Tag Archives: writing



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

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




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

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


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

10-09-2016_cTypes of Documents and Their Lengths

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


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

For an expanded discussion on effective business writing and workplace etiquette, see my book:

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

Clip Art, provided by Microsoft Office Professional Academic, 2010

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

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

**Richland College is an authorized Microsoft Testing Center.

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





WRITING TO WIN: 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’. 


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. 


  • 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.


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


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.


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

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.

“Now there, their…they’re not all bad!”

When you need to show a person or object “in a location OR at a location,” use “there.”  Example:  There is a family-style restaurant on I-20 in Shreveport.

When you need to show that someone or something belongs to a group, use the plural possessive pronoun “their.”  Example:  Their mother is getting a promotion.

When you want to use a contraction for the words “they are,” use “they’re.”  Example:  They’re going to be moving to Santa Fe next spring.

For more information, contact Becky Jones, Associate Dean, bjones@dcccd.edu 972-238-6215.

(Photo courtesy of American Pregnancy Assoc. Irving, TX)

Don’t Get Hit By The Old “3-To, Too, Two” Punch!

Avoid the old “3-to, too, two punch” by knowing when to use the correct form of “to,” “too,” and “two.”

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, bjones@dcccd.edu 972-238-6215