Tag Archives: Business Correspondence

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.


WRITING TO WIN: Handwriting in the Age of Electronic Communication

by Royce Murcherson

Royce top picture

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


by guest editor Royce Murcherson

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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