Business Writing

Achieving Emphasis in Business Writing

24 Feb 2019

Using Emphatic Words

The simplest way to emphasise something is to tell readers directly that what follows is important by using such words and phrases as especially, particularly, crucially, most importantly, and above all.

Repetition of Key Words

Emphasis by repetition of key words can be especially effective in a series, as in the following example:

See your good times come to colour in minutes: pictures protected by an elegant finish, pictures you can take with an instant flash, pictures that can be made into beautiful enlargements.

Breaking the Pattern

When a pattern is established through repetition and then broken, the varied part will be emphasised, as in the following example:

Murtz Rent-a-car is first in reliability, first in service, and last in customer complaints.

Inverting the Normal Sentence Structure

Besides disrupting an expectation set up by the context, you can also emphasise part of a sentence by departing from the basic structural patterns of the language. The inversion of the standard subject-verb-object pattern in the first sentence below into an object-subject-verb pattern in the second places emphasis on the out-of-sequence term, fifty dollars.

I'd make fifty dollars in just two hours on a busy night at the restaurant.
Fifty dollars I'd make in just two hours on a busy night at the restaurant.

Beginning and End Positions

The beginning and end positions of sentences are more emphatic than the middle section. Likewise, the main clause of a complex sentence receives more emphasis than subordinate clauses. Therefore, you should put words that you wish to emphasise near the beginnings and endings of sentences and should never hide important elements in subordinate clauses. Consider the following example:

No one can deny that the computer has had a great effect upon the business world.
Undeniably, the effect of the computer upon the business world has been great.

In the first version of this sentence, "No one can deny" and "on the business world" are in the most emphasised positions. In addition, the writer has embedded the most important ideas in a subordinate clause: "that the computer has had a great effect." The edited version places the most important ideas in the main clause and in the initial and terminal slots of the sentence, creating a more engaging prose style.

 

Avoid Weak Sentence Starts

27 Jan 2019

The use of "there is" and "there are" signals weak structure and hides the real verb. Often these words are followed by "who" or "that." which indicates the sentence should be rephrased.

Example: There are not many people who can write well.
Revised: Few people write well.

Example: There is no reason that can justify your behaviour to our client.
Revised: No reason justifies your behaviour to our client.

Example: There are several issues we need to discuss.
Revised: We need to discuss several issues.

Example: There is the self-assessment test, which allows clients to identify what they need.
Revised: The self-assessment test allows clients to identify what they need.
Revised: Clients can identify what they need by completing the self-assessment test.

Example: There is a comprehensive listing of studies and reports related to businesses on the website.
Revised: The website provides a comprehensive listing of studies and reports.

 

Checklist for Writing Effective Emails

12 Aug 2018

Use the following checklist to ensure that your e-mail reflects your professionalism and increases your credibility within your company:

1. Company e-mail is the appropriate choice for this document
. The e-mail, which may reside in your system's memory and be accessible to people other than the intended reader:

  • Contains information that pertains only to your job responsibilities or to company-approved functions. You followed company guidelines for using e-mail for personal communications.
  • Contains no confidential or sensitive information. It could be made public or subpoenaed without embarrassment to your company or you, the writer.
  • Is not a way of avoiding talking to someone in person or by telephone. Don't let e-mail replace human interaction that builds relationships and allows you to observe or hear people's reactions to what you are saying.
  • Contains no reprimanding or emotional wording. Constructive criticism is received best in one-to-one, in-person coaching sessions.
  • Requires immediate response.
  • Is not information required by the reader for long-term reference.

2. The distribution list is appropriate:

  • All those who should receive the information have been copied. For example, you have not relied upon the primary reader to distribute the information to his/her direct reports if you require them to have the information.
  • Those who do not need to know the information have not been copied.

3. You have respected your reader's time and edited the e-mail for clarity. You:

  • Eliminated wordiness; eliminated any "streams of consciousness."
  • Used short words, sentences, and paragraphs.
  • Used precise, factual wording.
  • Translated technical jargon and acronyms as appropriate for the distribution list.
  • Deleted any unnecessary "document trail."

4. You have used professional presentation, tone, and courtesy. You:

  • Used a simple format that will convert well to all computer systems/programs.
  • Used upper- and lower-case letters rather than all capitals. Upper and lower case letters are easier to read; using all capitals seems like yelling. The rule of thumb is to put no more than eight words in all capitals; you have saved all capitals for emphasis or headings.
  • Have written the e-mail from your reader's point of view. Your wording is considerate and polite; it is objective and direct without being abrupt.
  • Used words that are appropriate for a business environment.

5. You have organized the e-mail strategically. You ensured accurate and complete content. You:

  • Provided a subject heading and opening purpose statement that predict the document's content.
  • Anticipated and answered your reader's questions, providing background information when it helps your reader understand your message.
  • Double-checked the accuracy of facts and figures.
  • Clearly and explicitly asked for action or described what you will do next.

6. You have proofread the e-mail. You:

  • Used correct, consistent punctuation.
  • Used your spell checker and double-checked the spelling of people's names and of company products and services.
  • Replaced "brief hand" abbreviations such as "w/" and "info" with standard spellings.
  • Ensured your precise use of all vocabulary, especially of any unfamiliar vocabulary gleaned from your computer's thesaurus.
  • Checked grammar (especially subject-verb agreement) and usage (for example, commonly confused words such as "there" and "their").
  • Checked sentence structure (especially to correct any fragments or run-on sentences).
 

Cut Out Wordy Phrases and Redundancy from your Writing

08 Jul 2018

Shorter is nearly always better. Short words are clearer than their wordy alternatives. When you have a number of wordy phrases in a letter, memo, email, etc., the document loses clarity. Short doesn't mean simple - it means that you've considered the language you are using carefully with your reader in mind.

Replace these wordy phrases with their concise alternatives.

WORDY PHRASES
CONCISE
after the conclusion of
after
at the present time
now
despite the fact that
although
has been proved to be
is
in the event that
if
in the near future
soon
in view of the fact that
because/since/as
is found to be
is
is in a position to
can
with reference to
about

You should also watch out for redundancies like these below. Don't repeat yourself!

REDUNDANT PHRASES
CONCISE
advance planning
planning
exactly identical
identical
forward progress
progress
joint cooperation
cooperation
necessary requirement
requirement
new breakthrough
breakthrough
postpone until later
postpone
 

Using Capital Letters in Your Writing

01 Jul 2018

International business suffers from a serious overuse and incorrect use of capital (uppercase) letters. Here are examples of incorrect capitalization.

incorrect Be sure to visit our Web Site.
incorrect All the Company Employees are to attend the meeting.
incorrect We are the largest Province in the country.
incorrect Our Bookkeeper paid the invoice.
incorrect She went to University in Japan.

Here are some guidelines for the use of capital letters:

Names of People

Ms Jennifer Karen Montgomery
Mrs Lisa Veronica Mallory
Mr Ming-Wa Nguyen

Family Title as Part of the Name

I wonder where Aunt Susan is. ("Aunt" is used as part of her name.)
I wonder where your aunt is. ("aunt" is NOT used as part of her name.)

Family Title Instead of the Name

I wonder why Mother is late today. ("Mother" is used as her name.)
I wonder why your mother is late today. ("mother" is NOT used as her name.)

Days of the Week

Monday, Wednesday, Saturday

Months of the Year

April, September, December

Holidays

Valentine's Day, Christmas, Chinese New Year, Divali, Tet

Note: the names of the seasons are NOT capitalized.

tick1 My favourite season is autumn.
incorrect My favourite season is Autumn.

Cities

Hong Kong, Shanghai, Beijing, Tokyo, London, Paris

States / Provinces

Florida, California, Guangdong, Shenzhen

Buildings, Parks, Zoos

I visited the San Francisco Zoo on my vacation. ("Zoo" is used as part of the name.)
I visited the zoo on my vacation. ("zoo" is NOT used as part of the name.)

Languages, Countries, Nationalities

Spanish, English, Chinese
South Korea, the United States
German, French, Japanese

CAPITALIZED: We went to South Korea on vacation. ("South" is used as part of the name.)
LOWER CASE: We drove south on Harbour Drive. ("south" is NOT used as part of the name.)

Job Titles and Company Departments

Chief Executive Officer
Sales Manager
Administrative Assistant
the Accounts Department
the Research and Development Department

 

 

Email Etiquette

03 Jun 2018

Emailing Someone who Doesn't Know You

There are a few important points to consider when writing email, especially when emailing someone who doesn't know you.

  • Include a meaningful subject heading; this helps clarify what your message is about and may also help the recipient prioritize reading your email.
  • Open your email with a greeting like 'Dear Mr Chan' or 'Dear Ms Tam.'
  • Use standard spelling, punctuation, and capitalization. DO NOT USE ALL CAPS. IT'S LIKE SHOUTING!
  • Write clear, short paragraphs and be direct and to the point. Don't write unnecessarily long emails.
  • Be friendly and polite, but don't make jokes or witty remarks.
Continuing Email Conversations

Once you have exchanged emails with a person on a given subject, it is probably OK to leave greetings out of your follow-up emails. Here are some other points to consider about continuing email conversations:

  • Try to respond within a reasonable time frame, though "reasonable" will depend on the recipient's expectations and the subject being discussed.
  • Trim back the old messages: most email clients will keep copying older messages to the bottom of an email. Delete older messages so as to keep your message size from getting too large, and to keep your messages looking clean.
  • If someone asks a lot of questions, it may be OK to embed your answers into the sender's message copied at the bottom of your email. However, if you're going to do this, be sure to say so at the top, and leave plenty of space, for example:
> Do you offer discounts for bulk orders?

Yes. 10% for orders of over 100 units.


> How long does delivery normally take?


Around 10 days from the date of an order.
 

Punctuation – The Dash (-) and Brackets ()

07 Jan 2018

The Dash (-)

Use a dash to indicate a change of thought, or to highlight and give greater importance to additional information inserted in a sentence

All the officers - Jane, Susie, Brent, and Michael - will be attending the meeting.
All the officers will be attending the meeting - Jane, Suzie, Brent, and Michael.
Mary - who was busy dealing with a client - did not attend the sales seminar.

A dash can also be used to set off information at the end of a sentence.

We all signed the contract - finally.

Brackets (.....)

Use brackets ("parentheses" in US English) to lessen the impact of related information that is added to a sentence. The added information should not be as important as the information in the sentence.

Mary (she only joined the company last week) decided not to go to the company barbecue.

Note: Use commas instead of brackets to set apart information that is about as important as the information in the sentence itself.

Brackets are also used if you give a lengthy name of a company or document, and then give the abbreviation, for example, Employees Assistance Program (EAP). The brackets should enclose the abbreviated form when it first appears. You can then refer to the abbreviated form only, without brackets, throughout the rest of the letter. This is one way you can use abbreviations in your letter and be certain your reader knows their meaning.

 

Include One Idea per Sentence

10 Dec 2017

Have you ever received a letter or email where the sentences go on and on, one after the other in a stream, with only commas to separate them? These sentences often contain a number of points, some of which might be related. This makes them difficult to read and understand. Here's an example of an email we received from one of our subscribers:

I am working as a manager in Dubai, the communication with our customers is in English, therefore I have to send email, letters, etc., you know, but the problem is I want to learn more how to write, I feel that I am very bad in writing, so I need your help in this, how can I develop myself, I learn from your site but I need more if possible, thanks in advance for your help, I look forward to hearing from you.

With one idea in each clear, concise sentence, the message might read like this:

I work as an manager in Dubai. The communication with our customers "" email, letters, etc. "" is in English. The problem is that I am very bad in writing. I want to learn how to write better, and I need your help in this. Although I learn from your site, I need more if possible. How can I develop myself?

I look forward to hearing from you. Thank you for your help.

We did include more than one idea in two sentences so the message would not sound choppy. But they were closely related ideas.

So, the message here is: include only one idea in each sentence. Sometimes, it's acceptable to include two ideas in a sentence but only if they are closely related.

 

General Advice to Improve Your Writing

10 Sep 2017

In this week's tip, we'll give you some useful advice on how to improve your writing.

  • Time spent on planning your communications will pay dividends. Make a rough draft of what you want to write or say, so that you can experiment with various versions. Remember that language is important because the words you choose convey your attitudes as well as information. The impression you want to convey is one of helpfulness and efficiency.
  • Get to the point from the beginning. Cut the small talk and make a good impression by being crisp and business like. Make it clear from the start exactly what you want to discuss. Letters that do not do this waste the readers’ time and may end up in the waste bin. Presentations that do not grip their audience by focusing their attention quickly risk losing that attention.
  • Use straightforward language rather than jargon. People prefer to be treated as human beings, not computers! Technical language has its place, but it is impersonal and should be used only when necessary. Remember that business is promoted by personal warmth as much as profit.
  • Use sentences that are short and to the point, not sentences that ramble on and cannot quite decide what they want to say or how to say it - like this one!
  • Steer clear of the passive voice, since it is an indirect way of speaking and creates distance between you and your audience or reader. For example, if you say, “We will attend to your order promptly,” that promotes more confidence than if you say, “Your order will be attended to soonest.” This lacks the personal touch and may give the impression that you do not want to accept responsibility at work.
  • It is very important that you think about the audience you are writing or speaking to and make a real effort to communicate with them. If you are speaking to people, you need to be flexible and aware of their reaction, so that you can change the way you are speaking if they are not responding to you positively. If you are writing to a business associate and you have a mental picture of him or her, you will write more clearly and directly. Your letter will reach out to them and engage their attention.
  • Incorrect spelling makes a poor impression. If you are unsure about the spelling of any words you have used it is worth the trouble of running a spell check on your computer. However, computer dictionaries are often limited and therefore many technical terms may still need to be checked manually. A more serious shortcoming is that the computer accepts any word it knows regardless of whether it has the meaning you intended. If you write, “Make a tough draft,” but meant “rough”, your computer will not pick this up. This is one reason why it is better to have your documents checked by professionals.
  • Correct grammar is as important as spelling. Some word processors now have grammar checkers that operate in the same way as spell checkers. These can be used as a last resort, but they are still very basic (stupid!) and miss many mistakes. Moreover, they query many constructions that are perfectly in order. This wastes your time and it would be better to have someone with good grammar have a look at your work.
  • Finally, always read carefully through a talk or business document to check for typographical and other errors. Are the facts and dates accurate? Reading aloud is a good idea, because you can hear how the communication sounds: the ear provides a crosscheck for what the eye may have missed.
 

Tips for Editing your Business Documents

06 Aug 2017

Read through your writing to check that the ideas are logically structured, and that they flow naturally for the reader. Then check again for spelling and grammar mistakes.

A Word of Warning

Many people use spell checkers on their word processors. Although these can help, they also have limitations. For example, some English words have more than one correct spelling. For example, 'there' and 'their' are both correct, but you need to check that you have the right spelling.

Another problem with spell checkers is that they are set by default to either British or American English spelling. It doesn't matter which spelling system you choose, as long as you are consistent in your choice. For example, if your spell checker is set to an American English spelling system and you type the word "organisation", the word is shown as a spelling error. British English speakers normally (but not always) spell "organisation" with an 's'. If you are writing in British English, change the default setting so that your checker allows words such as "organisation".

Editing Tips

Read your writing out aloud. This will help you to see what you have written through the eyes of your reader. Is there enough punctuation in your sentences? If you get breathless when you read one of your sentences, then you'll know you haven't put in enough commas.

Get a friend or a colleague to read through your writing for you - they might find something that you didn't see.

If you have enough time, leave your writing for a couple of days. When you come back to it, you might want to change some things.

Be aware of your own problems when you write English. For example, if you know you have difficulty with articles or verb tenses, actively look for these sort of errors when you check your writing.

Check for style and tone. Is your writing polite? There are many standard phrases we use in business correspondence to sound polite. Politeness goes a long way in Western business and sounding too direct or impolite is a cultural mistake. English speakers may not take into consideration the fact that English is not your first language.

Editing Checklist

  • Is it clear?
  • Does the reader know what to do next?
  • Is it concise and to the point?
  • Is it organised?
  • Are the ideas, sentences and paragraphs linked?
  • Is it simple enough?
  • Is it polite enough?
  • Is the layout easy to read?
  • Are the standard expressions correct?
  • Is the punctuation correct?
  • Is the grammar correct? Check your articles, verb tenses, subject and verb agreement, referencing and spelling.
 

The 10 Classic Mistakes of Business English Writing

30 Jul 2017

Here are the ten classic mistakes of business writing:

1. Lack of clear objective

The first mistake is made before you even start writing. Many people start to write without asking themselves What do I want to say? or Who am I writing for? If you don't have a clear objective, your reader may not know what your text is about.

2. No planning

Planning is crucial to good writing. If you write down your ideas in the order you think of them, your text will be disjointed and haphazard. The better organised the text, the more likely your reader will understand it.

3. Lack of cohesion

It's important to "signal" - to show your reader which "direction" you are taking. Basically, the more you can link your sentences, ideas and paragraphs, the easier it is for your reader to follow your ideas. Using linking words and phrases helps your reader to keep up with you.

4. Unclear or overlong sentences

English-speaking business culture values brevity over rhetoric. So using more words than necessary could mean that your key message gets buried in a mass of words. Writing clearly and concisely is vital if you want your writing to have a chance of being read and understood.

5. Inappropriate style

Your choice of style is governed by your purpose in writing and your relationship with your reader. Get the level of formality wrong, and you risk causing offence. Once you have decided your objective, you can also think about the complexity of the language you will use, as well as the type of vocabulary and style.

6. Inappropriate tone

Related to style is using the right tone of voice with your reader. If you appear rude when you write, you are less likely to get the results you want.

7. Incorrect grammar

Bad grammar can obscure your meaning and lead to confusion or misunderstandings. Proofreading can often help you to identify any errors, but learning to write accurately is fundamental to good business communication.

8. Incorrect punctuation

The wrong punctuation can make your writing difficult to read, or even lead to misunderstandings. Punctuation is an area that both native and non-native speakers of English get wrong, but there are some relatively clear rules to help you present your ideas more clearly.

9. Poor text layout

Dense blocks of text, no spacing or margins, or too much spacing all make your writing visually difficult to read. Paying attention to how something looks on the page will mean your writing has a better chance of being read.

10. Incorrect standard phrases

There are certain standard phrases in business writing, and using the wrong conventional expressions can make you look amateur or unprofessional. For instance, the next time you write to a woman, make sure you don't unintentionally insult her by writing Dear Miss, Dear Mrs, Dear Lady or even worse, Dear Madame.

 

Errors When Writing Job Application Letters

23 Jul 2017

If you've ever seen a batch of letters sent in response to a job advertisement, you know they can be very funny. A random sampling usually demonstrates every mistake in the book (like sending the letter to the wrong company). Here are twenty-five common errors to avoid:

1. Addressing letters, "Dear Sir" or "Dear Sirs" As you know, many readers today are women. If gender is unclear, the salutation should be something like "Dear Personnel Manager," or "Dear Human Resources Manager."

2. Addressing letters, "To whom it may concern." Find out who will receive the correspondence, and address it personally. We received a letter addressed to "Dear Whomever," to which we replied, "I'll answer to anything but this!"

3. Enclosing a photo. Forget the photo unless you're a model or an aspiring actor.

4. Handwriting or typing over an old resume or letterhead. If you've moved, start again. Changes on old documents aren't acceptable.

5. No signature. Even if you type your name at the end of correspondence, you should sign the page in your own handwriting to give it a personal touch.

6. Spelling errors. One applicant said he was well suited for "writting and editing chores... contac t me at the adrwss below." Would you give him your editing work? Another writer said she would enjoy "hearing form us." Word processing spell checkers make mistakes; so proof everything.

7. Handwriting letters. Brief 30-word thank you notes can be handwritten, if legible. All other correspondence should be typewritten or word-processed, even if you have to borrow a word processor or pay a secretarial service. Handwritten letters don't say "business."

8. FAXing letters unexpectedly.

9. Forgetting to include your phone number. One woman wrote, "Please call me at home," but didn't include a phone number. That looked bad.

10. Cluttered design. Some job seekers feel the urge to "be creative" using various type sizes and fonts. Avoid this in business correspondence. Except in rare cases, business letters should look conservative. If you want to be creative, do so in your choice of words. Save Microsoft Publisher and Photoshop for your Christmas cards!

11. Using a post office box as an address. Except in rare cases, such as conducting a confidential job search, use a street address. Post office boxes seem "transient."

12. Strange phrasing, such as "an opportunity to expand my strengths and delete my weaknesses... " Or, "You may feel that I'm a tad overqualified." Or, "Enclosed herewith please find my resume." Do you talk that way? You should write in the way you talk. Avoid bad phrasing by having others critique your letters.

13. Typing errors, like "thankyou for your assistance."

14. Mailing form letters. Some letters contain "fill in the blanks." Generic forms don't work well.

15. Not saying enough. One want cover letter read, "Please accept my enclosed resume for the position of Executive Director. Thank you." That's too short. A letter is an opportunity to sell. So say something about yourself.

16. Ending with "Thank you for your consideration." EVERYONE ends their letters this way, so please don't. Try something different, like "I'm excited about talking further," or "I know I could do a good job for you." The same goes for "Sincerely," and "Sincerely yours." EVERYONE uses them. Find something different like "Good wishes," "With best regards," or "With great enthusiasm."

17. WRITING IN ALL CAPS. IT'S HARD TO READ. DON'T DO IT.

18. Abbreviating Rep., Ave., Dec., and all other words. Take time to spell words out. It looks so much better.

19. Forgetting to enclose your resume. If you say you're enclosing one, then do.

20. Justifying right margins. When you "justify right," you create large gaps between words inside your sentences.

21. Forgetting the date and/or salutation.

22. Using dot matrix printers. Most are hard to read and they make you look like an engineer. Whenever possible, use a laser printer, even if you have to borrow one.

23. Talking nonsense. "I work in instilling proper conduits for mainstream educational connections while also encouraging individual creative forms." What? Write in plain, modern English.

24. Forgetting to put the letter in the envelope.

25. The 300-word paragraph. The worst mistake in marketing is writing too long. Limit sentences to ten or twenty words, and limit paragraphs to four or five lines. In letter writing, short is usually better. Try to limit your letters to one page.

 

Structuring a Formal Business Report

25 Jun 2017

There are different types of reports and different ways of structuring them. Report writing can be very technical, but here we will show you a model for structuring a formal business report.

How many sections?

Most reports include the following sections:

  • Title
  • Abstract
  • Introduction
  • Method
  • Results
  • Discussion
  • Conclusions
  • References
  • Appendices

What goes in each section?

1. Title

  • This should be short and precise. It should tell the reader of the nature of your research.
  • Omit any unnecessary detail e.g. ‘A study of….’ is not necessary.

2. Abstract

The abstract is a self-contained summary of the whole of your report. It will therefore be written last and is usually limited to one paragraph. It should contain:

  • An outline of what you investigated (as stated in your title)
  • Why you chose to look at that particular area with brief reference to prior research done in the field
  • Your hypothesis (prediction of what the results will show)
  • A brief summary of your method
  • Your main findings and how these relate to your hypothesis
  • A conclusion which may include a suggestion for further research

3. Introduction

The introduction ‘sets the scene’ for your report; it does this in two ways:

  • By introducing the reader in more detail to the subject area you are looking at
  • Through presenting your objectives and hypotheses

Explain the background to the problem with reference to previous work conducted in the area.

Briefly discuss the findings and how these connect with your research.

Finally, state your aims or hypothesis.

4. Method

The method section should describe every step of how you carried out your research in sufficient detail so that the reader understands what you did. Information on your experimental design, sampling methods, participants, and the overall procedure employed should be clearly specified.

This information is usually presented under the following sub-headings:

  • Objective
  • Design
  • Participants
  • Procedure(s)

5. Results

Your results section should clearly convey your findings. These are what you will base your commentary on in the discussion section, so the reader needs to be certain of what you found.

  • Present data in a summarised form
  • Raw data

Do not over-complicate the presentation and description of your results. Be clear and concise.

  • Describe what the results were, don’t offer interpretations of them
  • Present them in a logical order
  • Those that link most directly to your hypothesis should be given first

Presenting Data in Tables and Graphs

  • Do not present the same data in two or more ways i.e. use either a table or a graph, or just text.
  • Remember that a graph should be understandable independently of any text, but you may accompany each with a description if necessary.
  • Use clear and concise titles for each figure. Say which variables the graph or table compares.
  • Describe what the graph or table shows, then check that this really is what it shows! If it isn’t, you need to amend your figure, or your description.

6. Discussion

The discussion section is the most important part of your report. It relates the findings of your study to the research that you talked about in your introduction, thereby placing your work in the wider context. The discussion helps the reader understand the relevance of your research. This is your chance to discuss, analyse and interpret your results in relation to all the information you have collected.

The Discussion will probably be the longest section of your report and should contain the following:

  • A summary of the main results of your study
  • An interpretation of these results in relation to your aims, predictions or hypothesis, e.g. if your hypothesis is supported or rejected, and in relation to the findings of other research in the area
  • Consideration of the broader implications of your findings.

7. Conclusions

The conclusion section briefly summarises the main issues arising from your report

8. References

  • Give details of work by all other authors which you have referred to in your report
  • Check a style handbook or journal articles for variations in referencing styles

9. Appendices

The appendices contain material that is relevant to your report but would disrupt its flow if it was contained within the main body. For example: raw data and calculations; interview questions; and a glossary of terms, or other information that the reader may find useful to refer to. All appendices should be clearly labelled and referred to where appropriate in the main text (e.g. ‘See Appendix A for an example questionnaire’).

 

Writing Good News/Bad News Letters

11 Jun 2017

The "Good News/Bad News" letter is one of the most effective letters you can write. This letter is appropriate when you have a justified complaint and want resolution. For example, the hotel where you stayed had no hot water, and you had to shower in cold water before your business meeting. You feel you should not have to pay the full amount for the room, and you would like compensation.

The important elements of the good news/bad news letter are structure and tone.

The structure has four parts:

(1) an opening paragraph of good news
(2) the bad news
(3) a solution
(4) an expression of goodwill.

The opening paragraph should prepare your reader by reinforcing with good news. Try to say something positive about your past experience with the company, individual or product. Good news sets the stage and puts the reader on your side.

The body of the letter should explain the bad news. Be clear about the problem. Give as much detail as the reader needs, but don't tell the reader anything she doesn't care about or need to know.

Paragraph three should offer a solution to the problem. Do you want a refund, an exchange, a credit to your charge account? When you offer a solution, you save the reader time. She doesn't have to call you to find out how you would like the problem settled.

End the letter with an expression of confidence in the problem being solved. Remember that the person to whom you are writing is not responsible for creating the problem. She didn't design, manufacture, package, ship or deliver your purchase.

The tone of the letter is important. Sound objective. Explain the facts without being judgmental. Don't blame the reader for the problem. Avoid the personal pronoun "you." Use passive voice rather than active voice.

Instead of saying "You sent me the wrong part," try "The wrong part was sent to me," or "I received the wrong part." The tone should focus on the problem, not who was responsible for the error.

Be tactful and diplomatic. If you sound angry or rude, you will not encourage the reader to solve your problem quickly.

Here's an example of the good news/bad news letter.

Dear Sir or Madam

I have stayed at your hotel many times during business engagements, and I have always been satisfied with the service and accommodation.

Unfortunately, during my recent visit on 11 January 20xx, there was no hot water available, and I had to shower in cold water before a business meeting.

I'm sure you will agree that the charge of $100 for a room with no hot water is unreasonable. I would appreciate some kind of partial refund on my Visa account number 4526 8248 8594 7677, expiration date 12/xx.

Thank you for your consideration. I look forward to being a guest at your hotel again.

Yours faithfully

 

Avoiding Problem Words and Phrases

07 May 2017

In this week's Business English tip, we'll point out a few words and phrases which are best avoided in business writing. Remember that your aim is to get your message across to your reader clearly and concisely. Try to use language which will not cause confusion.

And also

This is often redundant. Use and on its own and omit also.

As to whether

The single word whether means the same thing as as to whether.

Basically, essentially, totally

These words seldom add anything useful to a sentence. Try the sentence without them and, almost always, you will see the sentence improve.

Being that or being as

These words are a non-standard substitute for because or since . For example, we can write Being that they were old customers, we gave them special credit terms as Because they were old customers, we gave them special credit terms.

Due to the fact that

Using this phrase is a sure sign that your sentence is in trouble. Did you mean because or since?

Equally as

Something can be equally important or as important as, but not equally as important.

He/she

He/she or is a convention created to avoid sexist writing, but it doesn't work very well and it becomes annoying if it appears often. Use he or she or use the plural (where appropriate) so you can avoid the sexist problem altogether.

Firstly, secondly, thirdly, etc.

Number things with first, second, third, etc. and not with these adverbial forms.

Got

Many writers regard got as an ugly word, and they have a point. If you can avoid it in writing, do so. For example: I have got to must begin studying right away. And: I have got two meetings this afternoon.

Kind of or sort of

These are OK in informal situations, but in more formal documents use somewhat, rather or quite instead. For example: We were kind of rather pleased with the results.

 
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