Lecture Notes for Week 2

| June 10, 2016

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Lecture Notes for Week 2

Unit Overview:

This unit explains the importance of internal communication, and it analyzes the writing process as it applies to e-mail messages and memos. Because e-mail has become a significant communication channel, the unit devotes considerable attention to using e-mails safely and effectively.  Read the chapter carefully; there are many important points to follow when composing an e-mail or memo.  In the “Lecture Notes” I have included some additional points about memos.  I did not restate everything from the chapter.  The text explains the information in a very detailed fashion.  If you need anything clarified or explained further, please e-mail me.


Unit Objectives:

  1. Analyze the writing process and how it helps you produce effective        e-mail messages and memos.
  2. Discuss the structure and formatting of e-mail messages and          memos.
  3. Describe smart e-mail practices, including getting started; content,          tone, and correctness; netiquette, reading and replying to e-mail;               personal use; and other practices.
  4. Write information and procedure e-mail messages and memos.
  5. Write request and reply e-mail messages and memos.

Memos and E-mail Messages:

E-mail is increasingly important because it is fast, easy, and cheap.  As organizations downsize, flatten chains of command, form work teams, and empower rank-and-file workers, more and more information is exchanged in e-mails and memos.

E-mail is used by 80 percent of all U.S. workers.  The average office worker now receives between 60 and 200 messages a day and spends a quarter of the workday on e-mail.  Some spend half of every day writing and answering e-mail.  It is estimated that more than 7 trillion e-mails circulated worldwide last year (Communication Briefings, November 2005, 7).  The importance of e-mail continues to grow.

Memos and e-mail messages are:

  • the types of writing you can expect to prepare most frequently on the job.
  • brief in-house correspondence sent up and down the corporate ladder.
  • not as formal as letters
  • contain the terms and abbreviations familiar to employees of your company
  • important tools for any company or agency because they reflect a company’s image

Regardless of where you work, your employer will expect your memos to be timely, professional, and tactful.  Just because a memo is an informal in-house communication does not mean you can be rude, curt, or bossy.

Most companies have their own memo protocol to follow.

As you learned in Chapter 2, memos are an appropriate communication channel choice when you need a written record to explain policies clearly, to discuss procedures, or to collect information within an organization.

Memo Format:

Memos vary in format.  Some companies use standard, printed forms, while others have their names printed on their memos.

Basically, the memo consists of two parts:

  1. a) the identifying information at the top
  2. b) the message itself – single spaced and double spaced between paragraphs

The identifying information includes:





The “TO” line: 

  1. write the name and job title of the individual who will receive your      message
  2. if your memo is going to more than one reader, make sure you list your readers in the order of their status in your company

The “FROM” line:

  1. write your name and your job title
  2. handwrite your initials after your typed name—this authenticates the memo


 The “SUBJECT” line:

  1. write the purpose of your memo
  2. the subject line serves as the title of your memo
  3. it summarizes your message
  4. be precise so readers can quickly identify the topic of your message
  5. should be in all CAPS or have the first letter of every main word in CAPS

The “DATE” line:

  1. write out the month

Improving Readability in Memos:

Most business writers know the busy reader seldom reads every word of a message on their first pass.  Instead the reader typically skims a message, reading only certain sections carefully to assess the value of the document.

If the reader determines that the document contains valuable information or requires a response, he/she will read it more carefully when time permits.

As a writer, you can adopt a number of techniques to make your message easier to skim read:

  1. Varying sentence length—-although good business writers use short              sentences most of the time, too many short sentences in a row can             make your writing choppy.  To increase interest, use a variety of          both short and long sentences.  Long sentences are good for    grouping or combining ideas, listing points, and summarizing or       previewing information.  Medium-length sentences are useful for             showing the relationships among ideas.  Short sentences emphasize   important information.
  2. Keep paragraphs short —– Most business readers are put off by large blocks of text.  Short paragraphs look easier to read and understand.
  3. Use lists and bullets —- Set off important ideas in a list.  Lists simplify      complex subjects, ease the skimming process for busy readers, and          give the reader a break.  You can separate list items with numbers,   letters, or bullets (a general term for any kind of graphical element that precedes each item).  Bullets are generally preferred over        numbers or letters, unless the sequence of events is critical.  When             using lists, introduce them clearly so that people know what they’re   about to read.  One way to introduce a list is to make it a part of   the introductory sentence:

Ex.  The directors voted to (no punctuation)

*cut salary

*close cafeteria

*reduce travel

If you have a complete sentence before the list, use a colon.

  1. Add headings —- A heading is a brief title that cues readers in the       content of the section that follows.

E-Mail Messages:

As the Internet enters its second decade, employees and executives continue to send off careless e-mails, which later get them fired or sent to jail.  Harry Stonecipher, CEO of the giant aircraft company Boeing, lost his job because of alleged explicit romantic e-mails sent to a colleague.  In fact, one in five companies has fired an employee for e-mail abuse.  President George Bush and Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice are said to have given up using e-mail because of its dangers.

Like memos, e-mail messages also have a heading.

The particulars of the heading depend on the e-mail program you use, but most include TO, FROM, and SUBJECT.

The heading information is brief; the TO and FROM lines sometimes show no names or titles, just e-mail addresses.

The date is automatically inserted into the document by the e-mail program.

For e-mail messages, a salutation is optional, but is recommended.

After the salutation comes the message (single-spaced), followed by the complimentary close and the typed name of the sender.

Because the information in the header is often extremely brief, you may want to include contact information after your name, especially if the e-mail is going outside the company.

E-mail has a reputation for speed and informality.  Nevertheless, you’ll want to write your e-mail messages carefully.

Appearance, organization, and style are just as important for e-mail messages as for any other type of business message.

Improving Readability of E-mail Messages:

  1. Make subject lines informative

(a) To capture your audience’s attention, make your subject line                            informative.

(b) If you are exchanging multiple e-mails with someone on the                              same topic, be sure to periodically modify the subject line of                                  your message.

Delete very old messages.

  1. Make your e-mail messages easy to follow

(a) Avoid lines that run off the screen.

(b) Write short, focused, logically organized paragraphs.

  1. Personalize e-mail messages

(a) Adding a salutation to your e-mail message makes it more                                 personal.

(b) In most cases, use simple closing, such as /Thanks/ or                                           /Regards/.

(c) For your signature, you can simply type your name on a                                     separate line.

Or you may want to use a signature file, a shorter identifier that                             can include your name, company, postal address, fax number,                           etc.

(d) You can also use a digital copy of your handwritten signature,                         which is becoming acceptable as legal proof in business                                transactions.

  1. Observe basic e-mail etiquette

(a) The best business communicators know how to communicate                          quickly and courteously.  They know how to refrain from                                            putting into writing anything that could come back to haunt                    them.

(b) Following basic e-mail etiquette means being courteous, brief,                         and careful.

Be Courteous — Common courtesy is an important                                                           consideration when sending e-mail.  Send only necessary                                              messages.  Before clicking on /Send/, double-check your                                               addresses to make sure you’ve included everyone necessary                                       and no one else.  Don’t send jokes or chain letters.

Be Brief — Cover only what is necessary.  Narrow your scope.                                        Stick to one purpose.  If you find yourself with two or three                                              purposes, write separate e-mails.

Be Careful — E-mail’s speed is its greatest benefit and can                                              also be its greatest drawback.  Reread your message before                                        sending it.

Companies are increasingly monitoring and storing e-mail messages.  Why?  Because they must comply with new legislation,          such as the financial disclosure regulations in the Sarbanes-Oxley Act.  Companies must retain more e-mail, instant messages, blog   postings, and other data.

In addition, as they begin using Internet telephony, they may even     have to monitor records of Net-based phone talk, because it            produces a digital record.  How do companies monitor electronic communication?  Using natural-language software, they sift through e-mails and IMs in milliseconds, checking for bad language,             pornography, pirated music files, or trade secrets.




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