by guest editor Royce Murcherson
WRITING 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
For more information on the Business Office Systems and Support department, contact Becky Jones, Associate Dean, email@example.com 972-238-6215.
When 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]
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.
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.
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.
- 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.
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
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:
- 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, firstname.lastname@example.org 972-238-6215.
According to resume guru Barbara Safani, a poorly formatted resume can be a “deal breaker.” When you are asked to submit your resume to potential employers, be sure you avoid the following five pitfalls:
- Stay Away From Bulk–everyone agrees that large chunks of text are boring and a turnoff. Pick your words carefully so that your descriptions are clear, precise, and concise. Safani recommends no more than six lines to describe your responsibilities for a given position. Use graphic highlighting to illustrate your accomplishments, and make use of bullets.
- Tiny Type Is Not Good For The Eyes Or You–trust me, if an HR manager feels the need to pull out a magnifying glass in order to read your resume, your resume won’t get read! The recommended font size ranges from 10 to 12 points. This range has long been the accepted norm for reading material. If you go below this font size, you go at your own risk.
- Save the Fancy Fonts for Friends and Frivolity–the accepted business font types are Times New Roman and Arial or ones that closely resemble these two. The fancy script, or calligraphy fonts, or ones that look as though they should be on a theater program are difficult to read and considered inappropriate for business settings. One other word of caution is not to indulge yourself by bringing on the “bold and italics.” If you must use boldface, use it strategically and sparingly.
- Use White Space to Frame Your Message–if your resume is spread from edge to edge on the paper, the first impression is, “this is too much information, and it’s going to take too much time to read.” So guess where the final resting spot is for these resumes?—that’s right, File 13! Use white space to frame your information attractively and to make it easy for HR managers to quickly spot your key selling points.
- Too Long, So Long–a potential employer isn’t going to “wade through” pages of information to find out about your important experience and skills. If you have lots of experience from a number of positions, Safani recommends that you abbreviate older experience and perhaps put it in a category labeled “additional experience.”
Use these tips to help you fine tune your resume and to compete successfully for that coveted job!
For more information on the BOSS program and how it can help you prepare for a successful career, contact Becky Jones, Associate Dean, email@example.com, or by phone at 972-238-6215.
- Grammar is relevant for all companies.
- Good grammar is credibility, and especially on the Internet—your words are all that you have in blog posts, social media, e-mails, and company websites. He goes on to say that your words, “are a projection of you in your physical absence…for better or worse, people judge you if you can’t tell the difference between their, there, and they’re.”
- Good grammar just makes good business sense. Wiens’ company, iFixit, has the responsibility of producing clear, correct online instructions for repairs—just think what would happen if some poorly written instructions caused the wrong wires to get crossed!
If you want to improve your grammar and writing skills, consider taking grammar review and business writing classes in the BOSS program. For more information contact Becky Jones, Associate Dean, firstname.lastname@example.org 972-238-6215.
- Teams can serve to represent and implement the goals of a company.
- The project may be too large for a single individual.
- Teams can create a broad range of solutions.
- Teams can serve as motivational tools.
- Teams can serve to build a sense of commitment to a project—stakeholders.
- Recognize the various types of teams—basic workgroups, committees, project teams, task force teams, self-managed teams, and special-purpose teams.
For more information on BOSS software offerings, the BOSS degree and certificates, and how the BOSS program can help you with your career, contact Becky Jones, Associate Dean, email@example.com 972-238-6215.
- If It’s Top Secret—Then Keep It Top Secret! If you get labeled as the “company blabbermouth” and tweet sensitive, confidential information, your career (and your job) could spiral downward very quickly.
- Don’t Get Too Familiar—After all, this is your job and you need to maintain a professional image and tone. Tweeting personal information (and for goodness sakes avoid profane language!) is a no-no. What happens at home and in your personal life should stay that way—at home and personal.
- Don’t Get Addicted To Twitter—Aside from preserving your thumbs (and your other fingers), you need to focus on your work tasks. Just remember the company didn’t hire you to tweet friends and family, you were hired to work for the company—if in doubt, check your job description!
- What Did You Say About Your Boss?—Use common sense and control the urge to blast your boss via Twitter. Even if your boss is wrong, the social media network is not the place to vent, and if you think your account is private–think again!
- Avoid Unflattering Comments About Clients/Customers—Keep your thoughts private and to yourself and away from Twitter. Clients and customers are to be valued and respected, and unflattering observations about them should not be broadcast on Twitter.
Use “to” when you need to express “action or movement toward something or someone.”
Example: John is moving to Chicago.
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
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.
Use “too” when you need to express the concept of “in addition” or “also” or “more than enough”
Example: She, too, mentioned Mr. Smith’s recent performance.
Use “two” when you need to express the figure “2” as a word.
Example: Sally brought two of her friends to the concert.
For more information, contact Becky Jones, Associate Dean, firstname.lastname@example.org 972-238-6215