Methods of Development: Writing Routine, Good-News, and Goodwill Messages Most business communications can be prepared by following one of three patterns or methods of development: Direct Order, Indirect Order, or Persuasive Order. This lecture will discuss the direct order that is used for most routine, good-news and goodwill messages. Learning Objectives: ? To understand methods of development for writing routine business messages. ? To recognize structure of presenting routine messages. ? To identify situations which require the routine method of development. Lecture Outline Planning Your Message
Basic Components of the Direct Message Strategy Examples of Routine Messages Routine Request Main Idea Details Close Placing Orders Requesting Action and Information Making Claims and Requesting Adjustments Requesting References or Recommendations Routine Announcements, Replies and Positive Messages Issuing Informative Messages Requesting Information and Action Claims and Adjustments Recommendations and References Announcements Goodwill Conclusion Planning Your Message Most business communications can be prepared by following one of three patterns or methods of development: Direct Order, Indirect Order, or Persuasive Order.
When planning your message, you should analyze your audience and choose an organizational approach that will effectively communicate your main idea. Analyze the audience—ask yourself these important questions ? Who is the audience? ? What are their needs? ? What cultural differences exist? ? What do I want them to do? ? What tools will help persuade the audience? ? Would emotional or logical appeals be best? You should consider your audience’s demographics: age, gender, occupation, income, education, and other quantifiable characteristics.
Also consider your audience’s psychographics: the psychological characteristics of a person such as personality, attitudes, and lifestyle. Satisfying audience needs is the most effective way to motivate your audience. Because needs differ, people respond to messages differently Choose an organizational approach ? Use the direct approach when –Audience is objective –Audience prefers to hear the “bottom line” first –Message is long or complex –Corporate culture encourages directness ? Use the indirect approach when –Audience is negative –Audience won’t object to indirect approach -Message is short and clear Top Basic Components of the Direct Message Strategy Main idea: Because you will use the diamond arrangement, the opening paragraph should be short. It should express the main idea as a positive message with the single most important idea, concisely stated. It should be a clear idea of the focus of the letter or memo. This is what the reader wants to know and what you want the reader to know. In a memo or e-mail, you expand the subject line into a topic sentence. Remember, getting right to the point does not mean being abrupt or tactless.
It’s important to use cordial statements such as please or I would appreciate. Details: Middle paragraphs will be longer because they contain all the necessary information, questions, justification or explanation. This should satisfy the reader’s informational needs. Give all details necessary to support the main idea in your opening paragraph. Make sure this section is clear, complete and concise. Revise to eliminate repetition or wordiness. Positive close: The closing paragraph will be a short paragraph. It could summarize the main point, indicate what should happen next, and/or highlight reader benefit.
It should have a positive tone and may include a call to action when you need the reader to respond with additional action. Make compliance easy such as including information about how you can be reached or how the reader is to respond. Why is the direct method of development appropriate for most business messages? Most business messages (more than 80%) are routine requests for information or action. They should be organized directly unless they involve sensitive issues. The everyday transactions of a business will be directed at an audience whose reaction will be positive or neutral. What are some examples of routine messages? Requesting information or action ? Placing orders ? Making straightforward claims See checklist p. 265 ? Complying with requests ? Granting claims and making adjustments ? Writing letters of recommendation See checklist p. 275-276 ? Goodwill messages See checklist pp. 280-281 Looking at the checklists, you will notice that all of these routine messages follow the basic direct order strategy: main idea, details, positive close. The content will vary depending on your purpose but because they are still routine messages to a positive or neutral audience, the direct approach is the easiest and fastest method of development.
Let’s look at several examples. Top Examples of Routine Messages Routine Request Whenever you ask for something, you are making a request. A request is routine if it’s part of the normal course of business and you anticipate that your audience will want to comply. Like all routine messages, routine requests may be thought of as having three parts: an opening, a body, and a close. Using the direct approach, you place your main idea (a clear statement of the request) in the opening. You use the middle to give details and justify your request.
Then you close by requesting specific action and concluding cordially. As you prepare your routine requests, keep in mind that despite their simple organization, they can still cause ill will through ambiguous wording or a discourteous tone. In fact, even the briefest note can create confusion and hard feelings. As with any business message, keep your purpose in mind. Ask yourself what you want readers to do or to understand as a result of reading your message. [pic] Begin routine requests by placing your request first—up front is where it stands out and gets the most attention.
Of course, getting right to the point should not be interpreted as a license to be abrupt or tactless: Be specific. State precisely what you want. Pay attention to tone. Even though you expect a favorable response, the tone of your initial request is important. Instead of demanding action (“Send me your catalog no. 33A”), soften your request with words such as please and I would appreciate. Assume your audience will comply. An impatient demand for rapid service isn’t necessary. Generally, assume that your audience will comply with 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 ABC Company, and I am looking for information that . . . ” 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? ) Top [pic] Use the middle section of your message to explain your initial request. Make the explanation a smooth and logical outgrowth of your opening remarks. You can use the middle section of your routine request to list a series of questions. Just keep a few basics in mind: Ask the most important questions first. If cost is your main concern, you might begin with a question such as “What is the cost for shipping the merchandise by air versus truck? ” Then you may want to ask more specific but related questions about, say, the cost of shipping partial orders.
Ask only relevant questions. So that your request can be handled quickly, ask only questions central to your main request. If your questions require simple yes-or-no answers, you might provide readers with a form or with boxes to check. If you need more elaborate answers, pose open-ended questions. “How fast can you ship the merchandise? ” is more likely to elicit the information you want than “Can you ship the merchandise? ” Deal with only one topic per question. If you have an unusual or complex request, list the request and provide supporting details in a separate, short paragraph.
Try using paragraph headings to make your reader’s job easier. Top [pic] Use the closing to request a specific action and to ask that readers respond by a specific and appropriate time (“Please send the figures by April 5 so that I can return first quarter results to you before the May 20 conference”). Help your reader respond easily by including your phone number, office hours, and other contact information. Conclude your message by expressing your goodwill and appreciation, but don’t thank the reader “in advance” for cooperating. If the reader’s reply warrants a word of thanks, send it after you’ve received the reply.
The various types of routine requests are innumerable, from asking favors to requesting credit. However, many of the routine messages that you’ll be writing will likely fall into major categories: placing orders, requesting information and action, making claims and requesting adjustments, and requesting recommendations and references. Top Placing Orders Messages placing orders are considered some of the simplest types of routine messages. When placing an order, you need not excite your reader’s interest; just state your needs clearly and directly.
Most orders refer to a product that the reader knows about, so these messages are usually processed without objection. Most companies today are moving toward paperless ordering by using computer-generated order forms. Still, if you need to draft an order letter, follow the same format as you would on an order blank. Main Idea: Open with the general request. Details: In the middle, include specific information about the items you want. Present this information in column form, double-space between the items, and total the price at the end.
Positive Close: In the close, be sure to specify the delivery address, since it may differ from the billing address. Also indicate how the merchandise is to be shipped: by air or ground, by a specific delivery services, and so on. Otherwise, the seller chooses the mode of transportation. Finally, in any letter including a payment, mention the amount enclosed, explain how the amount was calculated, and if necessary, explain to what account the amount should be charged. Top Requesting Action and Information When you need to know about something, to elicit an opinion from someone, or to suggest a simple action, you usually need only ask.
If your reader can do what you want, such a straightforward request gets the job done with a minimum of fuss. In more complex situations, readers might be unwilling to respond unless they understand how the request benefits them, so be sure to include this information in your explanation. Internal: Requests to fellow employees are often oral and rather casual. However, as long as you avoid writing frequent, long, or unneeded messages, sending a clear, thoughtfully written memo or e-mail message can save time and questions by helping readers understand precisely what you want.
External: Business writers often ask businesses, customers, or others outside their organization to provide information or to take some simple action: attend a meeting, return an information card, endorse a document, confirm an address, or supplement information on an order. Such requests are often in letter form, although some are sent via e-mail. These messages are usually short and simple. In more complex situations, readers might be unwilling to respond unless they understand how the request benefits them, so be sure to include benefit information in your explanation. Top Making Claims and Requesting Adjustments
When you’re dissatisfied with a company’s product or service, you make a claim (a formal complaint) or request an adjustment (a claim settlement). Although a phone call or visit may solve the problem, a written claim letter is better because it documents your dissatisfaction. Moreover, even though your first reaction to a clumsy mistake or a defective product is likely to be anger or frustration, the person reading your letter probably had nothing to do with the problem. So a courteous, clear, concise explanation will impress your reader much more favorably than an abusive, angry letter.
In most cases, and especially in your first letter, assume that a fair adjustment will be made, and follow the plan for direct requests. Begin with a straightforward statement of the problem. In the middle section, give a complete, specific explanation of the details. Provide any information an adjuster would need to verify your complaint about faulty merchandise or unsatisfactory service. In your closing, politely request specific action or convey a sincere desire to find a solution. And don’t forget to suggest that the business relationship will continue if the problem is solved satisfactorily. Top Requesting References or Recommendations
If you’re applying for a job and your potential employer asks for references, you may want to ask a personal or professional associate to write a letter of recommendation. Or, if you’re an employer considering whether to hire an applicant, you may want to write directly to the person the applicant named as a reference. Because requests for recommendations and references are routine, assume your reader will honor your request and organize your inquiry using the direct approach. Begin your message by clearly stating that you’re applying for a position and that you want your reader to write a letter of recommendation.
If you haven’t had contact with the person for some time, use the opening to recall the nature of the relationship you had, the dates of association, and any special events that might bring a clear, favorable picture of you to mind. If you’re applying for a job, a scholarship, or the like, include a copy of your resume to give the reader an idea of the direction your life has taken. If you don’t have a resume, use the middle of your letter to include any information about yourself that the reader might use to support a recommendation, such as a description of related jobs you’ve held.
Close your letter with an expression of appreciation and the full name and address of the person to whom the letter should be sent. When asking for an immediate recommendation, you should also mention the deadline. You’ll make a response more likely if you enclose a stamped, preaddressed envelope. Top Routine Announcements, Replies and Positive Messages Like requests, routine announcements, replies, and positive messages have an opening, a body, and a close. Readers receiving these messages will generally be interested in what you have to say, so you’ll usually use the direct approach.
Place your main idea (the positive reply or the good news) in the opening. Use the middle to explain all the relevant details, and close cordially, perhaps highlighting a benefit to your reader. Innumerable types of routine announcements, replies and positive messages are used in business every day. Most of these messages fall into six main categories: issuing informative messages, granting requests for information and action, granting claims and requests for adjustments, providing recommendations and references, announcing good news, and sending goodwill messages.
Top [pic]Issuing Informative Messages [pic]Requesting Information and Action All companies send routine informative messages such as reminder notices and policy statements. When writing informative messages, use the beginning of the message to state the purpose (to inform) and briefly mention the nature of the information you are providing; use the body to provide the necessary details; and end with a courtesy close. Most informative communications are neutral. That is, they stimulate neither a positive or negative response from readers.
Some informative messages, however, require additional care. Policy statements or procedural changes, for instance, may be good news for the company and employees (the company can save money which will provide additional resources and even raises for employees) but such benefits may not be obvious to employees. In instances where the reader may not initially view the information positively, use the body of the message to highlight the benefits from the readers’ perspective. Top If your answer to a request is yes or is straightforward information, the direct plan is appropriate.
Your prompt, gracious, and thorough response will positively influence how people think about your company, its products, your department, and you. When you’re answering requests and a potential sale is involved, you have three main goals: (1) to respond to the inquiry and answer all questions, (2) to leave your reader with a good impression of you and your firm, and (3) to encourage the future sale. Top [pic]Claims and Adjustments When your company is at fault and your response is positive, you must protect your company’s image and try to regain the customer’s goodwill by referring to company errors carefully.
Explain your company’s efforts to do a good job, implying that the error was an unusual incident. When your customer is at fault, you can (1) refuse the claim and attempt to justify your refusal or (2) simply do what the customer asks. If you refuse the claim, you may lose your customer—as well as many of the customer’s friends, who will hear only one side of the dispute. Weigh the cost of the adjustment against the cost of losing future business from one or more customers. When a third party is at fault, you have three options: • Simply honor the claim.
You can satisfy your customer with the standard good-news letter and no additional explanation. • Honor the claim, but explain you’re not at fault. This option corrects any impression that the damage was caused by your negligence. You can still write the standard good-news letter, but stress the explanation. • Refer the claimant to the third party. When you suggest filing a claim with the firm that caused the defect or damage, you fail to satisfy the claimant’s needs. The exception is when you’re trying to dissociate yourself from any legal responsibility for the damaged merchandise.
In such a case, write a bad-news message. Top [pic]Recommendations and References When writing a letter of recommendation or reference, you want to convince readers that the person being recommended has the characteristics necessary for the job or benefit being sought. Your letter must contain all the relevant details. Your audience will have trouble believing uninterrupted praise for someone’s talents and accomplishments. So illustrate your general points with a specific example or two that point out the candidate’s abilities.
You have an obligation to refer to any shortcoming that is serious and related to job performance. If you must refer to a shortcoming, you can best protect yourself by sticking to the facts, avoiding value judgments, and placing your criticism in the context of a generally favorable recommendation You can also avoid trouble by asking yourself the following questions before mailing a recommendation letter: • Does the person receiving this personal information have a legitimate right to it? • Does all the information I’ve presented relate directly to the job/benefit being sought? Have I put the candidate’s case as strongly and as honestly as I can? • Have I avoided overstating the candidate’s abilities or otherwise misleading the reader? • Have I based my statements on firsthand knowledge and provable facts? Top [pic]Announcements To develop and maintain good relationships, companies recognize that it’s good business to spread the word about positive developments, whether the company is opening new facilities, appointing a new executive, introducing new products or services, or sponsoring community events.
Writing a letter to the successful job applicant is a pleasure. Such a letter is eagerly awaited, so the direct approach is appropriate. A company announcing a new discount program to customers would begin the letter by trumpeting the news. The middle section would fill in the details of the discount program, and the close would include a bit of resale information and a confident prediction of a profitable business relationship. However, when the audience for a good-news message is large and scattered, companies often communicate through the mass media.
The specialized documents used to convey such information to the media are called news releases. Top [pic]Goodwill You can enhance your relationships with customers, colleagues, and other businesspeople by sending friendly, unexpected notes with no direct business purpose. To come across as sincere, avoid exaggeration and back up any compliments with specific points. One prime opportunity for sending goodwill messages is to congratulate someone for a significant business achievement—perhaps for being promoted or for attaining an important civic position.
Other reasons for sending congratulations include the highlights in people’s personal lives. It is important to recognize the contributions of employees, colleagues, suppliers, and other associates. Your praise does more than just make the person feel good; it encourages further excellence. Moreover, a message of appreciation may become an important part of someone’s personnel file. So when you write a message of appreciation, try to specifically mention the person or people you want to praise. In times of serious trouble and deep sadness, written condolences and expressions of sympathy leave their mark.
Begin condolences with a brief statement of sympathy, such as “I was deeply sorry to hear of your loss. ” In the middle, mention the good qualities or the positive contributions made by the deceased. State what the person or business meant to you. In closing, you can offer your condolences and your best wishes. Top Conclusion You should write positive or neutral messages using the direct order method of development. By introducing the main idea in the first paragraph, the reader immediately understands the purpose.
The body of the message should provide all the details the reader will need to understand or respond. The closing will be a positive statement, a call to action, or a statement of good will and will keep the reader well disposed to you and your company. [pic] Sources: Bovee, Courtland L and John V. Thill. Business Communication Today. 6th edition. New Jersey: Prentice Hall, 2000. Guffey, Mary Ellen. Business Communication: Process and Product. 4th edition. Thomson—South-Western, 2003. ———————– Main Idea Details Positive Close