CHAPTER 6--COMPOSING BUSINESS MESSAGES
ORGANIZING YOUR MESSAGE
- Four common organizational problems:
- taking too long to get to the point
- including irrelevant material
- getting ideas mixed up
- leaving out necessary information
- Hallmarks of good organization:
- subject and purpose are clear
- all material is related to subject and purpose
- ideas are grouped and presented in a logical way
- all necessary information is included
- Importance of good organization:
- helps audience identify main points and comprehend information.
- helps audience accept the message, which is more clear and more credible.
- saves audience's time by eliminating unnecessary information and putting information in logical order.
- simplifies communicator's job by speeding up the composition process and facilitating collaboration.
HOW GOOD ORGANIZATION IS ACHIEVED
An outline reveals the relationships among points.
Advantages of working from an outline:
- Organization is a two-step process:
- define and group ideas, and
- establish sequence with organizational patterns.
Types of outlines:
- reduces tendency to ramble.
- helps writer achieve proper order and emphasis.
- clarifies transitions.
Steps in the outlining process:
- traditional alphanumeric format
- schematic organization chart (hierarchy of ideas, based on company organization chart format)
Purpose determines organization:
- Define the main idea: what the audience should do or think after absorbing the message and why they should do it or think it.
- State four or fewer major points.
- Identify supporting points, translating general concepts into tangible facts and figures.
The amount of evidence to use depends on your topic and audience:
- For informational messages, follow the natural order suggested by your subject (such as activities to be performed, functional units, spatial or chronological relationships, or parts of the whole).
- For persuasive or collaborative messages, use logical order based on reasons.
Various types of evidence add interest:
- Provide more details for complex, unfamiliar subjects and skeptical audiences.
- Use fewer details for routine, familiar subjects and receptive audiences.
Use organizational plans to establish the sequence of ideas.
Two basic sequences:
- Facts and figures: statistical evidence
- Narration: chronological story
- Description: word picture of person, place, or thing
- Example: typical case that illustrates point
- References to authority: quotations or informed opinions
- Visual aids: graphs, charts, or tables
The choice of organizational approach depends on the audience's probable reaction:
- Direct (deductive) approach: main idea presented first.
- Indirect (inductive) approach: evidence precedes statement of main idea.
Four organizational plans for shorter messages:
- Use direct approach for receptive audiences.
- Use indirect approach for resistant audiences.
Two organizational approaches for longer messages: informational and analytical.
Informational reports/presentations follow a natural order imposed by the subject:
- Direct requests use a straightforward approach because the audience will be willing to comply:
- Begin with the request or main idea,
- Provide necessary details, and
- Close with a statement of the desired action.
- Routine, good-news, and goodwill messages emphasize the positive because the audience will be neutral or pleased by information:
- Begin with the main idea or good news,
- Provide necessary details, and
- Close with reference to the good news or positive comment.
- Bad-news messages cushion the blow when the audience will be displeased:
- Begin with a neutral buffer,
- Justify the negative point with evidence,
- State the bad news in positive terms, and
- Close cordially.
- Persuasive messages provide motivational incentives when the audience is unwilling to comply or uninterested in the message:
- Begin with an attention-getter,
- Build interest by describing the general idea,
- Explain benefits to create desire, and
- Request action.
Analytical reports/presentations are organized according to the audience's probably reaction:
- order of importance.
- sequential order.
- chronological order.
- spatial order.
- geographical order.
- categorical order.
- If audience is receptive, organize around conclusions and recommendations.
- If audience is skeptical or hostile, organize around the reasons your point of view is correct.
FORMULATING YOUR MESSAGE
- Focus on getting ideas on paper; revise later.
- Use tools and techniques that facilitate the revision process.
- Difference between style and tone:
- Style: the way words are used to create effects.
- Tone: the overall effect; the result of style.
- Tips for achieving the right style and tone:
- Strive for a businesslike tone: objective, rational, efficient.
- Use the "you" attitude; present the message from the audience's point of view.
- Emphasize the positive.
- Establish credibility.
- Be polite.
- Project the company's image.
- To achieve a businesslike tone:
- Avoid being too familiar or folksy.
- Watch the use of humor.
- Avoid obvious flattery.
- Avoid preaching or bragging.
- Be yourself.
- How to achieve the "you" attitude:
- Substitute you and yours for I, me, mine, we, us,and our.
- Don't use too many pronouns; focus on conveying genuine empathy.
- Avoid the use of you in a judgmental, blaming context.
- Emphasizing the positive means
- Calling attention to bright side of things.
- Focusing on opportunities for improvement, not on mistakes or problems.
- Pointing out benefits from the audience's standpoint.
- Substituting euphemisms for offensive terms without resorting to double-talk.
- Be polite, especially in written messages.
- Be tactful and restrained when expressing yourself.
- Do extra little thins, like sending birthday cards.
- Be prompt in handling correspondence.
- To project the company's image, adopt the style that is favored by the organization.
- To establish credibility (which is particularly important when dealing with strangers):
- Emphasize points in common (such as similar occupations).
- Present credentials in an unboastful way.
- Mention credible references.
- Support ideas with facts.
- Avoid exaggeration.
- Avoid insincere compliments.
- Avoid false modesty and hesitant phrasing.