Tag Archives: Business Communications

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.


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,  bjones@dcccd.edu 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.

Sources:
http://businesstravel.about.com/od/resources/a/Cultural-Tips-Germany.htm

http://www.translatemedia.com/languages/business-etiquette-infographic/
http://www.cyborlink.com/besite/india.htm
http://www.kwintessential.co.uk/etiquette/doing-business-india.html
http://www.a-to-z-of-manners-and-etiquette.com/indian-etiquette.html
http://www.ediplomat.com/np/cultural_etiquette/ce_it.htm
http://www.kwintessential.co.uk/etiquette/doing-business-uk.html
http://www.ediplomat.com/np/cultural_etiquette/ce_gb.htm 


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.

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

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

Sources:

http://www.ediplomat.com/np/cultural_etiquette/ce_br.htm

http://www.dummies.com/how-to/content/understanding-business-etiquette-in-australia-and-.html

http://businesstravel.about.com/od/resources/a/Cultural-Tips-China.htm

http://www.translatemedia.com/languages/business-etiquette-infographic/

http://etiquettescholar.com/dining_etiquette/table-etiquette/europe-w_table_manners/french.html

http://www.ibtimes.com/doing-business-france-8-cultural-cues-make-or-break-deal-368258

 


WRITING TO WIN: Handwriting in the Age of Electronic Communication

by Royce Murcherson

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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.


WRITING TO WIN: A SKILL FOR EVERY CONSUMER

by guest editor Royce Murcherson

Royce top pictureWRITING TO WIN: A SKILL FOR EVERY CONSUMER
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.

GETTING THE BEST CUSTOMER SERVICE
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 ARGUABLE CLAIM LETTER
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.

A GOOD CLAIM LETTER IS A GOOD ARGUMENT
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?

A GOOD ARGUMENT IS BASED ON GOOD STRATEGY
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.

4 ESSENTIAL ELEMENTS THAT MUST BE INCLUDED IN YOUR LETTER
• 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.

WHAT TO AVOID
• 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

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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.

Free Package


Does Your Social Media Business Bio Contain These “Must Have” Ingredients?

10-06-2014 final 187440476Take a “working tip” from Richland College’s POFT 2312 Business Correspondence and Communication course on what you should do to improve your business social media bio:

Regardless of whether you are using LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, or other SM sites, follow this link to read Courtney Seiter’s excellent post on several important points to include in your SM business bio.

Because each site has its own unique characteristics, the web site Unbounce has created a terrific best practices reference chart to help you make the most of your bio information on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, and LinkedIn. They also recommend reviewing your SM bios every 3 months to ensure they are still relevant.

Finally, you will want to make sure your bio is free of any spelling, grammatical, or logical errors—did you use the word “form,” when you should have used “from” or “do” when the logical word should have been “due”?  Check and re-check for errors that scream “careless or unprofessional”!

If you want to improve your communication skills and learn more about how to use Social Media professionally, consider taking one or more courses in 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, bjones@dcccd.edu 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


Make Your Business Charts More Effective!

06-30-2014 Effective Charts Thinkstock Photos 164540686Take a “working” tip from Richland College’s POFT 2312 Business Correspondence & Communication course:

Tip: Understand that the use of charts in today’s communications is accepted, and actually expected, as a way of getting your readers to understand your message faster and easier.

So what can you do to make your charts more effective?—in essence how can you make your charts “do the talking?”

Consider these six key points when creating business charts:

Effective Business Charts

If you want to improve your written communication skills, consider taking POFT 2312 Business Correspondence & Communication, which a course in the BOSS program at Richland College. For more information contact Becky Jones, Associate Dean,  bjones@dcccd.edu 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.

Sources:

Bovee, John V. Thill and Courtland L. Excellence in Business Communication. 11th. Boston: Pearson, 2015.

HubSpot. Data Visualization 101: How to Design Charts and Graphs. 2014. Document. 21 June 2014. <http://offers.hubspot.com/data-visualization-guide>.

Visage. A Business Guide to Visual Communication. 2014. Document. 21 June 2014. <http://visage.co>.

 


Perfecting Your Social Media Posts

03-17-2014 Perfecting Your Social Media Posts TS 166195724

If you use more than one of the social media (SM) platforms (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google+, etc.) to network and stay engaged with contacts, customers, the community, etc., you should be aware of the differences among them and how to use each platform most effectively.

David Hagy has created an excellent infographic that outlines the do’s and don’ts for each social media type.

The one word of caution he offers to SM writers is to avoid the temptation of using SM management tools such as HootSuite or Buffer to push out your content using the same format. Sure it’s fine to use HootSuite and Buffer to manage your SM planning and scheduling across platforms, but consider the strengths and weaknesses of each platform and adapt your message format accordingly.

Below are a few suggestions from David’s infographic, but click this link to see the full visual that contains the important points to keep in mind for each social media type.

David also offers suggestions for the best and worst times to post content by SM type. 

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For more information on the BOSS program and how you can get yourself better prepared for you career, contact Becky Jones, Associate Dean, bjones@dcccd.edu or 972-238-6215.

Source: http://dashburst.com/infographic/create-perfect-post-social-networks/


Writing to Win: The Need to Know

11-25-2013 Book Image - Royce MurchersonWhen it comes to your career, what do you need to know? You are thinking, ‘I need to know the way to success’.  Life coaches and motivational books that encourage personal achievement will generally push ‘the art of the sell’. In plain language, you need to know the best way to sell yourself and promote your abilities. Why? The benefits are large.

From day one on the job, you’ll be writing your narrative, your story that will create an image along your career path.  The quality of your story will depend on communicating persuasively.  This is because you’ll be selling your ideas, solutions, and improvements which will get the attention of those in control of your professional future.  Your ideas will be communicated in the form of persuasive business documents: email, memos, reports and proposals.

What is the best outcome?  Think résumé. Think being able to say SOLD!  Each time your ideas or solutions are implemented, you can add them to your list of accomplishments.

Here are some Frequently Asked Questions [FAQ’S]

02-17-2014 Guest Blog - Royce Murcherson Image_1How do you get the best outcome?

You need to know your audience. This is imperative.  Know the ‘readers’ of your documents.  Think of them as ‘buyers’. You are the seller. They are the buyers.

 

02-17-2014 Guest Blog - Royce Murcherson Image_2Who exactly are the ‘readers’?

Your readers will be your bosses and colleagues.  Creating an impression that promotes your ability to communicate clearly and persuasively is directly related to your level of success.

02-17-2014 Guest Blog - Royce Murcherson Image_3What does it mean ‘to know your readers’?

To know your reader is to have a good idea of the position your reader takes on issues in the workplace. Your bosses will need to be persuaded to accept your good ideas, solutions, and improvements. In order to persuade your readers, you must have knowledge of their stated or unstated beliefs on workplace issues.  Meaning, you must be familiar with their thoughts and assumptions in areas of the business, particularly those for which you are offering improvements.

02-17-2014 Guest Blog - Royce Murcherson Image_4How do you go about ‘knowing your reader’?

  • Be diligent on the job. Stay informed.  Engage your colleagues in meaningful conversations on job-related issues.
  • Be aware of your boss’s success objectives. These are specific things that must be achieved to demonstrate success in your department.

02-17-2014 Guest Blog - Royce Murcherson Image_5How do you use this knowledge?

When you have a strong idea of what may be going on in the mind of your boss, 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 reader. Basic composition courses call this analyzing your audience. In my book, this principle of knowing your reader is based on the writings of Stephen Toulmin. He calls this knowledge ‘warrants’.  Whichever label you choose, here’s how both work on the job.

WRITING YOUR PERSUASIVE DOCUMENT AT WORK – A MEMO

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You have decided to write a persuasive memo that will justify a change in office hours. You want to convince your boss to give you a shorter work week for the same pay. For example, you will argue increases in productivity will occur with a Monday through Thursday work week rather than Monday through Friday.  First, you’ll need to understand why she wouldn’t want to do this even though you will be putting in the same amount of hours.

Before you begin to write your persuasive memo, you must figure out what she believes on the subject of shorter work weeks. This is where you begin to make assumptions or guesses. These assumptions or guesses are ‘what you need to know’, or as Toulmin puts it, the “warrants.” When you couple information with her success objectives, you’ll have a strong idea of what type of evidence you’ll need to convince her.

FIRST STEPS IN PERSUASIVE BUSINESS WRITING

Your great ideas for solving problems or improving processes in the workplace will only be ideas if you are not able to ‘sell’ them. As a friend advised, ‘don’t let your ideas fall on the floor’. You want your ideas to be implemented, to become real, and to produce real benefits for you and yours.

To sell them, you must master persuasive business writing, and to master persuasive business writing, you must understand the first two steps in an effective model that produces results:

02-17-2014 Guest Blog - Royce Murcherson Image_7

 

 

 

    • Step 1 – Know your reader’s stated and unstated beliefs with regard to the issue you are addressing.
    • Step 2 – Know how to locate the evidence that will serve as your support and appeal to your reader’s stated and unstated beliefs.

For a more expanded discussion on persuasive business writing, ‘warrants’,  ‘the need to know’, and the Toulmin Model of Argumentation in business writing, see my book, Royce Murcherson, PhD,  The Guide to Persuasive Business Writing: A New Model that Gets Results. (Iowa: Kendall-Hall, 2013) 1-11.

Clip Art, provided by Microsoft Office Professional Academic, 2010

This article is the third in a four-part guest series written by Royce Murcherson, PhD, on how to improve your writing skills and behavior. Dr. Murcherson is a faculty member in World Languages, Cultures, and Communications at Richland College in Dallas.

For more information on BOSS course offerings in communications, the BOSS degree and certificates, and how the BOSS program can help you with your career, contact Becky Jones, Associate Dean, bjones@dcccd.edu  972-238-6215.