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EBC-NY

MESSAGE DESIGN

Whether you are preparing a written or an oral business message, to be


effective you need to plan, organize, draft, revise, edit, and proofread.
Essential also is thoughtful adherence to communication principles-the seven C
qualities discussed in Chapter 2nd awareness of legal and ethical aspects.
Even with the most advanced office technology, the need for careful
preparation of either written or oral messages demands effort. Add to this rule
the idea that companies are becoming more global and international, and the
argument for thoughtful preparation receives even more emphasis.
This chapter presents planning steps, basic organizational patterns,
suggestions for openings and closings, and composing procedures. Letters,
domestic and international, are the focus of the discussion and exercises. Later
chapters include details about specific kinds of letters and memos and
suggestions for preparing proposals and reports.

FIVE PLANNING STEPS

To communicate effectively, consider the following steps before you write your
message:

 Identify your purpose.


 Analyze your audience.
 Choose your ideas.
 Collect data to support your idea,
 Organize your message.

Identify Your Purpose

Your first step when planning your communication is to determine your specific
purpose. Is your message mainly informational, such as announcing your firm’s
new location? Is it mainly persuasive, such as asking customers to buy your
product? Are you trying to negotiate a contract with a parts supplier in South
America? Or must you explain why you are not granting a customers request
for credit?
All messages have, an underlying "relational” purpose-to create goodwill. For
example, in a credit refusal letter, your purpose is twofold: to refuse the
request while encouraging the customer's continued business. Creating
goodwill is especially important when communicating with foreign companies,
including the governments of those companies. Courtesy and patience in
waiting for a response are especially necessary-.

Analyze Your Audience

After reading about the communication process and principles in both national
and international contexts in Chapter 3, you realize how important it is to
adapt your messages to your receivers" views, mental filters, needs, and
culture. If you are acquainted with your readers or listeners, you can actually
visualize individuals. Much of your writing, however, will be directed to people
you have never met. Additionally, when communicating for the first time with a
foreign company or government, you cannot be too cautious. Take care even
with the salutation of the letter, paying attention to the proper placement of
first and last names and correct titles. Take time to become knowledgeable
about the basic communication principles of the country to which you are
writing.
If you are sending a message to one person, try to see that person as a
member of a group, such as business or professional person or laborer;
superior, colleague, or subordinate; woman or man-, new or longtime
customer, young, middle-aged, or elderly. Consider also the person's
educational level, attitudes, and probable values (often culture-specific).
Finally, consider your message and decide whether your readers or listeners
are informed or uninformed on the subject and whether they will react
positively or negatively, with interest or disinterest.

Choose Your Ideas

With your purpose and receiver in mind, the next step is to choose the ideas
for your message .If you are answering a letter, underline the main points to
discuss and jot your ideas in the margin. If you are writing an unsolicited or a
complex message, begin by listing ideas as they come to you—brainstorming—
and then choosing the best ideas for your receiver.
The ideas you include depend on the type of message you are sending and the
background and location of your receiver (national or international)) For
example, in a response from a large resort hotel to a person who has asked
about rates, you might send a brief list of in- and out-of-season prices. But if
you limited your response to this list, you would miss an opportunity to sell the
other services you have to offer. In this kind of response, the following ideas
should be included:

 Thank the reader for the letter asking about rates.


 Mention the services the hotel provides.
 Include information regarding the place where the hotel is located.
 Describe the facilities.
 List the rates.

You might also include a brochure of your hotel along with small brochures of
popular sights in your area.

Collect Your Data

After you have decided what ideas to include, you must determine whether
you need specific facts, figures, quotations, or other forms of evidence to
support your points. Be sure you know your company policies, procedures, and
product details if your message requires them. Always check your data on
names of individuals, dates, addresses, and statistics. Sometimes, you may
need to enclose a brochure, table, picture, or product sample.

Organize Your Message

Before you write your first draft, outline your message (mentally or on paper).
The order in which you present your ideas is as important as the ideas
themselves. Disorganized, rambling messages often seem careless, confusing,
and unimportant. However, different approaches are necessary for different
cultures. While the direct style is often preferred by U.S. businesspeople, the
indirect plan is often more effective in South American, middle eastern, and
Asian countries. Europeans most often prefer the direct approach. Choose your
organizational plan after you have worked through your initial planning steps.

BASIC ORGANIZATIONAL PLANS

Your choice of organizational plan depends on a number of factors: how you


expect your reader or listener to react to your message, how much this person
knows about the topic or situation, and what his or her cultural conventions
are.
For letters and memos, you can choose one of four basic organizational plans:
the direct-request, good-news, bad-news, or persuasive-request plan. The first
two plans use the direct approach, which begins with the main idea; the last
two plans use the indirect approach, which states the main idea later.
All these plans are flexible guides only, not rigid rules. Your own judgment
must help you decide the best organization and content of your message,
taking into consideration your audiences views, conventions (social Behavior),
knowledge, and culture.
Direct (Deductive) Approach

Use the direct approach -When you think your reader or listener will have
a favorable or neutral reaction or when the audience is receptive to your
message. You begin with the main idea or best news to your message.
After the opening, you include all necessary explanatory details in one or
several paragraphs and end with an appropriate, friendly closing.
Use the direct-request plan when the main purpose of your message is to
make a request that requires less persuasion; use the good-news plan to grant
requests, announce favorable or neutral information, and exchange routine
information within or between companies. The direct-request and good-news
plans have three basic parts.

Indirect (Inductive) Approach

When you expect resistance to your message, choose the indirect approach,
such as in a bad-news message or a persuasive request.
If you think your readers or listeners might react negatively to your message,
generally you should not present the main idea in the first paragraph. Instead
consider beginning with a buffer—a relevant pleasant, neutral, or receiver-
benefit statement; then give an explanation before you introduce your idea.
This pleasant and neutral opening is called the "Porch," or the initial remarks to
an audience.
Many bad-news and persuasive-request plans use the indirect approach.

The bad-news message is one of the most difficult to prepare because your
reader may react negatively. Likewise, in the persuasive request you may face
resistance. Even in good-news and neutral messages, some cultural
communication conventions require an indirect approach. Goodwill and reader
benefits are essential to these messages.

BEGINNINGS AND ENDINGS

Two of the most important positions in any business message are the opening
and closing paragraphs. You have probably heard the old sayings "First
impressions are lasting" and "We remember best what we read last."
Whenever possible, place the main favorable ideas at the beginning and
ending of a message. This advice also applies to paragraphs.

Opening Paragraphs

The opening of a message determines whether the reader continues reading,


puts the message aside, or discards It.
Often the opening of a written message determines whether the reader
continues reading, puts the message aside for later, or discards it. Checklist
6.3 and the following examples offer suggestions for good openings that help
make favorable impressions:

1. Choose Openings Appropriate for Message Purpose and Reader

Main Idea or Good-News Subject First. Begin with the main idea or good-news
subject when you are sure the reader will consider the information favorable or
neutral. It is also easier for the reader to understand the main idea if it is in the
first paragraph. These openings are desirable in direct-request, neutral, and
good-news messages.

Examples

Request: So that your funds, which have matured, can be


transferred to your account as you have requested, please return to
us the following:

Good news: Enclosed is a cash refund for the defective


wristwatch that you sent to us recently.

Announcement: (who, what, when, where, why)

As a representative of [Global Business Association], you are invited


to attend a free seminar on Negotiating Environmental Issues in
the International Marketplace to be held in the Richelieu ballroom,
Opera Hotel, rue de Sevres, Paris, on May 1. The purpose of this
seminar is to explain the new national environmental laws affecting
international business.

• NOTE: Advertising writing seeks to get reader attention


immediately; such writing often breaks the rules of proper
grammar.

Buffer First, When you have bad news for the reader, begin with a buffer—a
statement that you can agree on which sets a neutral tone.

A message with out Buffer

Poor: Your application to the Executive Skills Program has been


rejected due to the following
A message with Buffer

Good: Because of the large number pf applications we received for our


[name] Executive Skills Program-. we have had to turn away many persons-
Lie obviously underestimated the interest in our current subject- A new
program is already being planned and we will send you information as soon
as it's available-

Attention-Getting statement First. When you write a persuasive request


(sales letter), begin with relevant statements that will induce the recipient to
read further, as in the following opening:

Did you know that up to half of all the lower back pain is caused by sleeping
on a too-soft mattress? In addition, back pain due to other causes can be
made worse by sleeping on a poor mattress. We remedy that. Our company
has developed a new mattress and foundation that provides the kind of
support your back needs.

(When it comes to marketing statement, catch attention of the reader


first and then worry about the precision of the language.)

2. Make the Opening Considerate. Courteous, Concise, Clear

Immediately get your reader into the opening thought whether your message
is good or bad news, a direct or a persuasive request. Emphasize the reader,
and focus on the positive aspects of your message. Use courteous language,
and avoid anything that might anger the reader.
Keep the first paragraph relatively short- five type written lines or less. As in all
the paragraphs, use conversational in clear and concise sentences.

3. Check for Completeness

Avoid opening with an incomplete sentence like:

Poor: As per your recent letter, we have shipped your order today by
Federal Express.

Good: Three bolts of Thai silk, which you ordered on July 7, were shipped
to you today by DHL.

Closing Paragraphs

Your closing is more likely to motivate the reader to act as


requested if it is appropriately strong, clear, and polite. Here you
have the opportunity to bring final focus on the desired action and
leave a sense of goodwill with the reader. What you say in the
closing should reinforce the central purpose of your message.

1. Make Action Request Clear and Complete with Five W’s and H

Whenever you are requesting action by your reader or by someone else, your
closing paragraph will usually he more effective if you make clear what, who,
how, where, when, and if appropriate, why.

What and Who? Clear statement of the action you desire your reader (or
someone else) to take. Should the reader phone your office for an
appointment? Sign a card or a document? Return it? If so, to whom? Come to
your office in person? Send you certain information or payment?

How and Where? Easy action.

 Include your phone number am] extension if you want (he reader to
phone you.
 Enclose a form (card, order, blank, or questionnaire) and an addressed
reply envelope (perhaps with postage paid) if you want the reader to
furnish something.
 Give complete instructions regarding how and where if you do not
include a form and envelope.
 State your office hours and location if you want the reader to come to
you in person. Do you have a free parking lot? Where?

When and Why? Dated action; special inducement to act by a specified time.
Name the date (and the exact hour, if pertinent) whenever you need the reply
by
a certain time . Tactfully state the reason you need it then- perhaps to meet a
report on printer’s deadline or to use in a speech you are giving at a certain
meeting.
When appropriate, mention some benefits the reader will gain by prompt
action. In the following, example, notice how the vague action request is
improved by interesting some or all of the W’s and H:

Vague: I look forward to hearing from you regarding this matter

Better: So that we can make appropriate arrangements for your


visit, please call me at 555-4567, before Friday, November 16,
anytime between 9 A.M and 5 P.M.

2. End on a Positive, Courteous Thought

Include Any Apologies and Negatives Before Last Paragraph.


Negative: I’ m sorry we can’t be more encouraging at this time.

Positive: we wish you success in your search for a position.

Be Friendly. Offer to help the reader further, if that is appropriate. Words


like please and will you help soften commands.

Good: If there is any further way we can assist you -, please call (222)
555-4567 Monday to Friday between 9 A.M and 5.P.M.

Poor: Send us your check today.

Show Appreciation. .Everyone likes sincere praise when earned. But do not
thank people for doing something before they have agreed to do it.

Avoid: Thank you in advance for distributing these questionnaires to your


employees-
Say: I will appreciate your distributing these questionnaires to your
employees.

Occasionally Add a Personal Note. When unrelated to the subject discussed in


the message, a personal note is appropriate, sometimes added as a last
paragraph, often handwritten.

Give my regards to your lovely family. I enjoyed meeting them during


the October conference-(But should be based on real ground, like if
you have really met them)

3. Keep Last Paragraph Concise and Correct

Trim your last paragraph to five or fewer lines of complete sentences. Avoid
common expressions and unnecessary repetition.
Poor: Again, we hank you for your inquiry. Enclosed you will find a self-
addressed stamped envelope-Hoping to hear from you soon about your
preference, I remain …
Better: Please fill out this form and return it in the enclosed envelope by
[date] .Then you can soon begin to enjoy the comfort at...
COMPOSING THE MESSAGE

Drafting Your Message

Your first draft is often the most difficult to write. The important thing is to get
the most important information in your message on paper early.
When you have completed the five planning steps and considered your
openings and closings, you are ready for your first draft.
No two people prepare their first drafts the same way. Some people write first
drafts in a linear style, following their mental or written outline and moving
from one point to the next. Others use a more circular style, putting their ideas
down with a less fixed progression of points, data, and organization.
Regardless of your style, the important thing is to get on paper (or cassette
recorder or word processor) the information you want included in your
message. The next step is to polish the document. Some of the world’s best
writers believe that their strength lies in revising and editing. The
next two steps in writing.

Revising Your Message


Revision means adding necessary and deleting unnecessary information. After
you finish the first draft of a message, you must evaluate its content,
organization, and style. The following are suggestions for revising:

 Does your message accomplish its purpose?


 Have yon chosen the most effective organizational plan?
 Are your points supported by adequate material?
 Is your language complete, concise, considerate, concrete, clear,
courteous and correct?
 Have you used variety in sentence structure?

'The best writers confirm again and again that revision is the key to
good writing.

Tolstoy revised War and Peace 5 times; James Thurber rewrote his stories as
many as 15 times; Franklin D. Roosevelt's speeches often went to 18 drafts;
James Mitchener feels that his strength is in rewriting.

Editing and Proofreading Your Message

Editing your message involves checking all paragraphs for good topic
sentences, examining sentences for sound structure, and watching language
for correct grammar, spelling, and punctuation. When you have edited
your message and found it to be effective, you are ready for final proofreading.
Sometimes you will proofread your document several times to be sure that you
have not missed any errors. Even minor mistakes, such as typographical
errors, can reduce the effectiveness of your message and undermine your
credibility.

Effort by,
IM| Naveed Yousafzai
Freelance Faculty
Member