit list. Create a list of words you use often and that give you spelling headaches. List the words in alphabetical order, and keep it on your desk for easy reference. Take two or three words from the hit list and place them on an index card taped to your computer. These words may become “sight words”; you will know on sight if they are spelled correctly. • Use memory tricks. Mnemonic devices are helpful with certain words, e.g., in “desert” the “s” means sand; in “dessert” the double “s” stands for strawberry shortcake. Develop a memory trick for every word on your hit list. COM1040204 10Using Contemporary Writing Techniques and an Inviting Tone to Stimulate Reader Interest Do the Grammar Rules You Learned in School Still Apply? Don’t Let the Myths Hold You Back Revisiting Some Rules • Never end a sentence with a preposition. • Do not beginning a sentence with And or But. • Never split an infinitive. Assessing Some Trends • Use of contractions in business correspondence • Use of short words, short sentences, short paragraphs and bulleted lists • Use of gender-neutral nouns and pronouns How to Use an Active Voice and a Conversational Tone to Enhance How Much Your Reader Will Remember What do active verbs do? •They indicate immediate action. •They are more emphatic. •They indicate responsibility on the part of the writer. A Quick Tip for Active Verbs Although not always true, most passive verbs contain some form of the verb “to be.” Look for “was,” “were,” “have,” “has,” “have been” and “has been” in your writing. Whenever you find it, eliminate that form and use an active form of the verb. Avoid using “You have been late all week.” Instead, try “You came in late all week.” Notice how action and responsibility are evident in the second sentence. COM1040204 11Using Contemporary Writing Techniques and an Inviting Tone to Stimulate Reader Interest, continued When Is Jargon Appropriate? Jargon is only appropriate if it facilitates communication between two people who both understand and use it. Cut Stiff, Outdated Lingo From Your Documents and Replace It With Sharp Images That Enhance Understanding Skill Practice Rewrite the letter below to make it more effective business communication. Due to the fact that the item you requested in your recent letter of June 23rd has now been temporarily discontinued, we are taking this opportunity to apprise you of this situation before you begin the construction to which you alluded in said letter. Subsequent to your letter, our company arrived at the conclusion that all such requests should be forwarded to our engineering department, whose expertise in the field in which you are currently engaged would make them the logical choice for further discussion and consulting as to the possibility of substitute stock items, should such items be available. At your earliest convenience, may we request that you be in correspondence with Mr. Norris regarding your particular needs? Pending receipt of your further correspondence, we will apprise Mr. Norris of your situation. COM1040204 12Conveying Professionalism and Credibility in Your Writing Words That Are Never Appropriate in Business Writing •You • But • Can’t • Always or never • Should have or ought to have Align Your Writing With the Image Your Organization Wants to Project and Gain Recognition for Being a Business Writer Who Gets Results for Your Company 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. How to Trim the Fat From All Your Business Documents “Keep It Short and Simple” and “Use Transitions” are quoted from Fat-Free Writing Business: Writing for the Information Age by Carol Andrus, Crisp Publications. •Keep it short and simple. • Write shorter sentences. • Create must-read reference lines. • Get to the point • Close with a bang. • Write shorter paragraphs. •Use transitions. COM1040204 13Conveying Professionalism and Credibility in Your Writing, continued Purpose Transitions Also, and, besides, furthermore, moreover, next, too, as well as, To add an idea in addition, again To summarize In brief, on the whole, in short, in sum, to sum up To enumerate First, second, third, last To clarify Actually, in other words, clearly To illustrate For instance, for example (e.g.), this is (i.e.) To compare Also, similarly, likewise, as well as Although, even though, but, however, on the contrary, on the To contrast other hand, yet, in contrast To emphasize Certainly, most of all, in fact, of course, in any event To make conditional If, unless, until, when, even though To show cause and effect As a result, so, therefore, consequently, accordingly To show results As a result, therefore, so, hence To reverse a thought But, yet, on the contrary, regardless, nevertheless Formerly, previously, meanwhile, before, after, until now, at the To indicate time or sequence same time, later, during Use Transitions Without smooth transitions from one thought, section or idea to the next, the reader will experience a bumpy road wondering where you are headed Also tells the reader that you are adding a similar thought. However instantly conveys “Here comes something different.” Sentences and phrases can also serve as transitions: •“That brings us to the next step, which is …” • “Now that we’ve settled that problem, let’s look at …” • “Unfortunately, in this case, we won’t be able to …” • “In addition to budget constraints, there’s another matter we have to discuss.” COM1040204 14Writing Letters, Memos and Reports That Are Organized and Reader-Focused Three Characteristics All Good Business Letters Share 1. They are short. 2. They are clear. 3. They are personal. How to Prepare Correspondence That Says “Professional” • Appearance (letter style, placement on the page, font style and size) is the first indication of a professionally written letter, memo or report. •The second is no spelling or typographical errors. •Third, the grammar is correct. •Finally, professional correspondence is succinct, and its meaning is clear. Malcolm Forbes’ Advice on Writing Good Business Letters • Know what you want; state it clearly. • Call the person by name. Get it right • Be positive and natural. Tell your readers what’s in it for them. •Give it your best effort. Make it look good — clear copy, centered and clean. •Keep it short. Underline a couple of the most important words or phrases, but don’t overdo it. • Maintain the reader’s interest. Don’t present opinions as facts. • Make it correct. Errors leave your readers with only two possible reactions: The writer is either ignorant or careless. •Say what you have to say and get out. COM1040204 15Writing Letters, Memos and Reports That Are Organized and Reader-Focused, continued A Guide for Writing Any Letter What do all letters have in common? A beginning, middle and end. Review the beginning (B), middle (M) and end (E) of the following seven familiar types of correspondence. 1. Information or acceptance B: State the topic. M: Discuss or explain it. E: Say what you want done about it. 2. Sales or persuasion B: Capture your reader’s attention with an idea or offer. M: Bombard the reader with convincing facts and emotional appeal. E: Urge the reader to act (or to agree) immediately. 3. Request B: Disclose what you want. M: Describe, when appropriate, why you want it. E: Thank your reader for the help you hope to get. 4. Complain B: Announce what’s wrong. M: Provide details enabling your reader to help. E: Say what you expect your reader to do next. 5. Rejection B: Build a bridge of sympathy to your reader. M: Bury the rejection in the middle, justifying it while allowing the reader to save face. E: Emphasize anything good you can say about the situation. 6. Collection B: Courteously present the details of the overdue payment. M: Ask politely for immediate payment. E: Mention any action you plan if payment is not made immediately and enclose a return envelope. 7. Goodwill B: Express thanks, praise, congratulations or sympathy; extend an invitation. M: Support expression with personal details. E: End on a warm note. Adapted from Ellen Roddick, Writing That Means Business, Macmillan Publishing Co. COM1040204 16