Category Archives: 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: 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.

 


WRITING TO WIN: The Importance of Trust in the Workplace

by Royce Murcherson

Remember when you were a kid? When it came to what was good and what was bad, it was pretty clear. When you were good, there was ice cream in your future. When you were bad, it was off to the time out corner. It was never a case of either/or. Nowadays you’re all grown up. You’ve figured out that the rules can be bent at times for one reason or the other. And sometimes you’ve probably indulged because it was pretty harmless. Afterward, you may have felt a little uneasy about it, but ‘hey’ you tell yourself, no laws were broken, no harm no foul, right? These are the questions that create a feeling of uneasiness when you’re not sure you’ve made the right decision. It’s important to know because it’s a matter of ‘trust’. Losing ‘trust’ in the workplace is a ‘losing proposition’. Don’t go there.

Being trustworthy is the rock solid foundation of who you are in the present and how you will be perceived in the future.

WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BE TRUSTWORTHY?

There are certain things that shouldn’t be done in the workplace. Things like plagiarizing, hiding information, exaggerating claims, copyright infringement, crossing cultural boundaries, and conflicts of interest. Avoiding this type of behavior is part of what it means to be an honest, upright employee.

Being trustworthy means you live by a set of principles that govern ethical human behavior. These principles can come down to beliefs such as treating others as you would want to be treated. These principles can also come down to intuition, some inner feeling or moral compass that helps you decide what is right and what is wrong. This is what it comes down too…this question…Am I trustworthy? Or simply, what is the right thing to do?

A sense of justice, individual rights, and understanding the consequences of your actions has much to do with your sense of right and wrong. And your sense of right and wrong will guide your choices in the workplace and will project the degree of your trustworthiness among your colleagues.

Royce WeaselDON’T BE A WEASEL

Weasels are by definition cunning and devious. You may find yourself in a location where situation and circumstance may affect how you understand the difference between right behavior and wrong behavior. This is the ‘grey zone, a place in which a person has the opportunity to circumvent definitions of right and wrong behavior. In other words, the meanings could change due to extenuating circumstances. You may find yourself thinking of ways to ‘go around’ or to ‘avoid’. Try not to find yourself in this position. It may feel like artful maneuvering when in fact you may be bending the rules to suit your own needs rather than those of your coworkers.

HERE ARE SOME GUIDELINES to Avoid ‘Weaseling-Out’ 

  • Don’t evade responsibility. Do not back out of commitments. Cultivate cooperative behavior that benefits the group.
  • Don’t be sneaky in your dealings, achieving success by underhanded methods.
  • Don’t be cunning in order to advance selfish interests or hurt others.
  • Don’t be evasive in your communication with others. Be straightforward.
  • Don’t be intentionally vague or ambiguous in your conduct.
  • Don’t be deceptive in your actions, misleading deliberately.
  • Don’t be cowardly. Display confidence. Try to set a good example when dealing with tough issues.

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

______________________________________________________________________

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

 

 

 


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, bjones@dcccd.edu 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.

 

 


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.

BASIC CONTENT AREAS of EFFECTIVE MEETING RECAPS
Meeting Notes Royce
Meeting Topic:
Attendees:
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.

General:
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

Formatting
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, bjones@dcccd.edu 972-238-6215.


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, bjones@dcccd.edu 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

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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: 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.

WHAT’S IT GONNA COST? NOTHING YOU CAN’T AFFORD
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.

WHAT WILL YOU GET OUT OF IT? BENEFITS THAT CAN’T BE DENIED
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.

WHAT ARE SOME OCCASIONS TO USE A HANDWRITTEN NOTE? MORE THAN YOU THINK
• 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

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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.


Tips For Proofreading Your Own Work

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“Yes, its happened to my before, has is aslo happened to you?”

If anything similar to the above sentence has every happened to you (those “gotcha” typos), then take a “working tip” from Richland College’s POFT 1301 Business English and POFT 2312 Business Correspondence & Communication courses on how to improve your proofreading and editing skills…

We all have certainly experienced those moments when you discovered that the document you just sent and thought was error free is not so error free! You proofed the file at least a couple of times, and yet you still missed some errors—what causes this to happen?

Well, according to one UK expert, University of Sheffield psychologist Tom Stafford, when we compose information and then proofread this information, we are working on two very different levels.

  1. Our brains consider the creation or composition of information as a high-level task.

The brain is busy focusing on wording that will effectively convey the specific thought at hand. At that point, the brain does not consider the small details such as spelling, word usage, or thought content as the most pressing matter.

  1. While extremely important to the effective transmission of communication, tasks such as correct word usage, spelling, grammar, punctuation, document formatting, etc., are viewed as generalizations or secondary by the brain.

According to Stafford, we sometimes tend to put ourselves on “auto pilot” when performing these second-level tasks.

So how can we become more effective proofreaders? Click the link to Leah McClellan’s guest blog on Write to Done to see the full list of helpful steps that are definitely worth practicing. These 10 steps and their explanations can help to ensure that your online and hardcopy documents live up to professional expectations:

  1. Wait until you’re completely finished with the actual writing and editing.
  2. Don’t get distracted—minimize your interruptions.
  3. Analyze your work sentence by sentence. Consider reading the material aloud.
  4. Proofread several times for different types of errors, spelling, word usage, thought content, etc.
  5. Don’t lose your focus. If you notice a format issue while checking spelling, or if you need to look something up, make a quick written note (or insert a typed comment) to come back to this item later.
  6. If you do make a last-minute change to a few words, be sure to check the entire sentence or even the complete paragraph over again.
  7. Verify facts, dates, quotes, tables, references, text boxes, and anything repetitive or outside of the main text separately.
  8. Stay focused and remain objective. If you find yourself drifting off and thinking about something else, go back over that section again.
  9. Get to know yourself and the types of mistakes you typically make. How many of us have made a mistake by incorrectly using sight, site, cite or they’re, their, there?
  10. Check format last, and make sure your formatting is internally consistent, e.g., the same level subheadings are formatted identically, indentations, centering, bold, spacing, etc. Business letters, e-mails, or memos should follow a standard business formatting style.

BTW–Can anyone spot the five mistakes in the first sentence of this blog?

If you want to improve your writing and editing skills, consider taking POFT 1301 Business English and/or POFT 2312 Business Correspondence & Communication in the BOSS program at Richland College. Richland College is located in northeast Dallas at 12800 Abrams Road, and both online and on-campus courses are offered. For more information contact Becky Jones, Associate Dean, bjones@dcccd.edu 972-238-6215.

BOSS Blog Sources:

http://www.businessinsider.com/why-you-cant-spot-your-own-typos-2014-8

http://www.wired.com/2014/08/wuwt-typos/

http://writetodone.com/get-your-eagle-eye-on-10-tips-for-proofreading-your-own-work/

 ***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.

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