MESSAGE ORGANISATION (PLAN) SENTENCE LEVEL TECHNIQUES GRAMMAR AND MECHANICS
What plan you adopt depends on the purpose of your communication Basically, two broad categories of plan: direct and indirect.
Direct: Good news/positive news, neutral and routine messages Indirect: Persuasive messages, Negative/Bad news messages, messages where negative reaction is anticipated, negative image/impression associated with the reader or writer.
Direct: Purpose – to inform about routine matters, routine management communication, nothing shocking or unexpected, request for information/action, replying to requests, etc. Indirect: Purpose – to persuade reader to a certain point of view, to justify actions that are unexpected, to refuse requests, to convey bad news, etc.
Opening: State the main idea/ State the most important request/ Deliver the most important information Body: Provide background information and explain the main idea/ Provide information or questions in logical sequence/ Provide details to justify your claim Closing: request action, include end date if appropriate/ summarise message/ closing thought / end pleasantly
MEMO From: Edgar Williams, Sales Manager To: All staff of accounts department Date: 4 May 2009 Subject: Fashion Tips by Martha Owen In line with the company’s aim of projecting a more effective corporate image, the department has arranged for Martha Owen, a world renowned image consultant to give us a talk on how to dress for results. The details of the talk are as follows: OPENING SENTENCE STATES THE PURPOSE Title:Fashion Tips Date: 22 May 2009 COMPLETE INFO, CLEAR ORGANISATION Time:9.00 am – 5.00 pm Venue: Seminar Room 1 May 22 is a work-day, but you may take the day off from work to attend the talk. I hope to see all of you at the talk, and after that we will discuss how best to implement a better corporate image for the department. DO NOT END NEGATIVELY SUCH AS: WARNINGS, APOLOGIES, THREATS, DOWNGRADING SELF OR OTHERS, ETC.
Persuasive messages e.g.? Bad news messages e.g.?
Persuasive messages -From organisations: Fund-raising, sales and marketing letters, promoting participation in activities, persuading change in behaviour/attitude among staff, etc -from individuals to organisations: complex claims/requests (where resistance is anticipated, i.e. reinstatement), scholarship/sponsorship applications, persuading change in policies, etc
Bad news messages -From organisations: rejection of claims, conveying negative results, correcting wrong perceptions, conveying reduced services, increased prices, etc, implementing regulations that will face resistance, giving poor performance reviews, giving warnings, etc. -from individuals to organisations: complex complaints/claims (that require elaborate explanation to convince), declining an invitation, etc.
PLAN 1. Gain attention in the opening 2. Build interest in the body 3. Reduce resistance in the body 4. Motivate action in the closing
1. Gain attention in the opening Often the longest (not short and sweet as in the direct plan) Make use of facts and statistics, expert opinion, listing of benefits, stories/anecdotes, give a compliment to the reader, something that the reader will agree with, etc. Of course, make use of interesting language strategies that catches attention, such as rhetorical questions, allusion, word play, personification, etc, where appropriate.
2. Build interest in the body Provide complete and appropriate information, persuade with emotional or rational appeals where appropriate, use “you” orientation. Explain “you” benefits more clearly and convincingly. 3. Reduce resistance in the body Anticipate what will be causing resistance, and try to reduce it by addressing the problem. E.g. show in what way the price is not high compared to the benefits, show how the reader need not be inconvenienced by using automated donation plan, etc.
4. Motivate action in the closing MOST IMPORTANT: No action, no talk. State clearly what action you would like the reader to take after reading your letter. e.g. Apply for the credit card by returning completed application form, go to the nearest Telekom shop to sign up for Unifi service, call you to arrange for an interview, send you the reimbursement of RM…you are claiming, etc.
Provide enough information for the reader to be able to complete the action you are asking for. See Handout 1
All of us have experienced countless times of receiving as well as giving bad news. What instances of your receiving bad news caused you distress? How were bad news delivered that made you feel not so bad? How have you delivered bad news to others? What conscious strategies did you use?
PLAN 1. Buffer opening 2. Reasons given first in the body 3. Bad news following the body 4. Pleasant closing/ forward looking closing
PLAN 1. Buffer opening Best news first (or at least something neutral), compliment, appreciation, facts, showing understanding/concern, apology
2. Reasons given first in the body Reader benefit, explain policy, situation, fairness, rationale. Use positive words, show concern/seriousness (not flippant attitude). Always understand reader’s point of view., and why he/she is taking the message as bad news.
3. Bad news following the body State the bad news (of course). Sensitively. Cushion the bad news by: positioning the bad news (sandwiching between positive words), using the passive voice or indirectly (You received an F grade : Your grade is F : You missed the pass mark). Do not dwell on it. Move on quickly to closing.
4. Pleasant closing/ forward looking closing Promote goodwill, reduce bad feelings. Forward look, alternatives, good wishes, special offers/discounts. NO: do not sound superficial, insincere, inappropriate, self-serving, or apologise, invite more discussion about the bad news, and don’t emphasis or summarise the bad news. See Handout 2
When organisation policy suggests directness. (e.g. engineering operations, in-company, or to subcontractors, etc) When the receiver prefers directness. When firmness is necessary. E.g. credit collection letters (after many letters). See Handout 3
Important work/business practices relating to bad news communication. Which is preferred – oral or written communication when it comes to dealing with problems that requires communication of bad news? Why?
Direct plan: 1. Bad news delivered first. 2. Reasons. 3. Pleasant closing. When the bad news is not damaging, insignificant, does not personally affect the reader. When the reader may overlook the bad news (you don’t want the reader to miss the bad news)
Advertisement/ Sales letters Enquiry/ Information request Response to enquiry/ offer to sell/ quotation Order/ offer to buy Claim/ complaint Adjustment/ response to claim
For every stage of the cycle (or for every letter of a different type that you write), there has to be a particular statement in the letter, whether direct or indirect, that points to the purpose and intent of the letter. This statement is important, as it performs the communicative act, which is also a “legal” act in business.
E.g. “Will you marry me?” What is the speech act? What is the legal consequence of the utterance?
What happens in a typical interaction between a customer and a seller at Petaling Street? See Handout 4