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There are two distinct parts to this assignment. The first is your reflective ideas about your learning for three of the four course goals. The second is the actual creation of the E-portfolio on the Google Site. There is a partially completed portfolio provided for you at the very end of these instructions.For directions on how to create an E-portfolio/Google Site go to url https://goo.gl/pIMkbuApply appropriate communication media and methods to various situational needs in organizational settings.Apply communication theories to organizational communication challenges.Recognize and respond constructively to cultural differences in communication.Analyze and assess the communication dynamics of an organization through the completion of a communication audit.Once your portfolio site is created, follow the specific instructions below.Begin with an Introduction page, develop at least one page for each of the three outcomes you’ve selected. Be sure to include a Reference page at the end.You will have a minimum of 5 pages. On each outcome page:Provide the specific course outcome you’ve selected.Explain in your own words and 1-2 paragraphs how each outcome relates to what you have learned in class.Post one artifact for each outcome (video, paper, chart, or any type of file you wish to use) and that demonstrates your mastery of each outcome. NOTE: the artifacts do not have to be newly created. You can use work you’ve developed previously.Explain, in detailed sentences and approx. 2-3 paragraphs how each artifact relates to the course outcome.Here is an example of a partially completed portfolio: https://sites.google.com/site/hrmnportfolio2011/
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Chapter 4
Effective Business Writing
However great…natural talent may be, the art of writing cannot be learned all at once.
Jean-Jacques Rousseau
Read, read, read…Just like a carpenter who works as an apprentice and studies the
master.
William Faulkner
You only learn to be a better writer by actually writing.
Doris Lessing
Getting Started
INT RODU CT ORY E XE RCIS ES
1. Take a moment to write three words that describe your success in writing.
2. Make a list of words that you associate with writing. Compare your list with those of your
classmates.
3. Briefly describe your experience writing and include one link to something you like to read in
your post.
Something we often hear in business is, “Get it in writing.” This advice is meant to
prevent misunderstandings based on what one person thought the other person said.
But does written communication—getting it in writing—always prevent
misunderstandings?
According to a Washington Post news story, a written agreement would have been
helpful to an airline customer named Mike. A victim of an airport mishap, Mike was
given vouchers for $7,500 worth of free travel. However, in accordance with the airline’s
standard policy, the vouchers were due to expire in twelve months. When Mike saw that
he and his wife would not be able to do enough flying to use the entire amount before
the expiration date, he called the airline and asked for an extension. He was told the
airline would extend the deadline, but later discovered they were willing to do so at only
50 percent of the vouchers’ value. An airline spokesman told the newspaper, “If [Mike]
can produce a letter stating that we would give the full value of the vouchers, he should
produce it.” [1]
Yet, as we will see in this chapter, putting something in writing is not always a foolproof
way to ensure accuracy and understanding. A written communication is only as accurate
as the writer’s knowledge of the subject and audience, and understanding depends on
how well the writer captures the reader’s attention.
This chapter addresses the written word in a business context. We will also briefly
consider the symbols, design, font, timing, and related nonverbal expressions you make
when composing a page or document. Our discussions will focus on effective
communication of your thoughts and ideas through writing that is clear, concise, and
efficient.
[1] Oldenburg, D. (2005, April 12). Old adage holds: Get it in writing. Washington Post, p. C10.
Retrieved from http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A45309-2005Apr11.html
4.1 Oral versus Written Communication
L EA RNING O B JEC T IV E
1. Explain how written communication is similar to oral communication, and how it is
different.
The written word often stands in place of the spoken word. People often say, “it was
good to hear from you” when they receive an e-mail or a letter, when in fact they
didn’t hear the message, they read it. Still, if they know you well, they may mentally
“hear” your voice in your written words. Writing a message to friends or colleagues can
be as natural as talking to them. Yet when we are asked to write something, we often feel
anxious and view writing as a more effortful, exacting process than talking would be.
Oral and written forms of communication are similar in many ways. They both rely on
the basic communication process, which consists of eight essential elements: source,
receiver, message, channel, receiver, feedback, environment, context, and
interference. Table 4.1 “Eight Essential Elements of Communication” summarizes these
elements and provides examples of how each element might be applied in oral and
written communication.
Table 4.1 Eight Essential Elements of Communication
Element of
Communication
Definition
Oral Application
Written Application
1. Source
A source creates and
Jay makes a telephone
communicates a message. call to Heather.
Jay writes an e-mail to
Heather.
2. Receiver
A receiver receives the
message from the source. Heather listens to Jay.
Heather reads Jay’s e-mail.
3. Message
The message is the
stimulus or meaning
produced by the source
for the receiver.
Jay’s e-mail asks Heather to
participate in a conference
call at 3:15.
Jay asks Heather to
participate in a
conference call at 3:15.
Element of
Communication
Definition
Oral Application
Written Application
4. Channel
A channel is the way a
message travels between
source and receiver.
The channel is the
telephone.
The channel is e-mail.
5. Feedback
Feedback is the message
the receiver sends in
response to the source.
Heather says yes.
Heather replies with an email saying yes.
6. Environment
The environment is the
physical atmosphere
where the communication
occurs.
Heather is traveling by
train on a business trip
when she receives Jay’s
phone call.
Heather is at her desk when
she receives Jay’s e-mail.
7. Context
The context involves the
psychological
expectations of the
source and receiver.
Heather expects Jay to dial
Heather expects Jay to
and connect the call. Jay
send an e-mail with the
expects Heather to check her
call-in information for the e-mail for the call-in
call. Jay expects to do so, information so that she can
and does.
join the call.
8. Interference
Also known as noise,
interference is anything
that blocks or distorts the
communication process.
Heather calls in at 3:15,
but she has missed the
call because she forgot
that she is in a different
time zone from Jay.
Heather waits for a phone
call from Jay at 3:15, but he
doesn’t call.
As you can see from the applications in this example, at least two different kinds of
interference have the potential to ruin a conference call, and the interference can exist
regardless of whether the communication to plan the call is oral or written. Try
switching the “Context” and “Interference” examples from Oral to Written, and you will
see that mismatched expectations and time zone confusion can happen by phone or by
e-mail. While this example has an unfavorable outcome, it points out a way in which
oral and written communication processes are similar.
Another way in which oral and written forms of communication are similar is that they
can be divided into verbal and nonverbal categories. Verbal communication involves the
words you say, and nonverbal communication involves how you say them—your tone of
voice, your facial expression, body language, and so forth. Written communication also
involves verbal and nonverbal dimensions. The words you choose are the verbal
dimension. How you portray or display them is the nonverbal dimension, which can
include the medium (e-mail or a printed document), the typeface or font, or the
appearance of your signature on a letter. In this sense, oral and written communications
are similar in their approach even as they are quite different in their application.
The written word allows for a dynamic communication process between source and
receiver, but is often asynchronous, meaning that it occurs at different times. When we
communicate face-to-face, we get immediate feedback, but our written words stand in
place of that interpersonal interaction and we lack that immediate response. Since we
are often not physically present when someone reads what we have written, it is
important that we anticipate the reader’s needs, interpretation, and likely response to
our written messages.
Suppose you are asked to write a message telling clients about a new product or service
your company is about to offer. If you were speaking to one of them in a relaxed setting
over coffee, what would you say? What words would you choose to describe the product
or service, and how it may fulfill the client’s needs? As the business communicator, you
must focus on the words you use and how you use them. Short, simple sentences, in
themselves composed of words, also communicate a business style. In your previous
English classes you may have learned to write eloquently, but in a business context, your
goal is clear, direct communication. One strategy to achieve this goal is to write with the
same words and phrases you use when you talk. However, since written communication
lacks the immediate feedback that is present in an oral conversation, you need to choose
words and phrases even more carefully to promote accuracy, clarity, and understanding.
4.2 How Is Writing Learned?
L EA RNING O B JEC T IV E
1. Explain how reading, writing, and critical thinking contribute to becoming a good writer.
You may think that some people are simply born better writers than others, but in fact
writing is a reflection of experience and effort. If you think about your successes as a
writer, you may come up with a couple of favorite books, authors, or teachers that
inspired you to express yourself. You may also recall a sense of frustration with your
previous writing experiences. It is normal and natural to experience a sense of
frustration at the perceivedinability to express oneself. The emphasis here is on your
perception of yourself as a writer as one aspect of how you communicate. Most people
use oral communication for much of their self-expression, from daily interactions to
formal business meetings. You have a lifetime of experience in that arena that you can
leverage to your benefit in your writing. Reading out loud what you have written is a
positive technique we’ll address later in more depth.
Martin Luther King Jr.’s statement, “Violence is the language of the unheard,”
emphasizes the importance of finding one’s voice, of being able to express one’s ideas.
Violence comes in many forms, but is often associated with frustration born of the lack
of opportunity to communicate. You may read King’s words and think of the Civil Rights
movement of the 1960s, or perhaps of the violence of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, or of
wars happening in the world today. Public demonstrations and fighting are expressions
of voice, from individual to collective. Finding your voice, and learning to listen to
others, is part of learning to communicate.’
You are your own best ally when it comes to your writing. Keeping a positive frame of
mind about your journey as a writer is not a cliché or simple, hollow advice. Your
attitude toward writing can and does influence your written products. Even if writing
has been a challenge for you, the fact that you are reading this sentence means you
perceive the importance of this essential skill. This text and our discussions will help you
improve your writing, and your positive attitude is part of your success strategy.
There is no underestimating the power of effort when combined with inspiration and
motivation. The catch then is to get inspired and motivated. That’s not all it takes, but it
is a great place to start. You were not born with a keypad in front of you, but when you
want to share something with friends and text them, the words (or abbreviations) come
almost naturally. So you recognize you have the skills necessary to begin the process of
improving and harnessing your writing abilities for business success. It will take time
and effort, and the proverbial journey starts with a single step, but don’t lose sight of the
fact that your skillful ability to craft words will make a significant difference in your
career.
Reading
Reading is one step many writers point to as an integral step in learning to write
effectively. You may like Harry Potter books or be a Twilight fan, but if you want to write
effectively in business, you need to read business-related documents. These can include
letters, reports, business proposals, and business plans. You may find these where you
work or in your school’s writing center, business department, or library; there are also
many Web sites that provide sample business documents of all kinds. Your reading
should also include publications in the industry where you work or plan to work, such
as Aviation Week, InfoWorld, Journal of Hospitality, International Real Estate Digest,
or Women’s Wear Daily, to name just a few. You can also gain an advantage by reading
publications in fields other than your chosen one; often reading outside your niche can
enhance your versatility and help you learn how other people express similar concepts.
Finally, don’t neglect general media like the business section of your local newspaper,
and national publications like theWall Street Journal, Fast Company, and the Harvard
Business Review. Reading is one of the most useful lifelong habits you can practice to
boost your business communication skills.
In the “real world” when you are under a deadline and production is paramount, you’ll
be rushed and may lack the time to do adequate background reading for a particular
assignment. For now, take advantage of your business communication course by
exploring common business documents you may be called on to write, contribute to, or
play a role in drafting. Some documents have a degree of formula to them, and your
familiarity with them will reduce your preparation and production time while increasing
your effectiveness. As you read similar documents, take notes on what you observe. As
you read several sales letters, you may observe several patterns that can serve you well
later on when it’s your turn. These patterns are often called conventions, or
conventional language patterns for a specific genre.
Writing
Never lose sight of one key measure of the effectiveness of your writing: the degree to
which it fulfills readers’ expectations. If you are in a law office, you know the purpose of
a court brief is to convince the judge that certain points of law apply to the given case. If
you are at a newspaper, you know that an editorial opinion article is supposed to
convince readers of the merits of a certain viewpoint, whereas a news article is supposed
to report facts without bias. If you are writing ad copy, the goal is to motivate consumers
to make a purchase decision. In each case, you are writing to a specific purpose, and a
great place to start when considering what to write is to answer the following question:
what are the readers’ expectations?
When you are a junior member of the team, you may be given clerical tasks like filling in
forms, populating a database, or coordinating appointments. Or you may be assigned to
do research that involves reading, interviewing, and note taking. Don’t underestimate
these facets of the writing process; instead, embrace the fact that writing for business
often involves tasks that a novelist might not even recognize as “writing.” Your
contribution is quite important and in itself is an on-the-job learning opportunity that
shouldn’t be taken for granted.
When given a writing assignment, it is important to make sure you understand what you
are being asked to do. You may read the directions and try to put them in your own
words to make sense of the assignment. Be careful, however, not to lose sight of what
the directions say versus what you think they say. Just as an audience’s expectations
should be part of your consideration of how, what, and why to write, the instructions
given by your instructor, or in a work situation by your supervisor, establish
expectations. Just as you might ask a mentor more about a business writing assignment
at work, you need to use the resources available to you to maximize your learning
opportunity. Ask the professor to clarify any points you find confusing, or perceive more
than one way to interpret, in order to better meet the expectations.
Before you write an opening paragraph, or even the first sentence, it is important to
consider the overall goal of the assignment. The word assignment can apply equally to a
written product for class or for your employer. You might make a list of the main points
and see how those points may become the topic sentences in a series of paragraphs. You
may also give considerable thought to whether your word choice, your tone, your
language, and what you want to say is in line with your understanding of your audience.
We briefly introduced the writing process previously, and will visit it in depth later in
our discussion, but for now writing should about exploring your options. Authors rarely
have a finished product in mind when they start, but once you know what your goal is
and how to reach it, you writing process will become easier and more effective.
Constructive Criticism and Targeted Practice
Mentors can also be important in your growth as a writer. Your instructor can serve as a
mentor, offering constructive criticism, insights on what he or she has written, and life
lessons about writing for a purpose. Never underestimate the mentors that surround
you in the workplace, even if you are currently working in a position unrelated to your
desired career. They can read your rough draft and spot errors, as well as provide useful
insights. Friends and family can also be helpful mentors—if your document’s meaning is
clear to someone not working in your business, it will likely also be clear to your
audience.
The key is to be open to criticism, keeping in mind that no one ever improved by
repeating bad habits over and over. Only when you know what your errors are—errors of
grammar or sentence structure, logic, format, and so on—can you correct your
document and do a better job next time. Writing can be a solitary activity, but more
often in business settings it is a collective, group, or team effort. Keep your eyes and ears
open for opportunities to seek outside assistance before you finalize your document.
Learning to be a successful business writer comes with practice. Targeted practice,
which involves identifying your weak areas and specifically working to improve them, is
especially valuable. In addition to reading, make it a habit to write, even if it is not a
specific assignment. The more you practice writing the kinds of materials that are used
in your line of work, the more writing will come naturally and become an easier task—
even on occasions when you need to work under pressure.
Critical Thinking
Critical thinking means becoming aware of your thinking process. It’s a human trait that
allows us to step outside what we read or write and ask ourselves, “Does this really make
sense?” “Are there other, perhaps better, ways to explain this idea?” Sometimes our
thinking is very abstract and becomes clear only through the process of getting thoughts
down in words. As a character in E. M. Forster’s Aspects of the Novel said, “How can I
tell what I think till I see what I say?” [1] Did you really write what you meant to, and will
it be easily understood by the reader? Successful writing forms a relationship with the
audience, reaching the reader on a deep level that can be dynamic and motivating. In
contrast, when writing fails to meet the audience’s expectations, you already know the
consequences: they’ll move on.
Learning to write effectively involves reading, writing, critical thinking, and hard work.
You may have seen The Wizard of Oz and recall the scene when Dorothy discovers what
is behind the curtain. Up until that moment, she believed the Wizard’s powers were
needed to change her situation, but now she discovers that the power is her own. Like
Dorothy, you can discover that the power to write successfully rests in your hands.
Excellent business writing can be inspiring, and it is important to not lose that sense of
inspiration as we deconstruct the process of writing to its elemental components.
You may be amazed by the performance of Tony Hawk on a skateboard ramp, Mia
Hamm on the soccer field, or Michael Phelps in the water. Those who demonstrate
excellence often make it look easy, but nothing could be further from the truth. Effort,
targeted practice, and persistence will win the day every time. When it comes to writing,
you need to learn to recognize clear an …
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