Category Archives: Grammar/Business Writing Tips

WRITING TO WIN: Meetings and the Minutes that Represent Them

At any time in your academic or professional life, you may be called upon to keep a record of a meeting. Meetings can occur on the job, at school, in the community center, even in your home. They are a tool for any organization–be it a committee, work group, project team, or advisory council.

In the classroom, this could be a group project that might require the members to keep track of discussions and activities as they march down the road toward a final product. In the workplace, it could be a project management meeting. Minutes are a chronicle of what happens in meetings.

What are minutes exactly? They do not mark the passage of time. Minutes are a record of key points discussed during a meeting. Keeping a record of what takes place in a meeting has several purposes:

  • Minutes provide information that can aid in future deliberations.
  • An accurate account of the meeting provides background for members who could not attend.
  • Having accurate minutes can serve as reminders of assigned tasks to the members.
  • Minutes capture document items in a proposed action plan.

MEETING MINUTES MUST ALWAYS BE….

  • Accurate
  • Clear and comprehensive
  • Objective in tone

MEETING MINUTES SHOULD…

  • Never record emotional exchanges that will spread negative light on the attendees. Meeting minutes should objectively record discussed business in a neutral manner.
  • Not interpret. They should only report.
  • Never veer away from the established agenda. This can make the reporting difficult. If this occurs, never be reluctant to ask the person leading the meeting to slow down or clarify what the unintended detour means.

MEETING MINUTES MUST BE…

Presentable–Meeting minutes are always distributed to the attendees and at times senior leaders.

  • 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.
  • Therefore, you should adhere to all the rules of business writing. If you use a template in a word processing program, make sure the basic content areas are addressed. Templates are good in that you can use them on site at the meeting if you have a lap top. This will prevent you from having to transcribe the minutes later.

BASIC CONTENT AREAS FOR MEETING MINUTES

These are some areas that should be included in your document:

Date and Time

Type of Meeting

Meeting Called By Note Taker

Members Present

Decisions on Agenda Topics:

New Business

Discussion Items

Items accepted or rejected

Future Action Items and Owners

Next Steps

Next Meeting Date and Time

GUIDELINES FOR NOTE TAKING

  • Always write the minutes directly after the meeting. Do not rely on your memory. You will inevitably leave information out or misinterpret what you thought was discussed.
  • Pay attention and take good notes if you do not have a laptop template.
  • Make the minutes readable. Use headings and lists. Write them clearly and succinctly.
  • Stay away from personal commentary. Remember, do not interpret the proceedings. Record objectively.
  • Record all agenda items, action items, who owns action items, and any conclusions.

GUIDELINES FOR THE FINISHED DOCUMENT

  • Do not forget to list and distribute the document to all of those who attended the meeting.
  • Manage your tone. Do not write your personality into the document.
  • Keep your document free of grammatical and spelling errors.
  • Format your document appropriately with the proper content headings, margin settings, font size and style if you do not elect to use a template.
  • Keep the font size to 12-point, the style to a conservative Times New Roman, Arial, or Calibri.

For some expanded discussions on effective 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, 2016.

This guest article was contributed by Royce Murcherson, Ph.D., on how to improve your writing skills and behavior. Dr. Murcherson is a faculty member in the School of World Languages, Cultures, and Communications (English & Humanities) at Richland College in Dallas.

If you want to improve your communication skills or learn/update your computer software skills, consider taking a Business Office Systems & Support (BOSS) course at Richland College. Richland College, which is located in northeast Dallas at 12800 Abrams Road, offers both online and on-campus courses in flex-term and full semester formats. For more information email RichlandBOSS@dcccd.edu, or call 972‑238-6215.

**Richland College is an authorized Microsoft Testing Center.

***Get a Free Copy of Microsoft Office 365***If you are a student in the Dallas County Community College District, you are eligible to download a free version of Microsoft Office 365  for Windows (or the Mac version) which includes Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Access, Outlook, Publisher, and OneNote.


Writing to Win: Deliver What You Promise

WRITING TO WIN:  Deliver What You Promise

Delivering what you promise is crucial in the workplace. It not only reinforces your success, it also bolsters your trustworthiness. It is important to understand that delivering what you promise is a concept that applies to employee and employer. So, it is not enough to understand what you need to do to keep your promises. You must also understand what your employer needs to do to keep their promises. Making good on commitments is a golden rule.  Not making good can create adverse effects for the employee, the employer, and business clients as well.  Altogether, the overall well-being of your company can be threatened.  So, let’s take a brief look at how you can keep your promises, and how employers should keep their promises to you.

BUT…

HOW EMPLOYEES CAN KEEP THEIR PROMISES:

It seems as if there is more pressure on an employee to deliver than an employer. It’s certainly plausible given who has the most power. Clearly, the employer appears to be in that position because we don’t want to be fired for poor performance.  So, the pressure is indeed on. Hanging on to a paycheck and benefits is major motivation when it comes to committing to things that may not be possible.

  • Don’t Promise Unrealistic Delivery Dates – Realize your constraints. Present realistic deadline dates for yourself and your team. Yes, being an independent contributor is great because you feel you are the master of your own destiny and are not dependent on others. But what if you are a member of a team? You cannot always predict who will complete tasks according to the schedule. You cannot always predict when you can complete tasks given ‘life circumstances’ that may pop up.
  • Be Realistic when it Comes to the Burdens of Workload– Sometimes job responsibilities change, workload increases. And as I said earlier, employers sometimes underplay the real demands of a job. In either case, most people feel they can keep up regardless. Be thoughtful and above all, be honest with yourself and your manager.  Do not commit to fully satisfying the demands of a position if it is not possible. Voice your concerns so that you can avoid being perceived as over promising and under-delivering.

HOW EMPLOYERS CAN KEEP THEIR PROMISES TO YOU:

Most of us like to believe our employer will always follow through on assurances he or she has committed too. But sometimes this is not always the case. So, it is important to be aware of fundamental promises between employer and employee.

  • Employers Should Never be Biased when Granting Promotions – This is absolutely not supposed to occur. It compromises not only ethical principles, but practically speaking, customary human resource directives. And violating these directives can put the company at risk for civil suits given equal protection.
  • Employers Should Always Be Truthful about Job Responsibilities – Remember the old saying, ‘necessity is the mother of invention’? In some cases, if the pressure to fill a position is too great, necessity could entice an employer to stretch the truth when it comes to the realities of workload in a particular position.
  • Employers Should Never Allow Special Privileges to a Few – Seniority and long-time friendships should not influence favors and privileges in a non-union environment. Still, this can occur. An employer or manager given the right circumstances may over promise that he or she will not be partial to specific employees, but may not keep that promise.

WAYS TO AVOID AND RECOVER FROM OVER PROMISING:

  • Be honest with yourself before making a commitment on delivery dates with your client, or workload responsibilities with your employer. Can it be done?
  • Set realistic expectations with your client and employer.
  • Take ownership if you fail to meet expectations. If you are part of a team, do not place the blame on other members. This is counter-productive and will cast a negative light on you.
  • Communicate Quickly and Honestly. If you can see that you are not living up to promises or delivery dates, do not wait until recovery is not possible. As soon as you see the ‘danger signs’ either in your general workload, scheduled date to roll out a product or solution, SPEAK UP.

For an expanded discussion on 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

Clip Art, provided by Microsoft Office Professional Academic, 2010

If you want to develop or upgrade your skills to help you in today’s job market, 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, administrative office procedures, business communications, Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, OneNote, Access (includes preparation for the Microsoft Office Specialist certification exam**) etc. These courses can all lead you towards a college-credit certificate or a 2-year associate’s degree.

Richland College is in northeast Dallas and located at 12800 Abrams Road. For more information, please contact Angela Nino at anino@dcccd.edu or call 972-238-6215.

**Richland College is an authorized Microsoft Testing Center.

***Get a Free Copy of Microsoft Office 365***If you are a student in the Dallas County Community College District, you are eligible to download a FREE version of Microsoft Office 365, which includes Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Access, Outlook, Publisher, and OneNote, which can be used on up to 5 devices.

WRITING TO WIN: MANAGING EXPECTATIONS IN BUSINESS WRITING

10-09-2016_aIt would be a wonderful thing to know exactly what people expect of you over and above your duties and responsibilities on the job.  You’d know exactly what to do to meet these additional expectations in your day-to-day performance. Being that the probabilities are high that most of the population cannot read minds, you must devise other ways to manage the expectations of your audience, namely, your colleagues, managers, or key stakeholders.

This is the third installment discussing key considerations for effective business communication. We’ll call this one, managing the expectations of audience. Or, as it is stated: Consider the Audience.

WHO IS MY AUDIENCE? 

You already know your audience will either be your colleagues, managers, or key stakeholders. Now, you must learn to write TO their beliefs, needs, and expectations in a way that will ‘win the day’.  That is, the means by which you can accomplish the goals laid out in your report, proposal, or executive summary.

Your Goal Should Be a Simple One, SUCCESS:

  • The acceptance of your proposed solution to a problem
  • The acceptance of your proposed improvement to a process
  • The acceptance of the progress you have made in a key on-going project.

HOW CAN I KNOW THEIR EXPECTATIONS?

  • Be aware of the project’s or division’s success objectives. These are specific things that must be achieved to demonstrate success in your department.
  • Be diligent on the job. Keep your ears open, stay informed, and engaged in the workplace.

HERE’S HOW MANAGING EXPECTATIONS WORKS

If you want to convince your manager to give you a shorter work week for the same pay, you’ll need to understand why he/she wouldn’t want to give you a shorter work week even though you’ll be working the same hours. In other words, you must figure out what she believes on the subject of shorter work weeks.  This is where you begin to make assumptions or guesses about her feelings on the subject of shorter work weeks.  When you begin to make these assumptions or educated guesses, you begin to write to the needs of your audience.

11-07-2016_bHERE’S AN EXAMPLE

You are a pharmaceuticals warehouse supervisor. Keeping track of inventory is an obvious priority. You know that inventory levels have been inaccurate in the last two accounting periods. You want to propose a solution to the problem, but before you present a ‘proposed plan’, you must try and figure out the expectations of your manager with regard to this problem. In short, you present your plan in such a way as to address what YOU THINK his beliefs and expectations may be given the current shrinkage problem. When you begin to make a mental list, it may look something look this if you were to write it down.

11-07-2016_cWALK A MILE IN ANOTHER PAIR OF SHOES

The Director of Corporate Logistics distributes a monthly newsletter that highlights shrinkage and how it decreases company profits. You know your manager keeps a close eye on this issue and measures warehouse shrinkage monthly, then reports this to corporate logistics. You also know that your manager constantly talks about adding more technology and wants to be noticed by the Director of Logistics. You also know that your facility manager would like to avoid hiring more security personnel.

11-07-2016_dTHEN PRESENT YOUR SOLUTION

This will be the first paragraph in your proposal

Based on last month’s warehouse inventory, there has been an eight percent increase in shrinkage. Our monthly sales figures do not support this high level of ‘missing’ merchandise. Nor can we afford to hire more security guards. Therefore, I would like to recommend a technological upgrade in our present security system. It will help us accomplish our goals without increasing payroll.

11-07-2016_eWRITING TO WIN THE END GAME

When you have a strong idea of what may be going on in the mind of your audience, you will have a strong idea of how to sell your idea. This is the same as building a strong persuasive document. A persuasive document is an argument. And building a good argument starts with creating the foundation upon which it rests. This foundation is the need to know your audience which brings us back to the three key considerations in effective written business communication.

REMEMBER: To Write Effectively

  • Consider the Length
  • Consider the Data
  • Consider the Audience

For an expanded discussion on effective 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

Clip Art, provided by Microsoft Office Professional Academic, 2010

If you want to develop or enhance your business communication skills, consider enrolling in the Business Office Systems & Support (BOSS) program at Richland College.

Richland College is located in northeast Dallas at 12800 Abrams Road. For more information, please contact Angela Nino at anino@dcccd.edu or call 972-238-6215.

**Richland College is an authorized Microsoft Testing Center.

***Get a Free Copy of Microsoft Office***If you are a student in the Dallas County Community College District, you are eligible to download a FREE version of Microsoft Office, which includes Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Access, Outlook, Publisher, and OneNote. You can install this software on up to 5 devices.


WRITING TO WIN: HOW LONG IS TOO LONG?

10-09-2016_aWRITING TO WIN:  HOW LONG IS TOO LONG?

One of the greatest realizations seasoned professionals come to find out is the fact that ‘you don’t know what you don’t know’, meaning, you may not realize that even though you have years of experience in the office, this does not necessarily mean you are a great business writer.

Business writing is an art and a skill. It is artistic because a well put together business document can be a beautiful thing when it accomplishes your purpose.  It is a skill because it takes practice and the knowledge of three key considerations essential for effective business communication.  I will discuss each of these over the course of three posts, the first being this one which is dedicated to LENGTH.

CONSIDER THE LENGTH      

CONSIDER THE DATA

CONSIDER THE AUDIENCE   

To be effective is to produce a win. What is a win exactly? A win is getting the recognition you deserve after having your idea, solution, or process improvement acknowledged and accepted.  Therefore, it is important that you be well acquainted with these areas that will have everything to do with accomplishing your goals.

10-09-2016_bCONSIDER THE LENGTH of your document. This is very important because a reader can easily become distracted, disengaged, or outright bored if there seems to be no end in sight.  What is an acceptable length? It depends on the document. Email, interoffice memos, letters, reports, and internal proposals have different objectives. The objective drives the length, that is, the reason why you are writing the document. But it doesn’t just stop at its reason for being.

YOU MUST ALSO TAKE INTO CONSIDERATION: 

  • The Recipient – Have some knowledge of the individual to whom you are writing.  Is this person a stickler for detail? Or does this person prefer   ‘broad brush strokes’ rather than getting bogged down in the minutiae?
  • The Subject – Some subjects require more length than others. Longer topics should be summarized in an executive summary and detail can be provided in an attachment or appendix, satisfying the person who wants details, but not overwhelming those that want broad brush strokes. Always remember, LENGTH IS CONTINGENT ON THE TYPE OF DOCUMENT.
  • The Type of Document – Different types of documents have varying lengths. Below, are a few examples.

10-09-2016_cTypes of Documents and Their Lengths

  • EMAIL – [200 – 250 words] Email is considered a ‘brief’ form of communication. Be concise. They should be no more than three paragraphs. There are basically two types: informational and promotional. Informational email can be exactly what it is, a means of imparting information. They can also be persuasive, meaning, they are small arguments that are meant to sway opinion. Persuasive email tends to be longer than informational because you must be careful to include such persuasive elements such as a claim, support and considerations of audience. Informational email should absolutely be no longer than 200 words.
  • INTEROFFICE MEMOS – [300 – 350 words] it can be hard to tell the difference between the traditional memo and an email message. Memos frequently do not have the ‘MEMORANDUM’ banner at the top anymore. They are frequently sent in the form of an email or as an email attachment. So, is it email or what? No, memos are not email. They are longer. They can use various techniques to layout information such as: bullets, sub-headings, and the occasional table if it is very small.  In short, memos include much more detailed information. They are a more formal document.
  • LETTERS – [250 – 300 words] Letters have an inherent amount of power that sets them apart from email and memos, but they must not exceed one page. They may be composed to gather information or show appreciation. They can solicit new business or convey bad news. They can announce promotions or terminate employment.
  • REPORTS – [up to 500 words] Reports have the luxury of added length.  Because there are several types of reports: progress, term projects, activity, and feasibility to name a few, the length can vary. Five-hundred words would more than likely be a business progress report. Feasibility reports would be appropriate at this length. Activity reports can top out at 300 words depending on the activity.
  • INTERNAL PROPOSALS – [500 – 600 words] Proposals come in various shapes and sizes. They can be either internal or external. They can be either solicited or unsolicited. They can be as short as an email and as long as a ten-page document.  They have the luxury of being longest document you might every write. They are always persuasive in nature. In short, proposals are arguments which require length to be truly effective.

10-09-2016_dFINALLY

What is important to note when it comes to length of business documents is to keep the meaning of the word, concise, firmly rooted in your mind. When you are in the workplace, you are not in a classroom. You are not writing research papers, essays, responses, or summaries. You are crafting a message that your reader must realize quickly and clearly.

For an expanded discussion on effective 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

Clip Art, provided by Microsoft Office Professional Academic, 2010

If you want to develop or enhance your business communication skills, consider enrolling in the Business Office Systems & Support (BOSS) program at Richland College.

Richland College is located in northeast Dallas at 12800 Abrams Road. For more information, please contact Angela Nino at anino@dcccd.edu or call 972-238-6215.

**Richland College is an authorized Microsoft Testing Center.

***Get a Free Copy of Microsoft Office***If you are a student in the Dallas County Community College District, you are eligible to download a FREE version of Microsoft Office, which includes Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Access, Outlook, Publisher, and OneNote. You can install this software on up to 5 devices.

 

 

 

 


Writing to Win: COLLABORATION, the Second ‘C’ in Success

by Royce Murcherson

Writing to Win Book CoverIn the last blog post, I talked about teamwork in the workplace being more effective when communication, collaboration, and coordination are at the center. I began the discussion focusing on the importance of effective communication. It should be concise. It should present information in the form of a well thought out plan.  It should be clear and easy to understand. It should speed up the decision-making process.  And it should be inherently persuasive which speaks directly to the level of collaboration a strong team must have to be successful.

Without communication, there can be no real collaboration.

WHAT IS COLLABORATION?

Collaboration is a group process through which colleagues come together to craft solutions and improve processes not limited to one individual idea. 

WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO COLLABORATE?

What Does It Mean to CollaborateCollaborating means:

  • Everyone has a voice at the table
  • Being perceived as a good partner
  • Valuing Different Viewpoints
  • Coming across as a common united front

THREE ESSENTIALS IN THE COLLABORATIVE PROCESS

  • Three EssentialsEngage Your Partners – Team members should share knowledge. Knowledge sharing is a healthy and productive means by which the group can arrive at the best solution.
  • Capture Ideas and Action Items – Team members should keep an accurate record of meeting notes. Some alternative forms of note taking can include diagrams or flow charts that visually depict innovative proposals.
  • Recognize Ideas – Team members should give credit where credit is due. A pat on the back, a nod at the table, and a simple “I agree” can go a long way. There is no stronger motivation than positive feedback.

TWO MUST-HAVE’S TO MAKE IT WORK

  • Two Must-HaveBuild Relationships – It is absolutely essential to build relationships among your team members. Take time to build personal relationships by getting to know each other.  During this process, strengths and opportunities can be discovered and used to the best advantage of the team.
  • Foster Trust – Being able to depend on your colleagues to deliver tasks on time and in detail is also absolutely essential. Trust is the confidence. And confidence that each member will fully contribute to the group eliminates pressure and unnecessary stress.

THE BIG ADVANTAGES         

Since collaboration is now a hot item in the workplace, the advantages are not hard to spot. Collaborative teams bring together different viewpoints because teams are frequently pulled from different talent pools or departments to achieve one goal.  Because a variety of ideas will be put on the table, it’s much easier to develop ingenuity when there is more than one option. Good ideas give way to better ideas.  Groups who collaborate tend to be more inventive and resourceful.  Collaboration can also bring a certain unity to the decision-making process. Having more than one stakeholder ensures that team decisions will be reflective of all and not one, eliminating perceived bias. Lastly, a quick delivery of the product is likely to occur.  Having several hands on deck is an automatic advantage when considering a collection of talent, skills, and intellect.

For an expanded discussions on effective 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

Clip Art, provided by Microsoft Office Professional Academic, 2010

______________________________________________________________________________
For more information on the Business Office Systems and Support department, contact Angela Nino, Lead Faculty, ANino@dcccd.edu, 972-238-6382.


Use the 7 Cs to Become a More Successful Communicator

Having a successful career depends on your ability to communicate effectively with others in the workplace. To become a good communicator, make sure you are aware of those important aspects oral communication—tone of voice, eye contact, and other body language signals.

Click the graphic below to review Evan Carmichael’s infographic on the 7 Cs of Communication, which illustrates 7 proven communication strategies that you should use as part of your oral communication toolkit.

02-08-2016 7 Cs Graphic

Source: Evan Carmichael, The Entrepreneur Blog, June 21, 2011
Link: http://www.evancarmichael.com/blog/2011/06/21/infographic-7cs-of-effective-communication/

If you want to improve your communication skills, consider taking the BOSS program’s POFT 2312 Business Correspondence and Communication 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, please call Angela Nino, Lead Faculty, aedwords@dcccd.edu 972-238-6382.

**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.


WRITING TO WIN: Teamwork and the Three ‘C’s’ of Success

by Royce Murcherson, Ph.D.Royce 1 Man

What are the real benefits of teamwork in business? Why is it increasingly important? Teamwork and team building are being used in business environments where the nature of the work is complex or multifaceted, not to mention fast-paced. Working in isolation as a single contributor may not be as productive as several colleagues with different skills working toward a single goal. Successful teams rely on three effective mechanisms: communication, collaboration, and coordination. I will discuss each of these mechanisms over the course of three posts, the first being this one which is dedicated to ‘communication’. 

WHAT IS EFFECTIVE BUSINESS COMMUNICATION?

It is a successful exchange of ideas between colleagues or team members that produce solutions to problems, improvements in process, setting expectations, knowledge sharing, and creating awareness. In short, effective communication assures quality in products and services. 

Royce 1THE RULES OF EFFECTIVE BUSINESS COMMUNICATION

  • It should be concise.
  • It should present information in the form of a well thought out plan.
  • It should be clear and easy to understand.
  • It should speed up the decision-making process.
  • It should be inherently persuasive. That is, the material or information being presented should be convincing and factual.

FORMS OF BUSINESS COMMUNICATION

  • Correspondence
  • Proposals
  • Reports
  • Meetings
  • Informal Discussions
  • Presentations

Royce 2VERBAL INTERACTION AND THE TEAM MEETING

Rules and forms of communication are obvious. What is not obvious is the manner in which team members or colleagues verbally interact with each other. Be aware that you are a member of a team which means each person has a voice in the process. When making comments or presenting information, be sure to invite your colleagues to respond with questions, improvements or enhancements, possible redundancies or even errors of which you may not be aware.

  • Consider Your Audience Your audience is your team, colleagues, or stakeholders. Written and verbal communication must not be overly informal. Think of the tone in which you are communicating. When writing, do not fall into ‘text talk’ or ‘sofa chat’. At the same time, do not be overly formal. Remember, you are not at a back yard barbecue, nor are you addressing Congress. This advice also applies to verbal communication. The most important skill is being able to identify your audience and adapt your tone and style of communication to the situation.

 

  • Question, Listen, and Encourage When working within your team, think of yourself as a teacher or facilitator. Yes, you should invite questions and comments, but you should also take it one step further. The roles of teacher and facilitator focus on developing a healthy exchange between students and attendees. What is the best way to accomplish this? Question, listen, and encourage. Question your team members on their points of view. Make a concerted effort to listen and show sincere interest in their ideas. When comments or feedback display creativity or ingenuity, encourage more dialogue. Invite your colleagues to explore their ideas and report back to the group.

 

  • Stay on Point Whether facilitating or communicating within a team meeting, stay on point. Follow the agenda. Be aware of time constraints even as you question, listen, and encourage. This burden does not always fall to the person who called the meeting. Each member has a responsibility to make valuable contributions.

Next time, look forward to my discussion of the second ‘C’, the benefits of collaboration in the team environment.

For an expanded discussions on effective 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

Clip Art, provided by Microsoft Office Professional Academic, 2010

 ______________________________________________________________________________
For more information on the Business Office Systems and Support department, contact Angela Nino, Lead Faculty, aedwords@dcccd.edu, 972-238-6382.

 


2016 List of “Banished” Words and Phrases

01-19-2016 Word Cloud ImageCareful writers and speakers use good judgement and variety when choosing their words and phrases. However, it seems as though each year generates a new list of words and phrases that have garnered particular misuse and abuse over the year by far too many communicators, who should know better but who seem to be caught in the trap of misuse and abuse of the English language.

A list of the previous year’s most abused and misused words/phrases first appeared on January 1, 1976, compliments of the late W. T. Rabe, who was the public relations director at Lake Superior State University (LSSU) in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan. Sadly, a new list of words and phrases has been generated on an annual basis ever since, and there doesn’t appear a shortage of content for future lists being added.

Below are the biggest offenders for 2015, along with explanations as to why they made the made the list. This newest list, which was published on January 1, 2016, by LSSU, represents the 40th annual list developed by LSSU—is there no shame?

So That’s right folks, you should never respond to a question by opening with the word “so.” Example: “What is your favorite pastime?” Answer: “So, my favorite pastime is hiking along nature trails.”
Conversation Media types from all areas seem particularly prone to misuse this word and substitute it for every type of verbal/written word that describes an exchange. “Conversation” seems to have pushed other words such as “discussion, chat, dialog, etc.” out of the way.
Problematic This word appears to have made its evolution and burst on to the scene thanks to the corporate world. If you want to indicate that something appears to be a problem, why not just say it that way?
Stakeholder First used to describe someone who has a stake in a matter or decision, now everyone, e.g., customers, clients, etc., are lumped into this category.
Price Point The comment left on the ISSU web site by one person declared, “It has no ‘point.’  It is just a ‘price.’” Makes sense!
Secret Sauce This phrase, which is meant to refer to some “secret” in “way too much information” detail have left some wondering if it was developed by someone in the fast food industry but somehow found its way into general business discussions.
Break the Internet Refers to a posted comment, photo, or video that may be controversial, that has gone viral, and that will overload the Internet servers and “break them.” What would all of us do if the Internet did break?
Walk it back Meant to show the retreat on or retraction of a statement or policy. We’ve seen politicians do this all the time. I wonder how exhausted they must be after so much “walking back”?
Presser Can you believe this “nonword” made it in to the vocabulary of some as a substitute for press release or press conference? We can do better!
Manspreading Sounds a little vulgar, but it is meant to describe someone taking up too much space on a bus or a subway transit system. This term (it, too, is a “nonword”) has then been used to describe other situations where someone takes more than his or her fair share. Didn’t we used to say “hogging” something?
Vape Used to describe the smoking of e-cigarettes, which actually emit vapor and not smoke. It would be wonderful if the person who left the comment at ISSU’s site, “I hope this one goes up in smoke,” gets his or her wish!
Giving me life This phrase refers to anything that may excite a person or something that may cause the person to laugh. Not good!
Physicality Yep, this noun has become popular in the sports world within the past couple of years, but really folks, what does it mean? It is being used to refer to an athlete or contest, but according to Merriman-Webster, the word physicality refers to, “the predominance of the physical usually at the expense of the mental, spiritual, or social.” Does this mean the body is supreme over the mind? You be the judge!

 

To see a complete list of words and phrases that have made their way to the “banished” list over this 40-year time period, please visit Lake Superior State University’s web site at

http://www.lssu.edu/banished/
If you want to improve your communication skills, consider taking the BOSS program’s POFT 2312 Business Correspondence and Communication 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, call 972-238-6215.

**Richland College is an authorized Microsoft Testing Center.

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


WRITING TO WIN: THE INTERNAL PROPOSAL

by Royce Murcherson


Royce top pictureWHAT TYPE OF PROPOSAL SHOULD YOU EXPECT TO WRITE?
Generally, large companies or corporations have entire departments staffed with professional proposal writers to write formal proposals. You should expect to write an informal internal proposal.

WHAT IS IT EXACTLY? What’s a proposal? They come in various shapes and sizes. They can be either solicited or unsolicited. They can be as short as an email and as long as a ten page document. They are always persuasive in nature. In short, proposals are arguments.

Internal Proposal – The purpose of an internal proposal will be to persuade your boss or supervisor to:

  • Change a process
  • Solve a problem
  • Purchase products, services or pursue activities
  • Conduct research or make changes in policies

The message will always be persuasive, fact based, and verifiable.  The benefit can come in the form of improvements in productivity and profitability and will likely contribute to another accomplishment line on your resume.

  • The Unsolicited Internal Proposal – These are proposals that have not been requested by a manager. These types of proposals are opportunities to cast you as a proactive, forward thinking employee. This is your time to boost your image. For example, suppose you realize that the office network’s current operations system slows down the production of sales orders. Changing operating systems would increase productivity. You write a memo describing what is going on, what you want to do, why you want to do it, what it will cost and what will be the overall benefit. This is an unsolicited internal proposal is a means to sell your creative ideas.
  • A Solicited Internal Proposal – These are proposals are requested by a manager or supervisor. There may not be a need for you come up with ‘the answer’ or solve the problem. Your boss may have already provided the solution and simply requests you measure its viability. This is still an opportunity for you to gain some good exposure because you will have to use your critical thinking skills and make a recommendation.

WRITING A PROPOSAL FOR WORK

 X marksWHAT NOT TO EXPECT

First, do not expect to write formal proposals unless you have been hired specifically to serve on a proposal team. These proposals are comprehensive, well researched documents that can be ten or more pages.  Corporations have entire departments staffed with professional proposal writers to create these.

check markWHAT TO EXPECT

The type of proposal you more than likely find yourself writing will be an internal unsolicited proposal discussed earlier. It will be in the form of a medium length email or a memo. Remember, this informal proposal does not have to be written on the level of a formal proposal written by professional proposal writer. It should not exceed more than two pages if presented as a memo, and no more than a six paragraph email.

EXPECT IT TO BE PERSUASIVE It will need to convince your manager or supervisor that your ideas will work. In a nutshell, the benefits produced will far outweigh the costs of implementation. Your manager will need to believe that:

  • You fully understand the organization’s mission: productive, profitable, and innovative
  • You fully understand the organization’s operations
  • You fully understand the necessity of the proposal
  • You know the solution
  • You know how to implement the solution

For a more expanded discussion on writing and formatting internal proposals 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

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


WRITING TO WIN: PICK UP THE TELEPHONE!

WRITING TO WIN: PICK UP THE TELEPHONE!
by Royce Murcherson

Royce 1 ManEffective written communication is absolutely essential in the workplace. I emphasize its importance in my book. I absolutely stress we must be strategic and persuasive when it comes to implementing beneficial change.   As much as I believe in the concept of creating a smart, intelligent image of yourself through your writing, it’s not the only means.  Pick up the telephone.

Yes, we live in a data age of electronic words which has pretty much replaced the traditional, “Hi, how are you…and… I have a quick question that will take care of the entire issue”.  The obvious concern with the present state of things is the lack of human-to-human ‘real voice’ communication. The exchange of ideas in our current environment rests on three main platforms: instant messaging, email, and texting.   We’ve grown used to it. We love it. Somehow we have lulled ourselves into the complacency of avoiding a real conversation because we think it takes more time.  But perhaps, it’s time to re think this digital substitution and think ‘old school’ instead. There are many advantages to picking up the telephone.

  • Royce PhoneNO MISTAKES IN TONE – The first is safeguarding your tone and avoiding mistakes of intention. Quite simply, you avoid SENDING THE WRONG MESSAGE. In section two of my book, I stress the importance of tone. It’s easy to inadvertently deposit your emotional state in an email, text, or instant message which in turn can cause unintended consequences. By picking up the telephone, you eliminate the guess-work. The tone and inflection of your voice, the conversational back and forth, the impromptu humor and discussion leaves no room for error.
  • RELATIONSHIP BUILDING – Building strong working relationships with your colleagues is very important and can likely contribute to your ultimate success. You may have heard the quote by John Donne, “No man is an island entire of itself. Every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main…”. This is exactly right in the business world . Teamwork is everything. And you can’t foster teamwork without building relationships. You can’t build ‘real’ relationships with only email and instant messaging. There must be some human contact to give those digital words life.
  • CUTTING DOWN THE EMAIL CHAIN – Texting is great for brief questions and confirmations, but not for conversations. When the text messages get too long and begin to go on for what seems like forever, you know when it’s time to stop and dial the number. The same is true with email. These types of messages should be brief, and should not go on forever. To avoid these never-ending chains, pick up the phone. One five-minute conversation could be equal to fourteen emails.
  • IMMEDIATE RESPONSE – Writing takes time. Time is precious during the workday. Why wait for a reply to an email, when you can get your answer much faster. Remember, everyone’s inbox is full. When you send an email, you get prioritized. Don’t get prioritized. Get your answer quickly.

For an expanded discussions on 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

Clip Art, provided by Microsoft Office Professional Academic, 2010

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