Annals of the University of Petroşani, Economics, 8(1), 2008, 169-176 171 BASIC ASPECTS OF EFFECTIVE BUSINESS WRITING GABRIELA

DUMBRAVĂ, ADRIANA KORONKA * ABSTRACT: The paper starts from the premise that writing for a business context or audience displays specific features of the rhetoric of discourse, being different from writing in the humanities, social sciences, or other academic disciplines. Within the framework of general writing rules, the paper points out the special issues arising in the business context, analyzing the major content and form - related aspects meant to ensure an effective written communication. KEY WORDS: business writing, written message, content, form, tone. Business writing is different both from the conversational style often found in email messages to a familiar coworker, and the more formal, legalistic style found in contracts. In the majority of memos, email messages, and letters, a style between these two extremes is appropriate, because writing that is too formal can alienate readers, overly whereas exaggerated attempts to be causal and informal may seem insincere or unprofessional. Therefore, the key to effective business writing is knowing the audience it addresses. In other words, before composing a letter, memo or report, we should think about the recipient of the document. The first question to answer when composing the message is what message am I trying to convey to this person?, as this enables us to outline a well - organized document, by omitting superfluous details. Another important element of a business document, especially if it contains large amounts of data and dry statistics, is its graphic presentation. Statistics and research sustain your conclusions, especially if they are presented in a visually appealing manner (spreadsheets, graphs and colorful clip art). * Lecturer, Ph.D., University of Petroşani, Romania Lecturer, Ph.D., University of Petroşani, Romania 172 Dumbravă, G.; Koronka, A.

1. CONTENT – RELATED ASPECTS Focus and Purpose: In business writing, as in all writing, it is essential to keep the message focused and specific, bearing your audience in mind. Although the major characteristics of business writing are clarity and conciseness, it should not be an endless series of short, choppy sentences. This means that the writer should not be so concise that he becomes blunt. The use of terminology and concepts related to the industry or field is recommended in correspondence of this type, as they prove your specific knowledge and experience relating to the respective field. The questions to answer before starting to compose a written message are: • What is your document intended to do or accomplish? • Will the purpose be clear to the reader? • Can you offer a one-sentence summary of the document’s purpose? • Is your main point stated early in the document? Audience: • Do you have a specific and appropriate audience in mind? Can you describe them? • What is their position? What is your relationship with them? • How much do they already know about this topic? • Can you determine what their feelings toward your document will be?

The Use of Pronouns and the Active/ Passive Voice The use of personal pronouns is important especially in letters and memos. simplify a wordy sentence such as The hurricane had the effect of a destructive force on the city with the more precise The hurricane destroyed the city. since it . Development: • Is the order of presentation of the points effective? • Did you include enough details and examples to support your main point? • Is it clear by the end of the message what you want the reader to do or know? • Do you provide enough context for the message or is more background information required? • Do any paragraphs seem shorter and in need of more material than others? • Is all the information included necessary? • Ask someone to read the document and comment if something is unclear and needs more description. For example.• Have you used language that they will be able to understand? • Is your tone appropriate for your audience? Organization: • Does your document proceed in a logical and organized way? • Is each paragraph organized around one main idea? • Can you identify the most important information in the message quickly? • Is like information kept together? • For resumes. have you placed your most important or relevant qualifications where they stand out. and unnecessary large words. • Express it in a concise language. FORM – RELATED ASPECTS Formatting: • Are all of the parts of the message included and in the correct position? • What will be the reader’s first impression when looking at the document (before reading)? • Does the document look attractive on the page? • Does your document conform to standard business writing convention? Have you placed information in your message where your reader will expect to see it? • Have you addressed and signed your document appropriately? Sentence structure. as it is more natural and appropriate to refer to yourself as I and to the reader as you. by avoiding vagueness. Do not refer to yourself in the third person by using one or the writer. explanation. you should be careful when you use the pronoun we in a business letter that is written on company stationery. Basic Aspects of Effective Business Writing 173 2. wordiness. • Read the document aloud to see and hear if there are any missing or wrong words or other errors that you can spot. spelling: • Are there problems that frequently occur in your writing? Keep a list of problems that recur and check for those specifically. or have you highlighted them in some way? • Ask others to read your document and tell you what they think are your most important ideas. word choice. punctuation. However. or support.

which determined some writers to use she alternating with he in their writing. especially if the recipient of the memo happens to be your superior in the company or the person who made the error. Sentences in active voice are generally clearer and more direct than those in passive voice. Although the passive voice is sometimes necessary. The second sentence is a relevant example of a situation when judicious use of passive voice can increase the tact and diplomacy of your writing. In this situation it would be tactless to use active voice boldly to describe how your boss erred and. verbs not agreeing with subjects and pronouns not agreeing with their antecedents. uninformative. this decision hardly solved the problem because. This is common in spoken English. An exception to this rule is when the passive voice is necessary to avoid placing specific blame for an error or to making a sentence intentionally vague. and a positive point of view ensure a dynamic message that will keep the reader interested. but is grammatically incorrect and. but also ambiguous. For instance. In today's society. being of tremendous importance in business writing as well. is to eliminate overuse of the passive voice. it often makes your writing not only dull. On the other hand. especially in a formal report. For instance: Passive: It was discovered that the salary totals were incorrect. As most errors are due simply to insufficient proofreading of the document.commits your company to what you have written. . we lost the client try: The correct budget was inadvertently left out of the client packet. therefore. overuse of passive voice or its use in long and complicated sentences can cause readers to lose interest or to become confused. Even in scientific writing. [It is not clear who discovered it. incomplete sentences. the word "he" included both the female and male genders when referring to an individual's actions. The most common mistakes include misuse of apostrophes and commas. If it is unavoidable. The best way to deal with this problem is to eliminate the pronoun altogether whenever possible: Everyone should open the report to page 1. The best choice is to use I when you express your opinion. if you are supposed to write a memo describing the disastrous outcome of a mistake that belongs to someone in the company. using contractions in formal writing.] Active: The Accounting Department discovered that the salary totals were incorrect. therefore. it is safer to avoid using this form. ending a sentence with a preposition. passive voice will be preferable to describe the mistake without directly placing blame. which is correct. most women take offense at this reference. which led to the loss of the client. besides being confusing to the reader. However. use he or she. the use of the active voice. and impersonal. Another way of achieving a clear. personal pronouns. especially if it is a formal report to be sent to upper management or outside the firm. Everyone should open his report to page 1 was understood to refer to both the women and the men in the room. Traditionally. and we when referring to company policy. Gender-Neutral Writing The use of gender is nowadays a delicate topic in all fields of human relations. Punctuation and Grammatical Errors Grammatical and/or punctuation errors. can seriously affect your credibility. but from simple grammatical mistakes. you must have someone else proofread your document. Some business writers have suggested pluralizing the pronoun as a solution to the problem: Everyone should open their report to page 1. more personal style.. Some errors stem not from lack of proofreading. Smith forgot to include the correct budget projections with the bid. instead of writing: Because J. although somewhat annoying when used many times in the same article. such a message became offensive to many men.

Basic Aspects of Effective Business Writing 175 3. You can feel confident if you have carefully prepared and are well – informed about the material you present. you should write Dear Sir or Madam. For example. In order to make the document effective. the old rule was to write Dear Sirs. the writer should consider the following questions when preparing to write: 1. that contains nondiscriminatory language. for you could easily be interpreted as arrogant or presumptuous. use the title of the unknown addressee: Dear Editor. The overall tone of a written message affects the reader just as one’s tone of voice affects the listener in everyday exchanges” (Ober 88). and you will probably want the reader to take some action in response to your message. as the tone that you use to write the document directly affects how the reader will interpret what is said. but…with ones that sound more confident and self-assured. that uses emphasis and subordination appropriately. On the other hand. However. you should assume a tone that is appreciative for the offer and enthusiastic about beginning a new job. Smith. Ultimately. employers are inclined to hire individuals that appear confident and sure of their abilities. "The business writer should strive for an overall tone that is confident. TONE IN BUSINESS WRITING “Tone in writing refers to the writer’s attitude toward the reader and the subject of the message. What kind of tone should I use? Fortunately. Obviously. you can use the same kind of tone for most business messages. you want the message to reach your audience. . letter.Who am I writing to and what do I want them to understand? Whether it is an employer or a fellow worker. For example. Tone is present in all communication activities. For example. the tone of a message is a reflection of the writer and it does affect how the reader will perceive the message. such as when you deny a job offer or a customer request. 2. and will notice the confidence that you have. and sincere. and that is written at an appropriate level of difficulty" (Ober 88). this does not mean that you should appear overconfident. it is advisable to replace such unconfident phrases as: I hope that you will contact me or I know that my qualifications are not very impressive. Therefore. If you know only the initial and last name of the addressee. or better yet. in order to achieve the appropriate tone for the message. report. 3.When you do not know the gender of the person you are addressing in correspondence. courteous. for example. replace You must agree that I am qualified for the position with My qualifications in the areas of accounting and customer service meet your job requirements. nowadays this is no longer acceptable. Obviously. The only major exceptions to these guidelines are when you need to write a negative business message. Therefore. The general guidelines to keep in mind when considering what kind of tone to use in business writing are: • Be confident.: You can reach me at…. if you write a cover letter for a position as a Sales Representative for a newspaper. I look forward to hearing from you. Why am I writing this document? You should consider the purpose of your document in order to determine how you should express the message you wish to convey. it is essential that you consider your reader before writing and adapt the document to your specific audience. that stresses the "you" attitude. My qualifications make me an excellent applicant for this position. address the letter as Dear J. Business writers should consider the tone of their message. The reader will become more inclined to accept your position. as a confident tone will have a persuasive effect on your audience. if you write a job acceptance letter to an employer. you must write confidently. whether they are writing a memo. or any type of business document.

use a nonsexist salutation if you do not know a reader’s gender: To Whom it May Concern. New York. age. .not: Chairman. politeness can sound condescending.• Be courteous and sincere. Not: Jane Smith performed the job well for her age. thus your system has shut down. religion. remarks. . .. That is why you should make sure your writing is free of sexist language and of bias based on race. Replace: Executives and their wives with: Executives and their spouses. try: The system may automatically shut down if any installation errors occur. choose: Students must provide their own laboratory kit. 1990 [2]. J. New York. Bailey. you should: . .The Plain English Approach to Business Writing. Dwyer. or Each student must provide his or her own laboratory kit. . . It is very important that the business writer should communicate in a way that expresses equality and respect for all individuals. It is important to write in a sincere tone because without sincerity.avoid using masculine pronouns. or ideas. In this sense.use neutral job titles . .omit information about group membership.avoid words and phrases that unnecessarily imply gender. Prentice Hall. Macmillan Professional Masters Series. The Macmillan Press Ltd. instead of: You didn’t read the instructions carefully. Remember that if you are respectful and honest.The Business Communication Handbook. 1995 . Oxford University Press. ethnicity. readers will be more willing to accept your message. Nondiscriminatory language is language that treats all people equally by not using any discriminatory words. sexual orientation. E. • Use nondiscriminatory language. Instead of: Each student must provide his own laboratory kit. but: Chairperson. Stanton.Communication. even if it is negative. REFERENCES: [1]. 1993 [3]. Therefore. but: Jane Smith performed the job well. and disability. N.

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