Business Writing Scenarios
First EditionJon Ramsey©2016
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Written by an experienced instructor of business writing courses, Business Writing Scenarios offers a hands on approach that immerses students in the types of writing situations they will encounter throughout their working lives. Detailed guidance and numerous examples help students build the skills they will need to respond to these situations effectively.In each of the core chapters, students first learn how other writers addressed a particular writing situation—such as having to convey disappointing news to employees, explain a major policy change, or respond to a difficult customer—effectively or ineffectively. Students then apply what they’ve learned through guided activities ("applications") that ask them to respond in writing to a similar business scenario. Additionally, the book emphasizes the potentially serious consequences of ill-considered business communications, especially those delivered electronically. A chapter dedicated to business writing gaffes provides many real-world examples of these mistakes and advises students on how to avoid them.
Suitable for use on its own or in conjunction with another text, Business Writing Scenarios is a useful addition to any course building students business writing skills.
Table of Contents
Before you begin composing any piece of business writing, you will need to consider your role and authority within the business organization, your purpose in writing, the audience you must reach, the strategy that is most likely to achieve the desired goal, and the best medium for your communication purposes. This chapter examines these important factors.Understanding the Central Concerns of Business WritingSeeing the Big PictureStarting with You as Person, Employee, and WriterUnderstand Your Level of AuthorityLook before You Leap—and Stay Alert for Opportunities Familiarize Yourself with Your Organization’s Principles and ValuesKeeping Your Purpose in MindUnderstanding Your Audience and Audience PsychologyDetermining a Communication StrategyThe Importance of EvidenceThe Importance of TonePaying Attention to Details Using Clear Vocabulary ProofreadingResponding to Real-World Writing ScenariosAnalyzing a Writing Scenario: Explaining a Policy ChangeA First-Draft Explanation of the Policy ChangeA More Detailed Explanation of the Policy ChangeAnalyzing a Writing Scenario: Weighing the Costs and Benefits of ConcisenessA Brief, Formulaic E-mailA More Developed E-mail: Example 1A More Developed E-mail: Example 2An E-mail That Offers Specifics and a Longer, More Detailed DocumentApplying What You’ve LearnedApplication 2-A: Inquire about Office-Space NeedsApplication 2-B: Seek Volunteers for a Non-Profit OrganizationApplication 2-C: Coordinate Accounts Receivable Information3. Résumés, Cover Letters, and the Job Search Process
Knowing how to draft an effective résumé and cover letter is key to your success in securing a position and advancing in your field. This chapter gives practical advice on creating these important documents—and on succeeding in the job search.Understanding the Application Process Assessing Your Abilities: What Do You Have to Offer?Investigate Campus ResourcesAsk Yourself QuestionsIdentify Your Research SkillsAssembling Your CredentialsFinding Open PositionsUnadvertised OpportunitiesAdvertised OpeningsDos and Don’tsImproving Your Odds in the Application Review ProcessSurviving the First CutIncreasing Your Chances of SuccessResponding to Real-World Writing ScenariosAnalyzing a Writing Scenario: Crafting an Effective RésuméA Problematic RésuméRevisions to the RésuméThe HeaderCareer ObjectiveEducationWork ExperienceSkillsReferencesThe Final ProductRésumé TipsAnalyzing a Writing Scenario: Crafting an Effective Cover LetterA Problematic Cover LetterRevisions to the Cover LetterThe Letter FormatThe OpeningThe Middle ParagraphsThe ClosingCover Letter TipsExploring Additional Examples of Résumés and Cover LettersA Résumé and Cover Letter from a Liberal-Arts StudentA Résumé and Cover Letter from a Business/Economics StudentApplying What You’ve LearnedApplication 3-A: Create Your Own Cover Letter and RésuméGetting from the Application to Success Following Up on Your Application MaterialsAcing the Job InterviewInterview TipsCHECKLIST: Overview of the Job SearchStarting and Pursuing a Rewarding Career4. Business Document Design, Formats, and Conventions
As a business writer you want to create documents that are as aesthetically pleasing as they are easy to read and understand. This chapter covers design basics, as well as important document formats and conventions.Understanding Key Features of Document DesignPreviewing Design BasicsMelding Structure and PurposeElements of Effective DesignAn Example of a Clearly Designed MemoWhy the Design SucceedsExploring Common Formats for Business DocumentsThe Business LetterStandard E-mail FormatCommon Memo FormatIncorporating Visual Materials into Your TextAvoid Do-Nothing GraphicsProvide ContextDesigning Longer DocumentsFollowing Other Style and Format “Conventions”Salutations, or “You Lost Me at Hello”Type Size and StyleMarginsText BreaksBulletsPaginationHeadersResponding to Real-World Writing Scenarios Analyzing a Writing Scenario: Improving a Poorly Crafted MemoApplying What You’ve LearnedApplication 4-A: Revise a Poorly Crafted Memo5. Writing to Colleagues Within the Organization
It is important to address colleagues as valued partners in a shared enterprise. This style of communication will help foster a culture of cooperation, productivity, and respect that is crucial to any organization’s success. Understanding the Challenges of Writing to ColleaguesKeeping Special Issues and Controversies in MindRespecting Co-workers across Business CulturesSome Good News about Workplace DynamicsPotential Consequences of Angry CommunicationsResponding to Discourteous CommunicationsDistinguishing Friends from Professional ColleaguesAn Overly Casual CommunicationA More Professional CommunicationConveying Negative News Negative News PitfallsResponding to Real-World Writing ScenariosAnalyzing a Writing Scenario: Conveying Bad News about a Holiday GiftAn Off-Putting Message about the GiftA More Thoughtful MessageAnalyzing a Writing Scenario: Conveying Bad News about Medical BenefitsThe BackgroundThe Basic Facts about the Benefits ChangesAdvice on Conveying the NewsAn Effective Memo about the Benefits ChangesApplying What You’ve LearnedApplication 5-A: Revise an Off-Putting Request for a PromotionApplication 5-B: Request Information about Office SuppliesApplication 5-C: Revise a Poor Communication about Office SpaceApplication 5-D: Revise a Poor Communication about Child-Care PoliciesApplication 5-E: Revise a Poor Communication about Flexible Work SchedulesApplication 5-F: Revise a Poor Communication about Holiday Office CoverageApplication 5-G: Revise a Poor Communication about Employee Parking6. Writing to External Constituencies
External audiences with whom you communicate will view you as a representative of your organization, so it is important to make a good impression on them. This chapter will help you communicate effectively with such audiences, even under the most challenging circumstances.Understanding the Challenges of Writing to External AudiencesKnowing That Word Gets Around The Pluses and Minuses of More Open CommunicationsLegal Implications of Problematic CommunicationsPrinciples of Respectful CommunicationsProviding Information Clearly and PersuasivelyAn Effective Response to an Information RequestAn Ineffective AlternativeKeeping the Human Touch in Big-Business CommunicationsAvoiding Business Liabilities Responding to Real-World Writing ScenariosAnalyzing a Writing Scenario: Responding to a Customer ComplaintThe ComplaintOne Effective Response to the ComplaintAnother Effective Response to the ComplaintApplying What You’ve LearnedApplication 6-A: Respond to an Information Request from a Potential InvestorApplication 6-B: Write a Company Mission StatementApplication 6-C: Create a Return Policy for a Retail StoreApplication 6-D: Resolve a Complaint about a Catering FiascoApplication 6-E: Resolve a Complaint about Customer ServiceApplication 6-F: Revise an Angry Complaint about a Cleaning ServiceApplication 6-G: Revise a Letter That Delivers Bad News InsensitivelyApplication 6-H: Respond to a Request from a Privileged AlumApplication 6-I: Write a Rejection LetterApplication 6-J: Invite a Distinguished Guest to a Campus EventApplication 6-K: Dis-invite Participants to a Focus GroupApplication 6-L: Reassure a Nervous CustomerApplication 6-M: Buy Time in a Tricky SituationApplication 6-N: Request Permission from an External ConstituencyStudent Responses to Selected Applications 7. More Complex Business Writing Projects
As you advance in your career, you may be called upon to develop longer, more complicated documents, such as grant proposals or business plans. This chapter will introduce you to the fundamentals of these more complex pieces of writing.Understanding the Challenges of More Complex Writing ProjectsIdentifying Key Considerations of Complex Projects The Situation or ScenarioThe AudienceBackground Research and PreparationDocument DesignPreviewing Longer Writing ProjectsA Business-Travel Reimbursement PolicyAn Ethics Advisory MemoA Request for Proposals (RFP)A Letter of Inquiry Preceding a Full Grant ProposalA Grant ProposalA Business PlanBeing an Effective Part of a Team Responding to Real-World Writing Scenarios Application 7-A: Draft a Business-Travel Reimbursement PolicyApplication 7-B: Write an Ethics Advisory MemoApplication 7-C: Write a Request for Proposals (RFP)Application 7-D: Write a Letter of Inquiry Preceding a Full Grant ProposalApplication 7-E: Write a Grant ProposalApplication 7-F: Write a Business Plan for a Start-Up CompanyStudent Responses to Selected ApplicationsResponse to Application 7-B: Write an Ethics Advisory MemoResponse to Application 7-C: Write a Request for Proposals (RFP)Response to Application 7-D: Write a Letter of Inquiry Preceding a Full Grant ProposalResponse to Application 7-E: Write a Grant ProposalResponse to Application 7-F: Write a Business Plan for a Start-Up 8. Business Writing Gaffes in the Real World
Even highly experienced business professionals make communication errors at times, and you can also learn from their mistakes. This chapter provides examples of some especially glaring gaffes to avoid. Reviewing Key Causes of Writing GaffesTouring a Gallery of GaffesGetting the Job the Wrong WayKicked out of HarvardDismissed as Admissions DeanFired as CEO of Yahoo! Inc. Insulting Co-WorkersIssuing an Apology without Acknowledging Any ResponsibilityCorrecting the Record … Sort of “Spinning” a Bad Public-Relations SituationE-mailing Your Way to a Legal LossE-mailing Your Way to Disgrace—and BankruptcyConfusing the Issue with Too Many DetailsSending an E-mail to the Wrong Recipient—and Jeopardizing a $1 Billion SettlementMass E-mailing Your Way to an Embarrassing MistakeMass E-mailing Your Way to a Financial MessMaking Confidential Business Information Public (via E-mail)Making Personal Information Public (via E-mail)Writing in Code—with Potentially Detrimental EffectsPosting Your Way to DisgraceBotching Communications from the Top: Hewlett-PackardBotching Communications from the Top: NetflixMaking (Expensive) Punctuation MistakesMaking Serious Social-Media ErrorsComplaining about a Customer through RedditComplaining about a New Job on TwitterInsulting a Key Client (and Others) on TwitterMixing Personal Expressions with Company CommunicationsTiming a Tweet PoorlyExploiting a Bad SituationFinal Advice: Refer to Social-Media Guidelines9. Leadership Values in Business Writing
In this chapter, we’ll take a closer look at leadership qualities that you can foster in yourself to become both a better communicator and a better colleague.Reflecting on Leadership Values in Business Writing Realizing That Many Leadership Skills Can Be LearnedReviewing Leadership QualitiesClarity of Mind and a Commitment to Evidence-Based DecisionsA Commitment to Customer or Client SatisfactionA Clear View of Long-Range Goals with a Readiness to ChangeEquanimity in Troubled Times and an Ability to Operate above the FrayA Willingness to Consider Others’ Ideas and Credit Their ContributionsResponding to Real-World Writing Scenarios Application 9-A: Request Volunteer HelpApplication 9-B: Get Buy-in on a Plan for New SoftwareApplication 9-C: Convey Disappointing News about Health Benefits