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Student Workbook
Table of Contents

Communication Skills............................................................................................................... 6
Why does Communication matter?..................................................................................... 7
What exactly do we mean by Communication?.............................................................. 7
Where and when does Communication take place within an organisation?....... 8
Section 2 – Behavior Types................................................................ 19
Behaviour type Body Language Actions....................................................................21
Pros and cons of the four behaviour types.....................................................................23
Section 3 – Professional Presentation Skills..................................... 51
Outlining your presentation.................................................................................................56
Prepare your notes in a format that makes you feel comfortable..........................56
Develop your own symbols or shorthand.......................................................................56
Keep your notes brief..............................................................................................................57
All these techniques bring the real world into your presentation context. They make
abstract theory more tangible, make points practical and add variety and colour to
your presentation. Furthermore they can involve the group (participation) and can be
applied at any point of the presentation. They are not limited to the opening buy-in or
closing summary. Explaining a complicated topic can be easily understood if you link it
to something tangible that your audience is already familiar with. E.g. The structure of
a presentation and its logical flow is like building a house – foundations(Buy-in), walls
(content), roof (summary).....................................................................................................58
Demonstration is a concept often overlooked in presentations. If you think about it, air
hostesses demonstrate every time they do the safety presentation. Depending on the
subject matter, you can bring in samples or show examples of the point being made. If
your product or concept it too large or unwieldy, you can also use photographs on your
slides. Virtual demonstrations off the internet are also effective............................58
Examples can be experiences you or others have had. To be effective they must be:.
Familiar or extreme..................................................................................................................58
Relevant to your particular audience ...............................................................................58
Not overly simplistic................................................................................................................58
An analogy is “an agreement or correspondence in certain respects of things otherwise
different” (Chambers 20th Century Dictionary). More simply put, it is a resemblance of
relations. It is a word picture of the known applied to the unknown. An example of an
analogy would be the concept of scaffolding creating temporary platforms. .59
Taking the key points of your presentation, identify one analogy that would apply
throughout or a series of analogies that will make your content more familiar..59
Nervousness is natural............................................................................................................66
Delivery Techniques.................................................................................................................71
Eye Contact.................................................................................................................................73
Body Language.........................................................................................................................74
Section 4 – Business writing Skills.................................................... 80
Who are your readers?............................................................................................................84
Logic in presenting your ideas.............................................................................................87
Avoid long, involved sentences...........................................................................................90
Use Simple Construction.......................................................................................................90
Do not exaggerate - be specific and precise .................................................................92
Avoid jargon and clichés .......................................................................................................92
Keep it Simple............................................................................................................................93
Section 5 – Reports........................................................................... 146
Section 6 – Writing Skill Applications............................................. 171
Section 7 – Further Writing Skill Applications............................... 192
People........................................................................................................................................ 217
Places......................................................................................................................................... 218
Section 1- Communication Skills
The Future Way of Corporate Communication
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Communication skills Section 1
Section 1: Communication Skills ensuring that our message is transferred clearly, without misunderstanding.

There are three main elements that are communicated to a listener or an audience each time we
speak: Words, Tone of Voice and Body Language. Dr. Albert Mehrabian, one of the United States’
foremost experts in personal communication, conducted research on the relationships between the
three. He came up with what is known as

‘The Communications Mix’:


55% Tone of Voice
Body Languege

Why does Communication matter?

In every organisation, effective communication is essential both internally amongst employees at
every level, and externally to its business and personal customers.
The impact of an individual’s style is based on these three elements:
Every organisation needs to get the best out of its people. Being able to get the best out of others,
means exercising people skills. There is now a need for the very highest level of people skills - a need • Body Language – how you appear when communicating
many organisations would previously have considered unnecessary. This means having individuals • Tone of Voice – how you sound when communicating
that are skilled in getting the best out of others. • Content – what it is you actually communicate

An individual’s style has a huge influence on a team, peers, managers, and above all, the client. You Communication is an art. Unlike a science, it doesn’t always fit into a package of rules and
must be able to communicate with confidence in order to instil confidence in others. techniques that ensure a positive outcome. Like all art forms, communication can be learned by
reviewing your actions, practice, and understanding what techniques increase the chances of a
successful outcome.
What exactly do we mean by Communication?

Communication is the means by which we transfer ideas or information. To do so effectively means

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Where and when does Communication take place within an organisation? Perception
Perception is where the act of communication begins. It
We communicate interpersonally every time predates verbal skills and has an enormous influence on
we interact with others. Within an organisation, how effective our communication is.
communication takes place everywhere from The world is full of stimuli which influence what we take
meeting someone at the water cooler, to giving in. Through our senses namely sight, hearing, smell, touch
a formal presentation at a monthly divisional and taste we become aware of things and in our heads we
meeting. Communication takes place at interpret them and take our meaning from our impressions.
hiring interviews, meetings, customer forums, Each person interprets differently, depending on what
coffee breaks, staff meetings, telephoning, they draw from their life experiences, memory, knowledge,
performance appraisals, company meetings, values, feelings and the context.
working together on a project, internal job
interviews, lunch breaks, project reviews, Consider a door. You know technically that a door is an
negotiating a rise, to name but a few instances! entrance. You have experience of doors that jam or squeak
and you know that they are hinged and swing open and
closed, permitting access. Your memory reminds you of
the fact that you entered a room through a door (opening)
What are the barriers to effective Communication? recently. Your social background and culture make a door a
familiar item. (Can you think of a culture that doors are not
If the three elements of the Communications familiar? Eskimos, or people living in mud huts?) For reasons
Mix are not working together, this of security, warmth or privacy, you value the door and feel
inconsistency is probably the biggest barrier secure when it is closed/locked. In the context of the room,
to effective interpersonal communication, you expect a door to be there.
especially in business. If someone has detailed,
wonderful ideas and productive things to say When asked to think about the door, you did not gaze up at
– technical and financial information – but the ceiling. You expected it to be where it is and you saw it
block the delivery system that is going to get there. Yet what you saw may differ from what others in the
the message across, the message received will room actually saw. The angle you are seated at or the light
be inconsistent. in the room could influence the colour you see. Somebody
may be short sighted and see the handle as a blur. The
Not listening properly is another main barrier to effective communication. The body language we perception of the door could also be affected by feelings
use when we are not listening sends out a clear message that we are either not interested, or we have you have about doors. If asked to write a paragraph on
other more important matters to attend to – we turn away, shuffle papers on our desk, put papers doors, even after this review, no two will be the same. And
away in a drawer, have a glazed look in our eyes, lack conviction or energy in our responses, turn and all this for something as tangible as a door!
talk to someone else in the room, not respond on purpose to a question.
So our senses play a big part in what we perceive.
Listening enables us to do more than just hear what other people are saying. Real listening means Perception affects how we communicate and is affected
giving them your full attention and understanding them. We will look at the four communication by the fact that no two people share sensory experiences.
response styles: empathic, advising, searching and critical. Exposed to the same stimuli, we filter and select differently,
depending on our tastes, needs, experiences, aptitudes,
Other barriers to effective communication are inappropriate behavioural styles such as aggressive attitudes and expectations. Whilst awake we filter and
and passive behaviour, which can each be readily identified by means of words, tone of voice and select. If we didn’t we would be overwhelmed by the stimuli
body language. Later in this programme, we will take a look at the impact of behavioural styles and constantly bombarding us. We develop the ability to ignore
at how assertive behaviour gives us the best chance of a successful outcome. what we deem unnecessary. We can also develop stronger
perceptions when necessary. E.g. A wine taster develops a
fine sense of taste and smell (grandly referred to as nose

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and palate!) Do you vary the pace?

How we see people is also affected by perception. Stereo-typing, prejudice and bias toward people Most people speak from 120 to 180 words per minute. Maintaining these averages, most speakers
all challenge our ability to communicate effectively. When we initially meet another person we are able to vary their rates of speech to emphasise specific ideas and feelings. If the topic is serious or
are overwhelmed with perceptions. We register their age, gender, height, weight, colour, physical complicated, a slower pace or a dramatic pause may hold the tension. A more rapid pace may lend
attractiveness etc. immediately. First impressions affect the way we communicate with another itself to more light-hearted content.
person from the moment we meet them. We categorise people immediately (often referred to as
“putting them in a box”). Stereo-typing is the extension of this categorising and is very dangerous. If Are you aware of the importance of emphasis?
we learned that Rory, Simon and Neil Best (Irish rugby playing brothers) had a younger brother, we
are likely to expect him to be a good rugby player. Quite a pressure on him if he hates the game! This Be careful how you emphasise your words. What
is known as the “halo” effect and can lead to prejudice (prejudging). you say can easily be misinterpreted.

We are not likely to overcome the influence of perception but what we can do is remember that it Be sure to project your voice to ensure that each
exists. When communicating, we can improve our effectiveness by checking how the other party person in the room can hear what you are saying.
perceives things and when Pick a point on the back wall of the room and make
appropriate, ensure that they see things the way we do as well. sure you speak loud enough for your voice to reach
that point.

Based on Communication Skills by Stephen Daunt. 1996 Dublin: Gill & Macmillan Do you pronounce your words?

The listener can perceive poor diction as less intelligent, poorly informed or poorly prepared.
Mechanics of Speech If you want to elevate your credibility, speak clearly, pronouncing each consonant and vowel.

The spoken word or verbal communication

consists of two elements. Firstly, tone, pace and
volume, which need to be as varied, or colourful
as possible. You need to sound interested and Feedback Skills
involved. We all know what happens when a
person speaks in a monotone. The most effective Feedback is information about a behaviour,
way to achieve this “colour” is through emphasis given to a person who displayed the behaviour.
and pause. It requires good communication skills and an
objective assessment of behaviour.
The second element: diction, articulation and
fluency need to be as clear and easy to understand There are two types of feedback:
as possible. By keeping things short and simple,
this can well be achieved. • POSITIVE feedback which reinforces
effective behaviour (paying compliments)
Do you vary the pitch? • FEEDBACK FOR IMPROVEMENT (also
known as constructive criticism) which
Pitch is the ‘highness’ or ‘lowness’ of your voice. The listener will stay connected to your message, if helps people develop and improve
you vary your voice and stay within normal limits.
When you give Positive Feedback, you encourage the person to repeat the behaviour. When you
Do you vary the tone? give Feedback for Improvement, you help the person discover an alternative behaviour that will
improve future performance. When people know what they are doing well and what areas they need
The tone of voice you use will facilitate the mood you want to establish or the message you convey to to develop, they are more likely to change their behaviours and be more successful in their jobs.
your listener. You can determine how you want your words to ‘feel’ when they hit the listener’s ears.
Your tone can be warm and friendly – excited – sarcastic – authoritative, etc. When you give feedback, try to make it:

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• Balanced attitudes. Interestingly human beings are often not aware of their body language. People who are
• Honest able to interpret body language are described as perceptive and are at a distinct advantage as they
• Objective are able to confirm legitimacy of the message that has been verbalised.

Balanced: 1. Gestures appear to come from various sources. Some appear to be:
Only giving Feedback for Improvement can lower self esteem and result in the person rejecting the 2. Inborn (children born blind and deaf still smile with pleasure)
feedback. Only giving Positive Feedback can appear superficial. By balancing the feedback you make 3. Genetic (one way you fold your arms is comfortable, the other is not)
the person less likely to react defensively. 4. Culturally learned habits (a “V” sign in Europe means the opposite in the UK)
5. Universal (a happy smile or an angry frown)
6. Different as people mature (e.g. Often a child telling a lie quickly puts two hands over the mouth;
a teenager nonchalantly rubs one hand around the mouth; the adult at the last minute a nose
If you don’t mean it, don’t say it! Your tone and facial expression will give you away anyway.
touching gesture is visible.)
Objective: To read gestures it is important to do so in clusters. Each gesture is like a single word and words have
Feedback must be specific and include a description of what the person did or said. Vague comments
different meanings. Several words or gestures must be noted to establish the message. A person
like, “You could have done that better,” don’t say what or how things could be improved. Such
sitting with folded arms may be signalling they disagree or are not interested. However, they may
feedback won’t help someone continue to do something well, nor will it give guidance on how that
be feeling cold. The face would clarify this message. Is it nodding or making eye contact or has it
person can take a different approach.
switched off?
For positive feedback it is useful to detail what was said/done and why that was effective. For
It is possible to fake certain body language but most people would not know how to. Holding out
constructive criticism you still need to detail what was said/done that was ineffective but it is important
open palms tends to be associated with honesty. The faker may do this while at the same time the
to then suggest a better way and motivate why it could be better. It is particularly beneficial if the
corner of the mouth drops, the eyebrows lift and the eyes get smaller. Automatically, you are unlikely
recipient of the feedback can come up with an alternative himself. If this is not forthcoming, you
to believe what you hear!
must have a suggestion yourself which you then motivate. If you can’t think of a better way, there
probably isn’t one!

Body Language
Body language has been given so much attention in books, courses
and the media in recent years that everyone thinks they are
an expert in it. In fact, it is a much more complicated area
than people think. It is therefore important to consider
all aspects of body language: posture, movement,
gestures, mannerisms and expressions and be aware
of both the signals your body is sending and those
the person you are speaking to, is sending.

Researchers have identified almost a million

non-verbal cues and signals. According to Albert
Mehrabien, the total impact of the communicated
message is only 7% from the words, 38% from
the tone of voice and 55% from the non-verbal
communication. So body language contributes
more than half the message.

The information communicated is relayed by the verbal

channel while the non-verbal reflects interpersonal

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Reading whether a smile is sincere or phoney is a useful skill. When smiling, two sets of muscles are
used: Gesture Meaning
• The zygomatic major muscle which stretches from the cheekbone and lifts the corners of the
mouth – these can be consciously controlled
• The obicularis ocali muscle which pulls down the eye-brow and raises the cheeks – these 1. Chewing pencil
cannot be consciously controlled and contract spontaneously.
• 2. Leaning forward
So to detect the phoney smile, look at the eyes. They are a little narrower when lying.
3. Nodding head
A handshake when one meets a person for the first time can offer valuable insights. If naturally their
hand is on top, they are likely to be a bit aggressive and trying to take control. Managers often use
this technique. The person whose hand remains underneath is happily giving control. The vice like 4. Sighing
grip of two dominant people can often engender rapport or cause friction. The behaviours after this
handshake are what are significant. 5. Pointing

Trusting your “gut feel” is probably the best advise to give on reading body language.
6. Counting on fingers
Based “Body Language” Pease, A. (1997) Sidney: Camel Publishing Company and Pink, D.H (2006) “A
Whole New Mind” London: Cyan 7. Rolling eyes

Neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) 8. Arms crossed over chest

Further interesting and useful information on body language can be found in the area of Neuro- 9. One hand in air with index finger raised
linguistic programming (NLP). Research this topic on the internet.
Hands covering mouth
Exercise: Non – Verbal Communication

Read through the gestures in the first column and write down the meaning you feel is conveyed by
the gesture in the second column.
Mis-Communication Exercise
Think about the last 5 e-mails, phone calls or verbal instructions that you sent to anybody you work
with. (Those with successful and unsuccessful outcomes.) In the left hand column jot down the intent
of the message in them.

Using your imagination, what messages could someone have understood from that message that
would have been different from your intention? Be creative, think outside the box. Think about how
the messages may have made somebody feel. Write down your answers in the second column.

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What you said: What could have been heard: Characteristics of Three Types of Behavior
Example: • I don’t trust him to remember
Sent e-mail to John to remind him • He does not have to be responsible for AGGRESSIVE ASSERTIVE PASSIVE
about the safety meeting his own calendar
• Safety in very important
Tone of Voice and Key Words
• I think he has a memory problem
• I’m being helpful and trying to ease his
workload Voice raised / shouting Voice calm / controlled Soft voice/whining tone
• I think he needs to brush up on his You’d better… I… Maybe…
safety knowledge If you don’t watch out… I think … Would you mind…?
• I don’t want him to forget again and Just what do you think… I feel … Sorry…
You..! Can we … Excuse me please but…
embarrass himself
… bad…stupid… What do you think about I don’t know…

Non-Verbal Communication (Body Language)

Finger pointing Hands relaxed Hands clenched

Chin forward Body upright and open Chin lowered
Body leaning forward Direct eye contact Stooping posture
Eyes wide Comfortable spacing Eyes downcast
Excessive body movement Calm and slow Too close to other person

Feelings about Self

Confident Anxious
Self respect Ignored
In control
Respected by others Helpless
Self righteous
Valued Manipulated
Feelings Probably Aroused in Other Person

Humiliation Guilt
Resentment Respect for speaker Pity
Hurt Sense of self worth Frustration with speaker
Anger Superiority
Outcome of Interaction

Compromise negotiated to suit

Personal goals pursued/ Personal goals sacrificed to
both parties
achieved at expense of others goals and needs of others

“I win – you lose” “I lose – you win”

“I win – you win”

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Behavior Assessment 9. Your manager asks you to attend a “I’m really busy this week writing a
meeting. The last time you went it wasn’t report. I don’t think I’ll have the time to
Read the following scenarios and identify whether the responses are Assertive (Ass), relevant to your department, so you go.”
Passive (Pass) or Aggressive (Agg). In discussion, we’ll agree why. don’t want to go. You say:
10. A colleague agreed to come to a special “Dave, I understood you were coming
Situation Response meeting and then failed to arrive. You to the meeting. I would have liked you
ring him and say: to be there. What was the problem?”
The date is being set for the next
meeting. You are keen to attend but the
proposed date accepted by everyone “Well alright. It seems to be convenient
else, means you cannot attend. When the for everyone else.”
chair asks, “Is that okay with everyone?”
You say:
A colleague asks you for a lift home.
“I’m about 20 minutes late so I won’t be
It’s inconvenient to you, as you are late
2. able to take you home. If it helps, I can
already and the drive will take you out of
drop you off at the bus stop”
your way. You say:
A member of staff interrupts you when
“I’d like to finish this phone call. Then I’ll
3. you are making an important call to a
be happy to answer your question.”
client. You say:
The receptionist sees you leaving and
4. says, “What time will you be back on “Haven’t a clue!”
site?” You say:
“I think that was a really good
You observed a presentation given
presentation. I particularly like the way
5. by one of your staff. You felt it went
you made the material relevant to all
extremely well. You say:
members of the audience.”
One of your team has to meet with a
“You’ve got to stand up to him, Joe.
supplier who is known to be a “slippery
Tell him what is acceptable to us. You
6. character”. You know your subordinate is
mustn’t let him get away with his
hesitant in dealing with this behaviour.
You say:
A colleague has volunteered your
services to help a junior manager Look, why didn’t you ask me first,
draw up their financial return, without instead of dropping me in it?”
consulting you. You say:
Section 2 – Behavior Types
A member of staff tells you that she is “What on earth for? You know jolly well
8. wanting to take responsibility for some of you are struggling to keep up with the
the enquiries. You say: filing – without anything extra!”

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Behavior Types Section 2
Section 2 – Behavior Types
How Assertive Are You?
Score yourself on each statement from 0 to 5, where 0 = Never, not at all like me and 5 = Always,
exactly like me. Record your score in the shaded box.

Being assertive means communicating your needs, wants, feelings, beliefs and opinions to others
in a direct and honest manner, without intentionally hurting anyone’s feelings. The use of bully
tactics is destructive to relationships and, ultimately, to your self-esteem. Remaining passive may
help you to avoid conflict, but the price paid includes feelings of helplessness and lack of control.
Direct communication can reduce conflict, build your self-confidence, and enhance your personal
and work relationships. You can learn to be assertive

Section 2 - Behavior Types The Four Behaviour Types

Behaviour type Body Language Actions

1. Passive

Keen to avoid Minimal eye contact. Self-blame.

confrontation even at Quiet, hesitant voice. Beats around the bush;
the expense of him- or Rambling speech. avoids the issue.
herself; hopes people Defensive, shrinking Overjustification;
will ‘know’ what he or posture. permission-seeking statements.
she wants’ excessively ‘Handwashing’, Gives in easily.
concerned with what fidgeting. Generates sympathy;
other people think of him makes people feel guilty in order to
or her. get what he or she wants.

2. Aggressive

Keen to win, even Excessive eye contact.
Quick to blame others.
at others’ expense; Loud, obtrusive voice.
Criticises person, not his
overly concerned Blunt.
or her behaviour.
with own needs Expansive posture.
Interrupts frequently.
rather than other
Authoritarian.Invasion of others’
people’s. space. Finger-wagging
Uses sarcasm, criticism and ridicule
and –pointing.
to win the point. Makes requests
sound like orders.
Escalates a situation easily.

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3. Passive/aggressive Aggressive You achieve You tend to In a crisis when Virtually every
a narrow lose in the you need people other occasion.
A hybrid behaviour Minimal eye contact Indirect responses, victory. long term. to act without
combining passive but looking away sarcastic asides, barbed It irritates hesitation.
and aggressive behaviours. rather than down. humour. and annoys
Keen to get even Tight-lipped, impatient ‘ Gets even’ indirectly. people.
without the risk of sighs. Exasperated or People avoid
confrontation. Often ‘I don’t believe it’ you. People
encountered when people expression. under-perform
want to assert themselves Closed posture. on your issues
but feel they lack the power to do so. because they will
not use any
4. Assertive

Keen to stand up for
Enough eye contact to Lots of listening; seeks to Passive/
own rights while accepting
let people know he or she understand. Aggressive You feel ….you haven’t. Never Always
that others have rights too.
is in earnest. Treats people with as if you’ve People dislike you,
respect. achieved don’t trust you and
Moderate or neutral tone of Prepared to compromise; something, have no respect
voice. solution-oriented. but … for you.
Moderate, open body posture. Prepared to state and
Body language congruent explain what he or she
with spoken words. wants. Straight and to the Assertive You achieve None Always, …when the
point without being abrupt. results. People except … timing is
Prepared to persist for what s/he like and respect wrong;
wants. you. Your when the
confidence and outcome is
self-esteem remain not worth
Pros and cons of the four behaviour types robust. You suffer the trouble.
less stress.
Behaviour Advantages Disadvantages When When
type appropriate inappropriate

Passive You avoid

You’re not When the When the
taken seriously. costs of outcome is
Your viewpoint the con- important.
is ignored. frontation
You achieve far out- Reviewing How You Behave
Much less than weigh the
your potential. benefits of
You suffer self- the possible
generated stress. outcome. Use the following quiz to help you identify how you behave in a variety of situations. (You have to
You lose When assume that you want to take the action described in each question. If a situation does not seem
self-esteem. physical “realistic” to you, answer the question for a similar situation of your choice.)
People don’t violence is
respect you. threatened.

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Yes No Interpretation:

1 MAKING REQUESTS The more times you have ticked a “No”, the less likely you are to be assertive. There are always
A In public would you ask for your money back on a faulty purchase? exceptions to this. Can you see any patterns about your behavior? E.g. Do you behave in one way
with friends and in another at work? Is this beneficial? Do you want to change it?
B Among friends would you ask one to lend you something you need?
C At home would you ask a family member/relative to turn the TV down?
D At work would you ask a colleague to help you prepare a report?
Recognizing Your Rights

A In public would you refuse to stand for office of a local committee? Read through the following list of rights. Put a tick next to those you agree with, a cross beside those
you disagree with and a question mark beside those you are unsure of.
Among friends would you refuse to lend something because you don’t want it
damaged? You have the right to:
At home would you refuse to do a chore you have been requested to do by a
C Be treated as an equal, intelligent human being
relative because you have done more than your share?
Make your own decisions
At work do you say ‘No’ to your boss when s/he asks you to do an unimportant task
when you have important priorities to undertake?
Express your feelings
Express your opinions and values, which may differ from other
A In public would you accept a compliment or brush it aside?
Have your opinions and values listened to and respected
Among friends would you feel comfortable when someone admired your new
outfit? Request the things you need and want
At home would you feel OK when your partner tells you that you have been much
C Refuse other people’s requests without feeling guilty
better company lately?

At work would you graciously acknowledge praise received about a project you Make mistakes
have undertaken?
Change your mind
Say you don’t understand
In public would you speak up and say you are offended by racist/sexist remarks
A Decline responsibility for other people’s problems
made by the speaker?

Would you tell a friend that you are unhappy because s/he turned up late for a Deal with others without being dependent on them for approval
lunch date?
Choose not to behave assertively if you don’t want to
At home would you tell the plumber you are dissatisfied with the repair he has
C Additional rights you wish to add:

D At work would you tell a colleague or subordinate that his/her work is unsatisfactory?

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Remember: What a state you look like!
You may be right, I don’t look my best this
For all these rights you have the responsibility to respect the same rights for other people morning – but you should have seen me last
Assertive Techniques
You are the most selfish person I’ve ever met.
Technique # 1: Broken Record It’s true that I can be selfish-sometimes. I
have to consider my own needs.
1. Simply repeat what you want to say in a calm way until it gets through
2. Keep repeating your message until it is no longer ignored You are the limit – why do you have to make
3. Use some of the phrases over and over again in different sentences
such a mess!
Example of Broken Record I can see that my untidiness annoys you, but
it is my office.
SARAH Come on drink up, I’ll get another round in, same again?
FIONA No thanks Sarah. I don’t really want another drink.
SARAH What’s the matter? It’s my round. Technique # 3: Saying No
FIONA I’ve had enough thanks. I don’t want another drink.
• Sometimes refusing a request can be difficult
SARAH Don’t be such a wimp. I’ll get one for you.
• It is better to say clearly and directly that you do not want to do something
FIONA Don’t get me one, I’m driving and anyway I don’t want another drink.
• When you say NO, you are refusing the request, not rejecting the person
SARAH Suit yourself, I’ll get one anyway.
• If you are not ready to decide, ask for more information or more time to think
FIONA Fine, but please don’t get me one.
• Don’t be manipulated into feeling guilty for refusing a request
SARAH I never thought I’d live to see the day, Fiona you’ve really gone downhill.
FIONA I suppose that’s a way of looking at it, but I don’t want another drink.

Technique # 4: Receiving Compliments and Giving Criticism

1. Learn to accept compliments

2. If someone gives you a compliment, enjoy it – don’t try and dismiss it
Technique # 2: Fogging 3. It is a gift which you should not throw back at the giver
• People can get hooked on being critical
1. Some people are very aggressive
towards others • It’s easy to lose sight of the fact that criticism should be constructive
2. Fogging stops the other person • Criticism should place emphasis on future changes
from continuing to criticise you
3. It is not avoiding the attack but
agreeing with your own part Technique # 5: Workable Compromise
4. Then standing firm in your own
• Your way is not the only way. Try to be flexible in achieving a solution
5. The other person is caught off
guard because you didn’t return the • Have a clear idea of how far you can compromise
insult • Listen actively for facts and feelings
• Use empathy

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Asserting Yourself Role Play Instructions Influencing Skills

1. Referring back to the exercise “Reviewing How You Behave” identify a situation you would like to
be more Assertive in.
2. Decide what you hope to achieve. (e.g. A tangible outcome such as making a sales call or asking
for an increase).
3. Decide if it is appropriate and viable.
4. Plan what you intend to say, considering the following headings:

• What I want to achieve

• Why I want this
• Whether it is within my rights and doesn’t violate another’s rights
• How I feel about the situation
• What information I need to ask questions on

5. Conduct the role play with your partner, actually verbalising the conversation.
6. Review the interaction using the feedback process, especially what was said and done, both
There is no right or wrong way to influence others. Everything is an influencing factor. We are
effectively and needing improvement.
influenced by people, places, and experiences all the time. At work, you need to influence people to
7. Reverse roles and conduct your partner’s role play.
gain support for an idea, to inspire action, to obtain support or assistance. By being a good influencer
you make your job easier. Added to this, people like being around good influencers as they create a
sense of activity and progress. This is because they don’t sit around moaning or wishing things were
To derive the most value from the exercise, please try to make it as realistic as possible! different. They don’t blame or whine. They set about deciding what needs to be done and getting
on with it.

To influence successfully you need interpersonal, communication, presentation and assertiveness

ability. You need to be able to adapt your personal style (be flexible) when you realise the effect
you have on others (self-awareness) and still be true to yourself. Behaviour and attitude change are
what is needed, not changing who you are or what you think/feel. Manipulation and coercion can
achieve your objective in the short term but they are not proactive influencing skills in the long term.
They force people to do what you want without conviction or commitment. Bullying, begging and
bludgeoning do not work.

A better approach is to meet half way. To appreciate where the other party is coming from helps you
do this. By listening and questioning, you can establish their perception and appreciate that. You
can then present your own and look for common ground. Influencing is about being able to move
forward, without forcing or telling others what to do.

Influence is about you making things happen. Not always exactly what you wanted.

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Improving your influencing skills requires these characteristics:
Communication Styles To Influence
1. Developing flexibility of style appropriate to the situation and people
2. Being able to put yourself into other people’s shoes and see things from their perspective
3. Having different ways of thinking through difficult situations when the “tried and tested” is Although every person is different, most can be grouped into one of four groups: Analytical, Driver,
not getting the results you need Amiable, and Expressive. Here are some basic characteristics of each of these personality styles.
4. Establishing ways of maintaining a position which is based on you and others getting a win/ Knowing these can help you influence people.
win i.e. everyone achieves some of what they want or need.
5. Being able to adjust and “think on your feet” to suit changing circumstances Analytical - Analytical people are known to be systematic, well organized and deliberate. These
individuals appreciate facts and information presented in a logical manner as evidence of facts.
They enjoy organization and completion of detailed tasks. Others may see him/her at times as
being too cautious, overly structured, someone who does things too much ‘by the book’. Analytical
behavioural characteristics include:

Controlled Orderly

Precise Disciplined

Deliberate Cautious

Diplomatic Systematic
Logical conventional

Driver - Drivers thrive on the thrill of the challenge and the internal motivation to succeed. Drivers
are practical people who focus on getting results. They can do a lot in a very short time. They
usually talk fast, direct and to the point. They are often viewed as decisive, direct and pragmatic,
with the following behavioural characteristics:

Action-orientated Decisive
Problem solver Direct

Assertive Demanding

Risk taker Forceful

Competitive Independent

Determined Results-orientated

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Amiable - These are dependable, loyal and easygoing people. They like things that are non- Analytical:
threatening and friendly. They hate dealing with impersonal details and cold hard facts. They are
usually quick to reach a decision. They may be described as warm, personable and sensitive to the
feelings of others. Some may see them as a bit wishy-washy. Their behaviours include: Positive Traits: Precise, Methodical, Organized, Rational, Detail Oriented
Negative Traits: Critical, Formal, Uncertain, Judgmental, Picky

Patient Loyal
Sympathetic Team person

Relaxed Mature Positive Traits: Cooperative, Dependable, Warm, Listener, Negotiator

Negative Traits: Undisciplined, Dependent, Submissive, Overly Cautious, Conforming
Supportive Stable

Considerate Empathetic Expressive:

Persevering Trusting
Positive Traits: Enthusiastic, Persuasive, Outgoing, Positive, Communicator
Negative Traits: Ego Centred, Emotional, Exploitive, Opinionated, Reacting
Expressive – These are very outgoing and enthusiastic people, with a high energy level. They
are also great idea generators, but usually do not have the ability to see the idea through to
completion. They enjoy helping others and are particularly fond of socializing. They are usually slow Driver:
to reach a decision. Sometimes described as talkers, overly dramatic, impulsive and manipulative,
their behaviours tend to be:
Positive Traits: Persistent, Independent, Decision Maker, Effective, Strong Willed
Negative Traits: Aggressive, Strict, Intense, Relentless, Rigid
Verbal Motivating

Enthusiastic Convincing Gaining an in-depth understanding of your personality style has enormous value in your career as
well as your personal life.
Impulsive Influential

Animated Confident Once you have learned about your own style and have studied the other styles, you can have a
little fun in trying to determine the styles of others. When you meet someone for the first time, try
Dramatic Optimistic to identify his or her style within the first two minutes. You can often identify styles by observing a
person’s demeanour, conversation, body language, appearance, and possessions.

Social psychologists generally recognize four basic personality styles, even though they are often
For further useful ideas on this see the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI).
given other labels. We naturally use one style more but with practice can draw on the others to
achieve more successful communication outcomes. We can use other styles to influence people,
within reason. Here are the characteristics that are most commonly associated with each of the

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Using a “YOU” Attitude Exercise: Rewrite the following sentences to reflect the YOU attitude:

We’ve just moved our offices to a new building as it gives us

more office space and is closer to our employees’ homes.



Smoking is not permitted on the premises.



Exercise In order to cut down on our staff compliment we have introduced

internet banking.

The YOU attitude _________________________________________________


The YOU attitude reflects an understanding of the other person: what his/her point of view is; how it
will affect him/her. These exit doors may not be used except in an emergency.


We no longer offer paper other than by the box because _________________________________________________

selling it in smaller quantities was not cost-effective for us.

By selling paper only by the box, we can offer you low


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Persuading People People move between these three ego-states, or states of mind, whether or not they are in fact
parents, children or adults. The situation and relationship affect the behaviour of the person.

The BIL versus BIF Approach

Big Idea Last (BIL)

Using questions to convince someone who is not on your side.

E.g. You need to install traffic lights.

1. Have you ever been caught in traffic at this

intersection? (Yes)
2. What sort of inconvenience does that cause? The parent ego-state is controlling – instructive. It stems from the instructions the person received as
(Delays, late…) a child. When in the parent ego-state as an adult, they unconsciously adopt the tone and/or content
3. Would a STOP street or yield sign ease the of the instructions they received from adult authority figures as a youngster. In this state, they try to
problem? ( Possible but … Well, not really … etc) guide and control others’ behaviour, not always with good intentions. The motive may sometimes be
4. A traffic light would regulate the flow and to their own advantage. The adult ego-state is the more analytical thinking and behaviour. It stems
ease the delays. (Bingo!) from personal experience. It is deemed rational and mature. The child ego-state is less rational,
stemming from infancy, where behaviour tends to be far more an immediate reaction to situations
The key to making it work is knowing what the person needs and planning the questions so they feel in a non-analytical, emotional, instinctive way. When in the child state, the person is likely to be
in control and yet the solution is what you had to impose. dependent, seeking direction to fulfil their needs. They may be playful and creative.

We move between the different ego-states unconsciously as a result of the other person’s behaviour.
Big Idea First (BIF) If someone is in the child ego-state, and is behaving childishly or irresponsibly thereby upsetting
our behaviour, we may adopt a parent ego-state and try to control them. We might ask them to
Useful when person is on your side and you are
keep quiet so we can work. This might achieve the short-term goal of quiet, but it will not build
building a relationship. Rather than telling you
mutually respectful long-term constructive relationships. TA training can help you recognise your
are involving.
own different ego-states, and know when you are in each. Recognising your own behaviour and
on occasion the reason for it can help build more assertive, adult behaviour with more productive
Would a traffic light here give you a chance to
outcomes. Of course the adult ego-state also has pitfalls. Like perception, awareness of the existence
get in? (Yes!)
of changing ego-states can help build relationships and develop an attitude of mutual respect.
Naturally there is a time to be playful and a time to be stern but these need to be used with due
Very much shorter with far less preparation. You
consideration. A useful book in this regard is Thomas A Harris’ I’m OK, You’re OK. (1969)
do still need to know the individual’s needs.

TA examines the effects of the exchanges people have when behaving differently in different ego-
Transactional Analysis (TA) states. It emphasises the importance of a person’s childhood on adult behaviour. It suggests that
dysfunctional behaviour may be because of a ‘life script’ learned in childhood. Reviewing and, on
Transactional Analysis (TA) considers human interactions and the roles people play when they occasion, changing, the ‘life script’ is the aim of TA therapy. Replacing ineffective ‘life-scripting’ with
interact and communicate. Developed by Eric Berne it is a way of examining relationships. (See his behaviours more co-operative is attempted. Supporting assertive behaviour is the outcome.
book Games People Play : 1964)

The underlying thinking of TA is that people have three basic ‘ego-states’: parent, adult and child.

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Managing Meetings Functions of a meeting
In order for meetings to be effective, a number of things need to happen BEFORE, DURING and AFTER
the meeting.

Every meeting needs someone to take charge – a Chairperson. This is not just a “slot to be filled” but
requires skill and effort. A well run meeting has many benefits, including:
Passing on Information
• The meeting achieves its objective
• The right people attend Through meetings a good deal of information can
• Time is effectively used be effectively passed on – information which might
• Discussion is constructive otherwise be unclear or uninteresting (and therefore
• Issues are well reviewed before decisions are made unheeded) in written “memo” form. The format of
• Accurate records are kept the meeting encourages two-way communication.
The more involved the attendees feel in the process,
In order to achieve these benefits a number of key actions need to be taken. the more likely they are to take ownership of the
information and ideas presented to them.
• The meeting needs to be well planned
• Communication regarding the meeting needs to be sent out well in advance
• The Chairperson needs to lead the meeting Internal changes
• Everyone present needs to participate professionally
• Effective notes of the proceedings need to be taken A great deal of resistance to change stems from staff
• Accurate minutes need to be circulated within 48 hours feeling that they are not being consulted over issues,
or long-term plans, that directly concern them. Any
Meetings are held for different reasons and their success depends on whether their objective is organisation that intends to follow a new direction or
achieved. adopt new policies will need to bring staff together as
soon and often as possible.
Types of meetings

External changes
1. Project updates
2. Briefing sessions For an increasing number of organisations, change in
3. Issuing instructions their external business environment is now so rapid
4. Mentoring that the need to share information internally is vital.
This could be information about their competitors, the
5. Making or implementing decisions
general economic climate, etc.
6. Generating ideas
7. Presenting a proposal for discussion/ resolution Regular meetings can also draw together significant
pieces of information from different departments,
allowing all those affected by changes or decisions
to be presented with the ‘total picture’. Again, this
will foster a willing commitment and increased co-
operation arising from any decisions made at the

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Exchange of ideas and experience relevance and of interest to all the people attending the meeting. People will feel that their time is
being wasted if they are not able to contribute to certain items.
While memos and e-mail are only able to circulate
information, meetings can both encourage comment
on that information and aid further development of What is the purpose of the meeting?
the ideas put forward. By bringing together a number
of different perspectives, meetings can produce new
ideas or new ways of solving problems that may not A meeting should have a goal or a desired outcome. What is it trying to achieve? Everyone should
have been considered before. be aware of the purpose, not just the chairperson. The best way to communicate the purpose is
to circulate an agenda. If everyone is clear as to the purpose, they can begin to think about their
The same is true when there have been recent changes contribution and anything they may wish to bring up in connection with it prior to the meeting. The
or upheavals that have not been fully explained to the purpose of the meeting should also be summarised at the start of the meeting by the chairperson. It
staff. To gain a favourable outcome, the meeting should may also be helpful to write the purpose on a flip chart or whiteboard in the meeting room, to keep
help to develop mutual respect and understanding everyone focused.
amongst the participants by involving them in a co-
operative way.

Managing meetings - the human dimension

Managing meetings - Planning and preparation

Is the meeting necessary?

The first thing to decide is whether or not you actually

need a meeting. It sounds very obvious but too
often we decide to hold a meeting when it would
be much more appropriate to send a memo, make a
few phone calls or talk to someone on a one-to-one
basis informally. It is also true that people hold weekly
or monthly meetings even when there is nothing to
discuss and it would be much more in everybody’s
interests to cancel the meeting.

Who should you invite?

Having the correct people at the meeting is also key to its success. People should be invited according
to their ability to contribute to the area being discussed. Ensure that all items on the agenda are of

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Any gathering of people means a gathering of different personality types, which can sometimes lead
to problems if the situation is not managed. Apart from the normal “task” functions, the following
Meeting Preparation
are important:

This exercise is best conducted with a set of minutes of a meeting available. Without them you need
• being friendly, warm and responsive to rely on memory and creativity.
• giving praise and valuing the contributions of others
Thinking back to a meeting you have attended, decide on what you would do in preparation for a
Gate-keeping meeting. Where applicable, discuss what you would actually say.

• ensuring every member makes a contribution 1. Before the meeting

• encouraging the quieter members
• holding back the louder members
2. On arrival at a meeting for the first time or when
introducing yourself. What do you need to say/do?

• actively listening to other members’ contributions

3. If someone at the meeting has not done what they
• accepting other people’s ideas
committed to do, how can you raise this issue without
compromising yourself, your company or the person
Expressing group feeling
whose performance has fallen short? What would you
• summarising the feelings or behaviours of the group without making judgements about it
4. If you are asked a question you don’t know the
Mediating answer, how will you respond without losing your
• harmonising between individuals or sub-groups by looking for the common thread between
opposing arguments 5. Identify 3 opportunities from a set of minutes and
decide how you could refer to them positively. What
Relieving tension would you say/do?

• using humour to put conflict into perspective

• reconciling and acknowledging the importance of people’s views


D. determining and stating the main sources of difficulty

Testing for consensus

DI. checking for group opinions to assess how close the group is to reaching consensus

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Challenging Behaviour in Meetings

Blocking - rejecting ideas without listening,

Consider the following behaviours and decide as a group how you would handle them. You are not
consistently contradicting suggestions
necessarily the chairman of the meeting. of certain members due to longstanding

Behaviour Possible solutions

Aggressiveness - blaming, criticism, hostility,


Negative humour -sniping, negative jokes

Competing / seeking recognition - people

trying to talk the most and the loudest,
people who ramble. Those trying to draw Withdrawing - day dreaming, whispering,
attention to themselves. doodling, not contributing, micro-meetings.

Sympathy seeking - telling long stories,

getting off the point, making big dramas out
of personal situations.

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Coaching Overview 3. Identify and link previous experience
4. Demonstrate the task step by step
5. Ask for questions and respond appropriately
3. Develop skills through practice
Coaching requires communicating with a positive belief 6. Provide practice and give balanced feedback
in the person being coached. So tone of voice and asking 7. Repeat as needed
questions and listening to answers is crucial. Coaching 4. Agree on actions
can be formal or informal and is usually undertaken by 8. Explore additional coaching needs
line management. Informally it is an everyday occurrence. 9. Offer support
Formal coaching is used when proper preparation is 10. Decide who will do what by when
undertaken and often involves hands on tasks. It can be 5. Close with review and follow up
corrective or developmental. It is defined as “providing 11. Summarise
timely guidance and feedback to help others to 12. Close on a positive note
strengthen specific knowledge/skill areas”.

The skills a manager needs to prepare an effective Your Own Coaching Abilities
coaching session are content knowledge, communication,
demonstration and feedback. It is tempting to think about coaching as one of those natural attributes that some people have and
others lack. However, in practice, it is a skill you can develop and, as a manager, you need to! This
exercise helps you consider your own coaching abilities.
The management role is to:
Review the list of coaching abilities below and decide whether you currently do this or whether you
1. Decide the performance outcome need to develop in this area.
2. Consider the learner’s need
• Provide a brief statement detailing what you want the learner to know and be able to do by
the end of the session I do this I need to
• Establish current skills, knowledge and experience level, motivation to learn the content and Do you:
already develop this
the learner’s preferences and abilities

Learners must want to learn. You need to “sell the value” of what you are demonstrating. When adults Challenge people to do their best?
don’t see the benefits of learning something, they don’t put much effort into the learning. From the
outset, learners need to see the big picture as well as each step. So in order to coach effectively, you
need to put the tasks into logical sequence considering the following: Set a good example?

• Basic concepts first

• Sequence as the job is done Explain the reasons for instructions?
• Move from familiar to unfamiliar
• Move from simple to complex
• Move from theory to hands on Encourage people to make their own decisions?

Consider riding a bicycle for example. Agree realistic targets with my staff?
The informal coaching steps are as follows:
Remain patient?
1. What and why
1. Describe the task
2. Discuss the benefits of learning the skills Listen actively to people?
2. Clarify the details

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Let people get on with things?
The Nature of Mentoring

Help people work through and solve problems?

Stating a new job or embarking on a career can
be a stressful experience. It also involves making
Give sincere praise whenever it’s due? choices, which can be made easier with external
help. Further progression beyond the present
See mistakes as learning opportunities? point, depends on getting information and advice.
Such professional, independent, objective advice
can best be derived from someone who has had
Make sure people keep going? similar experiences. A “buddy” is a perfect source
of such encouragement!
Build on what people already know?
Mentoring can be defined in many ways, especially
Remain open to other ways of solving problems? depending on the type of mentoring it is.
Mentoring is not limited to new appointees into
the job and can be beneficial at any point in one’s
Ensure people are given appropriate authority? career. It can also be formal with a mentor assigned
for a set time to achieve an agreed objective, or it
If your ticks are mostly in the left hand column you already have many of the competencies you need can be an informal relationship where the mentee
to be a good coach. We can of course always work on getting better at it. identifies a person who s/he respects and who is
seen to supportive and experienced. Some types
Like most management skills, coaching takes practice and effort, which obviously takes time. of mentoring include:
Nonetheless it will be time well spent. The time you spend coaching will be repaid as your team
becomes more competent and you can delegate more to them, with confidence.
• The education mentor – in academic environments where the mentor works with scholars/
students of all abilities to help them overcome difficulties that obstruct learning.
Which abilities do you want to develop • The Induction mentor – who introduces new employees to the office environment,
introduces them, accompanies them on break etc. until the mentee gains confidence.
and how will you do this? • The Training mentor – who assists recent appointees to acquire new skills, in the practical,
hands-on sense. This usually requires coaching skills although the coach has no line
authority or responsibility.
• The Professional Qualification mentor – who supports an individual in achieving Chartered
status. They support the mentee in preparation for accreditation visits, guide them in the
completion of assignments to gain experience and meet regularly to access competency.
The compilation of the final report for membership remains the mentees responsibility
but the mentor monitors and makes suggestion throughout the process.
• Mainstream mentors – act as guides, advisors and counsellors at various stages of
development. Mainstream mentors are sometimes assigned for specific projects, often
developmental opportunities where assessment is made of the mentees potential to fulfil
a certain role.
• Executive mentors – provide support to directors and executives on strategic matters.
They are usually appointed from outside the company and have no relationship with the
mentee apart from supporting them through a challenging process of change.
• The Expert mentor – offer advice and help in very specialised areas. In mergers and take-
overs, expert mentors often offer support in the change management process. This being

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significant because of resistance to change and the inevitable difficulties of implementing Mentoring Competencies
it. These mentors are also often external to the company.
• The General mentor – one who helps another cope with change or a new experience.

Some Basic Rules of Mentoring Experienced mentors agree that the art of mentoring requires them to demonstrate not one, but
a whole range of competencies to the right degree and in the right balance. These competencies
Being an effective mentor requires effort from you, the mentor. You need to: usually include:

• take the responsibility seriously

• prepare to be a good mentor • Self-awareness: in order to recognise and manage their own feelings and behaviour within
• make time available the relationship and to be appropriately empathetic.
• remain independent
• agree with your mentee what you can and cannot do • Understanding others: to have an insight into how people behave and interact with each
• stick to this agreement and keep your promises other and be able to predict the consequences of behaviour or actions.

These are relatively easy to do provided they are dealt with at the very outset. As soon as a mentee has • Communication: key to the whole process.
been assigned to you, informally go over and introduce yourself, welcoming them to the company.
Although they are responsible for scheduling the first meeting, be supportive of the process. • Building and maintaining rapport: able to develop trust, show genuine interest in helping
others and demonstrate empathy.
The first meeting is critical for setting the tone. The objective of the mentoring needs to be stated
and emphasis placed on “helping” but not “doing” anything for the mentee. A good mentoring • Good humour: in order to maintain a sense of proportion, put things into perspective and
relationship is flexible and informal. This is how the first meeting needs to be conducted. keep the relationship happy.

At the first meeting you need to agree: • Commitment to self-learning: able to demonstrate an appetite for continuous personal
learning as a role model for mentees.
• Details of when and where you will meet
• When and if you will be available outside of these meetings (open door or do you have a • Commitment to developing others: prepared to “go the extra mile”, building confidence in
boss who may see discussion at your desk as an interruption) mentees, focusing on inspiration and enthusiasm.
• How else communication can take place e.g. e-mail
• How your role is to support the formal mentor not replace it • Goal orientation: able to analyse issues , clarify and stay focused on achievable goals.
• Ground rules.
• Business acumen: gained from experience, an in-depth, current understanding of the
What ground rules do you think may need to be put in place? business and its environment.

e.g. What record will be kept of the

• Conceptual thinking: being able to draw a range of models to help mentees understand
challenges, issues and situations.

meeting, agreed action plan Within these competencies, some typical mentor behaviours may be:

• Staying neutral and avoiding blame

• Being willing to debate, discuss and argue
• Being prepared to give honest answers to questions
• Asking challenging questions
• Offering and providing guidance but leaving decision to mentee
• Demonstrating genuine interest, concern and support for the mentee
• Facilitating and enabling the mentee to develop

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• Being approachable
• Demonstrating expertise in the job – knowing his/her stuff
• Being tough on the achievement of goals and targets

Being a Mentor

Having considered the nature of mentoring, the competencies a mentor requires, some rules of
mentoring and how to build a mentoring relationship, it is now appropriate to review being a mentor.
Given the amount of time it takes and the effort you and your mentee need to put in to make it work,
the question must be asked: is it worth it?

What are the benefits of being a mentor?

• Increased motivation and self esteem

Section 3
• Opportunity to improve your skills
• Opportunity to learn new approaches to challenges and some solutions
• Increased peer recognition and an increased network of contacts

Increased job satisfaction
The satisfaction of seeing your ideas put into practice with good results
Professional Presentation Skills
• Something to put on your CV
• The opportunity to contribute to company success
• An opportunity to further your own CPD

The mentee also derives enormous benefit including:

• A way to adapt quickly to a new environment

• An opportunity to contribute to company objectives sooner
• A willing, impartial and trusted source of advice
• A role model
• A confidence booster
• A friend

There may however be problems. These could include any of the following from either party:

• Chemistry
• Breaches of confidence
• No time
• No buy-in
• Unrealistic expectations
• Wrong learning style
• An unreliable and disorganised association
• No effort to understand mentee needs
• Not listening
• No professional distance- over familiarity
• Patronising style of mentor
• Either party not keeping commitments

The Future Way of Corporate Communication
Professional Presentation Skills Section 3 The Future Way of Corporate Communication
Professional Presentation Skills Section 3
Section 3 – Professional Presentation Skills • Knowing your subject is not enough. The message needs to be conveyed with charisma,
confidence and conviction

• Projecting a positive, confident image of your company is essential in today’s competitive

business world

• Controlling your voice to render your message convincing and compelling is essential for
maintaining audience interest

• Communicating confidence through positive body language will increase your credibility

• Structuring your presentation effectively is the key to persuading and influencing your

A presentation is communication with a purpose. You are verbally giving the audience information
in order to achieve an objective. A presentation should not just be a habit. E.g. All presentations
covering the same areas such as: Company background, project team, design and costs. There needs
to be a purpose and a desired outcome in every presentation. It must have a goal.

In deciding what the goal of your presentation is, it is useful to ask the following questions:

Why am I making this presentation?

What am I trying to achieve? (What is my objective?)
What do I want my audience to have in their heads when I finish?
How do I want them to feel?
What do I want them to do?

Once you know the goalpost, it is a lot easier to achieve it. A good tip in this regard is to try and write
your aim in one simple sentence. Try to keep it realistic and achievable. Take a few minutes now to
write the aim of your presentation on the next few lines:

Professional Presentation Skills ...


Presenting your message with impact is an essential business skill. Yet many lack confidence in front
of an audience. Business professionals without effective presentation skills may face problems in
Once you have this clearly in your head it is easy to start considering how you are going to get there.
selling their message.
What information, in what order, needs to be given to make sure this happens.
Presenting, in order to introduce a change, solve a problem or uphold a standard, whether to clients,
Simple as it may sound, a good presentation consists of
shareholders or colleagues, requires advanced communication skills.
An introduction
The logical build up of information (the body)
DEVELOPMENT The conclusion

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The introduction takes place when you are still feeling nervous and just starting out. It needs to
be well planned as it is the time you establish your credibility. There are several ways you can start
a presentation. These are often referred to as “The Rules of Engagement”. Your opening, or buy-in,
should not be gimmicky. It needs to be relevant to the audience’s needs in the context of your topic.
Various options exist:
Key Actions for Structuring your Content
Statistics Quotes
Definitions Show of hands
Visual dramatisation Cartoons • Formulate your objective
Current events Personal stories • Capture interest
Shocking facts Humour • State your central point
Internet clips Pictures • Offer supporting points
• Summarize and recommend action

You can use a combination of these provided they are relevant. A caution however, that religion and
sex are never referred to in professional presentations. 1. Formulate your objective
Before speaking, take time to think about what you want
Consider your aim above and think of 3 different buy-ins that will open your presentation on a to accomplish. Formulate a clear statement of what you
positive note and engage your audience: want your listeners to understand, think, or do as a result of
your message. This objective statement will help to focus
• . your thoughts as you plan and deliver your message. This
is your AIM.
• .
2. Capture interest
• . Your opening remarks should let your listeners know why
your message is important to them. Pointing to a benefit
for listeners captures attention and reinforces the value of
The structure of your presentation will be dictated by your your message. This is your buy-in.
topic. A good way of approaching the material is to brainstorm
it, recording everything and then decide what adds value and 3. State your central point
in what order. Another approach is mind mapping or what is Listeners soon lose interest if you take too long getting to
sometimes called “storyboarding”. This entails writing all your the core of your message. Letting them know your main
key headings on Post-it sheets and then putting them into idea at the beginning enables them to focus as you build
sequential order to achieve your objective. Your conclusion your case or communicate information.
needs to re-emphasise your objective. It is time to come back
to what you want them to do. A presentation conclusion is not 4. Offer supporting points
simply a summary. It may include summary elements or slides Supporting points are the core of your talk. They provide
but it is intended to produce results. the information you want to get across and/or substantiate
your conclusion. They must be clear and well structured so
It may of course be the time that you take questions. that your listeners can easily follow your logic.

5. Summarize and recommend action

Ending with a quick summary that relates back to your
central point enables your listeners to see how your
ideas are connected and to understand their impact.
Recommending action gives your listeners a focus for the

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Outlining your presentation Make sure text is large and clear enough
to see at a glance.
As you prepare your notes, remember that you will be
When you deliver a scripted or memorized presentation, it’s more difficult to come across as a referring to them with quick glances, so they need to
dynamic, natural presenter. It’s also more difficult to tailor parts of your presentation should the need be easy to see and understand. Leave space between
arise. Losing your place can spell disaster – especially with a memorised speech. lines and sections so you can find your place easily
without searching. If you try to cram too much into
A prepared outline is the best approach – it gives you structure while providing the flexibility you your notes, they will lose their usefulness.
need to be able to respond to your listeners and to think on your feet.

Prepare your notes in a format that Keep your notes brief

makes you feel comfortable
Remember that no one but you needs to understand
Some people prefer to outline their talks on index your notes. Don’t write out everything you plan to
cards, while others prefer to use blank paper or a say. Select key words that trigger your memory and
lined pad. Some prefer handwritten notes, while that remind you where you’re going and what you
others prefer to read from a typed copy. Printing off plan to say.
three PowerPoint slides per page and writing key
points beside each is a popular way of staying on
track and knowing where going next. PowerPoint
also offers notes spaces. No one option is any better Number the pages of your notes
than another. What’s important is for you to feel
comfortable handling and referring to your notes so If you’re using loose sheets of paper or index cards,
your delivery will be as natural as possible. be sure to number them in the sequence you will use
them. This way, if you drop them before or during
If you’re not sure which format is most comfortable your presentation, you can put them back in order
for you, experiment. Write your notes in different quickly.
formats and practice using each in front of a mirror.

Using Demonstration, Example and

Develop your own symbols or Analogy
All these techniques bring the real world into your
Developing your own way of structuring your presentation context. They make abstract theory
notes will help you to refer to them more readily. more tangible, make points practical and add variety
Try using different indents, colours, underlines and and colour to your presentation. Furthermore
symbols that will help you to ‘decode’ your notes as they can involve the group (participation) and can
you speak. You can use these elements to highlight be applied at any point of the presentation. They
the structure of your talk (central point, supporting are not limited to the opening buy-in or closing
points, transitions, conclusion), to remind yourself to summary. Explaining a complicated topic can be
make a change in your delivery style (more serious, easily understood if you link it to something tangible
slower), or to prompt you to do something (refer to that your audience is already familiar with. E.g. The
an overhead, ask a question). structure of a presentation and its logical flow is
Experiment with anything you feel will make your like building a house – foundations(Buy-in), walls
(content), roof (summary).
notes easier for you to use.

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Audience Management
Demonstration is a concept often overlooked in
presentations. If you think about it, air hostesses
demonstrate every time they do the safety presentation.
Depending on the subject matter, you can bring in
samples or show examples of the point being made.
If your product or concept it too large or unwieldy,
you can also use photographs on your slides. Virtual
demonstrations off the internet are also effective.

Examples can be experiences you or others have had. To be effective they must be:

• Meaningful
• Familiar or extreme
• Relevant to your particular audience
• Accurate
• Not overly simplistic

Examples are less effective when told in the third person. Rather describe how you faced a particular
challenge. It sounds more significant than if you described your colleague who faced that same

An analogy is “an agreement or correspondence in certain respects of things otherwise different”

(Chambers 20th Century Dictionary). More simply put, it is a resemblance of relations. It is a word
picture of the known applied to the unknown. An example of an analogy would be the concept of
scaffolding creating temporary platforms.
Many people are amazed to realise that audiences are usually on your side. They have generally come
Taking the key points of your presentation, identify one analogy that would apply throughout or a to hear you because they are interested in your topic or need to know it for one reason or another.
series of analogies that will make your content more familiar. Furthermore, because you are presenting it, they automatically consider you an expert. Don’t let
them down! A good presenter gives the audience what they can’t easily obtain for themselves. S/he
delivers it in a short, meaningful and easy to relate to, manner.

There are however exceptions to this. When presenting, you may encounter any of the following:

Audience members who hog the floor

Non-responsive audiences
Aggressive audiences

Faced with any of these situations, how would you handle them?

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Handling Questions the question, rephrase it and ask the group what they think. This is a tip to buy some time and indeed,
depending on your topic, someone may know the answer. Never do this with the first question or
you will undermine your own position.
Questions during a presentation are inevitable and in fact
A few general rules apply when answering questions:
should be seen as a positive response to your presentation.
The audience is listening, what you have said has engaged
• Don’t be hostile towards the questioner
them and they are participating. Surprisingly, many people
• Listen carefully. If you haven’t understood the question, say so
see questions as threatening and dislike being “put on the
• Don’t rush to give a reply. Take time to think though you answer. (A few deep breathes or a
spot”. Unless you have thought about their likelihood, they
sip of water here is invaluable.)
can throw you off your stride and cause you to lose your
• Keep control of time. Questions can cause a time limited presentation to get out of hand
train of thought. If questions come early in the presentation,
before you have got into your stride, they can be extremely
disconcerting. To avoid this happening, it is a good idea
at the outset to tell your audience how you will deal with
Worksheet: Gathering information about your audience
questions. Advise if you will take them at the end or if you
plan to use a flipchart to record them etc.
This worksheet will help you to identify the interests and needs of your audience – the first step in
Once this is dealt with you can move into the flow of your structuring your message towards a results-oriented outcome.
presentation. If you are using questions to encourage
participation, you can use them for your buy-in asking the Write the topic of your talk here:
group to share experiences or frustrations around your
topic. ………………………………………………………………………………………

Research tells us that the best way to handle questions is to develop a 4 step process:
1. Ask for questions
2. Check your understanding of the question (where appropriate) ……………………………………………………………………………………….
3. Answer succinctly or state your position
4. Confirm that the question has addressed the participant’s need
1. Who is your audience?

If the question relates to content that you are still to cover, it is perfectly acceptable to thank the ………………………………………………………………………………………
participant sincerely for the question and put it on an issues board or ask the person to re-raise it at
the end. What you don’t want to do is find yourself hoping around your subject after all the careful
thought that has been put into structure and logical flow.
2. What are their backgrounds? Their responsibilities? Their interests?
The step most often forgotten is the last one. If this happens and the question has not been
adequately answered, you lose that participant. The question remains an issue in their head and ………………………………………………………………………………………
they stop listening to whatever it is you are talking about. ………………………………………………………………………………………
What if you don’t know the answer to the questions? Following the steps buys you a little time to 3. What does your audience already know about your topic?
think it through, especially step 2, checking for understanding. But what if after that you still know
you don’t know the answer? Be absolutely honest. Keep it short saying something like, “That is an ……………………………………………………………………………………..
important point I’ve not thought about. May I look into it and get back to you?” Obviously you must ……………………………………………………………………………………...
then get back to them or your reputation will be shattered.
4. What common purpose unites your audience? What are their common goals?
Another way of dealing with the situation is to open it up to the group. Again endorse the value of

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………………………………………………………………………………….. … Anticipating Objections

5. How will your audience benefit from hearing what you have to say?
If you have spoken about the subject on previous occasions, it may well be possible for you to
…………………………………………………………………………………….. anticipate objections or disagreements. If you have such information, the objection can be “pre-
handled” by saying something like, “One of the objections to this proposal which has been raised in
the past is that…”

6. How are your audience likely to react to your message? Another useful thing to do is find out as much information about the audience. E.g. If the Financial
Director is known for his bluntness, don’t take it personally.

……………………………………………………………………………………. Handling objections you have not anticipated is more difficult. The following Do’s and Don’ts will
help in this situation:
7. How would you like your audience to react to your message?

…………………………………………………………………………………….. • Listen carefully
• Check your understanding
• Take time to think
• Be honest
• Check back with the audience

• Jump in and kill the objection
• Try to bluff your way out of it

Good luck and remember to breathe!

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Managing Nerves Controlling Nervousness

What are your fears about presenting?

1. ______________________________________________________________ Nervousness is natural

2. ______________________________________________________________
Most people see nervousness as the biggest obstacle
to speaking effectively. Many also see it as a weakness.
3. ______________________________________________________________ It certainly is not. It is good to be nervous as it releases
adrenalin which makes us more effective. Nervousness
is a natural, physiological response whenever we are
under stress. When faced with a challenging situation,
What are your potential strengths as a presenter? nervousness provides the extra energy you need to meet
the challenge.
1. ______________________________________________________________
Nerves are an essential part of presenting well. Nervous
2. ______________________________________________________________ energy is energy, which is one of the most important
resources a speaker can have. A presenter who is lethargic,
3. ______________________________________________________________ lacks energy and enthusiasm, doesn’t seem to care about
the subject, is boring to listen to and appears to be
‘going through the motions’, will fail. A presenter, who is
controlling the nerves well, is interesting, exciting and
“Whether you think you can or you can’t, you’re right!” easy to listen to.
The following techniques can help you to control nervousness before and during your talks:

Facing the fear

Write down 4 things that are great about YOU
Ask yourself what are you really afraid of? What is the worst thing that could happen?
1. __________________________________________________
• Making a fool of myself
2. __________________________________________________
• The equipment breaking down
• Not being able to answer questions
3. __________________________________________________
• Hostile audiences
• Being in the limelight – all the focus is on me
4. __________________________________________________
• Making a bad impression
• Panicking when I look at the audience
• Jokes falling flat
• Boring the audience
• If I make a bad presentation, my boss will think I can’t
do my job either

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The more you focus on the fact that you are in a stressful situation, the more nervous you will Instead use a pen to point to the relevant spot. If you are using the infrared remote control with an
become. It is important to break this cycle and change your focus. Instead of thinking about your LCD presentation, be careful not to keep your finger on the button, which changes slides. If your
own performance, focus on your listeners and what you want to tell them. Think of your audience as hand is shaking, you are likely to change slides by mistake, rushing past two or three slides at a time.
friendly, not hostile.
If your legs are still shaking, try to keep walking around slowly. Remember it is only when you stand
Prepare still that your knees will shake.

One of the best ways to feel in control of a situation is to Remember to say your first line loudly. You’ll find that, not only will it grab the attention of your
know that you’re thoroughly prepared for it. Take as much audience; it is also a physical impossibility for your voice to tremble, as there is just too much force
time as you can to prepare your message. Know what behind it. It will have the added advantage of making you feel in control and in command of your
you want to accomplish. Find out about your listeners. audience.
Anticipate questions. Know your facts. If you will use any
equipment (Computer, Internet etc.), test it before you Breathing
give your talk. Make sure it works and you know how to
use it. Have a back up plan! Before making a speech or presentation, try to take in a
few deep breaths. Breathe in through your nose, hold it
Practice in for several seconds and exhale slowly.

Practice speaking in front of a mirror or with an audience The correct form of breathing for public speaking is
of friends. If possible, have someone videotape you while called ‘whole chest’ or ‘central’ breathing, where the
you are speaking. Then watch the videotape. You might output of breath is controlled using the diaphragm
be surprised at how confident you appear. and the muscles in the lower ribs. Practise by putting
your hands on your lower ribs, breathe in through
Don’t shy away from opportunities to speak – think of your mouth for the count of three and breathe out for
them as chances to perfect your speaking skills. The the same count. Gradually increase your count on the
more often you speak in front of groups, the better you’ll output of breath. The output should be controlled - you
become at controlling your nervousness. should not force yourself to a point where you need to
gasp for breath.

Although nerves are an essential part to presenting well,
they must be controlled. If your body feels tense, your A good presenter always has a jug or bottle of water
voice will come across as tense. If your body is shaking, handy. It is useful in lubricating the throat and has a
your voice will also sound shaky. Relaxation exercises positive effect on resonance and timbre. It also gives
before a speech will help to control the nerves. Try shaking you time to think. I sip of water while you weigh up an
out your arms and legs beforehand and move your head answer you give, can help you clarify your thinking and
gently from side to side, up and down and then roll it appears absolutely natural.
slowly in a circle. This will help to relax your vocal chords.

If your hands are still shaking, avoid holding pieces

of paper, laser pointers or cards in your hands as these
make your hands appear larger and the shake more
exaggerated. Leave paper on the table.

If we need to point at particular figures on a slide, avoid

using your finger to point if you feel your hand is shaking.

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Other Tips to Overcome Fear What characterises an effective voice?
Adequate loudness: if your voice cannot be easily heard you will lose the attention of your listeners
and have failed to communicate effectively.
• Use your own style
Ease and flexibility: To prevent monotony, the voice should be responsive, flexible, expressive and
• Speak from your own beliefs, convictions and experience relaxed.
• “Throw” your voice A warm, vibrant quality: The absence of this quality leads to a voice that is flat, cold and harsh. The
• Speak clearly at an acceptable pace voice should be “alive”.
Clarity: a good voice is easily understood. Sounds and syllables are not omitted or swallowed.
• Use pause and emphasis
• Establish your credibility early There are 5 important aspects to effective voice production:
• Pace yourself and use time effectively. Don’t rush, especially at the beginning
• Give special attention to the first 3 minutes
• Familiarise yourself with the environment and equipment 1. Relaxation: Emotional tension leads to physical tension. In the context of communication, this
• Know your audience and topic – Keep researching if necessary makes your voice sound tense and shrill or very abrupt. To manage this we need to breathe.
2. Breathing: You need to make full use of the lung capacity, as opposed to using the shallow fast
• Prepare an outline and follow it breathing. Although nasal passages are biologically designed for inhalation, inhaling through
• Practice your presentation until you feel comfortable the mouth is recommended for speech as it allows for greater volumes of air to be drawn into
• Present your topic to a colleague who can constructively criticise the lungs.
• Warm up 3. Muscularity: Just as muscles in other parts of the body need to be exercised for maximum
efficiency, so too do the muscles in the mouth need to be strengthened in order for effective,
• Clearly state your question policy at the outset clear communication to be achieved.
• Prepare for tough questions and practice responses 4. Resonance: It is resonance which determines the basic quality of the individual voice. Resonance
• Rest well before to remain alert is responsible for building up the weak, uninteresting sounds produced by the vocal chords into
• Manage your appearance the full, rich, vibrant tones that we associate with good speech.
5. Range: varying pitch will add life and interest to your speech. Your upper and lower registers
• Learn names of people in the audience and use them
should be developed.
• Make eye contact
• Focus on the audience and their needs
• Keep water available to drink when necessary Voice Exercises
• Limit your notes and clearly number them
• Visualise yourself succeeding Breathe in and release breath, steadily and easily, for a count of 10.
Tongue Twisters: Unique New York, New York unique

A proper cup of coffee in a proper copper coffee pot

Especially: Which wristwatches are Swiss wristwatches?
The sixth sheik’s sixth sheep’s sick
Identify your fears and prepare to handle them
Say the following sentences, exaggerating the M and N sounds
Act as if you are confident
M – A – N MAN
M – O – M MOM
Many men make much money

So we need to listen to ourselves as well as others, to communicate effectively. Active listening

usually means using more than just the ears. It needs listening with your eyes as well. This in turn

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opens up the other channel of communication – non-verbal communication (NVC), often called
body language. What you can do to combat these negative habits is to lean slightly forward in such a way that you
could bounce up and down on the balls of your feet, with your knees slightly flexed. It is similar to
NVC accounts for more than half of what people understand in our communication. It is also two- practising for an athletics competition where you are ready to move in any direction. When your
way communication as our bodies can relay a message and we can interpret the messages sent by weight is forward, it is impossible to go back on one hip or rock back and forth on your heels. When
the bodies of message recipient(s). you are communicating with confidence, you focus your energy forward.

What factors influence the message our bodies send?

1. Stance
When nervous, many speakers tend to pace or shift from side
2. Gestures
to side, which often diverts the listener’s attention. Moving
3. Facial expressions
in a controlled, natural way helps listeners to focus on the
4. Eye contact
content of the message. It keeps people looking at you, allows
5. Appearance
you to collect your thoughts and engenders confidence.

Always read gestures in context and in clusters. Techniques

Delivery Techniques • Plant your feet squarely on the floor. If you decide to move around the room, do so. When
you’ve moved to another position, plant your feet again to keep yourself from pacing.

• Use physical movement as a signal that you’re moving to a new point. Stand in one place as
Stance you close one point; then start walking as you transition to the next point. Plant your feet in
a new position as you begin the next point.
You must be able to correct the general tendency to slump in
both upper and lower body posture. Are your shoulders in a • If you are using a lectern, podium or table, step away from it from time to time. Don’t hide
straight line or do they curve inwards towards your chest? Do behind it and let it create a barrier between you and your listeners.
you lean back on one hip or cross your legs when talking in a
small group? How you hold yourself physically can reflect how Voice
you hold yourself mentally. How you hold yourself is usually
how others regard you. To speak well is to speak clearly and to speak clearly is to speak
for the benefit of those who are listening. The more easily
Techniques people can listen to you; the better you will be heard. You can
vary your delivery by means of pitch, pace, emphasis, tone and
Stand tall. Someone with poor upper body posture can often be perceived as having low self-esteem. volume. Try to speak as distinctly as possible, pronouncing all
This may not be true, but other people may see it that way until they have enough other information vowels and consonants. The best exercise for practising your
to change this opinion. variety of delivery is reading aloud.

An exercise for this is to stand against a wall with your heels and shoulders touching the wall. Then Techniques
straighten your spine so that the small of your back is also touching the wall. Walk away from the wall
(shake a little so you are not rigid), and then walk a few steps. Notice how you feel tall, and project The main reason for changing the pitch of the voice is to avoid monotony. There are three pitches –
more confidence. If you practice this regularly you can improve your posture dramatically. high, middle and low. A change of paragraph or subject matter should always be accompanied by a
change in pitch. In addition, a change of emotion also requires a change in pitch, e.g. happiness or
Watch your lower body. When you are talking to others you may decrease your effectiveness because excitement will take a high pitch, while a serious message will take a low pitch.
of the way you stand. Avoid going back on one hip, rocking from side to side and going back and
forth on your heels and toes. Since people tend to speak quickly when nervous, make a conscious effort to slow down – it will

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help your listeners to hear and understand you better. It will also give you more time to think and to Body Language
maintain control.
However, you should vary your speed. Use a somewhat faster pace to review material listeners are In one-to-one conversations, the speaker’s body language
already familiar with. Use a slower pace to present complex information and to emphasize important contributes to the listener’s perception of the message.
points. The same is true when there’s a group of listeners – and the
effect of body language can be even more pronounced
Vary your tone and volume as you would in normal conversation. Variety in the sound of your voice since perceptions can quickly ripple through an audience.
will help your listeners to hold interest. You can also use tone and volume for emphasis.
• Maintain a confident posture. If you are standing, stand with your head up and your shoulders
Many speakers feel uncomfortable pausing – a pause can seem like a big hole that needs filling. back. If you are sitting, sit forward in your chair and avoid leaning against the table.
However, well-placed pauses give listeners and speakers a chance to reflect.
• Keep a pleasant, relaxed expression on your face. You should convey to your listeners that
Techniques you’re happy to be speaking to them and that they will enjoy the time they spend listening.

Use pauses to your advantage. Think of them as a valuable tool. Instead of filling the silence with ums • Use gestures to emphasize important points. Try to keep your gestures slow and controlled –
and ahs, give your listeners a moment to process what they’ve heard. don’t let your hands move randomly in the air. When you are not gesturing, make a conscious
effort to keep your hands relaxed at your sides – not in your pockets.
Make a conscious effort to pause, especially at the ends of sentences. The pause will give you a
moment to plan your next sentence, and you’ll be less likely to stammer part of the way through. • Be aware of any nervous or unconscious habits you may have and make a conscious effort to
stop them. Watching yourself on videotape will prove helpful to see if you tend to twirl your
Concentrate on maintaining eye contact with your listeners. If you let your glance slip to the floor or hair, wring your hands etc.
ceiling when you’re thinking of something to say, you’re more likely to stammer. However, if you look
at your listeners, you will find yourself pausing naturally.
Using Visual Aids
Eye Contact
Visual Aids are presentation tools that help keep your audience engaged and attentive. They help
Eye contact is the speaker’s way of involving listeners and participants to understand concepts, make necessary links and remember the message. They should
letting them know their needs are foremost in the speaker’s catch and heighten attention, clarify difficult information, illustrate a point or concept, support the
mind. Using eye contact makes you appear more open, speaker’s words and/or develop ideas progressively. There are however some pitfalls. These include
friendly and sincere. Good eye communication means competing with or addressing the aid rather than the audience, talking while the audience read the
more than just a fleeting glance. content of an aid and inadvertently blocking the projection.

Techniques: There are some basic rules when using visual aids:

The problem most of us have when we feel pressure is to glance at anything but our listener. This • Remember the visual aid should enhance not dominate your presentation.
conveys a nervousness that undermines our credibility. Let your eyes scan the room, looking directly • Avoid using visual aids as a crutch. You could lose your message in a sea of equipment and
at each person for a few seconds. Don’t focus your attention on any one thing – an audience member, aids.
your notes, the floor, etc.
• Show visuals only when your talking about them.
Give equal attention to people on your left and right and to people at the back as well as the front. • Talk to your audience, not to your visual aids.
• Check your equipment (projectors, monitors, videocassette recorders, power sources and
If you are using notes, look at them only during pauses. Keep your eyes on your listeners while you electric cords). Always have a back up.
are speaking.
• Don’t block audience view of your visual aids.

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• Make sure print and graphics are large and enough for everyone to see. Using a Flipchart
• Place cords out of way to avoid injuries.
• Set the lighting at the right level for the type of aid you are using and for the audience Flipcharts are a very participative medium and are very flexible. They can be used to brainstorm
activities. For example, note taking during a video presentation requires adequate light. ideas, develop a flow chart, draw ideas and experiences and are completely portable. Flipcharts can
form a useful record of a presentation if discussion ensued.

Using PowerPoint • Choose bold colours with chisel heads

• Write large enough for everyone to see – about 8 lines per page.
PowerPoint is probably the most common support aid used
• If you prepare your flipchart before your presentation, leave a page between each written
for modern presentations. It is effective because it uses
the medium of words and graphics therefore appealing page to allow for additional points. This also ensures the audience cannot see the next
to a wide range of audiences. When effectively created flipchart before it is used.
it is professional and easy to remember. It is however • Draw soft pencil lines to keep your writing straight when presenting.
inflexible and can inhibit the flow of a presentation. If it is
• Make light pencil notes on the flipchart. These can be useful prompts, especially where a
necessary to deal with audience issues or additional topics
it is best used in conjunction with another medium such as flow chart or process is being developed/demonstrated.
flipchart. Timed presentations and link ups to the internet • Add simple sketches to add life and colour to your charts.
should be used with caution and needs extra preparation. • Add borders for impact.
• Don’t talk and right at the same time.
• Limit the amount of text, point-size variations and font selections to keep slides clean and
• Try not to turn your back on your audience as you write.
• Check visibility.
• Make sure you have the necessary cables, and jacks for sound quality.
• Set flipchart stand at a comfortable height for yourself.
• Keep lights on.
• Ensure no window reflections or glare.
• Use the biggest screen size possible.
• Use contrasting backgrounds and lettering.
• Keep titles at least 4 points larger than body of the text. Body text should be no smaller than
30 points.
• Limit contents to no more than 6 bullets per slide.
• Be aware of file size. Large files with detailed graphics can become inaccessible.
• Use animation sparingly.
• Use fly-ins to develop points.
• Be consistent with transitions.
• Ensure graphics are relevant and do not overwhelm the slide.
• Less is more – you are doing the presentation, not your slides.

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Professional Presentation Skills Section 3 The Future Way of Corporate Communication
Professional Presentation Skills Section 3
Using Videos, CDs and DVDs Using an Overhead Projector

Videos are an effective way to demonstrate practical examples of skill applications and to introduce Whilst overhead projectors are becoming less common, they are still an invaluable aid allowing far
variety into a presentation. They can today be loaded into a laptop which makes showing them more flexibility and interaction than PowerPoint. They are simple to use, easy to print off a computer
relatively simple. If you are using a video cassette player: and far less prone to technical breakdown.

1. Dim the lights if external light reflects on the TV screen. • Practice operating the overhead projector – locate the on-off switch, focus dial and check the
2. Familiarise yourself with the operation of the TV and video (if separate) especially the on/off; spare lamp compartment.
rewind; pause; fast forward and remote control. • Set the projector up so the entire audience can see and make sure that the image is focused
3. Set volume before the presentation begins. and a suitable size for the room.
4. Watch the videos prior to the screening to cue them and avoid titles and etc. • Check the projector doesn’t obstruct anyone’s view.
5. Explain the purpose of showing the video • Make sure the transparencies are in the right order and clearly numbered.
6. Give clear instructions on what audience is required to do when watching eg. Look out for • If you want the audience to focus on specific points at given times, reveal them as you discuss
…. we will discuss afterwards… etc. each line. Use a piece of cardboard to do this to avoid the fan causing it to flutter.
7. Watch the video with the audience. This is not a break time for you! • Ensure your shadow does not obstruct the screen.
8. Summarise the key points and address any questions raised. • Avoid pointing at the projected image – place a small pointer (pencil) on to the transparency
to focus audience’s attention to the appropriate point. Use a pencil with flat sides to avoid it
rolling around.
• Don’t talk and write at the same time.
• Turn the projector off when you are not using it.

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Business Writing Skills Section 4
Section 4 – Business writing Skills

Does Business Writing Come Naturally To You?

Tick the boxes you agree with.
Leave blank those you do not agree with.

Please answer honestly. Some of the ideal answers are obvious. By marking them you are
“correct” but won’t derive learning value!

Section 4 – Business writing Skills ◊ Do you enjoy putting your ideas down on paper?

◊ Do you write letters, articles, a diary or spend extensive time e-mailing friends?

◊ Are you confident that you can express your thoughts clearly in writing?

◊ Do you prefer writing as a form of communication to say, telephoning?

◊ Do people respond well to what you write?

◊ When you ask questions in e-mails do people reply and give you the information you want?

◊ Are you always clear about your purpose when you write?

◊ Do you plan your work before beginning to write?

◊ Are you clear about the differences in the different written formats? Why we use different

◊ Do you adjust your writing style to suit your purpose and audience?

◊ Do you organise your material before writing?

◊ Do you follow a logical structure when you write?

◊ Are you conscious of developing an argument as you write?

◊ Is it easy for you to draw conclusions or make recommendations based on what you have

The Future Way of Corporate Communication
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Business Writing Skills Section 4
◊ Do you feel confident about your spelling? Introduction
◊ Do you feel confident about using correct grammar and punctuation?

◊ Do you have a good vocabulary? We all recognise good writing. It’s a novel we can’t put down; a letter that moves us; a fax that prompts
us to action; a report that clarifies a situation. But how do we learn to write powerfully? Here are a
◊ Do you check spellings and meanings in a dictionary or thesaurus? few pointers.

◊ Do you check the meanings on words you don’t know in your thesaurus? The rapidly changing relationship between speech and the written word needs to be accommodated
in the way we write. This changing relationship stems from such issues as:
◊ Do you spend time and care in the way you present your work?

◊ Are you good at following instructions? − The dramatic increase in technical language
− The availability of sophisticated visual aids
◊ Do you welcome comments and suggestions? − The introduction of electronic communication
− The unprecedented pace of modern life
◊ Can you accept constructive criticism and use it to improve your work?

◊ Do you proofread everything – even e-mails?

◊ Are you confident in the use of paragraphs? Writing myths

◊ Do you try to make your sentences shorter?

◊ Do you enjoy doing crossword puzzles and other word games? Myth 1: written language and style must be formal

People are often tempted to adopt a formal language and style. Perhaps they are driven by a
Now take a few minutes to review your answers. Do you have more ticks than blanks? Select three of subconscious desire to impress the reader. It can be useful to remember that while literature is
the blanks from the list that you feel would improve your writing. generally written for the pleasure of the reader, business writing has the intention of being understood
and acted upon.
1. _______________________________________
Myth 2: writing must follow all the rules of grammar
2. _______________________________________

3. _______________________________________ Unless you are writing a thesis on English language, you don’t need to get too hung up on grammatical
precision. Use of language is constantly changing and what may be grammatically correct can often
appear slightly ridiculous. While it is important to avoid basic grammatical errors, stick to the rules
that make a positive difference to what you are writing and be flexible with the others that might
cramp your style. Consider the following example of a targeting headline:

“For whom this book is” is grammatically correct but wouldn’t you prefer to read it as “Who this book
is for”?

General Principles

• Why are you writing?

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• Length of sentence (sentences shouldn’t be more than 20 – 25 words long)
Should I be writing this and, if so, why?
What am I trying to achieve? Focus on the purpose of your writing For example:
Write for the reader
State your objective immediately “This report is to provide a fully comprehensive review of the work in order to point out and
emphasise the importance of quality control, as it pertains to the movement of the product
through the factory, and to outline the different stages of growth through which the means
of coping with the problem have progressed during the last ten years.”
Who are your readers?
One sentence, 59 words

“This report has two aims. First, it shows the importance of quality control of a product as
What influence does the reader have? it moves through a factory. Second, it outlines stages of growth control during the last ten
Will the reader understand the terminology and vocabulary? years.”
Is the reader aware of the background?
Which would be more appropriate, a formal or an informal style? Three sentences, 36 words

No matter how impressive the content of your message is, you run the risk of missing the target if you
neglect to consider and assess the likely impact of your writing on your readers. It is important to:

1. Tailor your message to your perception of their level of understanding

2. Be clear about what you want from your readers and assess what will persuade them to buy-
into your opinion or your request for action
3. Tailor your message to their natural language - both in the case of style and of UK/US in
grammar and spelling.

Your assessment of the reader will influence your choice of vocabulary, style, jargon and so on as well
as the medium, structure and layout that will be most effective to achieve your goal.

The Unloading Rate

The unloading rate is the ease and speed with which the reader can read what you have written. A
positive unloading rate is when the reader can read your document straight through. A negative
unloading rate is when the reader has to stop and re-read because of some factor in the way the
document is written.

The unloading rate is affected by:

• Subject (familiar or unfamiliar)

• Vocabulary (familiar or unfamiliar)
• Style (active or passive voice)
• Punctuation
• Layout (the layout must be inviting and easy to read, and must contribute to giving
meaning and structure to the information)

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The Pyramid Principle – Barbara Minto
If the number of ideas being presented to the mind rises beyond four or five, the mind starts grouping
them into logical categories so that they can be retained.

Logic in presenting your ideas For example:

This summary is based on Minto, B (2002) “The Minto Pyramid Principle: Logic in Writing, Thinking,
& Problem Solving” (3rd Ed.) Essex:Prentice Hall MILK BUTTER

For many of us it’s easy enough to explain our ideas face-to-face. But the crunch comes when we
have to write them down in a structured and logical way. CHEESE SOUR CREAM

The Pyramid Principle reflects the understanding that: CARROTS TOMOTOES

• The mind automatically sorts information into distinctive pyramid groupings in order to
comprehend it
• A grouping of ideas is easier to understand if presented as a pyramid under a summary thought If you create a pyramid of logically-related items:
• An extensive collection of ideas should be deliberately structured to form a hierarchy of
pyramids under a single summary thought
The Pyramid Principle shows you how to structure and present your case with the clarity and precision
that will gain immediate understanding from your audience.

The value of seeing things in logical units: make an association between the two words in each Potatoes Carrots Tomatoes
column opposite one another. Now cover the right hand column and you should be able to recall
the others.

Dairy Products

BOOT PLATE Milk Cheese Butter Cream





BOOK TOOTHPASTE Grapes Oranges Bananas

• The mind cannot recall more than about seven items

It is important to order from the top down. The clearest sequence is always to give the summarising
• State the logic of the relationship

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idea before you give the individual ideas being summarised. Creating Professional Documents
The reader will assume that the ideas that appear together logically belong together.

It is important to present ideas so that they can be understood with the minimum amount of mental Avoid long, involved sentences

The reader remembers from the top down. He understands more easily if ideas are presented from Write the way you speak. Don’t change your
the top down in a pyramid structure. communication style just because you are writing. Keep
it simple. Short words, sentences and paragraphs result
in writing that gets read.

Avoid jargon. There is a tendency to imitate the familiar

“corporate” language – language that is used to sound
important rather than to communicate. For example,

“The key to the success of the new training programme currently being implemented was the
utilisation of customer feedback to change the existing process to better meet customer needs.”

Rules for grouping This sentence is not easy to read. It would be so much simpler to say:

• Ideas at any level of the pyramid must always

be summaries of the ideas grouped below “The new training programme worked because we asked customers what they thought and
them. then made the necessary changes.”
• Ideas in each grouping must always
be the same kind of idea
• Ideas in each grouping must Use Simple Construction
be logically ordered. There
are only four possible
logical ways in which to Unless you want to abdicate ownership and responsibility for what you are writing and distance
order a set of ideas: yourself from the message, you are likely to capture the attention of your readers more effectively by
• Deductively (major using active rather than passive language. Here are some examples.
premise, minor premise,
• Chronologically (first, Active: I believe that these actions will resolve the problem.
second, third) Passive: The problem is believed to be resolvable through these actions.
• Structurally (clothing
division, home-ware
division, food division) Active: I (we) have underestimated the impact of this change.
i.e. the order that you see Passive: The impact of this change has been underestimated.
once you have visualised
• Comparatively (most Active: We need to increase performance by 20%.
important, second most Passive: Performance needs to be increased by 20%.
important, third most important)

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Use simple construction – who does what to whom, or, in other words, subject, verb, object. Avoid Do not exaggerate - be specific and precise
the passive voice. It has less impact than the active voice. The active voice focuses on the doer while
If you exaggerate, you are likely to lose credibility in the eyes of the reader. Aim at using concrete,
the passive voice emphasizes what has been done. Sometimes you may want to emphasise what has
precise words and phrases.
been done – especially if you don’t want to mention who the doer is – but the active voice tends to
be more forceful.
Rewrite the following sentences in the active voice.
As soon as possible by 12h30 today
For example, “The bone was eaten by the dog” = “The dog ate the bone”.
A substantial discount a 40% discount
1. Copies of all sales transactions must be submitted by managers by the end of trading.
A large number 200

2. It was observed that the address was incorrectly typed.

Rewrite these sentences to make them more concrete (not exaggerated)
3. Attached please find a copy of our latest client list.
1. There were millions of people at the concert at Wembley Stadium.

4. It is believed that the company will benefit from an aggressive marketing

strategy. 2. Enclosed please find the quotation as requested.

Think of a SHORTER word meaning the same as the following: 3. Thank you for the information you sent recently.

Significant ___________________

Holistic ___________________
Avoid jargon and clichés

Never the less ___________________
Identify jargon words or acronyms used in your industry. Write them on a blank piece of paper and
Inter alia ___________________ hand it to your trainer.

Cumbersome ___________________ _________________________________ ______________________________

Remittance ___________________ Avoid phrases such as the following

Substantial ___________________ Ducks in a row

Anticipation ___________________ Touch base

Vacation ___________________ Ballpark figures

Utilise ___________________ Hard-nosed

Herewith ___________________

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Avoid repeating yourself. Ambiguity

Exercise: Replace the words below with a single word Ambiguous words are those open to more than one meaning. They are often described as open to
Future plans ________________

Blue in colour ________________ Statements like : “Students hate annoying professors” could mean they are very diligent and listen all
the time or that they dislike teachers they consider annoying.
Large in size ________________

Combine together ________________

Many in number __________________

Keep it Simple

Wherever possible, use one word rather than several words. Differences between British and American spelling

Most dictionaries include both spellings and will make note of the two spellings. In many US
At this point in time now dictionaries the difference is included in the headword with the variation in parentheses:

In the near future soon For example, colo(u)r

In view of the fact that since Here is a list of the main differences between British and American spelling:

This affords us the opportunity this allows us

In the possible event of if British American
8:00 a.m. in the morning 8:00 a.m.
-our (honour) -or (honor)
both together both
-re (centre) -er (center)
consensus of opinion consensus
-ogue (dialogue) -og (dialog)
make an adjustment to adjust
-ence (defence) -ense (defense)
give encouragement to encourage
-ise (recognise) -ize (recognize)
for the purpose of to

have a tendency to tend to

American English spelling sometimes does not double the consonant at the end of a word, while
British English spelling does, especially when the consonant is an ‘l’.

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For example, travel, traveller, travelling (British) and travel, traveler, traveling (American). 4. Disinterested / uninterested
Check your spelling assuming a British context.
5. Continuous / continual
a) Correct spelling will insure that readers understand your meaning. ___________________________________________________________
b) It is worth inquiring whether you will be expected to work every morning. ___________________________________________________________
c) Becoming a good writer can be very satisfying and may fulfill some of your deepest needs.
d) I am hoping that the new job won’t have to great an affect on my social life.
6. Loose / lose
e) When you are no longer dependant on your parents, you can do exactly as you like.
f) That kind of request will have to be authorized by your Principle ___________________________________________________________

7. Personal/ personnel

8. Principle / principal

9. Quite / quiet
Confusable Exercise ___________________________________________________________

Together with the person sitting beside you, make up a sentence using each of the words 10. Stationary / stationery
listed. I.e. Two sentences per bullet point. ___________________________________________________________
1. Except / accept

2. Effect / affect

3. Compliment / complement

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GRAMMAR CHECK LIST correct pronoun so that your reader clearly understands which noun your pronoun is referring to.

Therefore, pronouns should:

Make sure that the subject and verb agree in number. If the subject is singular, the verb should also
be singular. If you are writing in the “first person” ( I), don’t confuse your reader by switching to the “second
person” ( you) or “third person” (he, she, they, it, etc.). Similarly, if you are using the “second person,”
For example, don’t switch to “first” or “third.”
A tree grows
but When a person comes to class, he or she should have his or her homework ready.
Trees grow
NOT: When a person comes to class, you should have your homework ready.
Be clear about which word is the subject. Do not confuse the modifying phrase with the subject.
Don’t be vague or ambiguous.
For example
Not NOT: Although the motorcycle hit the tree, it was not damaged. (Is “it” the motorcycle or the tree?)
A portion of all staff salaries are deductible. NOT: I don’t think they should show violence on TV. (Who are “they”?)
But NOT: Vacation is coming soon, which is nice. (What is nice, the vacation or the fact that it is coming
A portion of all staff salaries is deductible. soon?)

Software were downloaded
Software was downloaded USAGE AND ABUSAGE


The team are playing.
But Not too important these days, but, broadly, whom is used after a preposition, e.g. To whom did you
The team is playing. speak?, but Who did you speak to? Is now acceptable.

However, when singular and plural subjects are joined by constructions like both…and, either…or, SHALL / WILL
not only…but, the verb takes on the number of the subject closest to it:
At one stage the rule was simple: to express the simple future, use shall in the first person (I shall
Neither the pilot nor the passengers were aware of the disturbances. go; we shall go) and will in the second and third persons (you/he/she /it they will go). To express
Neither the passengers nor the pilot was aware of the disturbances. determination, obligation or compulsion, reverse the rule (I will go; you shall go etc.) Shall was
derived from the Old English sceal, which meant ought and therefore implied obligation. Will came
from the Old English word wyllen, which implied intent or determination.
In current usage, shall may be used with any person to express purpose, determination, obligation or
compulsion. Use shall for consulting someone else’s opinion, preference, wish or decision: Shall we
Know when to use me and when to use I; he and him. go? Shall I leave? Will may be used in all other circumstances.

Because a pronoun REFERS BACK to a noun or TAKES THE PLACE OF that noun, you have to use the

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Onto means “to a position on”: e.g. “They moved the lectern onto the stage” as opposed to “Let’s Another wonderful example:
move on to the next topic”.
A woman, without her man, is nothing.
CONTINUOUSLY / CONTINUALLY A woman: without her, man is nothing.

Continuously means without interruption; Continually implies that an activity is ongoing.: Apostrophe
“A loquacious fellow who nevertheless finds time to eat and sleep is continually talking; but a great
river flows continuously.” (Bierce, Ambrose, Write it Right, 1909) 1. Used to indicate a missing letter: it’s = it is; can not = can’t; had not = hadn’t; would not =
wouldn’t; could not = couldn’t. Please note that this is appropriate for conversational English and
A / AN is to be avoided in report writing.
2. Used to indicate possession
Use a before all consonants, except ones that sound like vowels! (an hour; an heiress; an honourable
man). Also use a before aspirated vowels with h, w or y sounds: a humble abode; a European trip; a Difficulties
United Nations peacekeeping force.
“The girl’s team” or “The girls’ team”?
WHICH / THAT To work out which to use, put in “of” – “The team of the girl” or “The team of the girls”?
The apostrophe goes after the last letter if the noun is plural and ends with an “s”. But if the plural
THAT = restrictive e.g. ”This is the rule that people break most often.” does not end with an s (e.g. women; children) the apostrophe precedes the s.
WHICH = not restrictive i.e. a clause that adds information but is not essential to the meaning of the
sentence e.g. “The book, which I had enjoyed reading, was on the table.” 3. Used to indicate time or quantity
e.g. In one week’s time
Four meters’ worth
Two years’ experience
4. Used to indicate the omission of figures in dates: e.g. The winter of ‘06

This is one of the most difficult aspects of English writing. 5. No longer used in plurals of abbreviations. Thus MPs and not MP’s, 1980s and not 1980’s

The following examples illustrate the importance of correct punctuation: 6. With modern names ending with s, the s is required after the apostrophe: Keats’s poem;
Jones’s theory. Omitting the possessive s in a singular is only correct with names of classical
Dear Jack or biblical derivation ending in s, e.g. Archimedes’ screw; Jesus’ cross. If the name ends in
an “iz’ sound, no s is needed after the apostrophe, e.g. Bridges’ score
I want a man who knows what love is all about. You are generous, kind, thoughtful. People who are
not like you admit to being useless and inferior. You have ruined me for other men. I yearn for you. 7. Double possessive: e.g. a friend of the writer’s not a friend of the writer.
I have no feelings whatsoever when we’re apart. I can be forever happy - will you let me be yours?
Common mistakes made with the apostrophe (taken from Eats, Shoots and Leaves, Lynne Truss,
Jill Profile Books, 2003)

Very sweet, but when we re-punctuate, we get a very different message: Singular possessive instead of simple plural:

Dear Jack Trouser’s reduced

Coastguard Cottage’s
I want a man who knows what love is. All about you are generous, kind, thoughtful people, who are
not like you. Admit to being useless and inferior. You have ruined me. For other men I yearn! For you Singular possessive instead of plural possessive:
I have no feelings whatsoever. When we’re apart I can be forever happy. Will you let me be?
Pupil’s entrance (a very selective school, presumably)
Yours Adult Learner’s Week (lucky him!)
Jill Member’s May Ball

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Plural possessive instead of singular possessive Exercise: Where does the apostrophe go?
Bobs’ Motors

No possessive where possessive is required (the “When in doubt leave it out” approach): a) Its a wise dog that scratches his own fleas.
b) The childrens socks are very wet.
Citizens Advice Bureau c) Its obvious hes not short of money - his car is twice the size of ours.
Mens Toilets d) Dont worry about other peoples problems unless theirs are worse than
Britains Biggest Junction yours.
e) Those computers arent the computer departments.
Incorrect pluralisation: f ) James appendix was badly inflamed.

Pansy’s ready (is she?)

Cyclist’s only (his only what?)
Please replace the trolley’s (the trolley’s what?)

Unmarked possessive:
Quotation Marks

1. New members welcome drinks (doubtless they do)

Apostrophe in the wrong place:

2. It need’nt cost the earth

3. Ladie’s hairdresser
4. Mens coat’s Double quotation marks
5. Childrens’ education (in a letter from the head of education at the National Union) are widely used for the “Did you know that the ‘Mr. Bean’ TV comedy
6. The Peoples Princess’ (on Princess Di memorial mugs) main quote, single ones became a worldwide success because it was all
for quotes or titles inside done with mime?”
Apostrophes put in place names/proper names quotes or titles.
• Dear Mr Steven’s
• Glady’s However, especially in
‘The only thing I ever regret saying to my
printed matter, the reverse
It’s or Its’ instead of Its
husband is “I do”!’
arrangement is common.

• Hot Dogs a Meal in Its’ Self

• Recruitment at it’s best
• …to welcome you to the British Library, it’s services and catalogues.
• Commas for Lists
Plain illiteracy! Commas divide items in lists, but are not required before the and at the end
e.g. The colours of the Union Jack are red, white and blue.
• …giving the full name of the person who’s details are given in Section 02 (on UK application
form) Commas in the wrong places can lead to misunderstanding. E.g. Panda. Large black-and white bear-
• Make our customer’s live’s easier like mammal, native to China. Eats, shoots, and leaves”
• Your 21 today!
• Commas for Joining
Commas are used when two complete sentences are joined together, using conjunctions such as
and, or, while and yet.
e.g. The boys wanted to stay up until midnight, but they grew tired and fell asleep.

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I thought I was early, yet Cathy arrived earlier still. Colon

• Commas to separate two or more adjectives that modify a noun. A colon introduces things. Use a colon when you are going to supply a list, explanation or further
E.g. A loyal, devoted friend details. The colon is not usually followed by a capital letter unless it introduces a full sentence. The
A cold, grey morning colon’s “pause” value is stronger than a comma but weaker than a semi-colon. It is also used when
A merry old soul long quotations are given without inverted commas.

The Rule: use a comma if it could be replaced by the word and. Semi-colon

• Commas for “Weak Interruptions” or Additional Information A semi-colon separates facts and often follows a colon. It controls long sentences and is often used
e.g. The Queen, who has double the number of birthdays of most people, celebrated yet another instead of the word “but”. It creates a pause, longer than a comma but not as long as a full stop.
birthday. (The central section of the sentence could be omitted.)

Correct the following comma abuse: Exercise

a) The thief, ran off? Add the necessary colons and semi-colons

b) I bought tea, milk, bread, chocolate, cake, and potatoes? His career was far from brilliant, a short period in the navy, ending in dishonourable discharge for
theft some years doing nothing in particular in London and other large English cities, a brief spell in
c) Feeling tired, she went to bed early. Boston, where he held down a job in a fast food outlet an unspecified time in Europe and then the
abrupt return to Limerick.
d) I can’t see her, is she wearing red?

Titles of books, newspapers, albums and films
Emphasis of certain words
Foreign words and phrases
Examples when writing about language


There are four types of brackets:

1. Round brackets, used to clarify, to add information, to explain, to illustrate.
e.g. Tom Jones (1749) has become a classic.

2. Square brackets, the editor’s way of clarifying the meaning of a direct quote
e.g. “She used it [the frying pan] as a weapon.”

They are also used around the word sic (from the Latin sicut, meaning
“just as”) e.g. She said “I am ordering calamaries [sic]”

Square brackets may also enclose ellipses (…), when words are left out.
e.g. “She used […] a weapon”.

3. Brace brackets, which derive from mathematics { }

4. Angle brackets , < used in linguistics and other technical subjects>

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Insert the relevant brackets: Prime Minister Tony Blair announced today…
a) With his father and sister, Mozart began a long tour 1764 – 1765. The prime minister announced today…
b) Camping not everyone’s cup of tea is a relatively inexpensive option.
c) Many types of shellfish for example, mussels and oysters can be easily farmed. Pope Paul II said…
The pope said…
Ellipsis (Always only three dots …)

Ellipsis are used: Exercise:

1. To indicate words missing from a quoted passage […] How Many Capital Letters?
2. To trail off in an intriguing manner…
at st hilda’s in galway,
jane did spanish with miss o’brien
Hyphen on tuesdays and thursdays,
using spanish for beginners
“Traditionally [the hyphen] joins together words, or words with prefixes, to aid understanding; it
keeps certain other words neatly apart, with an identical intention.” (Eats, Shoots & Leaves, Truss,
Civil Titles
Lynne. Profile Books, 2003)
Capitalise official names of organisations but use lower case for titles unless they come before names:
Uses include: Prime Minister Tony Blair announced today…
• Avoiding ambiguity (e.g. re-mark; a re-formed rock band is very different from a reformed one).
Spelling out numbers (e.g. thirty-one). BUT
• Linking nouns with nouns (Afro-American relations). The prime minister announced today…
• Using a noun phrase to qualify another noun e.g. when a noun phrase such a “stainless steel” Pope Paul II said…
is used to qualify another noun (i.e. used as an adjective) it is hyphenated, as in “stainless-steel
kitchen”. Thus you have “corrugated iron”, but a “corrugated-iron roof”; Tom Jones was written BUT
in the 18th century, but it is an 18th-century novel; you have decision making but a decision- The pope said…
making process; coal mining but the coal-mining industry; you have revision control, but a
revision-control system.
• Using certain prefixes that traditionally require hyphens: un-American; anti-Apartheid; quasi- Abbreviations and Acronyms
• Spelling words out, e.g. K-E-N-Y-A.
The general rule is that abbreviations should not be used unless the full word is very cumbersome
• Avoiding “letter collision” such as in “shelllike” (shell-like) and reenter (re-enter).
or is not regularly used. For example, use “television” rather than “TV”, but “SABC” rather than “South
• Avoiding ambiguity, e.g.
African Broadcasting Corporation”. However, if you are writing a technical report and you can safely
• co-op
assume that your reader will be familiar with the acronym, use the acronym.
• re-creation
• Indicating that a word is unfinished and continues on the next line.
• Qualifying a hyphenated phrase before it appears e.g. “It was two- or three-year-old data”.
With corporations known by their initials, spell it out the first time you use it with the acronym in
brackets following the complete name. After that you can use initials. For example, “South African
Capital Letters
Bureau of Standards (SABS)” can subsequently be referred to as “SABS”.
The most common use of these is at the start of a sentence, to emphasise a point and in civil titles.
Abbreviations of Latin Expressions
Capitalise official names of organisations but use lower case for titles unless they come before names:
Use small letters and full stops for most abbreviations of Latin terms. Common Latin expression, like
those listed here, are not normally underlined or italicised. They are usually used in bibliographies,
footnotes, lists, and references.

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Abbreviation   Equivalent
Misplaced Modifiers
c. circa, about, around

e.g. exempli gratia, for example A misplaced modifier is simply a word or phrase that describes something but that is not placed near
enough the word it is supposed to modify.
et al. et alii, and other people, or et alia, and other things
Incorrect: I had to take down the shutters painting the house yesterday.
etc. et cetera and so on
It sounds as though the shutters painted the house. Place the modifying phrase painting the house
near or next to the word it is meant to modify.
et seq. et sequential, and the following (usually pages)
Correct: Painting the house yesterday, I had to take down the shutters.
i.e. id est, that is
Exercise: Re-write the following:
N.B. Nota Bene, note well (capitalise)
1. Loretta glared at Dolly, whose desk radio was blaring rock music, seething quietly inside.
vs. Versus _________________________________________________________

viz. vidilicet, namely _________________________________________________________

2. I just met a man with a wooden leg named Fred.


• Correct: William Chaucer (c. 1343-1399) _________________________________________________________

• Incorrect: William Chaucer was born c. 1343.
(Standard sentence, not a reference: write out the word or use the English equivalent.) 3. The janitor repaired the water cooler behind Harry’s desk, which was leaking.
• Correct: William Chaucer was born circa 1343. _________________________________________________________
• Correct: William Chaucer was born in about 1343.

Imprecise abbreviations such as etc. should not be used in formal writing. 4. Tickets are available for the soccer game in the lobby.

5. Jane realised she left her essay at home on the kitchen table, which she needed to hand in this
A number of foreign words, such as “cafe” and “role” are used so regularly that they can be
typed without accents. For less commonplace ones, accents should be used. _________________________________________________________


6. During her tea break, Alice thought of a plan to help Stuart in the ladies’ lounge.


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7. He saw a wasp crawling out of the corner of his eye.


8. I let the cat out with my bathrobe on.


What your document looks like is critical to professional writing. This includes visual presentation,
writing style and use of language.


Visually, a well-written document contains white space. This makes for an easy read and is restful on
the eye. White space comes at the end of paragraphs or sections and is used especially when a new
idea is being introduced. Do not start it near the bottom of a page. Rather begin a new page and
leave the remainder of the previous page unused.

Text needs to be broken into smaller units, often a paragraph. Each new idea needs a new paragraph
which is made up of short, simple sentences.

In presentation, important material needs to be emphasised using italics, bold print or CAPITALISATION.

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Style Exercise.
Style is the distinctive manner you do something. It
is a manner of expression, peculiar to an individual.
A pleasing writing style is usually made up of active Creating a user-friendly layout
voice, with simple sentences using simple words.
Business writing is more effective if positive rather
than negative style being used. For example: The following text is visually dull. Experiment with ways in which you can make it more stimulating,
using line spacing, headings, paragraphs, bullets and margins that create white space.

“You are allowed to smoke outside” (positive) is Summary of performance management

preferable to: “You are not allowed to smoke here”.
Simple, practical and effective performance management processes together with effective
management and sensitive feedback techniques can significantly improve employee performance.
A good writing style is discreet in offering opinion. Ongoing performance management will support continuous improvement, succession planning
Good business writing tends to err on the side of and personal development. The objective is to provide a structured and consistent approach to
formality. Little value is derived from exaggeration improving personal performance, developing staff and achieving and exceeding operational targets
or overstatement. Most importantly, good style and strategic goals. We will do this by firstly assessing the current situation, agreeing the brief
means never duplicating words, for example, with the client, establishing links with existing processes and other initiatives, assessing existing
combine together. communication processes, reporting on the research and analysis, making recommendations and
creating and agreeing the project plan. Then we will introduce the top team to the performance
management process by facilitating a top team focus workshop to clarify and agree links to vision
Tone is another aspect of style. It can be respectful and values, strategic objectives, corporate strategy that will help them to develop an understanding
or rude, friendly or distant, interesting or dull. It is of the process and their contribution to its development. Next we will set up a project team to
conveyed by your choice of words and is similar to achieve development and implementation targets, design the draft process and documentation,
tone of voice. Do not write in a bland, monotonous agree the process and documentation and determine and design effective communication and
monotone. buy-in processes. This will be followed by finalising the system, finalising the processes for appraisal
and personal development, developing the competency framework, finalising documentation to
include role descriptions, personal objectives, the performance agreement, the structure of one-
If you use too many words to get your ideas across, to-one meetings, the interim review, the annual performance review, the personal development
the reader may become confused or bored. The plan and interview preparation. Then we will finalise the process for communication and buy-in
useless words are like weeds that have to be pruned and develop the training package. The last stage is to communicate and implement the project by
out of your writing. These weeds disguise the useful communicating the process and benefits throughout the organisation, ensuring that the people
plants and choke the life out of them. Make every buy-in to the process, implementing the system, establishing existing skills levels and supporting
word fight for survival! the implementation with training to enable managers to maximise opportunity from the process

Writing Business Letters

The more words you use in a sentence, the more
likely it is that your readers will forget or change the
meanings of some of them. What can also happen is Virtually everything covered in the writing skills section of this course, apply when writing letters.
that readers become mentally tired and bored with Summarise the key points about writing:
the text. _______________________________________________________________



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Many people believe that for a business letter to be effective, it must be impersonal and formal. This • If possible, try to avoid ‘Dear Sir/Madam’ – it’s very impersonal
is not the case. I good business letter that achieves its objective can readily include the following: • If you begin: Dear Sir/Madam. End: Yours faithfully
• If you begin: Dear Ms Farrell. End: Yours sincerely (if you know the person; Yours faithfully, if not)
1.) Contractions • To be more informal, you might end: Regards, Kind regards
Using contractions such as it’s, doesn’t, I’m, you’re, we’re, they’re, isn’t, here’s, that’s, we’ll gives a • No comma at end of salutations
personal and human feel to your writing. 1. e.g. Dear Mr Stephens
2. e.g. Yours sincerely
If there are no contractions in your writing, put some in. You don’t have to use contractions at every
opportunity. Sometimes writing do not comes more naturally than don’t. When you speak, you Signature
probably use a combination of these styles—try to reflect this in your writing. • Sign the letter with a legible signature
• Below that, type your name and job title
2.) Use Personal References
Use words such as I, we, you, your, my, and our in your writing. Don’t be afraid to identify yourself— Inserts
it makes writing much more readable • If you have an insert, type “Enclosure” under your job title
This is a useful trick to make writing look and sound more like face-to-face talk. Using I, we and you
also helps you to avoid using passive verbs. It makes your style more direct and clear Letter to two or more people
• Send copies to anyone who’s mentioned in the letter
Instead of writing:
• If you’re sending the letter to another person, type “CC: James Ryle” below job title (and enclosure)
Our address records have been amended ...
We’ve changed your address in our records ... Strong openings
• Avoid using tired phrases that are wordy, give little information and create a formal and
Instead of writing: impersonal tone
The company policy is ...
write Avoid:
Our policy is ... • Further to my recent
• I am writing
Using active verbs with personal references is a quick and dramatic way to make your writing • I refer to my letter dated
readable and more direct • I refer to previous correspondence
• I write in reference to
3.) Use Direct Questions • In respect of the above
Direct questions give your writing much more impact – it’s as though you change the pitch in your • Recent correspondence
voice • Regarding
They’re a common technique in marketing and advertising • With reference to
We often hide questions in our writing by using words such as whether to introduce them. • With regards to

Avoid: We would appreciate your advising us whether you want to continue this account or transfer Decide what is the most important information – and put it in the your first paragraph
Use: Do you want to continue your account or transfer it?
Avoid: Please inform us whether payment against these receipts will be in order.
Use: Can we pay against these receipts? Which are appropriate?

4) Keep your sentence average length to 15-20 words  “I am writing to ask you/ inform you…..”

Salutations 1.“Referring to / With reference to….”

• Make sure you spell the name correctly!

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1. “Following on from your letter/ phone call….” • trust this is satisfactory
• detailed information
1. “Thank you for your letter / phone call of …..” • under separate cover
• enclosed for your information  
Powerful closes • upon receipt of
• for your convenience 
Use the final paragraph to explain or repeat what you want your reader to do • urgent attention
• further to  
• Your last paragraph should do something • we acknowledge receipt
• Summarise the key points • in receipt of 
• Repeat the key message • we regret to advise
• If some action is needed, explain what you want the reader to do or what you will do
• Use positive words such as when not if

Avoid weak phrases:

• Thanking you for your...
• Hoping for a prompt reply... LETTERS
• Thanking you in advance for your assistance...
• Trusting this answers your questions...
• Please do not hesitate to contact me Generic Format
• I trust this clarifies the situation [Left or below the bottom of your company logo]
Exercise: Date
Which are appropriate? Name of recipient
1. “I look forward to hearing from you soon” Company name
Address [area NOT in capitals]
– “Hoping to hear from you soon”
Postal code
– “Should you require further information, please do not hesitate to contact us”
Dear Mr Smith / John [Try to find out person’s name in order to avoid Sir/Madam/To Whom it
may Concern]
1. “I hope this information is of use to you”
2. “Thanking you in anticipation”
Content of letter in paragraph form, with no indentations. Can be justified or aligned left.
Kind regards (if you are in a business relationship with the person already)
Avoid overused business letter phrases:
Yours sincerely (if it is a new or more formal relationship)
Yours faithfully (if you do not know the name of the person to whom you are writing or if it is
• according to our records
a very formal relationship)
• on receipt of
NB. No comma after the closing.
• after careful consideration 
Your full name [or just your first name if the relationship is close/informal]
• please do not hesitate to
Your designation [no underlining, capitals or highlighting]
• any further action  
• please find enclosed
• as you are aware  Enclosures
• please forward
• at your earliest convenience 

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Exercises Writing E-Mails

Note, e-mail is short for electronic mail and always deserves the hyphen. If you decide
1. Exercise: Circle the faults in the following letter:
to write e-mail, be consistent.

With the speed at which e-mails are evolving, there is no real point in writing a “how to” overview of
12 Rochester Place them. It makes more sense to suggest ideas to be aware of and prevent you embarrassing yourself
Main road in the area of e-mails.
SOUTH AFRICA Don’t Write A Novel
The whole purpose of e-mail is to be short and to the point. People receive so many that they are
unlikely to read your content if you wrote like Charles Dickens.
Not Too Much Punctuation
Customer Service Department Don’t get caught up in grammar and punctuation, especially too much punctuation. A dozen
exclamation marks at the end of a sentence does not add emphasis. Is something is important it
Dear Manager should be reflected in your text, not your punctuation.

On 18 November, I called your order department to ask for a price list and catalogue. I was Formatting Is Not Everything
Formatting can be everything but not here. Plain text is it. Keep it simple.
considering placing an order – a big one, I might add.
Abbreviations and Smilies
I was placed on hold (the voice asked Will you hold? But didn’t wait for my reply) and forced to Abbreviation usage is rampant with e-mail. To save keystrokes, users have traded clarity for confusion,
listen to terrible elevator music that was frequently interrupted with reminders to stay on the line. unless you understand the abbreviations. It is not unlike jargon and unless you know the person you
I did stay on the line, though why I don’t know. are writing to speaks the jargon, don’t go there. Stick to common English abbreviations like FYI –
For your information and avoid those like BCNU – be seeing you. If you received the following, what
would they mean to you?
When I was finally taken off hold and transferred to a sales rep (Carol), I was connected to her voice
mail. Her recorded greeting was pleasant enough and I was told that I could leave a message or
push the star button to talk too someone named Sarah. I pushed the star button and, would you BTW
believe it, reached Sarah’s voice mail!!!
At that point I rang off in disgust. Is there, I want to know, a single person in your organisation
who takes calls in the flesh? Let me assure you that I will never, ever do business with you again. IMHO

Yours in anger
Pete Dempster

Since there are no visual or auditory cues with e-mail, users have come up with “smilies”. They are
simple strings of characters that are interspersed in the e-mail text to display the writer’s emotions.
The most common example
is :-). They are typically found at the end of sentences and refer back to the prior statement. Use them
sparingly. If they are misinterpreted, the implications are endless confusion.

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Salutations >Yes, please do the necessary reference checks and if acceptable, make an offer.
How personal is too personal? Should you open with “Dear Sir” or “Dear Mr Smith”, “Jack” or none of References excellent. Offer made on 16th
them? This is known as level two quoting (>>) and level one quoting (>). The (>>) indicates that the
sender is quoting your quote and the (>) is a quote od part of your message
In a non-business context you can by-pass standard formalities. In the business situation, each
situation needs to be weighed up. The easiest guide is to think about how you greet them in person. Alternatively, using colour:
If they are “Ms Smith” to you, address them as such. If you are unsure what approach to take, go and do you agree with the decision to hire Ms Jones to handle HR?
Don’t get hung up on quoting and use it only in short, easily handled issues.
Unless you have a template that signs your e-mail, put your name on the bottom. As it is the closure Save a Tree
of the document, you want to be remembered. In business it is also important to put your e-mail The whole purpose of using e-mail is to save time and paper and to shorten information. Why then
address and other contact information like your telephone. Today it is also common to put your do at least a third of recipients print of e-mails, even before they have read it?
skype and or twitter address as well.
Rather use your folders to store e-mails under relevant files to have them accessible on demand. A
In view of it being a business communication, it is useful to put your title and company name as well. well planned filing system is invaluable in business.
This would be part of the letterhead but as letterhead is a waste of space in e-mail, it is useful to add
this information here. An e-mail address is often not the company name and you leave your reader Privacy
searching for the information. There is virtually no such thing as private e-mails in business. Some companies monitor e-mails
as a way of censorship. Daily backing up of systems is a prudent move that companies make and
Some people like to put a quote after their name. It has no business role and is a bit of a fashion item. everything is backed up. So e-mails will form part of that record. Remember also that software can
If you choose to use it, make sure it reflects you and keep it short. go wrong. You may receive an e-mail intended for someone else or worse still you may send one to
the wrong recipient. Stories abound of the embarrassment this may cause. Do not take the chance.
Once you send an e-mail, you are likely to get a response. It is not a good practice when you receive E-mails are legally binding and once sent, they cannot be retrieved. So read through what you send
an e-mail to reply with a new e-mail. It confuses the issue and is a nuisance to the reader to try to and be sure you have not said anything in an e-mail that you would not write on company letterhead
relocate the original e-mail with the questions etc. The link between the original message and the or say face to face to a person.
response is known as the “thread”. It offers a sequence of communication which holds the issue as
one topic. If there are a number of respondents to the message it is even more important that the Flaming
thread is maintained so that the entire issue can be reviewed. By not creating a new message, the This is basically a verbal attack in electronic form. Often e-mails written in CAPITAL LETTERS send
thread runs through the message and leads to continuity. out a message of aggression and hostility. If you are feeling attacked, you’d do well to not respond
immediately. Take time to calm down and think the issue through. You do not want to get into a
What if the original message has two ”threads”? It is then acceptable to open a new message to “flame war” as very quickly the issue that sparked the dissention is forgotten and it becomes a war
handle the second “thread” provided it goes to all the correct recipients. of words.

Quoting Another way to incite people is to correct them in an e-mail. Nobody wants to have their grammar,
It is a complete waste of time to send an entire e-mail back with “Yes” written on the bottom. spelling or punctuation errors highlighted. You don’t want to come across as the teacher.
Instead, where there are a number of questions, the option of “quoting” against the original e-mail
is beneficial. Quoting is indicated by the symbol > which is placed before the question in the Putting some form of tracking onto your e-mail is also annoying for the recipient. When you opened
original e-mail. E.g. it or if you’ve opened it, is a little like “big brother is watching you” and does not make people feel
>and do you agree with the decision to hire Ms Jones to handle HR? positive towards you, the sender, or the message. Only use this step if absolutely necessary. E.g. in
Yes, please do the necessary reference checks and if acceptable, make an offer. This saves the legal matters.
recipient scrolling through your entire e-mail to find the information they seek. Some people offer
the same benefit by answering in another colour. This is equally acceptable. The above interaction Do not assume that the minute someone receives an e-mail that they will respond to it. E-mail is not
may continue like this: designed for immediacy, it is designed for convenience. If something needs immediate attention,
use the phone.
>>and do you agree with the decision to hire Ms Jones to handle HR?

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Be Professional Exercise:

It is prudent to proofread your e-mail in exactly the same way that you would do a business letter of Read the following e-mail thread and identify what you consider to be the five biggest errors in them.
a report. Mistakes can be costly and are certainly unnecessary. Spelling mistakes are simply sloppy.

Rules From: Barry Jackson []

• Keep it short and simple Sent: 30 January 2010 08:53
• Don’t ignore grammar To: Greg Carley
• Use the subject line Cc: CEO; Directors; Project Manager; Site Agent; Senior Foreman; General Foreman
• Avoid attachments where possible Subject: RESOURCES!
• Only send copies (cc) to people who really need the information
• If you are sending the e-mail to several people and you feel that the e-mail addresses might be Greg
confidential, enter the e-mail addresses as blind copies (Bcc)
• Mark the message urgent only if it really IS urgent I do not have any problem with the sentiments you say we should aspire to.
• Don’t use all capital or all small letters
• Don’t send any e-mails when you are angry or upset – give yourself time to calm down and think However you talk as though this is the 1st time your co have ever been involved in a handover
about it + that you are surprised that changes are urgent. Your lads on the walk-around have been
• Remember, e-mails can be legally binding so be careful what you write raising the issue of operatives for Days but I suppose they didn’t tel u.

I would like nothing better than to not have to chase around like a headless chicken the day
before we are attempting to get ready. But the reality in the con world is that at this stage
all handovers are the same.

I do think that b4 reducing down to such a small level that I could have been informed.
Maybe it was minited but I just did not pick it up.

We are where we are but a little more support would have been appreciated, especially with
the weekend upon us.


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From: Greg Carley [] From: Barry Jackson []

Sent: 30 January 2010 08:30 Sent: 29 January 2010 16:53
To: Barry Jackson To: Greg Carley
Cc: Cc:
Subject: Resources Subject:

Barry Guys

It is correct that the earliest we could get men back is Monday, at a struggle, due to availability On the walk arounds this week the work content
of labour at short notice. We had to cut down on crews two weeks ago due to reduced for your work is clearly getting bigger against the
contract works and non-continuity. resources you currently have on site at present.
Eg. The ceiling having to come down to get a late
The additional works referred to have only been instructed over the past few days and
instructed drain into the ceiling void and the ceiling
consideration needs to be given to procurement of materials and co-ordination with other
needing to be re-instated by close of business
contract works. In addition to this, the jobs are of short duration and with other crews on site
tomorrow as the room is critical.
would not warrant an additional crew.

I suggest a meeting with yourselves this morning to discuss: Today my QA manager has been told from yourselves that A) you need an instruction to
bring more guys back on site and B) you can’t get anyone here until Monday.
1) Future works to allow us to plan and resource.

We are at the cusp of achieving plant ready and to do that there has to be certain rooms
2) A small works crew (skill needs to be reviewed) to cover all these unknown emergency
done, as you are aware (as is your foreman who attends the meeting and who could and
job requirements. Please advise me of a time convenient to you but obviously, as soon as
should have got more men back earlier).

Thanks I guarantee I will get you whatever instruction you require without any problem - because
I am in your hands and hope that you can get dry wall guys here for the morning and that
Greg your lads will be here over the weekend.

I hope you can do something for us. Please keep in touch with Jack Jones on tel 086 1234567
if you manage to get the labour.

Barry Jackson

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Reports Section 5
Section 5 – Reports

Section 5 - Reports

What Makes a Piece of Writing a Report?

There is no prescribed answer to this. Reports vary, depending on why they are requested, how long
and formal they are and how they are formatted. Think about the last report you wrote or read. What,
in your opinion, made it different to a discussion paper, an academic submission or a long memo?

1. The report I read was about:

Place a cross lines below indicating where on the spectrum your document belongs:

It was requested by It was written at the

someone senior _________________________ authors own initiative

It was formal __________________________ It was informal

It had official status __________________________ It was unofficial

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It helped clarify It had no obvious 2. What problems have you had in writing them?
information __________________________ benefits for others
for others

Action was required Nothing was expected

as a result ___________________________ to happen

Most reports have features that reflect on the left-hand side of this list. Most significantly, a report
is normally expected to result in some form of change. It could be a technical change, a change in
system, a change in staff or even in location. E.g. A feasibility report. They are often problem solving
documents with recommendations or conclusions, to assist the readers and decision makers in
thinking about implications before actions are taken.

Reports come in all shapes and sizes with very varied styles. Whatever they end up looking like, they
tend to go through similar steps. These are:

1. Agreeing the terms of reference (the scope and purpose of the report)
2. Collecting information
3. Identifying the relevance of the information (what to put in and leave out)
4. Writing a first draft
5. Editing it to ensure it achieves its objective
6. Presenting the final product 3. What do you need to do to improve your reports?

If writing reports is a routine part of your job they may seem mundane. But a good report is a challenge
which requires an enormous amount of thought and effort. This effort is devoted to establishing a
clear purpose, gathering facts, accuracy, analysis and judgement.

Group discussion:
1. What are the general purposes of reports? What type of reports have you had to write?

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Preparation of a Report Report users tend to be colleagues, members
of other departments or external people. You
The best way to prepare a report is exactly the same as any other preparation and planning. may know them well or never have met them.
They want to know the decisions reached, the
You need to ask the basic questions: recommendations and what it means for them
from a workload perspective.
• Why am I writing
• Who is it for? What is their background? To address both these sets of need is a challenge.
• How will they use it? When in doubt, concentrate on one or the other.
• When do they need it by? Don’t try a “spray and pray” approach. Use your
appendices accordingly.

If the readers are highly specialised and technical, you need to write this way. Otherwise it comes
Why am I writing it? across as patronising and simplistic. If they are not, you need to write in a way that explains it to a
non-specialist. Your knowledge of the reader will determine the depth of detail required.
You need to establish the goal post. Why am I writing it? What is the purpose? The reason is best
written down as a simple verbal phrase – To:

• Make a decision How will they use it?

• Update on progress
• Justify expenditure etc. Will the report be used internally or is it part of
an external projection. Will it be photocopied by
From this it is useful to construct a short statement of objective, to which you can refer as you work users and lose impact if the colour is lost? Will soft
through the report. It helps you stay on track and remain focussed. or hard copies be accessed? The answers to these
questions have an impact on presentation.
The purpose and objective is not the same as the subject. The subject is the factual aspects of the
report. E.g. In an accident report the subject material would include items like what happened,
people involved, the circumstances, causes, details of injuries, safety procedures, safety training, When do they need it by?
legal liability, compensation etc.
Establishing this is critical as most reports are
These facts remain the same. Emphasis and presentation will be determined each time by the governed by a deadline. E.g. The day the meeting
purpose of the report. will be held to review the recommendations
or make the decision. Does the report need to
Who is it for? What is their background? be read ahead of something else? Once the
deadline is known, work back from it, allowing for
Reports have readers and users. planning, researching, pilot tests, drafting and all
the necessary steps to final proofreading.
Readers tend to be senior management who may
or may not have specialist knowledge. They are Each step takes longer than expected so be realistic. Stick to your programme schedule. Depending
often in charge of budgets. They are busy people on the subject, the gathering of material is often the slowest stage. Be disciplined and do not just
who need to read the Executive Summary only. keep gathering more and more information. This results in more and more to filter through and
They can of course be the opposite, the detailed discard again. Work to your plan.
head of a section who goes through every line of
the content. They therefore must be kept in mind Which leads us to the key aspect of preparation - the gathering of material. There are numerous
when writing the report. sources which are dictated by the purpose and subject of the report. Common methods include:

Report readers want a clear picture. • Interviews

• Questionnaires

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• Technical reports Decide What to Say
• Experimental results
• Past reports The starting point for a good report is collecting facts, seeking problems and opinions and beginning
• Newspapers, periodicals, journals etc to develop a thorough understanding of the subject. What is critical to remember is that getting
• Site visits other’s opinions are part of the job of report writing. Expressing your own is what must be avoided.
• Minutes of meetings
Facts may be already known and simply need to be arranged in a sequence that support the report
When researching it is fundamental to keep coming back to the objective -. that short accurate objective. In other situations, detailed research may be required. Acquiring facts must be thorough,
statement on intent. intense and complete. Questioning must be persistent and you must be alert to facts omitted or
misrepresented. Sometimes inadvertently, sometimes deliberately. E.g. at the scene of an accident,
Note-taking someone may genuinely forget to mention something material. But at an interview on working
The shortest pencil outlives the longest memory. Items, which seem inconsequential at the time can practice, to do a step like a time and motion study, may deliberately be glossed over as it is a shortcut.
become significant and should be recorded. It saves time on going back. E.g. distances in the Milk So as in all communication, listening is critical. Find the facts.
Chocolate case study to be later.
Approach it with an open mind. All information should be accepted, even if it appears irrelevant.
Notes should be recorded as soon as possible while they are fresh in your mind. Do not assume anything! Critically examine this information as people can be biased or say what
they think you the questioner, want to hear. Personal observation is always better than second hand

Facts and Opinions

Reports need facts. For some, it seems to consist
of virtually nothing else. They are convinced it
should include everything and are terrified of
leaving something out. The resulting reports are
often complete but of little value as people are too
daunted to read them.

Facts are sacred. It is only on scrupulously accurate

information that conclusions and recommendations
can be made. In this respect, all reports should be

Comment however is free. You are asked to give your opinion and to come to conclusions and
recommendations. The choice of facts you include and how you present them will be governed by
the case you are presenting. This is the subjective element of your report and it is as vital as the
objective element. Of course you will be guided by the purpose and your analysis.

Difference between facts and opinions.

• Facts are sacred

• Facts are objective
• When giving an opinion, state that it is an opinion
• Fact is verifiable information

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Exercise: Case Study on Opinion and Fact

Which of the following are facts? Read the following report sent to the Board of Milk Chocolate Incorporated. Identify
the opinions and poor use of words. Critique it in general.

1. Pollution is a growing problem.

2. I feel pollution is the word’s number one problem

3. We are not doing enough to control pollution.

4. Pollution is everyone’s business.

In accordance with the instructions of the CEO, I have visited the Nicholl Industrial Estate with the
5. Household rubbish contributes to pollution. view to the acquisition by your company of a factory there and now have pleasure in submitting my

The industrial estate is a government-sponsored enterprise about 20km from Mumbai port, with an
6. Polls show that people care about pollution. excellent road connecting them. Water, light and power supplies on the estate are appropriate and
other services compare favourably with those in similar industrial estates elsewhere in the country.

The particular site offered to the company is well-drained, close to the main road which passes
7. I do not know what I can do about pollution. through the estate and ½ km away from the M21.

There would seem to be no difficulty in contracting out building work on a project of this scale. The
necessary planning permission should be easily obtainable, as the Government has designated this
8. Pollution is depleting the ozone layer. as a ‘development area’.

Supplies of skilled and un-skilled labour are fairly plentiful and local government officials have
welcomed the potential establishment of a factory employing 900 people. However, it would
be necessary for the company to bring in a number of skilled operatives and technicians. The
accommodation of these key workers would not present a serious problem, as there is sufficient
housing available in the area.

Therefore, the site at Nicolls appears to suit your company’s requirements ideally. In my opinion the
company should accept the site and proceed with the building of the factory without delay.

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Writing the Report Exercise

Discuss these opening paragraphs.

Like so much of communication, a report consists of a beginning (introduction), a middle (body or Decide if they are effective and if not, what could be done to improve them.
discussion) and an end (conclusion and recommendation).
Number 1
The Introduction
This report was commissioned by the General Manager to review the possibility of outsourcing the
This generally includes food service within the hotel. It was undertaken internally by the Night Auditor. It considers the
option of retaining the status quo, outsourcing the restaurant fully or only outsourcing the evening
meals and retaining the breakfast service in-house. Costs, legal implications in terms of staff and the
1. Terms of reference upholding of established service standards were the primary considerations.
2. Background (how it came about)
3. Objectives (purpose; intended uses of the report)
4. Methods (of investigation and analysis)
Number 2
We have not inspected the woodwork parts of the structure which are covered, unexposed or
inaccessible. We are therefore unable to report on the risk of beetle infestation and do not guarantee
that it is borer-beetle free.
How much detail goes into the introduction depends on the reader or user’s knowledge. What
needs to be explained? What can be taken for granted? Too much can be boring, too little can create
Number 3
The report is the result of a survey carried out on two separate days. The purpose was to monitor
Terms of Reference
crack movements, amongst other things. It was not possible to determine whether the cracks are
live as the weather conditions on the two days were different. Tests were not carried out on sewers,
Sometimes called the scope or parameters of the report, these are the factors influencing the method
appliances or on electrical cabling. Tests for the presence of hazardous materials or gases were
of research and the nature of the report. The more clearly you define the scope, the easier it is to
carried out on ventilation, plumbing and heating installations but only those detailed through the
write the report.
course of the report.
Some terms of reference are easy. E.g. deadlines, budgets, distribution lists and matters of
confidentiality. Other are more tricky like required methods of research or viability/feasibility etc.
Number 4
You may need to consider internal politics when agreeing terms of reference so that you write your This report is a summary of the ideas staff are interested in for the annual staff outing. It lists ideas
report in a tactful way appropriate to the audience. generated and the results of a survey on whether children should be included in the event. No
venues or costs have been explored as this goes beyond the original brief.
Terms of reference go back to the general headings of planning. This includes:

• What aspect of the subject is under review (Why am I writing?) The Body.
• Deadline for the report (When is it due?) This is where the evidence comes. The facts the research revealed. The report must supply relevant
• Distribution list (Who is it for?) facts that can be measured against criteria to afford compliance. E.g. What would be the criteria
• Confidentiality for buying equipment? price; health and safety; maintenance factors; versatility; etc. A good report
• Methods of research possible (options) compares evidence from different options against criteria to show value.

A hostile reader of the report will focus on unclear terms of reference. Write with this reader in mind. The methodology that you used to obtain your evidence should be clearly stated in the body.

The Conclusions
The order of your conclusions must follow the order of your findings. Conclusions are an assessment
of the facts; your considered opinion based on your analysis of the evidence. Never introduce new

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evidence at this stage. All reports should have a contents page. It acts like a map or viewfinder for the reader and guides
them through the shape of the report. It should include the title of every section and sub-section
An accident report might conclude: including the glossary and a list of illustrations. It forms the index of the document and is what
people use to go back to significant sections
1. There was a faulty light fitting in the stairwell
2. The stair carpet is loose and threadbare in places A Sample Contents page for a new garden design may look like this:
3. The angles of the stairwell make traffic of heavy goods impractical.
5. Design
Recommendations 1. 1.1 Survey of plot
2. 1.2 Water access
(What actions need to be put in place?) 3. 1.3 Budget constraints
4. 1.4 Owner preferences of plant range
This is the most important part of the report. Your conclusions have identified the problem. The
recommendations will suggest courses of action to resolve them. 6. Planning
1. 2.1 Existing features
Recommendations should be specific, measurable and achievable. The accident report’s 2. 2.2 New features
recommendations, based on the conclusions we came to, might include: 3. 2.3 Construction materials
C. Maintenance to replace light fitting in the stairwell
CI. New carpet to be purchased within budget
CII. Memo to all delivery staff to use elevator in Entrance B in future
Executive Summary
Despite its position early in the report, the executive summary is the last thing you write. It is often
The way you make your recommendations is crucial to their success. Do not hedge. State your
the most difficult to write.
preferred action clearly and directly. Advise, urge and suggest. You want to convince your readers,
not alienate them.
For the first time reader, the summary gives an overall view of what the report is about. For other
readers and users, it is seen as a reminder, perhaps prior to a meeting where the report is being
If there are a range of options, state them clearly without seeming to sit on the fence. Motivate each
discussed; or as an indication of how the sections relevant to them fit into the report as a whole.
objectively. Somebody has to make a decision so where appropriate state who. As the expert it is
acceptable to state a preferred option.
Summaries will be read by – or at least circulated to – people who may have a general interest in
the report but have no time (or inclination) to read it. E.g. Senior management, who need an overall
Not all reports have recommendations. Their presence depends on the purpose
view of what decisions have been taken, or are being discussed in the department or organisation.
Decision-makers and action-takers may look only to the summary to tell them what to do. Research
suggests that the vast majority of managers only ever read the summaries of reports.
These are ideal if you are writing for a mixed audience especially technical and non-technical. They For these reasons, summaries are sometimes split into general or management summaries, and
include material information not essential to your argument but supportive of your case. Specialist executive summaries, stressing recommendations and actions.
users can access the data without the general reader being bogged down with it.
The summary must be as action-centred as the rest of the report. It should also explain the report’s
Graphs, samples (e.g. of questionnaires) glossaries and lists are all well positioned in the appendix. background sufficiently to anybody who will not be reading the whole document.
These tend to be given letters rather than numbers for reference. It is sometimes appropriate to use
different colour paper or you can use any other manner to make the document easily readable. The summary page should include:

Acknowledgements and Glossary • Report title and author

These can be placed either at the end of the report or at the beginning. The glossary is more useful • Date
near the beginning as it can be read and noted before starting to read the content. Be sure to add • Reference number or code
them to a contents page. • Any indication of confidentiality

Contents Page The summary is obviously the final section of the report to be written. It must be impressive.

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Exec Summary – Practical Exercise
The material in the summary need not – indeed, probably will not – follow the order of the report itself.
The emphasis must be on results rather than method, on recommendations rather than research. Take this real-life scenario. A financial director of a Cairo-based company wants to consider contracting
out its office cleaning services before an impending office move. He has commissioned you, one of
his managers to look into the matter. Compose a summary of the report based on the information
To write a summary: below. Ask a colleague to read your final version. Does it make sense as a separate item? Is anything
• Decide what is important
These are key points of information that you will base your executive summary on:
If you were forced to reduce your report to half a page what would you most want to
save? • Currently 28 in-house staff clean the offices which costs EGP 141,000 every year
Write these essential points in a few sentences, emphasising conclusions, recommendations, and
• A tender was put out to cost contractors and many proposals were received. The costing
action points. ranged from EGP 93,000 to EGP 153,000, using anything between 20 and 40 cleaners
• The best quote was EGP 93,000 using 20 staff
• Background • You did the mathematics and this would mean a 34% reduction in cleaning costs
What does the reader need to know in order to understand the context of these few points? • You determined the cost of laying off in-house cleaners
Remember that the summary should be able to stand on its own. Include too much rather than too • You believe that it would work out better in the long run to use the contract cleaners
little: cutting is far easier than adding later. • However you think that legal issues could arise resulting from the switch from in-house staff
to a contractor before the move to the new offices (as this is happening very shortly), there
• Link the points into prose would also be huge financial costs and operational implications in such a switch
Use paragraphs and layout to emphasise the most important or urgent points. • You feel that in order to resolve the issue, both the in-house cleaning manager and the
contractor should submit quotes and detailed reports on the cleaning to be done in the new
There is no need to restrict yourself to one paragraph, if two or three are more helpful. offices and based on this decide on a course of action
• If the in-house cleaners are cheaper, then it would be unwise to switch from them in the new
• Check and reduce offices
• However, if the contractor is cheaper, then you believe that the company should employ the
By now the summary should be accurate, unambiguous, and not too long.
contractor and give the in-house cleaners notification of termination
• In addition, the contractor has stated that it has some vacancies and will consider those that
Cut out: the company will lay off, for those positions
Unnecessary jargon
Figures except where absolutely necessary (in recommendations, perhaps)

Cut down your language: hunt out wordy expressions, unnecessary phrases and convoluted
sentences. Be aware that in cutting material down, there is a greater danger of creating sentences
that are too long.

Ask a colleague to read your final version. Does it make sense as a separate item? Is anything missing?

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Report Layout and Presentation Other Possible Structures

 Meeting reports or minutes

Formal Report Order This should always include:

• Time and place

The following is the usual order for a normal formal report: • Names of those present or participating if a video conference
• Apologies
Titile: The front page on its own • A true record of proceedings
• Notice of next meeting
Table of contents: Separate page – Like and index

Summary: It is usual to include an overall summary, often called the Executive

 Analysis Report
Summary consisting of all the main points. This should be less than a
page long. Write it last. This should always include:

Terms of Reference: As agreed with whoever commissioned the report • Objectives and scope of the report
• History or background
Main text or body: Introduction, method and findings • Description of situation and relevant factors
• Implications and options
Conclusions: No new facts. Must be consistent with facts in body • Summary of prospects (may also be inserted at beginning as executive summary)

Recommendations: Any course of action you suggest. These can be personal opinion
 Reports with Recommendations
Appendices Often called annexures. Any papers or statistics that are too
substantial to include in main body without interrupting the main
flow. They are none-the-less important to the subject.  Objectives
 Background
Acknowledgements: List of people interviewed, any body who had given extra help and  Evidence
warrants a thank you.  Assessment of options
 Conclusions and recommendations
References: Material and books quoted in the text. Citing usually done as follows:  An Executive Summary is usually put at the front for the reader’s convenience
Author surname, initial, Year of publication Book title, Edition.
Armstrong, M (2006): Performance Management – Key Strategies and
Practical Guidelines Third Edition London: Kogan Page
Your own Company in-house template
And online references:
Seligman, M (2005) New Zealand Herald Step Aside Managers.
[online]. Available

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Elements of Layout Presentation
Like all good writing, white space is a prerequisite. Justification is rare and most reports are written
All reports should be notated: each section and sub-section should be numbered. in the more popular “ragged right edge” with left alignment.
Decimal numbering is generally recognised to be the most straightforward method of notation. It Consistency throughout the text is crucial. All notations, sections and sub-sections, headings and
shows more clearly than any other hierarchy of your thoughts. sub-headings must be consistent. Wide margins and double spacing make it easier for the reader to
follow. Only include significant lists and place all supporting lists in the appendix.
1.1 Remember the cliché “a good picture is worth a thousand words”. Pictures in reports tend to be
Paragraph 1.1.1 graphs, charts, tables, pie charts, bar charts, photographs, pictograms, drawings, maps and plans
1.1.2 etc. All illustrations should be referred to in the text and are usually known as figures. They should
1.2 be labelled with a title and a decimal number. Thus Figure 5.1 is the first in Section 5 while Figure B.1
is the fist in Appendix b. A list of figures included after the contents list is useful.
Three sub-divisions should prove quite sufficient: If you run to four or more, you risk confusing your
reader. Rethink the structure of the section. Figures should be kept simple. Any complicating information should be removed provided the
message is not changed. Illustrations and figures should only have a short label, not a descriptive
Every section of the report should be notated in this way, apart from the contents page itself and one such as those seen in newspapers. Scales and numbers and other essential information must
the summary, which will not be notated; and any appendices, which are usually identified by capital be included.
letters and numbers
Professionals often “say it with figures”. It is important to make sure the figures add value and do not
Page Numbers confuse the issue. Excessive figures can result in people feeling “blinded” by figures. They should be
kept to a minimum and readily reveal their meaning.
It is common practice to leave the title page unnumbered and to number every other page before
the introduction with roman numerals (i,ii,iii,iv …). If you choose to number the preliminary pages in Statistical tables usually show how one thing is related to another. They compare and are two
this manner, try not to run more than five or six (v or vi). dimensional. The two variables should be indicated in the title. E.g. Comparing Government
Department Expenditure in different years

Table 1
Government Departmental Expenditure Bi-Annually in Million Pounds from 2002 – 2008.

Department 2002 2004 2006 2008

Defence 38 621 41 784 42 756 46 121

Education 21 684 23 432 22 640 21 354

Health 35 674 35 911 36 973 37 312

Housing 1,125 1,129 2,381 2,412


Source: Fictitious

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Exercise Part 1: Pie Charts
Pie charts depict the different sized slices into which a whole entity is divided. It presents graphically
How would you set about tidying the table so that it clarified its key features? a number of elements and compares them according to a scale.

1. Does the table appear to be just a jumble of figures?

2. Is there any logic in the ordering of the rows or columns?

3. Is it difficult to compare figures along a row?

Review Questions:

• Would it help to find row or column averages?

• Would it help to convert to percentages?
• Is the information internally consistent?
• What other information is needed?
• Could it be presented as a graph or a pie chart?

Remember, when using tables, experiment with them to see which approach relays the message
most powerfully.

A graph, like a table, can deal with only two variables at a time but can give a very visual overview
of data.

By convention, one normally puts the independent variable on the horizontal axis.

Review and Publish

Anxious as you may to be rid of the document, it is wise to put it aside and come back to it later to

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- Are all the pages there?
- Are all the facts and figures accurate?
Proofreading is akin to quality control. It effectively means making sure the documents are free from - Do they support the conclusions?
errors so it reflects well on you, the writer. Here are some pointers. - Are the recommendations realistic?
- Have you given sources and references?

Useful tip:
1. Check all names, including initials, titles and
company distinctions.
Never revise closely for more than 30 minutes at a time!
2. Double check all numbers
The only thing that remains is to print and bind the document. Use good quality paper, held together
3. Look for misspellings or ‘confusables’ (words that firmly. If appropriate, have it professionally designed and bound.
sound the same but are spelt differently)
4. Look our for repeat words
5. Be on the alert for small words you repeat or
6. Check dates against the calendar
7. Check for omissions
8. Check spelling, grammar and punctuation
9. Print out the document and proof the hard copy
10. Get someone else to proofread it for you


Ask yourself:
Is it clear?
- Does it say what you mean to say?
- Does it tie in with the statement of purpose and Terms of Reference
- Is it reader focussed?
- Does it look good?
- Is it easy to read?

- Have you said it as well as possible?
- Have you removed all verbose, wordy, longwinded, effusive, rambling,
repeated words?

- Any crucial information missing?
- Will readers have all the information they need?

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Writing Skills Applications Section 6
Section 6 – Writing Skill Applications

Taking Minutes


Section 6 Minutes are a way of recording what was discussed and decided on, in a meeting. They need to be
an accurate reflection of what was dealt with and what the decision or future action on the issue is.

They are difficult to take, partly because people

speak at their normal speed and depending on the

Writing Skill Applications

room layout sometimes it is hard to hear. What is
important is that you do not try to take “dictation”
minutes because you won’t be able to keep up
and they will probably be illegible. If you require
verbatim minutes, e.g. for legal reasons such
as wage negotiations, it is important to obtain
permission to run a recording device.

Problems with Minute Taking Exercise

Which of the following problems have you encountered when taking minutes?

1. finding out who is who

2. remembering who is who
3. staying aware
4. hearing what is said
5. not understanding
6. everybody interrupting
7. arguments
8. being sent out to copy
9. coffee
10. where to sit
11. being a working member of the group as well as the minute

Taking minutes improves with practice and concentration.

What is important is that you take note of the subject matter, not the various opinions. You can only
do this by concentrating and understanding. For example:

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Approaches to Note Taking
Quote from Jack Noted as:
Once you can differentiate between subject, viewpoint and examples, it’s important to decide how
“In my department, it won’t work. To log to arrange your notes. There is no right to wrong way. It is a matter of preference. Here are some
every telephone call made and received Jack disagrees – waste of staff time
would be a complete waste of time.
1. Landscape columns

Subject or Agenda Views Other Action/decisions

It is useful to underline or circle key points as they will make deciphering the content afterwards, far item
easier. Using intials is another way to keep it clear.

Subject and viewpoint exercise:

Instructions: Identify the subject and the viewpoint in the following:

1. “I think we should introduce flexi-time for managers so we can accommodate managers

who travel long distances.”

Subject: The useful aspect of this approach is the “other” column allows for you to come back and add further
information later. For example if someone returns to the topic in another context. It saves arrows and
View: asterisks all over your notes.

2. Seating Plan
2. “None of my staff want to be trained in Microsoft Office and I’m having a hard time
trying to convince them. Perhaps we should reconsider.” This can only be used for meeting of three or four people. For each discussion (agenda item) draw
up a seating plan and note viewpoints beside names. If a decision is made it is then possible to put
Subject: it under each point

View: Subject: Staff double parking and blocking others

3. “Laura is an excellent manager and her approach has improved morale and motivation.” Get staff to use multi-storey
Limit number of directors
Multi storey expensive
Only problem on certain
days e.g. Friday

Directors bays often empty

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Decision: Limit no of directors bays and try to negotiate reduced rate for regular parkers. Verbatim style – done by typing off recording device.
Summary minutes - summarises discussion as a whole. Focuses on subject and not who said what
3. For and Against Action minutes – show heading/subject, the decision and who is to take the action.

Again, prepare many sheets. Sections of minutes:

Subject/Agenda Item Headings: Name of group, date, time and place

Present: Anyone there. Note if only there some of time. If action to be assigned, put
initials in brackets for reference
Apologies: People who have advised of absence
For Against
Absent: People who should be there and who gave no indication of absence
Copy to (cc): People not in attendance but who require the minutes
Minutes of
previous meeting: If they need to be approved and signed off in a formal fashion
Neutral comments and general point can be written here Matters arising:` Brief notes on progress made off minute items
Issues off agenda: New topics
AOB Any other business. Items not on the agenda but raised in the meeting
Next meeting Agreed time, date and venue

Example 4 Traditional mind mapping or Spidergrams

Place the agenda item in the centre of
the diagram and any comments on the
subject around it. If action is assigned,
you would need to use initials of people
present. A good way to link this is on
the attendance list, to detail initials in
brackets. This also means that if two
people have the same initials, you can

Prepare many sheets.

Writing up your notes:

Do this as soon as possible after the

meeting while it is fresh in your mind
Use appropriate style:

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What is a website....? What is it’s function....? on a weekly (or even daily) basis. These features need to be established early on in the project too as
they have a major bearing on cost. The management of such “back end” dynamic websites is done
_______________________________________________________________ by a webmaster.

_______________________________________________________________ 3. Draft the final content:

In short, the main function of any website is to effectively COMMUNICATE with others. It is important to note the fact that the final content of the website has to be drafted at this stage so
that there can be proper web designing done. Hence it is important that you draft the content at this
A website is simply a collection of images and text laid out in a particular style or layout in order to point so that you don’t have to rethink the website design later. It is the content that actually makes
communicate with others. the website become successful and valuable. Never ever lose sight of the fact that it is the client’s
vision or message which gets conveyed on HIS website. There are far too many designers who see
As with all writing, the same questions need to be asked before we start:
other people’s websites as an advertising hoarding for their own talents.
Why are we creating the website? (What do we want it to do?)
Who are we targeting it at? (Who is the audience?)
4. Develop a style:
Establishing a look and feel for your website is important. Colours, Text, Fonts, Images etc…. all need
Website Creation - The Main Steps to be considered at this stage. There are many elements that go into the creation of any website. It
is useful to have a good appreciation of general graphic design and layout in order to produce good
There are different steps to designing a website which are listed below. and attractive websites. It is no exaggeration to say that someone with design flair will produce
better looking websites than someone who has never done any graphic design.
1. Establish what is the main function of the website
5. Build the website:
2. What are the unique features that you are looking for in your website This is the stage where you need to finally start building the website. Develop a layout and stick to it
when you are happy with the look.
3. Finalise the content of your website

4. Develop a style that matches as per the industry standards 6. Evaluate the website:
After the website is done, you need to evaluate the content and modify it accordingly. Will it achieve
5. Build the website its function and purpose? Does it appeal to the correct audience?
6. Evaluate site and make revisions
• Go live:
7. Go live, register a domain, find a host and upload the website
Register a domain for yourself and then go in for the Search Engine Optimisation (SEO).


1. Function of website: There are many different software packages available to support creating a website. One of the most
This is the key step that you need to take into account. It is critical that you decide the main purpose popular is Dreamweaver. We won’t be going into any detail about this package except to say that it
of the website you intend designing. It is important that you remember these facts and make a list is generally accepted that it is a market leader for website creation.
of the main functions as this will determine the impact of the whole project. You need to decide the
layout, the information that you are intending to provide to the established clients and you also need Dreamweaver can be essentially broken into two main areas:
to decide on how you are intending to brand the website. It is equally important that the designer
listens to the client at this stage and is absolutely clear of his requirements. Remember, most web 1. Design Layout
2. Language Coding.
designers are delivering someone else’s message for them.
When working in Dreamweaver, the designer tends to work in layout mode. The reason for this is
2. Website features: quite simple. Visually the designer can see on screen how his layout develops in real time as he
What type of website are we going to design? Is it a simple 3 or 5 page layout that conveys a simple creates it. The other interesting aspect is that as he creates his layout/design, Dreamweaver creates a
and clear message and client vision or is it to be a large scale “back-end” website which gets updated

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coded version of his webpage in HTML or XHTML format.

This is important for many reasons not least that the designer can make changes and edits easily in
code format at later stages throughout the design. It is also extremely important when considering
the whole area of Search Engine Optimisation (SEO). We will touch on this later.

HTML (Hypertext Markup Language) and
XHTML (Extensible Hypertext Markup
Language) are coded versions of what the
designer creates on screen. It is important for
anyone who considers webdesign seriously
to have a good understanding of HTML
and XHTML as editing layouts and making
revisions becomes very easy in code format
once an understanding has been built up.
Refer to sample below which shows the layout
and coded versions of a webpage as it is being
created. Every time the designer makes an
edit or creates anything in the layout format
“on top”, the XHTML code gets updated also
(blue text area) “underneath”.

In 2001, the regulatory body for web design decided to make XHTML the main code language within
the industry. The most important reason for this was that XHTML allowed for websites to be read
across different browsers and remain the same as the designer intended it to look. Prior to this, the
designer needed to consider which browser his clients’ webpage would be viewed on. There are
other differences but they go beyond this introduction.

Design and Layout Navigation buttons and bars must be easy to understand and use. Navigation needs to be consistent
There is no end to the resources available to determine a good or poor design. This is a huge subject throughout website. Provide the visitor with a clue as to where they are, what page of the site they
which quite frankly we could go on about indefinitely. are on. It’s extremely annoying when browsing to find yourself in a totally different area to where you
intended to be. Browsers will leave the site almost immediately if annoyed or unsure.
It’s easy to create a poor looking website. It’s also easy to create a nice, sharp, professional-looking
one. Most of the time it is simply a matter of eliminating certain features that are guaranteed to make Links
a page look unprofessional. Using red font for example does not work well. It is harder to read. Keep in Link colours co-ordinate with page colours. Again, keep it simple. Links are underlined so they are
mind that the point of eliminating bad features is not just to make the page look more professional, instantly clear to the visitor. They are automatically programmed to show up in blue. This shows the
but to communicate your subject more effectively. There’s that word… communicate… again. visitor that an action will be performed when they navigate towards the link.

Text Graphics
Background must not interrupt or clash with the text. Ensure good contrast between background and Buttons must not be too big. Sleek, clean, sharp design is the order of the day. Always, always, always
text. The hierarchy of information need to be perfectly clear. In other words, get the main message look at other sites as well. Check out what competitors are up to. Improve on some of the good
across in as clear and concise way as possible. Make sure the text is big enough to read, but not too looking sites out there. This in turn will only improve your chances of your design achieving the
big. Make columns of text narrower than in a book to make reading easier on the screen. objective it was created for.

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Animated graphics don’t turn off by themselves. Don’t leave animations hanging. If you open a drop phrases in conjunction with his layout in order to attract search engines. This is done in XHTML format
down menu with a mouse click, make sure it closes when you navigate away. and is input in code format. As the site is being browsed, these words or phrases are not visible to
the eye yet they are picked up by search engines as they reside in the coded part of the web design.
Refer to example below. We can see the highlighted words or tags that the designer has inserted in
General Design
order to hopefully get his website up the list of similar web pages. In this instance the website refers
to energy savings offers on home heating options… Not a very exciting subject but important that
Pages must download and appear quickly. This is important as people browsing are an impatient
the website is up there with it’s competitors.
bunch. Make sure that every web page in the site looks like it belongs to the same site. It is useful to
develop a theme and not deviate from it. e.g. Web designers may choose animals or a person (subject
to copyright) to portray their message. Make good use of graphic elements (photos, images, banners Example of what metatags look like in code:
etc….) to break up large areas of text. Get the balance right between text and graphics. Consider the
overall layout. Remember to use “white space”. This is the area of the page that doesn’t have any text
or graphics. If balanced and fine-tuned correctly, it can be a good design asset. It cannot be stressed enough just how important the
whole area of SEO is. There is no point in having a
If all the above elements are considered together, and thought is given to each one in turn, then you fantastic looking website if nobody ever visits it.
are on the way towards owning a good, clean, professional website. Just one element wrong and it Similarly any website’s traffic can be monitored on a
will stick out like a sore thumb. constant basis using software such as Google Analytics.
This is very useful in establishing over time the traffic
that visits a site. The designer can go back and re-edit
Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) the metatags in order improve the position of the site
if necessary.
There are literally millions of websites out there. Generally only the top 10 marketed sites will appear on
the first pages of Google, Yahoo or MSN. Therefore this is clearly the only place to be to achieve a regular
high volume of visitors. These are obviously the sites which get and retain most of the people browsing A Few Samples
the internet. In this very competitive field the first 10 is everything, 11th is nowhere. All the research To show the differences in good and poor web design
shows that there is no doubt few people have to go beyond the first page to satisfy their requirements. considering the content above, we will use one specific
web site, namely We will look at the
Web sites appearing lower down the rankings will get little or no traffic at all despite having an site initially and then again after improvements listed
attractive and well constructed website. Albeit their web site is appealing to the eye and very under the headings: background, graphics, text and
functional, it failed in the mission critical area of optimising and marketing the web site properly at design (layout). See if you can identify changes and
the outset. The web site could be effectively worthless as a consequence of its invisibility in response edits that were performed on the site.
to a keyword search.
The site is designed to encourage people to convert
Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) Marketing requires techniques that will stimulate the web search their houses to an environmentally better home
engines’‘robots’ and ‘spiders’ interest in your website. All search engines use what are called algorithms heating system. It is a very competitive market. The
to rank web pages in response to keyword searches. This automated process filters out inappropriate product offers financial benefits and value to those
responses, prevents abuse of the system such as ‘spamming’, and ensures appropriate results are people who wish to avail of government home energy
presented to the end user. Their methodologies constantly evolve to keep up with technology. saving schemes and grants. These are readily available
and the site owner wants to increase sales WITHOUT UPSETTING EXISTING CLIENTS BY MAKING
An algorithm is an effective method for solving a problem using a finite sequence of instructions. RADICAL CHANGES TO THE WEBSITE AND CONFUSING CUSTOMERS. Changes to houses are required
Algorithms are used for calculations and data processing. They are formulae. which the site owner wants customers to undertake. Such changes are environmentally friendly and
currently much in demand.
Sites are constantly ‘crawled’ by so called ‘spiders’ and other automated robots. They store the
information captured on new websites in their memory cache and update those that have changed. There is no doubt that it is not the most exciting subject in the world, however it is a good example
When a user makes a search, the memory store is scrutinised and irrelevant sites are discounted. to use as the site was re-designed in 2009 allowing learners to compare the old (poor) design with
Any relevant sites are automatically evaluated by the application of the search engine’s specific the new (better) design.
algorithms. This produces the hierarchical website ranking listing returned in the results.
On the introduction or “index” page we can see the primary message. On the left hand side we can
When creating a website, the designer must consider the installation of “metatags” or keywords and see the less than successful design. How many of the changes undertaken in the right hand side

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design can you identify and better still … name? Looking at another sample of poor layout, we can see where the designer has attempted to improve
it. List any improvements that you can see.


Original, less than successful design Revised design, vastly successful design

The client was adamant that he did not want the designer to move too far away from the existing
layout and so the designer had the challenge of having to comply with the client’s wishes and achieve
more exposure. In this instance although it still isn’t a hugely interesting site, the one on the right is
a big improvement.

Your list of identified improvements:

• .

• .

• .

• .

• .

• .

• .

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EXAMPLE 2 Jargon and Techno Speak Quiz on Web Design

Original, less than successful design Revised, improved design Decide if the following statements are True or False. Tick the relevant box.

Statement True False

Your list of identified improvements:
1. The main function of a website is to get as many “hits” as possible.
• .

• . 2. Web Designers need to always remember they are delivering someone

else’s message
• .

• . 3. A “back-end” website must be updated daily

• .
4. A common mistake web designers make is to see their web designs as
• . forum to advertise their technical and creative ability.

• .
5. Dreamweaver is a package that offers design layout and language
Please now view this webpage “on-line” as it also has a few simple animations to further enhance
6. Dreamweaver encodes the webpage into HTML while the designer can
what is a not very exciting website. (
see the layout in real time.

The client has given full written permission for this example to be used by Skills Group International 7. XHTML stands for Xtra Hypertext Markup Language
for training purposes.
8. In 2001 the regulatory body for web design chose XHTML as the main
coding language because it allows websites to be read across different

9. If you open a drop down menu with a mouse click, it will automatically
close on Dreamweaver.

10. Key points must always be underlined.

11. SEO stands for Search Engine Operators (Google etc).

12. Algorithms used by search engines rank web pages in response to key
word searches.

13. Spiders and robots crawl sites for new information.

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14. Metatags are code formats of keywords and phrases in the language When writing these technical details, you always write for the same audience: A person who knows
coding not visible in the design layout absolutely nothing about the topic and has never seen the product before. That is why the detail is so
significant. If a person has never driven a car they will not know that you need to insert the key into
the ignition to engage the engine. They won’t even know where to insert the key.
15. SEOs automatically monitor traffic on the site.

16. Another name for home page is index page

A technical description.
Although not always, a technical description would cover:
1. What it is. A car, an electric iron or a pair of shoes. This is a definition.
17. Red font is ideal in web pages. 2. Why it exists. To transport, to iron clothes or to keep feet dry. This is the purpose of the product.
3. What it is made of. Metal, glass and plastic; electrical cable; plastic and metal; leather or plastic
18. Staggered images and text make websites harder to read. and rubber, synthetics etc. How it is constructed or put together.
4. How it is used. Driving, parking; ironing; walking. This is the operation
19. Registering a domain is critical to retaining website exclusivity. 5. How to take care of it. Refuel, check oil, wash, service; disconnect it, empty it; clean them, dry
them etc. This is the maintenance.

20. You are now far wiser about web design. The Technical Process
This tends to be a step by step description of what is done. It consists of two parts:
Preparation: what we need to do the job
Procedure: steps to take to produce

When starting an operation the doctor will ensure he has the necessary equipment and sterile
Technical Writing environment – the preparation. He will then use his medical ability to operate and stitch the person
up so that they are best likely to recover fully.
On the course so far we have constantly highlighted the need to not be verbose, keep it simple The Technical Specification
and not get bogged down in unnecessary detail. The reader was of primary importance and the What the product (or person) is capable of. In a job advertisement the Person (Technical) Specification
style needed to be friendly and “conversational”. This will apply again when we consider sales and details what the applicants must be capable of. The qualifications they need to hold and experience
promotional writing. However, when we are talking technical writing, it needs to be detailed. Because required.
they often relate to technical matters with Health and Safety implications, the risk of legal claims or
more significantly injury or death the importance of detail has to be emphasised. In response to this, the applicant writes a covering letter and encloses a Curriculum Vitae to
demonstrate these attributes. What qualifications are held, what experience the person has and how
Technical writing is not limited to technical things however. If somebody asks you to help out in the this relates to the position applied for. So the Specification sets the yardstick that applicants are
office, maybe relieve on the switchboard over lunch, many of you will reach for a pen to write down measured against.
the basics of the task. The order of pushing the buttons so that the caller is not cut off and can be
correctly transferred, will be recorded. You are writing down a simple technical process. In a more familiar situation, a customer wants a building built. They draw up their requirements and
specifications and potential contractors put in a tender to do the work. Their tender must show how
Technical writing can be any of the following and often includes them all: they meet the required standards which usually includes price but also spells out experience and
1. A technical description – A description of the product. e.g. what it looks like. The size, shape and steps to be taken to achieve the outcome.
colour etc of your new computer. The screen size and resolution, number of USB ports. Whether it
includes a built in camera, volume control, headphone speaker audio out, a case or software etc. All of these forms of technical writing must be absolutely clear and unambiguous. They have to be
What it looks like. written is a concise way which can be followed without deviation.
2. A technical process – How to use the product. e.g. How to connect it up, start using it, connect it
to the printer, mouse etc. Literally the steps you need to take to use the computer. How to use it. It is important to realise that technical details do not only address physical, practical things. Mental
3. A technical specification – The capabilities of the product – what it can do. e.g. the quality aspects processes and applications also need to be written out. A good example of this would be a lesson
or ability of the product. Hard drive size, memory size, processor type and graphics card etc. What plan for a trainer. It has to be written for a good trainer with little technical knowledge of the topic.
it is made up of and therefore what it can be used for. It must address all the likely questions that could occur and detail how to handle them. Pre-empting

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problems is a useful technique to include.

A method statement is a good example of how steps need to be followed and issues pre-empted.
A method statement, although generally used on a building site, covers all the necessary steps in
doing something.

A Simple method statement consists of six steps.

1. What you are going to do. E.g. Repaint a wall not requiring a ladder
2. Who will be involved. E.g. Qualified painters
3. The equipment required. E.g. Water based paint and paint tin opener; paint brushes, rollers
and tray; scrapers, sandpaper, filler and masking tape; drop sheets and overalls; paint solvent.

Section 7
4. The sequence of works. I.e. The steps to do the job. (See below)
5. Assessment of risk. E.g. could painters get paint in their eyes? Do people react to the chemicals
in paint, allergies? Could the paint spill or people trip on the drop sheet?
6. Control measure to minimise risks. E.g. Give painters safety glasses; Read the safety measures
on the tin before starting and have any products available if necessary; Ensure paint lids
replaced immediately and ensure drip cloth is secured before starting.

What one needs to realise is how easy it is to leave something obvious out and how long they take.
This simple list took a building foreman 45 minutes to think through and list. And he has experience
Further Writing Skill Applications
of both writing method statements and painting!

Here are the steps applicable to step 4:

1. Read the safety instructions on the paint tin.

2. Remove all items not requiring painting are moved from the area.
3. Bring equipment and materials to the work area.
4. Lay down drop sheet and ensure no floor exposed.
5. Using scraper, remove all lose paint
6. Fill in any cracks in the wall, using the scraper and filler.
7. Allow to dry in accordance with manufacturer specifications.
8. Sand down dry filler using sand paper.
9. Mask off areas not to be painted. E.g. skirting boards
10. Read instructions on tin to establish if stirring required and other requirements. Comply as
required. E.g. shake or stir.
11. Open tin using paint tin opener.
12. Using a brush, paint borders and areas around switches.
13. Pour paint into paint tray.
14. Dip roller into paint and roll out on wall using sweeping motion.
15. Allow paint to dry according to manufacturer requirements
16. Clean up brushes and other equipment using solvent recommended by manufacturer if drying
takes longer than 8 hours.
17. Apply second coat following steps l-n.
18. Clean up equipment as per step p.
19. Clean up area, removing masking tape and lifting drop sheet.

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Section 7 – FurtherWriting Skill Applications not imply misrepresenting information but maybe changing the order. Once at the interview, your
verbal and non-verbal skills hold the key to success.

Having had extensive exposure to recruitment practices in the HR Module of this course, the
emphasis in this section is going to be on the writing of good covering letters which are a form of
sales letter and the verbal skills required in the actual interview. The Job Description is an application
of technical description already covered in detail while the Person Specification is a classic example
of a specification.

Remember that the person receiving your

application information does not know you at all.
The communication is a perfect example of a first
impression. A standard letter stating the obvious is
not going to earn you an interview. So as with all
letters already covered on the course, you need
a very clear purpose and you need to declare that
purpose in the letter. E.g. “I would appreciate an
opportunity to meet with you to discuss how I
could contribute to company goals in the position
of… etc.” A letter full of typos or spelling mistakes
is going to send a message of sloppiness and lack
of attention. This is unlikely to result in an interview.

It is important to research the company you are applying to and wherever possible, use the same
language that they do. So if the advertisement talks about key result areas (KRAs) do not in your
cover letter use the term competencies or Key Performance Areas (KPAs). Although they are very
similar in meaning, the reader of your letter will relate more readily to their own word. Your cover
letter basically consists of three sections.

1. Putting the letter into context and referring to the advertisement you are responding to.
Their reference or the position title at the outset and your desire to be considered for the
Communication in the Recruitment Process. position.
2. The body of the letter needs to link your skills to their needs. Usually 2-3 key aspects that you
have direct, relevant experience will sell yourself well. If you do not have direct experience
that they are looking for, show how the experience you do have is relevant to their need.
3. The conclusion needs to ask for an interview – the purpose of the letter.
It is important to say at the outset that recruitment has become a legal minefield and any of the Below is a positive sample cover letter for a part-time position at a hotel from a person who has very
suggestions given in this section need to be verified in your own country. With this in mind, a very limited experience and has just left school.
generic approach will be taken. The fundamentals are the same. It is the details that vary in different
countries. E.g. In Ireland it is discriminatory to ask questions that relate to the Traveller Community.

The recruitment process is an important part of communication which involves both written
and verbal communication. As the employer it is crucial to get the Job Description and Person
Specification absolutely accurate and clearly written. Written skills also apply when giving references
or testimonials. In turn, it is essential that you match your skills to the job description in writing
your covering letter and that you customise your Curriculum Vitae to earn an interview. This does

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98 Main Street Exercise:
Great Yarmouth
Timbuktu Decide which of the following are good opening paragraphs and which ones you consider poor. Be
prepared to detail the reason for your decision.
Ms Siobhan Jones
Human Resources Manager Example 1.
Carlton Hotel Application Reference: 007 Waitron
My name is Richard Black and I would like to apply for the above position. I have just completed my
Matriculation at Castle College. I have worked as a waiter in a variety of places and I have relevant
17 September 2012 experience of two years in the catering sector.

Your choice:
Dear Ms Jones Why?

Re: Application for Part-Time Work

I would like to apply for a part-time position at the Carlton Hotel in any position you consider me suitable Example 2
for. Having just completed my Matriculation I am starting at Portobello College later this month and am I wish to apply for a Project Engineering position with your company, ABCD. I am an accomplished
hoping to work part-time during the university year. Civil Engineering graduate with three years of strong practical experience both on site and in a
design office, seeking a challenging position within a vibrant design / construction Team on major
Whilst at school I had various part-time jobs. I worked in 2007 at Greenfields Golf Club where I was a wind farm projects. I am a high achieving, driven and self motivated professional with ability to
kitchen assistant and helped in the restaurant. We also set up for functions and cleaned up afterwards. work autonomously. I am an inventive and collaborative engineer with the capacity to contribute to
Unfortunately I had to stop this job when we moved to Timbuktu. Last summer I was lucky to find work diverse project phases from conception and design through to final construction and completion.
at a beautiful boutique hotel in France (Hôtel Château Normandy) where I was involved in the final
renovation and opening. I enjoyed this interaction with people, even though my French was limited. Your choice:
Both these jobs entailed customer service, food preparation and service. Why?

As I live within walking distance of the Carlton Hotel, I would be able to work very flexible hours. I
consider myself reliable and hard working and my approach to customers is friendly and efficient. I am Example 3.
willing and able to do any job asked of me. Having seen your advertisement on the internet ( I would like to apply for the
position as a shelf packer in your new store in Jeripigo Bay as I have experienced in this capacity.
Enclosed please find a copy of my Curriculum Vitae, including my contact details. I am available for an
interview at your convenience and am available to start at any time. Your choice:
I look forward to your positive response to this application. Thank you.

Yours sincerely
Example 4.
Employee Development Manager – Ref No NCI0443

I would like to apply for the above position, advertised on I believe I have a wealth
of experience that supports your needs and I would love an opportunity to work and train in an
academic environment fulltime.

Your choice:

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What Is An Interview? in legislation and developments in human resource management have made it a legitimate and
credible approach. It is objective, based on the solid premise that past performance is a good
Interviewing forms part of the Recruitment and Selection process. It is the time that the most predictor of future performance. Seeking examples from experience helps avoid pitfalls such as
information can be obtained from a candidate to assist in deciding whether to offer the candidate personal bias and indirect discrimination. It makes it fair because the same questions are asked of all
a position. It is a two-way process in which the organisation attempts to source the “right person candidates. It also makes it easy to compare “apples to apples”.
for the job” and the applicant wants to find out whether they would like to be employed by the
company. The recruitment and selection process is not unlike building a jigsaw puzzle. The job description and
person specification is the lid of the box with the picture or goal on it. The interview questioning
It is a structured meeting with a specific agenda. It requires communication skills as well as builds the edge of the puzzle and some of the key features of the puzzle. The other pieces need to
administrative skills and finally decision making skills. be drawn from the reference check, the induction and training undertaken. During the probation
period many more pieces are fitted.
Overall Agenda: It is important to realise that because we are dealing with people, the puzzle will never be complete.
The objective or aim of the interview is But a well planned and detailed interview will afford enough information to assess whether the
to establish whether there is common person is the best possible applicant.
ground and to evaluate the “fit” between
candidate’s experience and ability and the
needs of the organisation. Competencies
For a Behavioural Competency to have value as a yardstick to measure candidates against, it is
The Interviewer’s Agenda important that it is defined and behavioural indicators are identified, before the recruitment
To obtain evidence of the candidates ability
process starts. This is known as Job Analysis and the result forms part of the Job Description and Job
and potential to do the job. To ensure the
Specification. By analysing the job you can identify what the candidate needs to be competent in to
candidate would be an asset to the team,
succeed in the position. The Job Analysis is a series of questions, starting with:
department or branch.
To consider the candidates motivation to
do the job.
• What is done? (Tasks reflected on Job Description)
• Why is it done? (What is the outcome?)
• How is it done? (Physically what is undertaken?)
The Candidate’s Agenda • What responsibility exists? (E.g. Money handling)
• What relationships exist? (E.g. Superiors, colleagues, customers)
To present evidence of their experience, skills, abilities and attributes – to sell themselves. To assess • What is the required standard? (Performance measures and goal
the organisation in terms of individual, personal needs. achievement)

The structure of most interviews is the same: An analogy of a menu makes this point well.
1. The Starter: where the interviewer tries to help the candidate relax; gives the agenda of the The best place to draw this information is from current incumbents. So when writing job descriptions
interview; opens with some general questions and generally encourages the candidate to talk they are an invaluable resource. Ask existing staff in the position these questions. Ideally ask your
2. The Main Course: where the interviewer tries to establish academic achievements; depth of average employee, who is achieving an acceptable standard. Avoid the excellent employee as they
knowledge, skill and aptitude, and experience and ability. These days, the approach used in may be the exception and you may never find another employee who measures up to them. Avoid
most countries is to use competency based questioning. See below. asking a poor performer as they may have developed habits and short cuts that are not conducive
3. The Dessert: where any gap in information is closed by asking follow up questions; where to good performance.
candidate motivation, flexibility and career expectations are accessed. Details about job are
also given and candidate questions are answered. A Competency consists of a name, a definition and a list of relevant behaviours that you could use to
compare the examples you obtain from a candidate in the interview. Once these are established, you
can draw up relevant questions. The definition can often be found in a dictionary.
Competency Based Interviewing
Here are some generic competencies identified for general positions:
It is the style of questioning that differentiates this from more traditional approaches. The changes

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• Teamwork
• Trustworthiness A brief Job Analysis.
• Confidence
• Flexibility Draw up the Definition, relevant behaviour list and 5 questions for the Competency your trainer
• Social skills gives you. You may create this in the context of a job you are familiar with. E.g. If your competency is
• Common Sense “Customer Service” and you have in mind a receptionist at a hotel, use this as your frame of reference
• Initiative. for you definition, behaviours and questions. You may choose your own job description if you want
It is not prescribed and needs to be used flexibly. A sample of this process:
Responding Verbally to Competency Based Questions
In an interview, the best way to answer Competency Based Questions is to give direct examples. This
Definition: Actively participating and working with colleagues to achieve objectives. means your examples will be stated in the past tense because they are what you have experience
Relevant behaviours - Indicative actions: of. A good example consists of the context or task faced; the action you (the applicant) took and the
result of the action. These three parts are often referred to as S/TARs (Situation or Task; Action; Result)
• Makes suggestions or CARs (Context; Action and Result).
• Involves others, asking questions and listening actively
• Keeps people informed In answering the question, the situation puts the value of the work being done into context. If the
• Undertakes share of physical action organisational skills task you were working on was to book a sales conference venue for 400 people
• Takes responsibility for actions taken from around the country, that would be more significant than booking a farewell lunch for 8 people.
Both show organisational ability but one is far more complicated than the other.
Some suggested questions to obtain evidence of acceptable behaviour.
The action part shows your (the applicant’s) part
1. Give me an example of a time when a team and responsibility in the process. If demonstrating
or group you were a member of, achieved its negotiation skills, your leading the last round of
goal. What was the goal? What did you do? wage negotiations is far more meaningful than you
2. What ideas or suggestions have you made attending the wage negotiations and taking the
to complete a group task effectively? minutes. Again, in both you are showing experience
3. We all forget things sometimes. Tell me of negotiations but the former gives huge value to
about a time you didn’t tell someone something the skill while the latter suggests an understanding of
important that led to a problem. the process. The job you have applied for may simply
4. Describe a team project you were involved need you to negotiate small discounts with stationery
with, that you are particularly proud of. Why are suppliers where understanding the process would
you so proud? (Motivation) make you a strong contender for the position. But if
5. Sometimes in a team situation, you do not you are applying for a position as a high powered
agree with a team decision. Tell me about a time poker player with nerves of steel negotiating bids
this happened? Why did you not agree? What of millions, simply understanding the process would
did you do? rule you out as a contender for the position.
6. For a team to achieve its goals, everyone has
to take responsibility. Tell me what actions and So when describing the action part of the example, you need to use the first person: “I did, I tried, I
responsibility you have taken on to achieve a undertook…” Saying: “we, the team, my department ...” gives no insight into your ability to do the
team goal. job you are applying for. The only time it is useful to use we is when you are demonstrating team
commitment or involvement.

The results that you give in a behavioural example may on occasion be negative. However this may
be not of your making and the good interviewer would recognise this. Suppose you were working

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on a deadline which required many hours and much commitment and before it was met, the system a person scores well in most areas but is light on experience in one , can this be trained to get them
crashed and all work to date was lost. Unless you are responsible for the system, this negative result up to full speed quickly.
was beyond your control. You showed commitment to achieve the deadline and factors beyond
your control resulted in a negative result. A good interviewer will often ask follow up questions to If a person has limited experience, such as our school boy applying for a job at a hotel, you can
establish whether you regularly missed deadlines or whether this was an exception. Do not hesitate consider experience outside of the job – domestic or community. So if his CV indicated captaining
to give such examples as they show the interviewer the “whole person”. sports teams and playing team games, you can ask questions to find out how he did this and what
his results were like. Returning to work women after career breaks for domestic reasons, may be
Asking Competency Based Questions - The Perspective of the Interviewer. able to show you their ability to handle stress with an example of squabbling children to cope with
on very little sleep. Whilst it would not be called for on the job, it shows how they handled it and
To be legally compliant in many countries, the gives an invaluable insight into how they handle stress. The key to competency based questioning is
interviewer is responsible for levelling the playing objectivity of fact resulting from well worded questions.
field. This means that every candidate must be Sample Interview Sheet for one competency.
asked the same questions and be given the same
opportunity to show their ability to do the job. It is Competency: Teamwork
therefore valuable to draw up a standard document
for a particular position with about three relevant Definition: Actively participating and working with colleagues to achieve objectives.
questions per competency. You are likely to ask each Relevant behaviours - Indicative actions:
candidate the first one but should they not be able
to cite and example, you have further questions on
the topic to give them every chance of showing what • Makes suggestions
they are capable of. • Involves others, asking questions and listening actively
• Keeps people informed
In the interview it is useful to have one competency per page with the definition, behavioural • Undertakes share of physical action
examples and chosen questions listed. The information at the top of the page gives you a focus to • Takes responsibility for actions taken
listen out for in the answers. Having the questions with adequate space below each one keeps your
notes tidier and makes it easier to refer to when assessing the candidates potential.
A sample of such a page is given overleaf. Interview questions:

The purpose of your note taking is to have an accurate record of the responses given. So it is a form 1. Give me an example of a time when a team or group you were a member of, achieved its goal.
of minutes. You cannot however make eye contact, and write full sentence notes. So key words are What was the goal? What did you do?
sufficient in the interview provided you add the detail while you still have it in mind, immediately
after the interview. Context or Situation/Task Action Result
The purpose of your notes is to rate the candidate in
the competency against the criteria i.e. the behaviours
you listed as a yardstick. At the end of the interview
you need to assign a numeric value to the quality of
the answers in each competency and then make your
decision on the candidate’s suitability. Such number
ratings and significance of each competency in the
job depends on the company standard. Provided
such numbers are assigned consistency and can 2. What ideas or suggestions have you made to complete a group task effectively?
be motivated, your recruitment process would be

Your final task is to compare the quality (the number values assigned) between candidates and make
a choice a to who to offer the position to. If two candidates are close with different experience rating
for different competencies, a good deciding factor would be to look at which skills are trainable. If

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Context or Situation/Task Action Result Writing Sales Materials

It is possible to learn the skills necessary to write good sales letters. In fact, if they are simply analysed,
it becomes clear that like all other communication themes on this course, a sales letter consist of an
introduction (the grabber or slogan – what catches your attention) a middle, where you show that
your product is the solution to the reader’s need and an end where you spur the reader on to action
with a sense of urgency. Exactly the same as a general business letter or a presentation.

3. We all forget things sometimes. Tell me about a time you didn’t tell someone something important So very first you need to decide now what it is you are going to sell. Is it a product, a service or a skill?
that led to a problem. Decide now what you plan to use for the exercises that follow:

Context or Situation/Task Action Result

Just like a presentation, the audience, in this case the reader, has to be the focus of attention. By
considering how your product can meet their needs/problems/difficulties you are more likely to get
the sale. So the difference lies in the choice of words – those that are persuasive and the fact that
what you write is believable.

When identifying your readers, you have to accept that not everyone is a prospect. The more attention
you pay to this fact, the more likely you are to write a sales letter that sells. If you were selling salmon
lures, you would not be very successful if you wrote to all men. If you even wrote to all fishermen you
would be too wide as many go deep-sea fishing or beach fishing. So you need to target fresh water
fishermen who fly fish. Better still, if you could buy the database of the salmon fly fishing club, every
one of your readers would be interested if your product had benefit to them.

Once you have identified you target market, you need to identify their problems and look to address
them. Brainstorm this one, asking yourself questions like:

• Do they need more money?

• Do they need to save time?
• Do they need better healthcare?
• Do they need better quality?
• Do they need to spend less?
• Do they need continuity? (e.g. to speak to the same person each time)
• Do they need customer service?
• Do they need a safer option?
• Do they need ……

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What problems do your customers have? List them here. We will then look at what we can offer to each feature. E.g. A dining-room table has the following features
solve them? Solutions are benefits.
Features Benefits

Problems Benefits
Seats 8 people Cosy number for dinner parties
Family all seated at once

Extension option Can be used for bigger occasions Christmas


Light weight Move aside easily when wanting more

people or outside

The easiest way to do this is to consider the difference between features and benefits. Often referred Wax polish coated Minimal time wasted on polishing
to as the FAB approach, (features, advantages and benefits) insight on it will help us target our Can be used outdoors
identified market.

Write the features of your product, service or skill here: Then add the benefits. Try to generate as
Features are what our product has Our buckets are made of plastic many as possible. Remember: So what?

Advantages are what the product You can have them in any colour
Features Benefits
Benefits are what the product delivers You can see immediately which bucket is
which and the content won’t get mixed up

This would be a good approach if you know the buyer want to hold things in the buckets (as apposed
to carrying things in them). But what if they were concerned about contamination? The your FAB
approach would need to be:

Feature Our buckets are made of self coloured


Advantage The colour coating does not wear off When considering benefits, try to consider an emotional connection. Instead of stopping at the cosy
dinner parties, describe the precious relationships formed at those occasions. If you are offering a
Benefit There is thus no risk of contamination. product that saves time, instead of simply saying that, describe how the time saved could be used
walking on the beach at sunset or reading a book etc. These ideas can be recalled when you come to
write your introduction and “grab” the emotions of your reader.
So the better you have prepared and researched your reader, the more likely you are to target their
needs successfully and sell your product t them. A final piece of research you should try to obtain is a few testimonials from satisfied customers so
that people believe you. If you use unsubstantiated claims and sweeping statements, doubt sets in
When preparing to write a sales letter the best way of moving on from the list of reader problems to and grows… until they put your letter aside and discount you. So you need to tell them why they
how your product can address them, is by drawing up a list of features. Brainstorm this list. Then go should believe you. Statistics and other research is invaluable here.
back to your list and decide on at least one benefit of each feature. Simply ask yourself, “So what?” at

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And so to starting to write. The acronym AIDA (Attention, Interest, Desire, Action) is a good approach 1. A feature: a unique difference your product offers. E.g. Write an ebook in 7 days.
in handling the introduction, body and conclusion of your letter. 2. A benefit: A result the reader receives. E.g. Saves time or money or energy
3. A question: Thought provoking to bring reader’s needs to their attention. E.g. How
Attention. would you like to win a tax free income legally?
Start with a grabbing headline. No longer than ten words it must hook them. Tell the reader why you 4. A challenge or dare: Temptation and provocation. E.g. Uncle Sam needs you.
are sending them the letter. Use the famous ten magic words wherever possible: 5. A Structure – a design or collection that pulls together for a single purpose. E.g. The
hotel offers golf for dad, a library for mom and the beach with supervision for the children.
Win Guarantee Breakthrough
Save … time/money How to Free Write the opening of your letter for your product here:
New Now At last
Do you…

According to research at Yale University, the twelve most persuasive words in the English language

You Love Results

Guarantee Safety New
Proven Health Save
Discovery Easy Money
Interest and Desire
And high impact words that get customers thinking are:
The body of your letter needs to continue the idea of selling the benefits to solve the reader’s
Helps Improves Foolproof problems. It must be an easy read made up of short sentences using short words in a conversational
Prestigious Inexpensive Fast manner. Give them a steady flow of interesting information, written in the active voice. You can add
Versatile Imaginative Simplifies interest with handwritten comments circling key points and an invaluable tip is to add a P.S. If the
Uncomplicated Answers Clarifies reader remembers nothing apart from your gabber and your P.S you will have done well. Keep it
Solutions Competitive Original personal also by addressing the letter and the salutation to the target reader. If need be, phone up to
Comprehensive Special Straightforward find out their name and position.
Advanced Flexible Achievement
Profit Performance Growth The body is still a place to ask questions and the emotional link applies here too. Instead of simply
Power Resources Success talking about the proven results that your toothpaste reduces cavities, create a desire. Suggest they
Innovation Influence Productivity “avoid the dentist’s drill” as you emphasise a benefit.

Add the testimonials where they relate to benefits or else as a selective list at the end. Try to get
Unlike other forms of written communication, clichés work in sales: contact details from the person giving the testimonial if they agree. This makes them even more
Buy now, pay later! authentic and believable. Always get permission from people before you use their comments as
Limited number available testimonials.
100% satisfaction guaranteed
Fits like a glove …

Your grabbing headline should stem from your strongest benefit, the unique selling point (USP) or
principle selling position, that meets the clients’ biggest problem. If you catch attention with it, in the
body of the sell, you can use others and even pre-empt some concerns.

There are five major slogan types

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Based on your benefits exercise above, what will your letter content look like. Write at least three of your offer knowingly.
paragraphs here.
How will you close your letter?

This final letter of AIDA is where you want them to do something. If you miss this step you put them
on permanent hold. The longer it takes for them to respond, the less likely you are to get a sale. So
you must give them a reason to act immediately. It is the purpose of your writing. A final sales pitch
can encourage this with claims like:

• A good deal: 20% off

• Urgency: Only 10 left; Sale ends Thursday
• Risk free: Covered by money back guarantee

All these final “pull” efforts must be legitimate. Don’t say offer ends Thursday and then on Friday
have the same advertisement running. People begin to doubt all your other claims as well if they
feel tricked and you could do irreparable damage to your product in the long run. So make sure the
urgency is believable and truthful. Be ethical in your selling. Rather convince them to take advantage

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Sample sales letter Exercise Suggestions
Your Logo You are providing a photocopying service, where you supply the photocopier and provide an after-
sales service.
Date Produce a sales letter to your target audience – large and small companies, including the following:

Recipient Name Opening headline

Recipient Job Title Unique selling point
Recipient Company Hours of service
Recipient Address Special discount if they buy before a certain date
A certain amount of free paper
Dear Recipient, Free demonstration to staff
Use your imagination for additional details
Did you know…? Or slogan.
I’d like to make you aware of the benefits that other organisations like yours have realised from You are opening a new catering service.
working with My Company. It would be my pleasure to demonstrate our capabilities and show you Produce a sales letter to your target audience – small coffee shops and company cafeterias including
how the unique features of our products would benefit Recipient Company. You will immediately the following:
see the advantages.
Opening headline
I would like to invite you to tour our facilities and see first hand why My Company stands above the Discount if they sign a contract by a certain date
competition in delivering our line of products and supporting services. We are proud of our facility Unique selling point
and our commitment to excellence. Hours of service
Use your imagination for additional details
If it is more convenient for you, I am also available to come to your facility. Either way, our entire staff
is available to work with yours to meet any challenge you may face. 3)
You are a manufacturer of children’s educational toys.
I will call you next Thursday to set up an appointment at your convenience. I will make efficient use Produce a sales letter to your target audience – schools, toy shops etc. including the following:
of your time to show you how we can meet your specific requirements and the specific savings you
can realise by working with My Company. Opening sentence
Unique selling point
I look forward to hearing from you soon. Excellent safety record
Proven educational benefit
Regards, Special discount before a certain date
Use your imagination for additional details
My Name
My Title
My E-mail
Flyers/Leaflets and Brochures
Flyers, while cheaper to produce, require just as much attention to detail but they are a bigger
challenge to write as they are not written for a specific target market. You may be aiming it at all the
residents in an area but you will still not have as much information about their needs and problems.
Aside from money and time problems, they are likely to be different. If issues like transport in an area
not serviced by a bus are significant, this may make your job easier.

So because you are writing to an audience that may or may not have need of your product, you

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need to decide whether your product is a flyer you want people to keep or use immediately. If you Publicity Materials
advertise a transport system to the airport, you want them to keep your flyer until they next go on
Writing a Press Release
Flyers are usually smaller (often A5) for this reason – easy storage. They need to be colourful and still
have a grabber line as any other sales letter has.
A press release is a marketing tool. It is basically just a story that may interest the general public or
Leaflets/brochures a specific industry or market. It is a cross between an advertisement and an article. It needs to be
objective, factual and interesting to the readers.
Leaflets or brochures contain more technical features than sales letters or flyers. The customer is now
seeking the information to see if it meets their requirements. Although the focus is different, the From the perspective of the organisation, a press release is an effort to communicate something to
design is similar. the general public via the (usually) print media. The writer has the objective of trying to get “free”
advertising for their company or product. The opposite applies to the receiver of the communication.
Generally, leaflets and brochures are multi-pages, the simplest of which would be A4 which could be Editors are not interested in promoting you, your company or your product. Their objective is to sell
folded into A5 size, giving 4 pages. their newspaper. So you need to write them with this hurdle in mind. They must attract the interest
The front cover is your grabber, often done with a question or a picture. of the journalist and be of sufficient general interest that the journalist is keen to publish it.
The inside pages should contain all the technical information, explaining all there is to know about
the product. It must be written short and to the point. If you think of objections you have had in Of course organisations seek to shape what is written or broadcast about them in the media. The
the past, raise them here as questions and give convincing answers. The back page is the page least press release is just one public relations technique which, when properly used, can be a highly
likely to be read so put contact detail that those who have read and are interested, will look for. Try effective way of getting your message across to the media. A truly successful press release generally
including a few testimonials. contains the right story in the right place at the right time.

1) You have opened a new restaurant and you need to produce a leaflet on the different menus What is news?
you have to offer – lunch and dinner, Sunday lunch, early evening menu. You also want to mention
the wide selection of New World wines. You need to give opening times and booking details. Don’t Most importantly, news is new. It is not common knowledge and must spark a reaction. News must be
forget to include testimonials. Use your imagination to complete the details. about people, connected to people or about people in some way. The ‘news’ that your organisation
can provide may not be important to the whole country, but it could be significant to groups of
2) You have opened a gift shop for all occasions and you need to produce a leaflet on the type of gifts people. When what your organisation does has an impact on the lives of a significant number of
you have to offer. List the various occasions in a calendar year, and include photographs of some of people, you could be making news.
the gifts. Don’t forget to include testimonials. Use your imagination to complete the details.
Controversy often makes news. Politicians know this only too well. They use controversy as a tool
3) You have set up a new dog grooming service. Produce an A5 leaflet design aimed at local dog to get themselves into the media. A call for higher safety standards or improved environmental
owners to promote your new business and gain their support. Don’t forget the graphics! Write your standards could be a way that your organisation could use controversy as a news-making tool.
ideas below.
Just as controversy gets journalists writing, so does conflict. Sometimes conflict springs from
4) You are opening up a new childcare facility. Produce a flyer of any size aimed at local parents who controversy, on other occasions from different causes, such as boardroom control or a take-over
need their children minded while they go to work. Invite them to an open evening where they can battle.
view the premises and meet the staff. Write your ideas below.
Anything unusual, or novel, makes news. Ask yourself ‘what has our organisation got that nobody
else has? What have we done that nobody has done before?’

Empathy – relating to the reader, understanding and sharing his problems – creates news. People are
always keen to read articles that relate to their own lives.

Which of these news drivers – importance, controversy, conflict, novelty and empathy – could be
used by your organisation? Can they be adapted for your own use? Are there any examples not listed
that you could use?

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Write your ideas here:

Tips for writing a good press release
Potential news stories could be about people or places, for example.
People Make sure the information is newsworthy. It should not read like an advertisement. There is no
definition of newsworthy. Items that may qualify include:

1. Sponsoring a charity event

The people in your organisation are news. There could be a news story when somebody:
2. Developing a new product to address a specific need
3. Merging or partnering with another business
4. Gaining an important contract
• joins the company
5. Results of research carried out
• retires
6. Awards and other forms of recognition
• is promoted or takes on a new post
• is elected to a professional body
Be factual, not promotional. A release that tries to sell or advertise will be binned.
• wins an award
• makes a speech at a business conference
Use everyday language and avoid (or explain) all jargon, technical terms and acronyms.
• takes part in a charity activity
• passes away
Write in the active voice. Use only enough words to tell your story. Avoid adjectives and flowery
Can you think of three potential news stories about people in your company?
The title needs to be brief, contain major key words, and say exactly what the story is about.
The headline is critical but it should not be sensational. There is a fine dividing line between open,
honest hype and going too far.
The opening paragraph is like the executive summary. It should be strong and leading and should
summarize the press release for busy people. It should answer the following questions:
Who? What? Where? When? Why?
Places The subject should be stated in the first sentence, and ideally in the first three words, if not the first
word. The name of the organisation should be at the end of the sentence.
There could be a places story when:
The body of the release should contain further information about your story and set it in a familiar
context. Stick to key points that support your message, and don’t get too technical. It should include
any background information, a brief quote from someone directly involved with the story and/or
1. new offices are open
comparisons to similar products or services.
2. out-of-date offices are closed
Provide as much contact information as possible: individual to contact, address, phone, fax, e-mail,
3. offices are modernised
and Website address.
4. organisation is relocated
5. telecommuting
Include notes to the editor, such as brief factual biographical information about the people or
organisations involved with the story.
Can you think of two potential places stories in relation to your company?

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Presentation of a Press Release million. The actual number should be given in dates, e.g. June 1, 2003, the 21st century and the 19th
hole. It is advisable to avoid the measurements and signs where there is any risk of a mistake, e.g. 90
A4 size paper has become the universally accepted size for press releases. It is easier to induce degrees and 100 percent. The % sign is not used in sentences. In addition, the ampersand (&) should
someone to read what is presented to them on one side of one piece of paper. never appear in a sentence unless it is part of the normal way of spelling a company name.

A printed news release heading should quickly establish the identity of the sender. Use of the Punctuation
organisation’s logo creates immediate identification. The best headings are fairly simple and do not Full points should not be used between initial abbreviations such as BSc, BBC, US etc.
occupy too much space. The wording should clearly state the name, address, telephone number,
mobile number, e-mail and Web address. The clarity of a news story can depend upon use of punctuation. Commas, colons, semi-colons,
dashes and brackets are the signposts of written communication.
The more concise the release, the more readable and acceptable it is likely to be. When the facts are
presented as briefly as possible, and the story can be read almost at a glance, there is seldom any
need to go beyond the ample space provided by a single A4 sheet. All news releases should close Embargoes
with the name of the writer, his telephone number and the date. There is no need to write ‘ends’ at An embargo is request to the press that the story should not be published before a certain date and
the close of a story, as this is apparent from the closing details of the author’s name etc. mentioned perhaps even a certain time on that date. It must be emphasized that embargoes should be used
above. sparingly and sensibly. Most stories should therefore be for immediate release.

Headlines Dates
The purpose of the news release headline is to quickly identify the story. The headline should create Vague reference to today, yesterday, tomorrow, or recently must be replaced by the actual date. The
the right impression that what follows is a genuine, factual, news story. month should be written first, followed by the day of the month and then the year, e.g. March 17,
2003. Dates should not be given their ‘th’, ‘st’, ‘rd’ or ‘nd’ endings.
Subheadings should be used with caution, as they may be a nuisance to the editor. When used they
should summarize your story. Spacing
A good test is to give someone your press release. After 5-10 seconds, take it away and ask them what Double spacing is necessary on hardcopies so that the editor can make amendments or insert
it is about. If they can answer, your headings are good. printing instructions between the lines. Margins on both sides are also needed to allow for editorial
Short paragraphs should be used to keep the interest flowing. Most publishers and printers use what
is known as ‘book style’. The first paragraph is not indented: all succeeding paragraphs are indented.
More than one page
Capital Letters When a hard copy of a news release consists of more that one sheet, this should be clearly indicated
at the foot of the page, and all succeeding pages should be numbered. The word ‘continued’ should
be written in the bottom right hand corner. Separate pages should be stapled together in the top
Capital letters belong to titling or to proper and geographical names. A company or product name
left-hand corner.
should never be written entirely in capitals, nor should initial capitals be used for nouns. Only very
important people such as the President, the Queen, or the Archbishop are given capital letters. Lesser
mortals like managing directors, chairmen and other business leaders do not qualify. One side only
Editors and publishers always work from material on one side of the paper only.
Underlines and Quotations
No underlining should appear anywhere in a news release, and preferably not even in the headline. Presentation
Similarly, quotation marks can generally be avoided except for testimonials and the like. Good presentation looks professional, encourages respectful attention, and saves editors a lot of
work. Bad presentation looks amateurish and suggests that the story itself is equally poor. If it doesn’t
look good it will be ignored.
A paragraph should never begin with a numeral, and if this cannot be avoided, the numeral should
be spelt out. Numbers from one to nine should be spelt out, and after that numerals should be used,
until it becomes so big, that it is clearer to spell it out, e.g. 5,000,000 would be easier understood as 5

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Sample Press Release Layout: whether they can write about your organisation yet. If for later use, state “for release on November
07, 2012”

Put the press release on company letterhead; or identify the company’s address, phone and fax in the
upper left-hand corner of the first page. This way, editors will always know which company issued
the press release.
Your name
Obvious channels of communication include post, fax, e-mail and websites. Find out the best way to
Your company name (even if on letterhead paper with a logo etc.)
contact your editor of choice. Not everyone wants press releases by e-mail. Do not write e-mail press
Your telephone number
releases with attachments, write the release within the body of the message
Your e-mail address
Update your Web site with the ‘news’ before sending your release. If it’s not important enough to add
This is your press release headline
to your own site, why should anyone else write about it?
Next comes your summary which in a few sentences, highlights what the release is about. This
There are many services that act as distribution points for press releases but most of them charge a
may be a subheading. Even so, it is short.
fee to distribute your press release to journalists.
A factual, hard hitting paragraph using short sentences. No outrageous claims or glib
Exercises: Write your own press release.
1) Think of a news story that could be associated with a company you already know.
Body including who you are, what you are excited about, how this is important to others. Not
Maybe it’s a shop that has changed premises, due to expansion. Imagine what type of press release
a big blob of text. Over a few paragraphs it is likely to be about 500 words. Must include facts.
their communications officer would write.
Avoid exaggerations and fluff.

May include relevant quotes such as the CEO or a significant member of community.
2) Think of a news story that you could associate with your own business. Be brash, and write your
Final paragraph should detail how readers can obtain more information. own press release. Select a newspaper to send it to, and find out the name of the editor. Then send it!

Add a few lines about the company. E.g. how long you’ve been in existence or what contribution
you make to the community.


Issuing a Press Release

Before you issue a press release, always make sure that the press release is agreed by all the parties
mentioned in it (especially for quotes and contact details). Inform any interested parties, people or
organisations about you release before you send it out to journalists.

Identify a named journalist (on a relevant news desk – science/environment/business/news/local/

national) and send your release straight to them. Only contact editors who write about your industry
or topic.

Know the editor’s deadlines. Find out when to send your press release for the best timing.

Indicate whether this press release is ‘For Immediate Release’ (public information) or ‘Embargoed’
(advance copy – not for public view yet), it will let editors know the timeliness of your information and

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It was written by Paula Hughes of Oak Whispers, using Microsoft Publisher. It’s a very good example
of a small business owner writing her own newsletter. Paula had no prior experience of electronic
newsletter marketing or indeed writing. She shows therefore that it is not as complicated as we
A newsletter is a regularly distributed publication generally about one main topic that is of interest might imagine. She is a good role model of what we are all capable of.
to its subscribers. It is yet another marketing tool but is easier to write as the interest has already
been shown by the reader who agreed to subscribe. Traditionally a newsletter was a one or two page Paula provides training in interior design, feng shui and, more recently, soul coaching. She compiled a
marketing publication, sent by post to targeted subscribers. Its purpose was to provide additional database of everyone who has ever attended any of her courses, and sent it to all previous attendees,
and specialized information concerning the newsletter owner’s products or services. together with a short introductory e-mail.

Your travel agent probably still sends you glossy pictured newsletters full of stories about exciting The newsletter is 4 pages, which is a perfect length for an e-newsletter.
places and special deals. Probably they do whet your appetite and therefore remain a significant
marketing tool. The are however very expensive to print and a far more popular way of promoting The first page is very visually appealing, with the sun breaking through the trees at the top of the
your company to the “select” chosen few who subscribe is by electronic newsletters sent by e-mail. page, the green border on the left, and the picture of the crisp blue sky, bare brown trees and the
old church. The colours in the pictures all complement each other, together with the colours of the
headline fonts of brown, green and blue.
The Electronic Newsletter
Paula writes in a very personal tone, as if she was talking to just one person. Her words are simple, and
Direct Message her sentences are uncomplicated. She has a nice easy-going style which connects with her reader.
Where electronic newsletters are concerned, the content or ‘news’ can be simply typed or pasted
directly onto the message page of an ordinary e-mail. This is by far the simplest and easiest method As Paula has met all her readers at one stage or another, she feels that she knows her audience. She
available but, the least attractive and interesting. Quite often, this type will only accept text without makes good use of questions in her introductory piece, where she empathises with the reader.
any formatting other than new paragraphs. This can make the newsletter untidy and difficult to read.
Paula also uses the bottom half of the first page to promote an event which is coming up in November.
Attached Page This is a nice opportunity to catch her reader’s attention, without pushing it on them.

Alternatively, the ‘news’ can be prepared on other software which allows formatting, columns, Page two is about clutter clearing. Paula uses plenty of white space on this page, which gives the
graphics, etc. This will enable you to make the finished document much more attractive and perfect setting for what she is trying to promote. Again, the picture of the green leaves with the sun
interesting. However, it can only be transmitted if it is sent as an attached document. Therefore, it shining through continues the theme of Autumn. Paula doesn’t promote anything in particular here,
must be on software that is popular and generally available or it will not be possible for the receiver but is giving free advice which will benefit her reader.
to open it.
Page three is about promoting two separate courses that Paula has coming up in the near future. She
Tips on content has used two different colour texts to distinguish the two promotions.
Remember, it’s a free publication; subscribers are not forced to read it so: The simple picture of the cup of coffee is a perfect image for the ‘soul café’.

1. focus on what will be of interest to your subscribers The fourth and final page contains contact details, a warm, earthy picture, together with testimonials.
2. do not be afraid to use personal information, for example, something of interest that has happened
to you or your company
3. use it to advertise offers with limited response times
4. include customer testimonials or comments on you, your products or company
5. lastly, a photograph of yourself with your name helps. People will feel they know you and look
upon your publication more like a personal letter.

Sample Electronic Newsletter

The following is a sample of an electronic newsletter that was originally sent by a company called
‘Oak Whispers’, which specializes in soul coaching.

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The Future Way of Corporate Communication
Further Writing Skill Applications Section 7
Exercise The Future Way of Corporate Communication
Do you like the use of the different colour fonts? How different would it be for the reader in black font
only? If you were to choose three coloured fonts for your business, what would they be and why? Student Workbook
Do you like the pictures used? Can you see the same theme of Autumn in the pictures? What pictures
would you use for your business? Can you think of a particular theme that you might use throughout
your e-newsletter? Explain why.

Paula connects with her reader by the words and questions she uses. How will you go about
connecting with your reader? Do you think she will get any business?

What do you think is the key message in her newsletter?

How does this message endorse the nature of her business?

Does the newsletter ever project a hard sell attitude?

If you had the option, would you consider attending one of her courses? If so, why? If not, why not?