BACKGROUND. When writing to professional peers who are unknown to you personally, you must minimize the use of acronyms, jargon, or inside references that your readers may not understand. One approach is to imagine an individual reader as you draft your document. You should base your message upon either knowledge or intelligent speculation about answers to these questions:
• What can you reasonably assume this reader knows and does not know?
• What are the reader’s “hot buttons” (that is, key issues and phrases that stimulate the reader’s interest)?
• What information, questions, solutions, or action steps does the reader expect from your message?
• What is the urgency of your communication with the reader? Does your message require minutes, hours, days, weeks, or months for a response? Is it a “policy statement” that will endure for a long time?
• What is the main purpose of your communication with the reader — response to reader’s previous message? call to action? information? heads-up (warning)? suggestion? recommendation?
Answers to these questions will have a major impact on the length and style of your message.
BUSINESS SCENARIO FOR THIS ASSIGNMENT. You are a department manager who needs to help your company improve two important aspects of the business — (a) service to customers, and (b) sales revenues. (You may use an actual company or an invented company as the basis of the message.) You have been assigned the task of outlining a preliminary strategy to achieve these two objectives. You must prepare a memorandum (memo) addressed to the following individuals: Barbara Baker, CEO; Perry Jackson, Executive Vice President; Marvin Kramer, CFO; and Grace Hooper, Senior Vice President for Customer Relations (your direct supervisor). You must address the following issues:
• Current company performance
• Business goals over the coming fiscal year (12 months)
• How these goals should be met and how performance should be measured against the goals
• Costs and benefits of the strategy
• Specific action steps needed for implementing the improvements (who is responsible for doing what when?)
USEFUL ADVICE. The sample memo from a student in ENC 3250, included on the course website, provides guidelines to style and content. Read your memo into an audio recorder and play it back for yourself later to hear how it flows. Ask a person you can trust to be objective and honest with you to read it and provide you with feedback on its clarity, conciseness, and persuasiveness. Proofread carefully to eliminate errors in spelling, grammar, logic, and sentence structure.
Consult the online handbook at http://ccc.commnet.edu/grammar/ for help and MEMORIZE THE USAGE TIPS in this syllabus. The success of your message is measured in part by the fact that the reader understands its main point upon first reading, without clarification or follow-up. One expert has estimated that up to 30 percent of letters and memos in industry and government do nothing more than seek clarification of earlier correspondence or respond to that request for clarification. Obviously, such activity wastes time, energy, and money.
A WORD ABOUT CONCISENESS: “Conciseness” is not the same as “briefness.” Conciseness means conveying the most meaning in the fewest words that are organized and presented in the clearest and most meaningful way. Two simple examples of concise communication include a road sign with a curvy arrow to indicate a winding road ahead, or the word “FIRE!” shouted in a burning building. What do these examples imply about communicating in a business setting? If you want to sell your vehicle by parking it along a busy road and placing a sign in the window, which of the following would work best?
In addition to the dramatic difference in number of words, note also that the first example can actually fit in the windows of a car (if formatted correctly). This means that a person driving by at 30 miles per hour can actually read it. This is what I mean by “conciseness.” Apply this lesson to all of your writing in ENC 3250.
FORMAT. Use MS Word to create a single-spaced memo of around 500 words. Use 12-point type, 8-1/2” x 11” document size, with default margins (1.25” right and left, and 1” top and bottom) Use 12-point boldface, upper case for section headings within the body of your memo. In short, follow formatting directions in this syllabus and the sample student memos on the course website.
FOR SALE, LOW-MILEAGE 1995 FORD EXPEDITION, 4-DOOR SUV, 112,000 MILES, ASKING $2995, WILL CONSIDER OFFER
(104 characters and spaces — four times longer than the previous example)
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