E-Mail Features of Letters, Memos, and E-mails

In this chapter, you will learn:
• The role of correspondence in the technical workplace.
• The basic features of letters, memos, and e-mails.
• How to plan, organize, and draft letters, memos, and e-mails.
• Common patterns for letters, memos, and e-mails.
• How to choose an appropriate style for correspondence.
• How to design and format letters and memos.
Letters, Memos,
and E-Mail
Features of Letters, Memos, and
E-mails 84
Step 1: Make a Plan and Do
Research 88
Step 2: DecideWhat Kind of
Letter, Memo, or E-mail Is
Needed 90
Step 3: Organize and DraftYour
Message 96
Microgenre:Workplace Texting and
Tweeting 103
Step 4: Choose the Style, Design,
and Medium 104
Using E-Mail for Transcultural
Communication 111
WhatYou Need to Know 113
Exercises and Projects 113
Case Study:The Nastygram 117
84 Chapter 5 Letters, Memos, and E-Mail
Letters, memos, and e-mails are forms of correspondence, meaning they are used to
correspond with clients, supervisors, colleagues, and others. They are used to share information, make requests, and convey decisions. Writing these documents will be a regular
part of your job, but it can also be a drain on your time. The key is to learn how to write
these documents quickly and efficiently, within the natural flow of your workday.
Letters and
memos are
generally used
to convey
formal messages, while
e-mail is used
for less formal
Letters and Memos Usually Convey Formal Messages
Features of Letters, Memos, and E-Mails
These three types of correspondence are used for similar purposes, so their content,
organization, and style are also similar. Here is how they differ:
Letters are written to people outside the company or organization. Primarily,
letters are used in formal situations in which an employee is acting as a
representative of the company. Letters can be used to make requests or inquiries, accept or refuse claims, communicate important information, record
agreements, and apply for jobs.
Memos are written to people inside the company or organization.They are
used to convey decisions, meeting agendas, policies, internal reports, and
short proposals.When a message is too important or proprietary for e-mail,
most people will send a memo instead. Memos are still more reliable than
e-mails for information that should not be broadly released.
E-mails can be written to people inside or outside the company or organization.
E-mail is used in situations that previously called for less formal memos, letters,
or phone calls. Increasingly, e-mail is being used for formal communication, too.
Until recently, an obvious difference was that letters and memos appeared on paper, while e-mails appeared on screen.Today, though, it is not unusual for letters and
memos to be written as electronic documents that are sent and received as PDF files
(PDF stands for “Portable Document Format”).
Features of Letters, Memos, and E-Mails 85
Letters, Memos, and E-Mails
This model shows a typical pattern for organizing a letter, memo, or e-mail.These kinds of documents
are used for many different purposes, so the pattern shown here is designed to be flexible.
Quick Start
Basic Features of Letters, Memos, and E-mails
A letter, memo, or e-mail will generally have the following features:
• Header with the company name and address of the sender, as well as recipient’s name and
• Greeting or salutation for the recipient (not included in memos)
• Introduction that states a clear main point
• Body paragraphs that provide need-to-know information
• Conclusion that restates the letter’s main point
• Signature of the sender (not included in memos)
Introduction with
Main Point
Conclusion with
Main Point
Topic One
Topic Two
Each of the blocks
in this diagram
represents one or
more paragraphs.
Letters and e-mails
include a signature.
Memos do not include
a signature.
Letters, memos, and e-mails primarily differ in the way they are formatted (how
they appear on the page or screen). Figure 5.1 shows how the same information would
look in letter format, memo format, and as an e-mail.
• A letter includes a letterhead, the date, an inside address, a greeting, and a closing with the writer’s signature.
• A memo includes a memohead, the date, and lines for the reader (“To:”), the
sender (“From:”), and the subject (“Subject:”).
• An e-mail includes a header with an addressee line for the readers’ e-mail addresses (“To:”), carbon copy lines (“Cc:” and“Bcc:”), a subject line (“Subject:”)
and an attachments line (“Attach:”).
86 Chapter 5 Letters, Memos, and E-Mail
Closing with
Kearney Engineering 3819 Washington St.
Austin, TX 78716
(512) 555-8200
September 19, 2014
Tom Setter, CEO
Setter Industries, LLC
192 High Ave.
Aurora, IL 60321
Dear Mr. Setter,
With this letter, I have enclosed our report reviewing your plans to convert
the Aurora factory to biomass energy.
Overall, as our report shows, it looks like a biomass generator will work, but
we have made some recommendations for improving the design. Specically,
we recommend you consider a design that more nely shreds wood byproducts to improve energy yield. We believe this change would allow you to
run your factory “ogrid” during nonpeak hours of production.
Please look over the report as soon as possible. We would like to schedule a
conference call with you in the next couple of weeks to discuss the report.
ank you for giving us the opportunity to work with you. If you have any
questions or comments, please call me at (512) 555-8200, ext. 541, or e-mail
me at [email protected]
James Williams, P.E.
Lead Engineer
Kearney Engineering
(a) Figure 5.1:
Formatting a Letter, Memo, and E-mail
Letters (a),
memos (b),
and e-mails
(c) are basically the
same, except in their
The main differences are
that letters
are written to
readers outside the company, whereas
are written
to readers
inside the
E-mail can
be written to
readers both
inside and
outside the
Features of Letters, Memos, and E-Mails 87
Header Kearney Engineering
Date: September 19, 2014
To: Louis Kearney, CEO
From: James Williams, Lead Engineer
Subject: Report on biomass options for Setter Industries
I have enclosed our report on Setter Industries’ plans to convert its Aurora factory to biomass
Overall, as our report shows, it looks like a biomass generator will work, but we have made some
recommendations for improving the design. Speci‰cally, we recommend they consider a design
that more ‰nely shreds wood byproducts to improve energy yield. We believe this change would
allow them to run the factory “o‹grid” during nonpeak hours of production.
Please look over the enclosed report as soon as possible. We would like to schedule a conference
call with their CEO, Tom Setter, in the next couple of weeks to discuss the report.
If you have any questions or comments, please call me at ext. 541 or e-mail
me at [email protected]
To and From
Subject Line
No Signature
Figure 5.1:
88 Chapter 5 Letters, Memos, and E-Mail
Figure 5.1:
Step 1: Make a Plan and Do Research
When you begin writing a letter, memo, or e-mail, first consider how your readers will
use the information you are providing.You might start by answering the Five-W and
How Questions:
Who is the reader of my letter, memo, or e-mail?
Why am I writing to this person?
What is my point? What do I want my reader to do?
Where will the letter, memo, or e-mail be read?
When will the letter, memo, or e-mail be used?
How will the reader use this document now and in the future?
RE: Report on Biomass Options for Setter Industries
Sent: September 19, 2014 at 8:48 AM
To: Tom Setter [email protected]
Cc: Louis Kearney [email protected], Mary Gethers [email protected]
Subject: Report on Biomass Options for Setter Industries
Attachment: SetterBiomassReport.pdf
Mr. Setter,
e report attached to this e-mail reviews your plans to convert the Aurora factory
to biomass energy.
Overall, as our report shows, it looks like a biomass generator will work, but we have
made some recommendations for improving the design. Specically, we
recommend you consider a design that more nely sheds wood by-products to
improve energy yield. We believe this change would allow you to run your factory
“o grid” during nonpeak hours of production.
For more information on by-product shredding, you can watch the instructional
video at http://www.kearneyeng.net/biomassshredding.
Please look over the report as soon as possible. We would like to schedule a
conference call with you in the next couple of weeks to discuss the report.
ank you for giving us the opportunity to work with you. If you have any questions
or comments, please call me at (512) 555-8200, ext 541, or reply to this e-mail at
[email protected]
James Williams, P.E., Lead Engineer
Kearney Engineering
[email protected]
(512) 555-8200, ext 541
>ank you for the progress report on your analysis of the biomass options for our
>Aurora plant. I’m looking forward to reading your report next week.
>Tom Setter, CEO
>Setter Industries, LLC
A link is
into the
Here is the
This is a
e-mail from
Tom Setter
to which
James is
The report is
here as a
pdf le.
In Formal
e-mails, a
greeting is
expected. In
informal e-mails,
greetings are
Report on Biomass Options for Setter Industries
Step 1: Make a Plan and Do Research 89
Determining the Rhetorical Situation
If the message is informal or routine, you should be ready to start typing right now.
However, if your message is formal or especially important, you should explore the
rhetorical situation in more depth.
SUBJECT Pay attention to what your readers need to know to take action. Letters, memos,
and e-mails should be as concise as possible, so include only need-to-know information.
PURPOSE The purpose of your letter, memo, or e-mail should be immediately obvious to
your readers. Some action words for your purpose statement might include the following:
to inform to apologize
to explain to discuss
to complain to clarify
to congratulate to notify
to answer to advise
to confirm to announce
to respond to invite
Your purpose statement might sound like one of the following:
We are writing to inform you that we have accepted your proposal to build
the Washington Street overpass.
I would like to congratulate the Materials Team for successfully patenting
the fusion polymer blending process.
This memo explains and clarifies the revised manufacturing schedule for
the remainder of this year.
READERS Letters, memos, and e-mails can be written to individuals or to whole
groups of people. Since these documents are often shared or filed, you need to anticipate all possible readers who might want a copy of your document.
Primary readers (action takers) are the people who will take action after
they read your message.Your letter, memo, or e-mail needs to be absolutely
clear about what you want these readers to do.
Secondary readers (advisors) are the people to whom your primary readers
will turn if they need advice.They may be experts in the area, support staff,
supervisors, or colleagues.
Tertiary readers (evaluators) are any other people who may have an interest
in what you are saying. Keep in mind that letters, memos, and e-mails have a
strange way of turning up in unexpected places, including the hands of lawyers,
reporters, auditors, and even competitors. Before sending any correspondence,
think carefully about how the document would look if it were made public.
Gatekeeper readers (supervisors), such as your supervisor or your company’s
lawyer, may need to look over an especially important correspondence before
it is sent out.These gatekeepers may want to ensure that you are communicating appropriately and correctly with clients.
For more
guidance on
defining a
see Chapter
1, page 4.
For more
on analyzing readers,
turn to
Chapter 2,
page 19.
For more
about distinguishing between needto-know and
information, go to
Chapter 14,
page 378.
90 Chapter 5 Letters, Memos, and E-Mail
Context of Use  Consider the physical, economic, political, and ethical factors that
will influence the way your readers will interpret and respond to your message. Put
yourself in their place, imagining how the readers’ location, finances, relationships,
and values will influence the way they interpret your message.
Step 2: Decide What Kind of Letter, Memo,
or E-Mail Is Needed
In the technical workplace, letters, memos, and e-mails are used for a variety of purposes. Now that you know your purpose, you can figure out what kind of correspondence you are writing.
The purpose of an inquiry is to gather information, especially answers to questions about
important or sensitive subjects. In these situations, you could use e-mail, but a printed
document is sometimes preferable because the recipients will view it as a formal request.
Here are some guidelines to follow when writing a letter, memo, or e-mail of inquiry:
• Clearly identify your subject and purpose.
• State your questions clearly and concisely.
• Limit your questions to five or fewer.
• If possible, offer something in return.
• Thank readers in advance for their response.
• Provide contact information (address, e-mail address, or phone number).
Figure 5.2 shows a typical letter of inquiry. Notice how the author of the letter is
specific about the kinds of information she wants.
A response is written to answer an inquiry.The response should answer each of the inquirer’s questions in specific detail.The amount of detail you provide will depend on
the kinds of questions asked. In some situations, you may need to offer a lengthy explanation. In other situations, a simple answer or referral to the corporate website or
enclosed product literature will be sufficient.
Here are some guidelines to follow when writing a response:
• Thank the writer for the inquiry.
• Clearly state the subject and purpose of the letter, memo, or e-mail.
• Answer any questions point by point.
• Offer more information, if available.
• Provide contact information (address, e-mail address, or phone number).
Figure 5.3 shows an example of a response letter. Pay attention to the author’s
point-by-point response to the questions in the original letter of inquiry (Figure 5.2).
When sending documents or materials through the mail or e-mail, you should include
a letter, memo, or e-mail of transmittal. Also called“cover letters”or “cover memos,”
the purpose of these documents is to explain the reason the enclosed or attached
For strategies to help
issues, go
to Chapter
2, page 20.
Step 2: Decide What Kind of Letter, Memo, or E-Mail Is Needed 91
State the
subject and
purpose of
the letter.
clearly and
in return.
Arctic Information Associates
2315 BROADWAY, FARGO, ND 58102
February 23, 2014
Customer Service
Durable Computers
1923 Hanson Street
Orono, Maine 04467
Dear Customer Service:
My research team is planning a scientic expedition to the northern
Alaskan tundra to study the migration habits of caribou. We are looking
for a Rugged Laptop that will stand up to the unavoidable abuse that will
occur during our trip. Please send us detailed information on your Yeti
Rugged Laptop. We need answers to the following questions:
• How waterproof is the laptop?
• How far can the laptop fall before serious damage will occur?
• How well does the laptop hold up to vibration?
• Does the laptop interface easily with GPS systems?
• Can we receive a discount on a purchase of 20 computers?
Upon return from our expedition, we would be willing to share stories
about how your laptops held up in the Alaskan tundra.
ank you for addressing our questions. Please respond to these inquiries
and send us any other information you might have on the Yeti Rugged
Laptop. Information can be sent to me at Arctic Information Associates,
2315 Broadway, Fargo, ND 58102. I can also be contacted at 701-555-
2312 or [email protected]
Sally Vorman, Ph.D.
Arctic Specialist
Thank the
Figure 5.2:
Letter of Inquiry
A letter of
inquiry needs
to be clear
about the
it is seeking.
In this letter,
notice how
the writer has
listed her
questions in
an unmistakable way.
92 Chapter 5 Letters, Memos, and E-Mail
Thank the
readers for
their inquiry.
Offer more
if available.
Answer the
point by
State the
subject and
purpose of
the letter.
Durable Computers
1 9 23 Hanson Street, Orono, Maine 0446 7
March 7, 2014
Sally Vorman, Arctic Specialist
Arctic Information Associates
2315 Broadway, Fargo, ND 58102
Dear Dr. Vorman:
Thank you for your inquiries regarding our Yeti Rugged Laptop. This
computer is one of our most durable products, and it is particularly suited
to the kinds of arctic climates you will be experiencing.
Here are the answers to your questions:
Waterproong: The Yeti stands up well to rain and other kinds of
moisture. It can be submersed briefly (a few seconds), but it cannot be
left underwater for a sustained amount of time.
Damage Protection: The Yeti can be dropped from 20 feet onto
concrete without significant damage. Its magnesium alloy casing
provides maximum protection.
Vibration: The Yeti meets the tough US-MIL 810 standards, which pay
close attention to vibration, especially across rough terrain in a vehicle.
GPS Compatibility: The Yeti is compatible with all GPS systems we
are aware of.
Discounts: We offer a discount of 10% for orders of 10 or more Yetis.
I am also enclosing some of our promotional literature on the Yeti,
including the technical specifications. In these materials you will find the
results of our endurance testing on the laptop.
We would very much like to hear about your trip and your experiences with
the Yeti. If you have any more questions or would like to place an order,
please call me at 293-555-3422. Or, e-mail me at [email protected]
Gary Smothers
Design Engineer
Durable Computers
Figure 5.3:
Response Letter
A response
letter should
answer the inquirer’s questions point by
point and offer additional
information, if
Step 2: Decide What Kind of Letter, Memo, or E-Mail Is Needed 93
materials are being sent. For example, if you were sending a proposal to the vice president of your company, you would likely add a memo of transmittal like the one shown
in Figure 5.4. Earlier in this chapter, the documents in Figure 5.1 also showed a letter,
memo, and e-mail of transmittal.
A transmittal letter or memo should do the following:
• Identify the materials enclosed.
• State the reason the materials are being sent.
• Summarize the information being sent.
• Clearly state any action requested or required of readers.
• Provide contact information.
You should keep your comments brief in transmittal letters, memos, and e-mails.
After all, readers are mostly interested in the enclosed materials, not your transmittal.
Why should you include a letter, memo, or e-mail of transmittal in the first place?
There are a few good reasons:
• If a document, such as a report, shows up in your readers’ mailbox or inbox
without a transmittal letter, memo, or e-mail, they may not understand why it is
being sent to them and what they should do with it.
• Transmittals give you an opportunity to make a personal connection with the
• Transmittals also give you an opportunity to set a specific tone for readers,
motivating them to respond positively to the document or materials you have
enclosed or attached.
Claims or Complaints
In the technical workplace, products break and errors happen. In these situations, you
may need to write a claim, also called a complaint.The purpose of a claim is to explain a
problem and ask for amends. Here are some guidelines to follow when writing a claim:
• State the subject and purpose clearly and concisely.
• Explain the problem in detail.
• Describe how the problem inconvenienced you.
• State what you would like the receiver to do to address the problem.
• Thank your reader for his or her response to your request.
• Provide contact information.
Figure 5.5 shows a claim letter with these features.
A claim should always be professional in tone. Angry letters, memos, and e-mails
might give you a temporary sense of satisfaction, but they are less likely to achieve
your purpose—to have the problem fixed. If possible, you want to avoid putting readers on the defensive, because they may choose to ignore you or halfheartedly try to
remedy the situation.
If you receive a claim or complaint, you may need to respond with an adjustment letter,
memo, or e-mail.The purpose of an adjustment is to respond to the issue described by
the client, customer, or co-worker.These documents need to do more than simply respond to the problem, though.They should also try to rebuild a potentially damaged
relationship with the reader.
94 Chapter 5 Letters, Memos, and E-Mail
Identify the
the enclosed
State the
materials are
being sent.
State the
action item
Rockford Services
Date: May 8, 2014
To: Brenda Young, VP of Services
From: Valerie Ansel, Outreach Coordinator
cc: Hank Billups, Pat Roberts
Re: Outreach to Homeless Youth
Enclosed is the Proposal for the Rockford Homeless Youth
Initiative, which you requested at the Board Meeting on
February 17. We need you to look it over before we write the
ÂŒnal version.
ÂŽe proposal describes a broad-based program in which Rockford
Services will proactively reach out to the homeless youth in our
city. In the past, we have generally waited for these youths to ÂŒnd
their way to our shelter on the west side of town. We always knew,
though, that many youths are reluctant or unable to come to the
shelter, especially the ones who are mentally ill or addicted to
drugs. ÂŽe program described in this proposal oÂ’ers a way to
reach out to these youths in a nonthreatening way, providing
them a gateway to services or treatment.
Please look over this proposal. We welcome any suggestions for
improvement you might have. We plan to submit the ÂŒnal version
of this proposal to the Board on May 26th at the monthly meeting.
ÂŽank you for your help. You can contact me by phone at
555-1242, or you can e-mail me at [email protected]
Enclosed: Proposal for the Rockford Homeless Youth Initiative
Figure 5.4:
Memo of Transmittal
A transmittal
memo should
be concise.
Make sure
any action
items are
Step 2: Decide What Kind of Letter, Memo, or E-Mail Is Needed 95
Outwest Engineering
2931 Mission Drive, Provo, UT 84601 (801) 555-6650
June 15, 2014
Customer Service
Optima Camera Manufacturers, Inc.
Chicago, IL 60018
Dear Customer Service:
We are requesting the repair or replacement of a damaged ClearCam Digital
Camcorder (#289PTDi), which we bought directly from Optima Camera
Manufacturers in May 2011.
Here is what happened. On June 12, we were making a promotional Â’lm
about one of our new products for our website. As we were making
adjustments to the lighting on the set, the camcorder was bumped and it fell
ten feet to the •oor. Aerward, it would not work, forcing us to cancel the
’lming, causing us a few days’ delay.
We paid a signiÂ’cant amount of money for this camcorder because your
advertising claims it is “highly durable.” So, we were surprised and
disappointed when the camcorder could not survive a routine fall.
Please repair or replace the enclosed camcorder as soon as possible. I have
provided a copy of the receipt for your records.
šank you for your prompt response to this situation. If you have any
questions, please call me at 801-555-6650, ext. 139.
Paul Williams
Senior Product Engineer
State the
subject and
purpose of
the letter.
Describe how
the problem
inconvenienced you.
Explain the
problem in
State what
the reader
should do.
Thank the
reader for the
Figure 5.5:
Claim Letter
A claim letter should
explain the
problem in a
tone and
describe the
remedy being
96 Chapter 5 Letters, Memos, and E-Mail
Here are some guidelines to follow when writing an adjustment:
• Express regret for the problem without directly taking blame.
• State clearly what you are going to do about the problem.
• Tell your reader when he or she should expect results.
• Show appreciation for his or her continued business with your company.
• Provide contact information.
Figure 5.6 shows an adjustment letter with these features.
Why shouldn’t you take direct blame? Several factors might be involved when
something goes wrong. So, it is fine to acknowledge that something unfortunate happened. For example, you can say,“We are sorry to hear about your injury when using
the Zip-2000 soldering tool.”But it is something quite different to say,“We accept full
responsibility for the injuries caused by our Zip-2000 soldering tool.” This kind of
statement could make your company unnecessarily liable for damages.
Ethically, your company may need to accept full responsibility for an accident. In
these situations, legal counsel should be involved with the writing of the letter.
Refusals, also called“bad news” letters, memos, or e-mails, always need to be carefully
written. In these documents, you are telling the readers something they don’t want to
hear (i.e.,“no”).Yet, if possible, you want to maintain a professional or business relationship with these customers or clients.
When writing a refusal, show your readers how you logically came to your decision. In most cases, you will not want to start out immediately with the bad news (e.g.,
“We have finished interviewing candidates and have decided not to hire you”).
However, you also do not want to make readers wait too long for the bad news.
Here are some guidelines for writing a refusal:
• State your subject.
• Summarize your understanding of the facts.
• Deliver the bad news, explaining your reasoning.
• Offer any alternatives, if they are available.
• Express a desire to retain the relationship.
• Provide contact information.
Keep any apologizing to a minimum, if you feel you must apologize at all. Some
readers will see your apology as an opening to negotiate or complain further. An
effective refusal logically explains the reasons for the turndown, leaving your reader
satisfied with your response—if a bit disappointed. Figure 5.7 shows a sample refusal
letter with these features.
Step 3: Organize and Draft Your Message
Like any technical document, your letter, memo, or e-mail should have an introduction,
a body, and a conclusion.To help you organize and draft quickly, keep in mind that the
introductions and conclusions of these texts tend to make some predictable moves.
Introduction with a Purpose and a Main Point
In the introduction, you should make at least three moves: (a) identify your subject,
(b) state your purpose, and (c) state your main point (Figure 5.8). Depending on your
Step 3: Organize and Draft Your Message 97
Figure 5.6:
Adjustment Letter
An adjustment letter
should express regret
for the problem and offer
a remedy.
regret for
the problem.
State what will
be done.
Tell when
results should
be expected.
to the
Optima Camera Manufacturers, Inc.
Chicago, IL 60018 312-555-9120
July 1, 2014
Paul Williams, Senior Product Engineer
Outwest Engineering Services
2931 Mission Drive
Provo, UT 84601
Dear Mr.Williams,
We are sorry that the ClearCam Digital Camcorder did not meet your
expectations for durability. At Optima, we take great pride in offering highquality, durable cameras that our customers can rely on.We will make the
repairs you requested.
After inspecting your camera, our service department estimates the repair will
take two weeks.When the camera is repaired, we will return it to you by
overnight freight.The repair will be made at no cost to you.
We appreciate your purchase of a ClearCam Digital Camcorder, and we are
eager to restore your trust in our products.
Thank you for your letter. If you have any questions, please contact me at
Ginger Faust
Customer Service Technician
98 Chapter 5 Letters, Memos, and E-Mail
Optima Camera Manufacturers, Inc.
Chicago, IL 60018 312-555-9120
State the
Deliver the
bad news,
Express a
desire to
retain the
July 1, 2014
Paul Williams, Senior Product Engineer
Outwest Engineering Services
2931 Mission Drive
Provo, UT 84601
Dear Mr.Williams,
We are sorry that the ClearCam Digital Camcorder did not meet your
expectations for durability.At Optima, we take great pride in offering highquality, durable cameras that our customers can rely on.
According to the letter you sent us, the camcorder experienced a fall and
stopped working. After inspecting your camcorder, we have determined that we
will need to charge for the repair. According to the warranty,repairs can only be
made at no cost when problems are due to manufacturer error. A camcorder that
experienced a fall like the one you described is not covered under the warranty.
We sent your camcorder to the service department for a repair estimate.After
inspecting your camera, they estimate the repair will take two weeks at a cost of
$156.00.When it is repaired, we will return it to you by overnight freight.
If you would like us to repair the camcorder, please send a check or money
order for $156.00. If you do not want us to repair the camcorder, please call me
at 312-555-9128. Upon hearing from you, we will send the camcorder back to
you immediately.
Again, we are sorry for the damage to your camcorder.We appreciate your purchase
of a ClearCam Digital Camcorder, and we are eager to retain your business.
Ginger Faust
Customer Service Technician
Enclosed:Warranty Information
Figure 5.7:
Refusal Letter
A refusal letter should deliver the bad
news politely
and offer
alternatives if
available. You
should strive
to maintain
the relationship with the
person whose
request is being refused.
Step 3: Organize and Draft Your Message 99
message, you might also make two additional moves: (d) offer some background information and (e) stress the importance of the subject.
Subject  Your subject should be identified in the first or second sentence of the introduction. Simply tell your readers what you are writing about. Do not assume that they
already know what you are writing about.
Recently, the Watson Project has been a source of much concern for our
This memo discusses the equipment thefts that have occurred in our office over the last few months.
Purpose  Your purpose should also be stated almost immediately in the first paragraph, preferably in the first or second sentence.
Now that we have reached Stage Two of the Oakbrook Project, I would like
to re-evaluate and re-distribute project tasks among our team members.
The purpose of this letter is to inform you about our new transportation policies
for low-level nuclear waste sent to the WIPP Storage Facility in New Mexico.
Main Point  All letters, memos, and e-mails should have a main point that you want
your readers to grasp or remember. In many cases,“the point”is something you want
your readers to do (an“action item”) when they are finished reading. In other words, state
the big idea you want your readers to remember or the action you want them to take.
We request the hiring of three new physician’s assistants to help us with
the recent increases in emergency room patients.
My main point in this letter is the following: Our subcontractors must meet
ISO-9001 quality standards on this project, and we will work with you to
ensure compliance.
It may seem odd to state your main point up front in the introduction.Wouldn’t
it be better to lead up to the point, perhaps putting it in the conclusion? No. Most of
your readers will only skim your letter, memo, or e-mail. So, by putting your main
point (the big idea or action item) up front, you will ensure that they do not miss it.
Background Information Writers often like to start their letters, memos, and
e-mails with a statement that gives some background information or makes a personal
connection to readers.
Our staff meeting on June 28 was very productive, and I hope we all came
away with a better understanding of the project. In this memo. . . .
When you and I met at the NEPSCORE Convention last October, our company was not ready to provide specifics about our new ceramic circuit
boards. Now we are ready. . . .
Importance of the Subject  In some cases, you might also want your introduction to stress the importance of the subject.
This seems like a great opportunity to expand our network into the
Indianapolis market. We may not see this opportunity again.
For more
on writing
introductions, see
Chapter 15,
page 399.
100 Chapter 5 Letters, Memos, and E-Mail
Date: November 18, 2014
To: Hanna Marietta, Chief Executive Ocer
From: Jason Santos, Corporate Health Ocer
Subject: Bird Flu Contingency Plan
Last week, the Executive Board inquired about our company’s contingency
plans if a bird ‹u pandemic occurs. As the Board mentioned, the exposure
of our overseas manufacturing operations, especially in the Asian Paci‘c
region, puts our company at special risk. At this point, we have no approved contingency plan, but my team strongly believes we need to create
one as soon as possible. In this memo, I will highlight important issues to
consider, and my team requests a meeting with you to discuss developing a
plan for Board approval.
Despite the media hype, a bird ‹u pandemic is not imminent. A remote
possibility exists that the H5N1 avian in‹uenza virus could mutate into a
form that can be transmitted among humans. To this point, though, only a
small number of bird ‹u infections have occurred in humans. In these
cases, birds have infected humans through close contact. e World Health
Organization (WHO) reported in January 2014 that only about 600
con‘rmed deaths had occurred worldwide since 2003, almost all in Asia.
Human-to-human transmissions of bird ‹u are extremely rare.
Nevertheless, the risk of a pandemic is real and the WHO recommends the
immediate development of contingency plans. We recommend the following actions right now:
A. Develop a decision tree that outlines how our company will respond
to a pandemic.
B. Design an alert system that noti‘es managers how to identify bird
‹u symptoms, when to be watchful, when to send employees home,
and how to evacuate them.
Morris Blue Industries
The subject
is identified
in the first
information is
offered to
remind the
reader about
the subject.
The main
point and
purpose are
clearly stated
up front.
The body
uses facts
to inform
the readers.
This list
details easy
to find.
Figure 5.8:
Introduction, Body, Conclusion
This memo
shows the
basic parts
of a correspondence.
The introduction sets a
context, the
body provides
and the
restates the
main point.
Step 3: Organize and Draft Your Message 101
If we don’t start planning a next-generation facility now, we may find ourselves struggling to keep up with the demand for our products.
Introductions should be as concise as possible. Any information that goes beyond
these five moves should be put in the body of the correspondence.
Body That Provides Need-to-Know Information
The body is where you will provide your readers with the information they need to
make a decision or take action. As shown in Figure 5.8, the body is the largest part of
the memo or letter, and it will take up one or more paragraphs.
As you begin drafting the body of your text, divide your subject into the
two to five major topics you need to discuss with your readers. Each of
these major topics will likely receive one or more paragraphs of coverage.
If you are struggling to develop the content, you can use mapping to
put your ideas on the screen or a piece of paper (Figure 5.9). Start out
by putting the purpose statement in the center of the screen or at the
top of a piece of paper.Then, branch out into two to five major topics.
You can use mapping to identify any supporting information that will
be needed for those topics.
While drafting, keep looking back at your purpose statement in the
introduction. Ask yourself,“What information do I need to provide to
achieve this purpose?”Then, include any facts, examples, data, and reasoning that will help support your argument.
C. Strengthen ties with local health authorities and law enforcement
near our factories to speed the ow of information to local managers.
D. Create a training package for managers to educate them about bird
u and our company’s response to a pandemic.
e Executive Board should also consider (a) whether we want to procure
stocks of antiviral drugs like Tami u and Relenza, (b) whether our sick leave
policies need to be adjusted to handle a pandemic, and (c) how our medical
insurance would cover prevention and recovery for employees. ese issues
will require legal counsel from each country in which we have employees.
ank you for contacting me about this matter. We believe a contingency
plan should be developed as soon as possible. To get things rolling, we
would like to schedule an appointment with you to go over these issues in
more depth. You or your assistant can reach me at ext. 2205 or e-mail me at
[email protected]
is provided.
A “thank you”
signals the
conclusion of
the memo.
restates the
main point
and action
item, while
looking to
the future.
Figure 5.8:
Elements of a Letter,
Memo, or E-mail
• Header
• Introduction—subject,
purpose, main point,
background information, importance of the
• Body—discussion topics, usually with one
paragraph per topic
• Conclusion—thank
you, main point (restated), and a look to
the future
For more
on using
logical mapping, go to
Chapter 13,
page 356.
102 Chapter 5 Letters, Memos, and E-Mail
Topic 1 Topic 2
Using Mapping to Generate Content
Figure 5.9:
Using your
purpose as a
guide, identify
the topics you
will need to
cover in your
To learn
more about
writing conclusions, go
to Chapter
15, page
Conclusion That Restates the Main Point
The conclusion of your letter, memo, or e-mail should be short and to the point.
Nothing essential should appear in the conclusion that has not already been stated in
the introduction or body.
Conclusions in these documents tend to make three moves: thank the readers, restate
your main point, and look to the future.
Thank the Readers  By thanking your readers at the end, you leave them with a
positive impression as you conclude.
Thank you for your time and attention to this important matter.
We appreciate your company’s efforts on this project, and we look forward
to working with you over the next year.
Restate Your Main Point  Remind your readers of the action you would like
them to take.
Time is short, so we will need your final report in our office by Friday,
September 12, at 5:00.
Please discuss this proposal right away with your team so that we can
make any final adjustments before the submission deadline.
Look to the Future  Try to end your correspondence by looking forward in
some way.
When this project is completed, we will have taken the first revolutionary
step toward changing our approach to manufacturing.
If you have questions or comments, please call me at 555–1291 or e-mail
me at [email protected]
Workplace Texting and Tweeting
In the technical workplace, texting and social media are used regularly to keep in
touch with co-workers and connect with the public.Texting is a quick way to share
information and update your team on your status. Similarly,Twitter and other microblogging platforms are used to interact with colleagues, customers, and clients.These
microblogging platforms are becoming increasingly common ways of keeping colleagues informed about the status of a project and any new developments.
Here are some tips for effective texting and tweeting at work:
Write longer text messages.Your messages should offer useful information and/or
make a specific request. A typical workplace text or tweet will run one or two full
sentences.When texting or tweeting with your friends, a ping is fine (e.g.,“wazup”),
but these kinds of brief messages shouldn’t be sent to co-workers or the public because they can be disruptive or misunderstood.
Spell out most words and punctuate. Text messages are usually limited to 160
characters and tweets are limited to 140 characters, so abbreviating is common.
However, in a workplace text message or tweet, you should spell out most words
and punctuate properly, so your readers can understand what you are saying. It’s
better to send longer texts that are spelled out than a garble of abbreviations that
people won’t understand.
E-mail or call when it’s important. Don’t rely on people to read your texts and
tweets.These messages are often overlooked, especially when people are busy.
Make sure you’re doing work. It’s easy to get caught up texting or tweeting with
others, but remember, you’re on company time. If you’re texting or tweeting about
something other than work, it’s probably time to end the conversation.
Don’t text or tweet during meetings. In many workplaces, supervisors will react
negatively if people are looking down at their phones during a meeting or presentation, even if the texting and tweeting are work-related.You can usually keep your
phone on the table in front of you, but wait until the meeting or presentation is
over to respond to any texts or tweets.
Don’t use texting to flirt at work. There is a fine line between playful text messages
and sexual harassment in the workplace. Messages can be saved and used against
Remember: Texts and tweets sent with company phones are not private. If your
company issues you a mobile phone, do not use it for private texting or tweeting.
Your company can access those messages, and this has led to people being fired for
misuse of company property.
Step 3: Organize and Draft Your Message 103
Your conclusion should run about one to three sentences. If you find yourself
writing a conclusion that is more than a small paragraph, you probably need to
trim the added information or move some of it into the body of the letter, memo, or
104 Chapter 5 Letters, Memos, and E-Mail
Texting at
work is less
cryptic and
more formal
than personal
Hi, Thomas. Have u collected the
data for the report or r u waiting for
some more data? Lauren
OK. When you get those results, we
should meet to talk about our
conclusions. When r u available?
Cool. We shouldn’t need to meet for
long. See ya later.
I’m still waiting for Miranda to send
me the results of her survey. She
promised she would by 3:00 today.
Not until 6:00 pm. Let’s meet in the
3rd „oor meeting room for an hour.
I’ll send an e-mail to the other
members of the team. Everyone
should be available at that time.
are fine, but
generally words
should be
spelled out.
text messages
tend to be
longer than
personal texts.
When the
decisions have
been made, the
should end.
In a workplace
text, punctuation
is more important
to avoid
Try using texting to communicate on your next team project. In class, try following
the above texting guidelines instead of talking.When you are finished for the day,
print out your conversation.What are the pros and cons of texting while working
on a project?
Step 4: Choose the Style, Design, and Medium
The style and design of a letter, memo, or e-mail can make a big difference. One
thing to keep in mind is this: All letters, memos, and e-mails are personal. They make
a one-to-one connection with readers. Even if you are writing a memo to the whole
company or sending out a form letter to your company’s customers, you are still
making a personal, one-to-one connection with each of those readers.
Step 4: Choose the Style, Design, and Medium 105
Strategies for Developing an Appropriate Style
Since letters, memos, and e-mails are personal documents, their style needs to be
suited to their readers and contexts of use. Here are some strategies for projecting the
appropriate style:
• Use the “you” style.
• Create an appropriate tone.
• Avoid bureaucratic phrasing.
Use the “You” Style  When you are conveying neutral or positive information, you
should use the word you to address your readers.The “you” style puts the emphasis on
the readers rather than on you, the author.
Well done. Your part of the project went very smoothly, saving us time and
We would like to update your team on the status of the Howards
Pharmaceutical case.
You are to be congratulated for winning the Baldrige Award for high-quality
In most cases, negative information should not use the “you” style, because readers
will tend to react with more hostility than you expect.
Offensive: Your lack of oversight and supervision on the assembly line led
to the recent work stoppage.
Improved: Increased oversight and supervision will help us avoid work
stoppages in the future.
Offensive: At our last meeting, your ideas for new products were not fully
thought through. In the future, you should come more prepared.
Improved: Any ideas for new products should be thoroughly considered
before they are presented. In the future, we would like to see presenters
more prepared.
Don’t worry about whether your readers will notice that you are criticizing them.
Even without the “you” style, they will figure out that you are conveying negative information or criticisms. By avoiding “you” in these negative situations, you will create
a constructive tone and avoid an overly defensive reaction from your readers.
Create a Tone  Think about the image you want to project. Put yourself into character as you compose your message. Are you satisfied, hopeful, professional, pleased,
enthusiastic, or annoyed?Write your message with that tone in mind.
Brainstorming is an especially good way to project a specific tone in your correspondence. For example, perhaps you want to argue that you are an“expert.”Put the
word expert on the top of your screen or a piece of paper.Then, brainstorm a list of
words associated with this word. For example, brainstorming about the word expert
would give you a list of words like authority, professional, specialist, master, knowledgeable,
trained, certified, experienced, thorough understanding, and solid background.
For more advice about
choosing an
style, see
Chapter 16,
page 422.
106 Chapter 5 Letters, Memos, and E-Mail
You can then weave these expert-related words into your letter, memo, or e-mail. If
the words are used strategically, your readers will subconsciously sense the tone you
are trying to create.
Avoid Bureaucratic Phrasing  When writing correspondence, especially a formal letter, some people feel a strange urge to use phrasing that sounds bureaucratic:
Bureaucratic: Pursuant to your request, please find the enclosed materials.
Nonbureaucratic: We have included the materials you requested.
Bureaucratic phrasing depersonalizes the letter, undermining the one-to-one relationship between writer and reader. Here are a few other bureaucratic phrases and
ways they can be avoided:
Bureaucratic Phrase
Per your request
In lieu of
Attached, please nd
Enclosed, please nd
Contingent upon receipt
In accordance with your wishes
In observance with
Please be aware that
It has come to our attention
Pursuant to
Prior to receipt of
Nonbureaucratic Phrase
As you requested
Instead of
I have attached
I have enclosed
When we receive
As you requested
According to
We believe
We know
In response to
Before receiving
A simple guideline is not to use words and phrases that you would not use in
everyday speech. If you would not use words like lieu, contingent, or pursuant in a
conversation, you should not use them in a letter, memo, or e-mail.
Formatting Letters
Letters and memos usually have a rather plain design because they typically follow
standardized formats and templates that prescribe how they will look. Most companies have premade word-processing templates for letters and memos that you can
download on your computer.These templates allow you to type your letter or memo
directly into a word-processing file.When you print out the document, the letterhead
or memo header appears at the top.
Letter formats typically include some predictable features: a header (letterhead), an inside address, a greeting, the message, and a closing with a signature
(Figure 5.10).
Letterhead  Companies typically have letterhead available as a premade wordprocessor template or as stationery. Letterhead includes the company name and
Step 4: Choose the Style, Design, and Medium 107
Genworth Systems
1032 Hunter Ave., Philadelphia, PA 19130
March 28, 2014
George Falls, District Manager
Optechnical Instruments
875 Industrial Avenue, Suite 5
Starkville, New York 10034
Dear Mr. Falls:
I enjoyed meeting with you when we visited Starkville last week. I am writing
to follow up on our conversation about building a wireless network for your
business. A wireless network would certainly avoid many of the Internet access
problems your company is experiencing in its current facility. It would also
save you the wiring costs associated with a more traditional system.
With this letter, I have enclosed a variety of materials on Genworth’s wireless
systems. You will Šnd that there is a range of options to suit your company’s
needs. I have tried to include only brochures and white papers that you would
Šnd useful. I have also included testimonials written by a few of our customers
about their wireless systems and their experiences with our company.
I will call you in a couple of weeks to see if you have any questions about our
wireless products. If you want answers sooner, please call me at 547-555-5282
or e-mail me at [email protected] I can answer your
Again, thank you for meeting with us last week. I look forward to speaking
with you again.
Lisa Hampton
Senior Engineer, Wireless Division
with return
Closing with
1 blank line
1 blank line
1 blank line
1 blank line
1 blank line
3 blank lines
Formatting a Letter
Figure 5.10:
The format of
a letter has
features, like
the letterhead, inside
message, and
a closing with
a signature.
108 Chapter 5 Letters, Memos, and E-Mail
address. If letterhead is not available, you should enter your return address followed
by the date. Do not include your name in the return address.
1054 Kellogg Avenue, Apt. 12
Hinsdale, Illinois 60521
January 23, 2014
The return address is best set along the left margin of the letter.
Inside Address  The address of the person to whom you are sending the letter
(called the inside address) should appear two lines below the date or return address.
George Falls, District Manager
Optechnical Instruments
875 Industrial Avenue, Suite 5
Starkville, New York 10034
The inside address should be the same as the address that will appear on the letter’s envelope.
Greeting  Include a greeting two lines below the inside address. It is common to
use the word“Dear,” followed by the name of the person to whom you are sending the
letter. A comma or colon can follow the name, although in business correspondence a
colon is preferred.
If you do not know the name of the person to whom you are sending the letter,
choose a gender-neutral title like “Human Resources Director,” “Production Manager,”
or “Head Engineer.”A generic greeting like “ToWhom It May Concern” is inappropriate because it is too impersonal.With a little thought, you can usually come up with a
neutral title that better targets the reader of your letter.
Also, remember that it is no longer appropriate to use gender-biased terms like
“Dear Sirs”or “Dear Gentlemen.” You will offend at least half the receivers of your letters with these kinds of gendered titles.
Message  The message should begin two lines below the greeting.Today, most letters are set in block format, meaning the message is set against the left margin with no
indentation. In block format, a space appears between each paragraph.
Closing With Signature  Two lines below the message, you should include a
closing with a signature underneath. In most cases, the word“Sincerely,” followed by
a comma, is preferred.Your signature should appear next, with your name and title
typed beneath it.To save room for your signature, you should leave three blank lines
between the closing and your typed name.
Genworth Systems
1032 Hunter Ave., Philadelphia, PA 19130
March 28, 2014
George Falls, District Manager
Optechnical Instruments
875 Industrial Avenue, Suite 5
Starkville, New York 10034
Dear Mr. Falls:
I enjoyed meeting with you when we visited Starkville last week. I am writing
to follow up on our conversation about building a wireless network for your
business. A wireless network would certainly avoid many of the Internet access
problems your company is experiencing in its current facility. It would also
save you the wiring costs associated with a more traditional system.
With this letter, I have enclosed a variety of materials on Genworth’s wireless
systems. You will Šnd that there is a range of options to suit your company’s
needs. I have tried to include only brochures and white papers that you would
Šnd useful. I have also included testimonials written by a few of our customers
about their wireless systems and their experiences with our company.
I will call you in a couple of weeks to see if you have any questions about our
wireless products. If you want answers sooner, please call me at 547-555-5282
or e-mail me at [email protected] I can answer your
Again, thank you for meeting with us last week. I look forward to speaking
with you again.
Lisa Hampton
Senior Engineer, Wireless Division
with return
Closing with
1 blank line
1 blank line
1 blank line
1 blank line
1 blank line
3 blank lines
Lisa Hampton
Senior Engineer, Wireless Division
Step 4: Choose the Style, Design, and Medium 109
If you are sending the letter electronically, you can create an image of your signature with a scanner.Then, insert the image in your letter.
Formatting Envelopes
Once you have finished writing your letter, you will need to put it in an envelope.
Fortunately, with computers, putting addresses on envelopes is not difficult.Your
word-processing program can capture the addresses from your letter (Figure 5.11).
Then, with the Envelopes and Labels function (or equivalent), you can have the word
processor put the address on an envelope or label. Most printers can print envelopes.
An envelope should have two addresses, the return address and the recipient address.
The return address is printed in the upper left-hand corner of the envelope, a couple
of lines from the top edge of the envelope.The recipient address is printed in the
center of the envelope, about halfway down from the top edge of the envelope.
If your company has premade envelopes with the return address already printed on
them, printing an envelope will be easier.You will only need to add the recipient address.
Formatting Memos
Memos are easier to format than letters because they include only a header and a message.
Header  Most companies have stationery available that follows a standard memo
format (Figure 5.12). If memo stationery is not available, you can make your own by
typing the following list:
Genworth Systems
1032 Hunter Ave., Philadelphia, PA 19130
address George Falls, District Manager
Optechnical Instruments
875 Industrial Avenue, Suite 5
Starkville, NY 10034
Formatting for an Envelope
Figure 5.11:
An envelope
a return
address and
a recipient
110 Chapter 5 Letters, Memos, and E-Mail
Note: No
closing or
Genworth Systems
1032 Hunter Ave., Philadelphia, PA 19130
Date: April 11, 2014
To: Mark Randall, Wireless Installation Team Leader
cc: James orson, Elizabeth Gage
From: Lisa Hampton, Senior Engineer
Subject: Possible New Client
I need you and your team to work up some rough speci‰cations and
costs on a wireless system for a possible new client. I will need these
speci‰cations by April 18th, because we are talking with the client
that day in a conference call.
Here’s what is going on. I have been talking with George Falls, who
owns Optechnical Instruments, a small optics equipment manufacturer
in Starkville, New York. When I visited their manufacturing plant,
Mr. Falls was convinced they needed to rewire their whole building.
It’s an older building, and the rewiring would have cost a bundle. So,
I suggested Wireless MAN. He seemed interested.
I want you and your team to look over the building schematics I have
enclosed with this memo. Just give us a rough estimate of the kind of
Wireless MAN system that might be appropriate for a building of this size.
I know you need more information to make an accurate assessment
of their needs. For now, though, Mr. Falls is looking for an overall
sense of what wireless might be able to do for him. If he is still
interested, you and I can drive over to Starkville to gain a better
understanding of the building and its needs.
ank you for getting right on this project. If you have any questions,
give me a call at extension 5492.
1 line
1 line
Sample Memo
Figure 5.12:
The formatting of a
memo uses
a head that
differs from
a letterhead.
Notice that
there is no
closing or
Using E-Mail for Transcultural Communication 111
The “Subject” line should offer a descriptive and specific phrase that describes the
content of the memo. Most readers will look at the subject line first to determine if
they want to read the memo. If it is too generic (e.g.,“Project”or “FYI”), they may not
read the memo. Instead, give them a more specific phrase like “Update on the TruFit
Project”or “Accidental Spill on 2/2/14.”
The “cc” line (optional) includes the names of any people who will receive copies of
the memo. Often, copies of memos are automatically sent to supervisors to keep them
If possible, sign your initials next to your name on the “From” line. Since memos
are not signed, these initials serve as your signature on the document.
Message  Memos do not include a “Dear” line or any other kind of greeting.They
just start out with the message.The block style (all lines set against the left margin
and spaces between paragraphs) is preferred, though some writers indent the first line
of each paragraph.
Longer memos should include headings to help readers identify the structure of the
text. In some cases, you might choose to include graphics to support the written text.
It is important to remember that memos do not include a closing or signature.
When your conclusion is complete, the memo is complete. No closing or signature is
Using E-Mail for Transcultural Communication
The speed of e-mail makes it an ideal way to communicate and build relationships
with clients and co-workers in other cultures. In many cases, e-mail has replaced both
phone calls and letters, because it has the immediacy of the phone while giving readers the time to translate and consider the message being sent.When working across
cultures, you will discover that many clients and co-workers prefer to conduct business via e-mail.
North Americans tend to view e-mail as an“informal”or even“intimate”medium
for communication. As a result, they regularly stumble over the social norms and conventions of people from other cultures who use e-mail more formally.Too quickly,
Americans try to become too friendly and too informal. Also, Americans can be sloppy
with grammar, spelling, and word usage in their e-mails, causing significant problems
for non-English speakers who are trying to translate.
Here are some tips for using e-mail across cultures:
Allow time to form a relationship—Introduce yourself by name and title, and
provide some background information about your company and yourself.
Tell the readers where you are writing from and where you are in relation to
a major city. Don’t rush into making a request, because doing so will often
come across as pushy or rude.
Use titles and last names—Titles are often much more important in
other cultures than in the United States. Minimally, you should use titles
like Mr., Ms., or Dr. (Mrs. can be risky). If you know the proper titles
from the readers’ culture, such as Madame, Herr, Signora, then you
should use them. Eventually, your clients or co-workers may want to
move to a first-name relationship, but it’s often a good idea to let them
make that first move.
For more
ideas about
go to
Chapter 17,
page 447.
112 Chapter 5 Letters, Memos, and E-Mail
Focus on the facts—In your message, concentrate on factual issues regarding
the who, what, where, when, how, and why. Cut out other nonessential information because it will cloud your overall message.
Talk about the weather—If you want to personalize your message, talking
about the weather is a safe topic. People are often curious about the weather
in other parts of the world. It’s a safe, universal topic that will allow you
to get beyond just factual information. (Hint: Convert all temperatures to
Celsius and measurements into metric.)
Use attachments only when needed—In some parts of the world, e-mail
systems cannot handle large attachments. Inbox quotas may be too small
or download speeds may be too slow. A good approach is to send an initial
e-mail that asks if an attachment would be welcome.Then, if the reader tells
you it will work, you can send it in a follow-up e-mail.
Use plain text—You should assume that your readers can only receive plain
text. So, turn off any special characters (smart quotes, dashes, emoticons,
etc.) because they will often come out as gibberish at the other end. Also, assume that any embedded hyperlinks and e-mail addresses won’t be shown
as links.You should spell these addresses out in full, so readers can cut and
paste them for their own use.
Limit or avoid photographs and graphics—Photographs, background images, and other graphics don’t always transfer properly when they are sent
globally, and they can require a great amount of memory. Plus, photographs
can mean something unexpected to readers from other cultures.
Avoid clichés at the closing—Commonly used closings like “Do not hesitate
to contact me,” “If there’s a problem, just holler,”or “Don’t be afraid to
call,”do not translate well into other languages and may be confusing to the
Avoid humor—Attempts to be funny or tell jokes can backfire. Humor usually relies on cultural knowledge, so a joke or a clever play on words can
be misinterpreted by readers. In some cases, the humor might be seen as
Create a simple signature file with your contact information—In other cultures, e-mails are sometimes printed out, which can cause the sender’s e-mail
address and other contact information to be separated from the message.
A concise signature file that appears at the bottom of each e-mail should
include your name, title, e-mail address, postal address, phone number, and
corporate website.
Use simple grammar and proofread carefully—Simple sentences are easier
for human and machine translators to interpret. Complex grammar or
grammatical errors greatly increase problems with translation.
Exercises and Projects 113
nd Proj
Individual or Team Projects
1. Find a sample letter or memo on the Internet. In a memo to your instructor, discuss
why you believe the letter is effective or ineffective. Discuss how the content, organization, style, and design (format) are effective/ineffective.Then, make suggestions
for improvement.
2. Think of something that bothers you about your college campus.To a named authority, write a letter in which you complain about this problem and discuss how it
has inconvenienced you in some way. Offer some suggestions about how the problem might be remedied. Be sure to be tactful.
3. Imagine that you are the college administrator who received the complaint letter
in Exercise 2.Write a response letter to the complainant in which you offer a reasonable response to the writer’s concerns. If the writer is asking for a change that
requires a great amount of money, you may need to write a letter that refuses the
What You
eed to Kn
• Writing letters, memos, and e-mails can be a drain on your time.You should learn
how to write them quickly and efficiently.
• Letters, memos, and e-mails are essentially the same kind of document, called a
correspondence. They use different formats, but they tend to achieve the same purposes. Letters are used for messages that go outside the company. Memos are for
internal messages. E-mails can be used for messages both inside and outside the
• Letters, memos, and e-mails are always personal.They are intended to be a one-
to-one communication to a reader, even if they are sent to more than one person.
• Letters, memos, and e-mails share the same basic features: header, introduction,
informative body, and conclusion.They differ mostly in format, not content or
• The introduction should identify the subject, purpose, and point of the correspondence. If you want readers to take action, put that action up front.
• The body of the correspondence should give readers the information they need to
take action or make a decision.
• The conclusion should thank the readers, restate your main point, and look to the
• To develop an appropriate style, use the “you” style, create a deliberate tone, and
avoid bureaucratic phrasing.
• Use standard formats for letters, memos, and e-mails.These formats will make the
nature of your message easier to recognize.
• When corresponding with people from other cultures, avoid being too familiar too
quickly. Stick to the facts and avoid trying to be funny.
114 Chapter 5 Letters, Memos, and E-Mail
Collaborative Project
With a group, choose three significantly different cultures that interest you.Then,
research these cultures’ different conventions, traditions, and expectations concerning
letters, memos, and e-mails.You will find that correspondence conventions in countries
such as Japan or Saudi Arabia are very different from those in the United States.The
Japanese often find American correspondence to be blunt and rude. Arabs often find
American correspondence to be bland (and rude, too).
Write a brief report, in memo form, to your class in which you compare and contrast these three different cultures’ expectations for correspondence. In your memo,
discuss some of the problems that occur when a person is not aware of correspondence conventions in other countries.Then offer some solutions that might help the
others in your class become better intercultural communicators.
Present your findings to the class.
Revision Challenge
The memo shown in Figure A needs to be revised before it is sent to its primary
readers. Using the concepts and strategies discussed in this chapter, analyze the
weaknesses of this document.Then, identify some ways it could be improved
through revision.
• What information in the memo goes beyond what readers need to know?
• How can the memo be reorganized to highlight its purpose and main point?
• What is the “action item” in the memo, and where should it appear?
• How can the style of the memo be improved to make the text easier to understand?
• How might design be used to improve the readers’ understanding?
Write an e-mail to your instructor in which you explain how you improved this memo
to make it more effective.
Visit MyWritingLab for a Post-test and more technical writing resources.
Figure A:
This memo
needs some
revision. How
could it be
ChemConcepts, LLC
Date: November 5, 2013
To: Laboratory Supervisors
cc: George Castillo, VP of Research and Development
From: Vicki Hampton, Safety Task Force
It is the policy of ChemConcepts to ensure the safety of its
employees at all times. We are obligated to adhere to the policies
of the State of Illinois Fire and Life Safety Codes as adopted by the
Illinois State Fire Marshal’s Office (ISFMO). The intent of these
policies is to foster safe practices and work habits throughout
companies in Illinois, thus reducing the risk of fire and the severity
of fire if one should occur. The importance of chemical safety at our
company does not need to be stated. Last year, we had four
incidents of accidental chemical combustion in our laboratories.
We needed to send three employees to the hospital due to the
accidental combustion of chemicals stored or used in our
laboratories. The injuries were minor and these employees have
recovered; but without clear policies it is only a matter of time
before a major accident occurs. If such an accident happens, we
want to feel assured that all precautions were taken to avoid it, and
that its effects were minimized through proper procedures to handle
the situation.
In the laboratories of ChemConcepts, our employees work with
various chemical compounds that cause fire or explosions
if mishandled. For example, when stored near reducing materials,
oxidizing agents such as peroxides, hydroperoxides and
peroxyesters can react at ambient temperatures. These unstable
oxidizing agents may initiate or promote combustion in materials
around them. Of special concern are organic peroxides, the most
hazardous chemicals handled in our laboratories. These
Exercises and Projects
116 Chapter 5 Letters, Memos, and E-Mail
compounds form extremely dangerous peroxides that can be highly
combustible. We need to have clear policies that describe how these
kinds of chemicals should be stored and handled. We need policies
regarding other chemicals, too. The problem in the past is that we
have not had a consistent, comprehensive safety policy for storing
and handling chemicals in our laboratories. The reasons for the
lack of such a comprehensive policy are not clear. In the past,
laboratories have been asked to develop their own policies, but our
review of laboratory safety procedures shows that only four of our
nine laboratories have written safety policies that specifically
address chemicals. It is clear that we need a consistent safety
policy that governs storage and handling of chemicals at all of our
So, at a meeting on November 3, it was decided that ChemConcepts
needs a consistent policy regarding the handling of chemical
compounds, especially ones that are flammable or prone to
combustion. Such a policy would describe in depth how chemicals
should be stored and handled in the company’s laboratories. It
should also describe procedures for handling any hazardous spills,
fires, or other emergencies due to chemicals. We are calling a
mandatory meeting for November 11 from 1:00–5:00 in which
issues of chemical safety will be discussed. The meeting will be
attended by the various safety officers in the company, as well as
George Castillo, VP of Research and Development. Before the
meeting, please develop a draft policy for chemical safety for your
laboratory. Make fifteen copies of your draft policy for distribution
to others in the meeting. We will go over the policies from each
laboratory, looking for consistencies. Then, merging these policies,
we will draft a comprehensive policy that will be applicable
throughout the corporation.
Figure A:
Case Study
The Nastygram
Jim Brand is a biomedical engineer who works for BioNextGen, a medical supplies
manufacturer that is headquartered in Boston. He works in the Chicago satellite office,
which specializes in CAT scan equipment. In the past few years, he has picked up more
managerial responsibilities and is now second-in-charge of the satellite office.
Last week, a vice president from the Boston office, Charles Franklin, was visiting for
a two-hour sales meeting that was scheduled for 2:00 pm. Due to snow, his flight was
delayed and he arrived at 6:00 pm.
It wasn’t a good time to visit. Jim’s boss, Sharon Vonn, had fallen on some ice that
day and hurt her shoulder. The office’s administrative assistant was on vacation, and
two of the other staffers had called in sick with the flu. A co-op engineering student
was answering the phone, trying to handle technical questions. Two technicians were
out on service calls. Jim had allowed one technician to go home at 5:00 pm to take
care of a sick child.
Besides Jim, only the co-op and a sales representative were in the office when
Charles arrived, so there were many empty desks. Phones were ringing.
The vice president, Charles, seemed irritated by what he saw. He and Jim met in the
conference room to talk about the new products that BioNextGen was going to introduce next year. During the meeting, the co-op and sales rep needed to interrupt them
so Jim could help handle emergencies.
Charles and Jim talked until 7:30 pm about strategies for managing the new products in the Chicago area. Then, the next day Charles caught an early-morning flight
back to Boston.
Later that week, all managers at BioNextGen received the memo in Figure B as an
attachment to an e-mail. If you were Jim, how would you respond to this situation? He
knew his own boss, Sharon, would be upset by the memo, possibly with him.
118 Chapter 5 Letters, Memos, and E-Mail
Figure B:
it is difficult
to respond
to a nasty
memo or letter like this
Date: February 20, 2014
To: Managers at BioNextGen
From: Harmon Young, CEO
Re: Get Your Damn Employees Working
It has come to my attention that the productivity at BioNextGen has fallen to a
low. Employees, including here in Boston, are strolling in somewhere around 8:00
am and leaving at 5:00 sharp, if not earlier. We have technicians out “on call” who
are apparently parked somewhere doing who knows what.
e only explanation for this is EMPLOYEE LAZINESS and a LACK OF
OVERSIGHT from their managers. We are paying full-time wages for these
so-called employees but we are not getting anything near 40 hours of full-time
work. We’re a company trying to grow, so we should be getting more than 40
hours, not less!
A recent site visit by one of our executives to Chicago was only the most recent
incident. He witnessed a NEARLY VACANT OFFICE with phones going
unanswered. e parking lot was almost completely empty at 5:15 pm! Clearly, the
managers were not doing their jobs.
As managers, it is your job to ensure that your employees are working and that
they are being productive. If you don’t know where your people are, YOU NEED
TO FIND OUT. If they are wasting time and not giving you a full day’s work, then
you need to either light a re under them or get rid of them. DO YOUR DAMN
Consider this your only warning. You have two weeks to motivate your employees
or you will be red!

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