Category Archives: Business Communications

STOP!! Before You Press “Send,” Did You Use the Right Word?

08-10-2015 Word Cloud Graphic--FinalHow many times have you taken a quick glimpse at your message, and pressed the Send button only to discover later that a word in your message had been used incorrectly? The word you typed may have looked similar to the one you intended to use, and you know that the pronunciation of the two words is similar, but the meanings for the two words are very different.

Proofreading for thought content is very important, and the helpful list of words below along with their meanings should be added in to your writing tool kit.

Do – [meaning: to perform] – Example: When do you plan to make your decision?

Due – [meaning: to owe] – Example: The loan is due on July 1, 2017.

Dew – [meaning: moisture] – Example: The morning dew is heaviest in the summertime.

Elusive – [meaning: baffling; hard to catch] – Example: The reason for the disappearance of Flight 370 is still elusive.

Illusive – [meaning: misleading; unreal] – Example: Based on his previous performance, John’s hopes of getting promoted proved to be illusive.

Allusive – [meaning: hinting at] – Example: The mayor’s speech contained an allusive reference to city workers getting a pay raise next year.

Everyday – [meaning: ordinary] – Example: Cecil quickly learned the everyday tasks of his job.

Every day – [meaning: each day] – Example: John’s boss called the office every day to check on the progress of the Denton Project.

Farther – [meaning: at a greater distance; refers to actual distance] – Example: Mariah’s house is actually 5 miles farther from us.

Further – [meaning: to a greater extent; moreover, refers to figurative distance] – Example: If we want to reach a compromise, we need to discuss this issue further.

For – [meaning: use as a preposition] – Example: The message is for Bill.

Fore – [meaning: first; preceding; can be used in combination] – Example: The nurse gave Susie the injection in her forearm.

Four – [meaning: numeral] – Example: The customer bought four cookies.

Ideal – [meaning: standard of perfection] – Example: Gus is the ideal candidate for this position.

Idle – [meaning: unoccupied; not in use; without worth] – Example: The accident on the freeway caused many other drivers to sit idle in traffic.

Idol – [meaning: object of worship] – Example: B. B. King was a legendary idol to many blues fans.

Idyll – [meaning: a description of rural life; idealized, pastoral way of life] – Example: Marjorie was thrilled that Bakersfield was exactly the rural idyll she had imagined.

Its – [meaning: the possessive case of the pronoun it] – Example: The dog wagged its tail.

It’s – [meaning: the contraction for the words “it is” or “it has”] – Example: It’s been a grueling week because the deadlines were changed. It’s okay for the class to work in teams on the next assignment.

Lay – (v) [meaning: to place {hint: if you can use the word place, then use a form of this word}] Example: – Please lay your jacket on Jackie’s bed.

Lie – (n) a falsehood; (v) to recline; to tell an untruth – Example: Gregory told a lie to the arresting officer. The doctor told Patricia to lie down for at least an hour after taking the medication. You should not lie under oath.

Lye – (n) [meaning: a strong alkaline solution] – Example: Many years ago some consumer products contained lye.

Maybe – (adv.) [meaning “perhaps”] Example: If we don’t get to meet as a group today, maybe we can meet next Monday.

May be [meaning: (v)] Example: Although the numerical data in the report is correct, Sally may be revising the summary text information in the report.

To – [meaning: (prep.) (v) [Use “to” when you need to express “action or movement toward something or someone.” When used in this manner (with a noun or a pronoun), the word “to” functions as a preposition (a connector) and is part of a prepositional phrase = to + noun/pronoun] Example: John is moving to Chicago. [meaning: This form of “to” is also used with verbs to express action or state of being—to see, to write, to be, to have, etc. When used in this manner, it is part of an infinitive phrase = to + verb] Example: Jane will have to make other plans.

Too – (adv.) [meaning “in addition” or “also” or “more than enough”] Example: She, too, mentioned Mr. Smith’s recent performance.

Two – (n) (adj.) [meaning Use “two” when you need to express the figure “2” as a word.] Example: Sally brought two of her friends to the concert. Kristin two tickets to the dinner.

Win – (v) [meaning “to get something, by prize or contest” “to achieve a victory”] (n) an act of achieving victory in a contest or a game. Example: I am confident that our team will win the championship this year! Today’s court decision is a big win for our candidate!

When – (adv.) [meaning “at which time” “during which time”] Example: When did Jennifer join the group?

Source: The Gregg Reference Manual, 11th Edition, William A. Sabin, McGraw-Hill, 2011.

If you want to update your writing skills, consider enrolling in the Business Office Systems & Support program at Richland College. You will have a wide selection of courses (offered online and face-to-face) from which to choose. These courses range from basic keyboarding, computer literacy, business communications, Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Access (includes preparation for the Microsoft Office Specialist certification exam**), office procedures, etc. These courses can all lead you towards a college-credit certificate or a 2-year associate’s degree.

Richland College is located in northeast Dallas at 12800 Abrams Road. For more information contact Becky Jones, Associate Dean, at 972-238-6215.

**Richland College is an authorized Microsoft Testing Center.

***Get a Free Copy of Microsoft Office Pro Plus 2013***If you are a student in the Dallas County Community College District, you are eligible to download a FREE version of Microsoft Office 2013 Pro Plus (or 2011 on the Mac) which includes Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Access, Outlook, Publisher, and OneNote.



Five Tough Questions to Ask Yourself about Your Soft Skills

Are you a team player?

“Mastering technology to get a job and keep a job is a fact of life. Yet, technical skills alone are not an avenue to advancement. For career resilience, it’s important to connect with others in authentic and meaningful ways. That means pairing digital skills with soft skills—behaviors, practices and core values.”

The above is a quote from an article on the IAAP (International Association of Administrative Professionals) Web site.  The article appeared in the association’s January/February 2015 publication. You should be able to answer “Yes” to all but one of the questions.  See if you can determine which question’s answer is a definite “No.”

These five questions should be reviewed often!  If you are happy with the job you currently have, a reminder of the specifics of these questions will assist you in keeping that job for as long as possible.

Here is a link to the article:  Five Tough Questions


For more information on the Business Office Systems and Support department, contact Becky Jones, Associate Dean, 972-238-6215.

WRITING TO WIN: How to Write Effective Meeting Recaps

By Royce Murcherson, Ph.D.

Royce top pictureHave you ever wondered why people shrink from taking the minutes in a meeting? It can be one of the hardest jobs on a project team or committee because it carries a huge amount of responsibility. The ‘note taker’ is tasked with accurately capturing details from a discussion that could veer into parts unknown. If the team leader or committee chair does not have a clear agenda or lacks the panache to keep the group on point, this could be the new reality and very counterproductive.
In short, the ‘note taker’ must be prepared for how well or how poorly a meeting goes. Minutes constitute an official record of a meeting. Meeting minutes are always distributed to the attendees and at times to other higher ranking management. Take care to write your document as if the CEO of the company, the president of the university, or the head of whatever organization is on the distribution list.

Below is a list of content areas that should be included in your recap.

Meeting Notes Royce
Meeting Topic:
Agenda Topics
Discussion Items and Updates
Next Steps and Responsible Parties
Date of next meeting

Here are a few guidelines to help craft effective a meeting recap that will work in most situations.

Take detailed notes.
Write the recap directly after the meeting. Do not rely on your memory.
Stay away from personal commentary
Record all agenda items, next steps and those responsible, and capture any decisions.
Make the minutes readable. Use headings and bullet points.
If you use a template, be aware that templates vary in style and content. Keep to a conservative design. NO BLING.
Write clearly and succinctly

Manage your tone. Do not write your personality into the document
Keep your document free of grammatical and spelling errors.
Keep the font size to 11 point, the style to a conservative, New Times Roman, Ariel Narrow, or Calibri.

Always remember, meeting recaps should never interpret. They should only report. Meeting recaps should objectively record discussed business and decisions.

For a more expanded discussion on composing effective meeting recaps, see my book, Royce Murcherson, Ph.D.,  The Guide to Persuasive Business Writing: A New Model that Gets Results. (Iowa: Kendall-Hall, 2013)

Clip Art, provided by Microsoft Office Professional Academic, 2010

For more information on the Business Office Systems and Support department, contact Becky Jones, Associate Dean, 972-238-6215.

Resume Tips

04-07-2014 - Classified Ad Image 466158975Are you in the job market or thinking of starting a search? If so, you need to remember that your resume is a marketing tool. Here are some do’s and don’ts when building your resume:

  • Make your resume easy to scan. Include white space and simple text. Do not use long blocks of text or paragraphs.
  • Put work experience before your education. Unless you are a new graduate, your work experience will be more important than your education section. Make sure your job are listed in reverse chronological order.
  • Make sure it is clear what your job title was. Recruiters only have time to quickly glance over resumes. If they cannot figure out what your job title is and what your job duties were, then they will pass you over for an easier to read resume.
  • Focus on your strengths that relate to the specific for which you are applying. If you can, include numbers that quantify more vague terms. For example, if you say that you managed a department, include how many people were in the department or the size of the budget.
  • Be consistent across the whole resume. If you use bullet points for your job duties or skills list, make sure you use them throughout the document.
  • Keep your resume to 1-2 pages in length. Anything longer than that is likely to be overlook because of time constraints for the reviewer.
  • Proofread! Have your neighbor proofread! Have your mother proofread! If you have any grammar or spelling typos, your resume will be in the trash quickly.

WRITING TO WIN: Persuasion and Occasion in Internal Proposals

WRITING TO WIN: Persuasion and Occasion in Internal Proposals

by Royce Murcherson, Ph.D., Professor of English, Richland College

Royce top pictureYou are a professional. You want to be successful. You want your good ideas to be noticed and implemented. What’s the magic formula? You write to persuade. You create carefully crafted internal proposals that will cause your supervisor to accept your recommendations. That’s easily said. The hard part is knowing the difference between a document that persuades a supervisor to accept a solution to an old problem, and a document that tells the story of an old problem.

One of the ‘booby traps’  in business writing that can cause your ideas to go unnoticed is telling a story rather than providing a solution.  This is called, ‘writing about the occasion’. For example, my students have in more than one instance attempted to write a persuasive proposal, but instead penned a narrative that told the story of a problem rather than presenting a solution. There is a big difference between occasion and persuasion, one of which you should be fully aware.

What is ‘Writing about the Occasion’?

  • Writing about the occasion leaves out relevant valuable detail.
  • Writing about the occasion gives too much time to tangentially related personal experience and the opinions/reactions of colleagues.
  • Writing about the occasion is background that over spends itself in immaterial details of what has taken place.
  • Writing about the occasion does not lay out a clear recommendation and solution.

X marksDon’t Write About the Occasion

You have discovered a way to increase productivity in the workplace. You want to submit an informal internal proposal to your supervisor. These are the things you think you must cover in your proposal:

  • You feel you must describe what’s going on.
  • You think you need to list all who are involved.
  • You are determined to include the opinions of your colleagues.
  • You are convinced you must include your big ideas and thoughts because you’re the one who has the solution.
  • You’ll write it all down from beginning to end in a long string of paragraphs.

This is exactly what you do. Congratulations! You have just written about the occasion of ‘poor productivity’ in the workplace. It might make an interesting tale, but remember, your supervisor doesn’t expect short-short stories from you. They expect ‘usable’ ideas that give way to solid solutions

2 checkmarkWrite about the Solution

So how do you compose a document that recommends, proposes a plan, and provides a solution without telling a story? You follow a blue print. A blue print is something as simple as a list of content sub-headings. If you keep to specific content and clear sub-headings, you’ll be safe. Think of these areas as a table of contents, or even an outline.  Below is a list of solution driven content headings in internal proposals:

  • Subject Line
  • Background
  • Statement of the Problem
  • Proposed Solution
  • Proposed Plan
  • Costs
  • Benefits

Confining your proposal to specific areas of discussion will keep you away from relating a story. It will leave you little room to digress and keep you to the job at hand. Structure, focus, clarity, and detail are essential. We all have a tendency to want to jump out there and start talking about what needs to be done, but this is not what needs to be done when it comes to writing a proposal.  Stick with content areas organized under short, clear sub-headings to avoid becoming a writer of short-stories.

Question MarkCan Occasion and Persuasion Cohabitate

It is possible for the two to happily occupy the same document on a very limited basis in the following areas:

  • The background in the proposal would be an appropriate place to include some personal on the job experience if it serves as an ‘attention getting’ device, or an anecdote that helps bring the problem into greater focus.
  • The statement of the problem is also another possible place to include a little story telling. Sometimes relating a ‘real experience’ is necessary to help convince and elicit an emotional response in the reader. This technique is called ‘pathos’ in argument theory. It is the use of language or stories that emotionally bind an audience to a subject and is likely to persuade an audience to change position. In the case of an internal proposal being submitted to your supervisor arguing an increase in safety protocols, a very limited description of on the job accidents could prove helpful.

For a more expanded discussion on composing effective internal proposals, see my book, Royce Murcherson, Ph.D.,  The Guide to Persuasive Business Writing: A New Model that Gets Results. (Iowa: Kendall-Hall, 2013)

Clip Art, provided by Microsoft Office Professional Academic, 2010


For more information on the Business Office Systems and Support department, contact Becky Jones, Associate Dean, 972-238-6215.


The ABC’s of Email in Business Communication

Royce top picture

by Royce Murcherson, Ph.D.

Even though email is one of the most important forms of electronic communication, it is one of the most frequently misunderstood in terms of its impact on public opinion, professional dealings, and even personal relationships. In short, email carries a punch particularly when you are communicating with your colleagues and supervisors on the job. It’s powerful and it’s effective.

So, how could something so entrenched in our everyday lives be misunderstood? It’s easy to overlook flaws in things that are familiar just as you overlook the annoying habit of a brother that never removes his empty dish from the table after dinner.

Because of our familiarity with email, we fail to run through the ABC’s, those basic things that need to be paid attention too, yet are frequently missed when performing what we think is a good ‘proofread’ before we click the ‘send’ button. Let’s recite.

A RoyceA is for Announcing your Subject Effectively
Subject lines are very important if you want your message to be opened right away. It must be ‘attention-getting’ and it must be brief. While you may think of it as a simple thing to compose, it can actually be quite difficult. Think of it as a three to five word banner that clearly tells the recipient what your message is about. Those few words can communicate urgency, a call to action or delivery of important information.

B RoyceB is for Being Aware of your Tone
Because you are engaging in a business dialogue, you must always remember to keep your tone business-like, unbiased, and emotion free. It’s easy to forget to do this because you probably spend more time in personal email and texting which is a highly informal environment. You should not use slang or colloquialisms, and should avoid contractions. For example, forget about OMG, LOL, ‘see what I’m saying’, ‘hooked up’, and ‘I got this’. Do not substitute ‘u’ for you, ‘ur for your, or ‘r’ for are. This type of informal communication is not appropriate in a business environment.

C RoyceC is for Checking Your Word Count
The length of your message is extremely important. Typically, an email should be no longer than 250 words. Your message may be informational, responding to an on-going issue, or arguing a change of course in procedure. Regardless, you need to focus on being concise. If the subject requires more than 250 words, think about attaching relevant documents that provide additional detail. Remember, your recipients ‘inbox’ is almost always full. Do yourself and your colleagues a favor and avoid longwinded messages.

D RoyceD is for Doing Away with Misspelled Words
One of the most glaring, memorable mistakes you can make is failing to proofread your message for misspelled words. Always perform a manual spell check. Don’t rely on auto spell check to catch your errors because your email settings may not be set up to perform this. Mistakenly, you will believe all is okay when in reality all is not. Another ‘trap’ in auto spell check is the proposed substitution. The proposed word may be spelled correctly, but not the right word to stress your meaning. For instance, if you type the word ‘principle’ to denote value, spell check could incorrectly read it as a misspelled word and offer to make the change. The change it might suggest is ‘principal’. If you allow the change without manually proofreading, you have made a word usage error which might as well be a misspelled word.

E RoyceE is for Eliminating Grammatical Errors
As in manually proofreading your messages for misspelled words and not relying on automatic spell check, do not rely on automatic grammar checks. If you’re unsure about your skill in tracking down grammar errors, here’s a good technique. It’s simple. Read your message out loud. If a sentence doesn’t feel right as you’re reading along, stop and reread the problematic passage out loud again. Then look for the grammar mistake. It will be the there. It could be incorrect sentence structure, a missing word, or a case in which your subject and verb do not agree. You can also catch long wordy sentences [run-on], and sentences that lack a subject or verb causing it to be an incomplete sentence [fragment]. Bottom line, nothing is a good substitute for using your own brain.

For a more expanded discussion on composing effective business documents, look forward to further posts, and see my book, Royce Murcherson, Ph.D., The Guide to Persuasive Business Writing: A New Model that Gets Results. (Iowa: Kendall-Hall, 2013)

Clip Art, provided by Microsoft Office Professional Academic, 2010

For more information on the Business Office Systems and Support department, contact Becky Jones, Associate Dean, 972-238-6215.

Basic International Business Tips—Part 2

This article is the second in a two-part series on improving your basic international business skills and manners. The first article was featured in the December 8, 2014 BOSS Blog.

02-02-2015 Snagit Intnl Bus TipsConsider taking POFT 2312 Business Correspondence and Communication from the BOSS program at Richland College to help you enhance your written communication skills so that you are prepared for all aspects of today’s workplace communications.

Richland College, which is located in northeast Dallas at 12800 Abrams Road, offers both online and on-campus courses. For more information contact Becky Jones, Associate Dean, 972-238-6215.

***Get a Free Copy of Microsoft Office Pro Plus 2013***If you are a student in the Dallas County Community College District, you are eligible to download a free version of Microsoft Office 2013 Pro Plus (or 2011 on the Mac) which includes Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Access, Outlook, Publisher, and OneNote.


Basic International Business Tips—Part 1 of 2

Perhaps you may have heard the saying, “When in Rome, do as the Romans,” and that statement certainly holds true when you or your boss have to do any international traveling. So, take a “working tip” from Richland College’s POFT 2312 Business Correspondence and Communication course on what you should do to improve your basic international business skills.


If you want to improve your business writing skills and knowledge of international business communications, consider taking POFT 2312 Business Correspondence and Communication from the BOSS program at Richland College.

Richland College, which is located in northeast Dallas at 12800 Abrams Road, offers both online and on-campus courses. For more information contact Becky Jones, Associate Dean, 972-238-6215.

Free MS Office 2013  Snagit2014-11-16_11-57-07



WRITING TO WIN: Handwriting in the Age of Electronic Communication

by Royce Murcherson

Royce top picture

As an author and teacher in today’s digital world, I am bombarded with email heralding messages of all sorts. But the messages that stand out most in my mind are the ones that arrived in a small envelope either slipped under my door or dropped in my mailbox.

One in particular was from a student thanking me for teaching a great class and letting me know how much she appreciated the effort. It would have been easy to send an email added to an already long list in my exploding inbox. Instead she chose to write a note that did not go unnoticed. Here was an individual who chose to express a sentiment in a genuinely real way.

In this age of electronic communication, it is easy to overlook the simple value of a handwritten note. Why bother when you can email, text, or send digital greeting cards? It’s easier to tweet, post, email, or pin. It’s fast, it’s cheap, and unremarkable. But isn’t it better to do something thoughtful and unexpected that differentiates your message from others?

Where is the inherent value in handwritten notes? It’s authenticity. It’s not just the words you put to paper, but the deeper message you send. Ask yourself, when was the last time you received a real paper message in your ‘real’ inbox at work? Chances are you may not be able to come up with a date. This is what makes a handwritten note important. They give pause because they are seen so rarely. Here are some key questions to consider.

Handwritten notes require extra time to compose a thoughtful message and check your own grammar and spelling. These notes will also require a small investment in stamps, notecards, or stationery.

You send a loud and clear message to the recipient. You are taking the time to convey appreciation or thanks in a more meaningful way than typical electronic communication.

• acknowledge hard work
• follow up a meeting or conversation of importance
• recognize accomplishments
• recognize service anniversaries
• express thanks, gratitude, or appreciation
• celebrate birthdays
• offer best wishes

In today’s workplace, technology is a wonderful thing. It’s a tool that improves processes and solves problems. It also creates opportunities for more time to accomplish the tasks that will help us to be successful. But don’t forget to take a little of that ‘saved time’ and invest it in an old fashioned practice that will create a lasting impression on your colleagues.

For a more other discussions on persuasive business writing and workplace etiquette, see my book:

Royce Murcherson, Ph.D., The Guide to Persuasive Business Writing: A New Model that Gets Results. Iowa: Kendall-Hall, 2013

For more information on the Business Office Systems and Support department, contact Becky Jones, Associate Dean, 972-238-6215.


by guest editor Royce Murcherson

Most of you probably think every consumer dispute can be resolved with a phone call to customer service. This is not always the case, and you will need to be prepared to push past routine customer service responses that may not satisfy your grievance.

There are many types of letters that can be written in the workplace such as sales letters, reprimand letters, good news letters, and job application letters to name a few. But there’s one letter of great value typically not used in the workplace because it’s a tool for the consumer.

The purpose of this letter is to receive restitution for unsatisfactory services or products. Think of it as a consumer’s tool because this is exactly what it is. It’s the way to validate a claim when it becomes necessary to resolve disputes. You will need to know how to write this type of letter at some point in your life because most of us are disappointed at one time or another when our expectations are not met. If you want to be able to have some remedy at your fingertips, you’ll want to know how to compose an effective arguable claim letter.

The claim letter is also a strategically crafted argument that must be persuasive yet concise. This is the challenge. You probably think a good argument has to be long. Not in this case, your strong argument in a claim letter must also be concise. So, how do you create a worthy argument that should not exceed four paragraphs?

Use the Toulmin Model of Persuasion. This model is based on the work of Stephen Toulmin in his book, The Uses of Argument. In section three of my book, The Guide to Persuasive Business Writing, I explain how to apply the Toulmin argumentation model to different types of business documents. The model which includes six elements can also be applied to a claim letter. These elements must be strategically placed.

• Warrants – You must always establish early agreement with some congenial statement. It must also address what the ‘seller’ believes about their product or service. Usually the ‘seller’ believes no fault should be attached. You should address this and then move on to the ‘breakdown or failure’.

• Claim – This is your statement of the failure or breakdown in service.

• Support – This is all of your proof or evidence of the failure

• Rebuttal – This is the area in which you countermand all of the reasons the ‘seller’ may use to avoid making any restitution.

• Claims Are Not Complaints – Claim letters and complaint letters are two distinctly different items. You must be familiar with the objectives of a complaint letter before composing your claim letter. Otherwise, your objective of receiving some type of compensation will be in jeopardy.

• Watch Your Tone – It is easy to become too combative and demanding. You run the risk of the ‘seller’ immediately dismissing your claim because it may be perceived as an emotional outburst and not a credible request. Remember, you are requesting, not demanding.

• Do Not Tell A Story – It is easy to begin writing a story of how a product failed or services were not up to par. This is simply being human because most of us want to describe what happened. Describing failures or breakdowns is the same as telling a story of dissatisfaction. To avoid this, remember you are presenting an argument that makes a claim for restitution of some sort. So, think strategy and stay with the Toulmin Model.

For a more expanded discussion on writing and formatting arguable claim letters and other workplace letters using the Toulmin Model of Argumentation in business writing, see my book:

Royce Murcherson, Ph.D., The Guide to Persuasive Business Writing: A New Model that Gets Results. Iowa: Kendall-Hall, 2013

For more information on the Business Office Systems and Support department, contact Becky Jones, Associate Dean, 972-238-6215.