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Professional and Technical Writing/Print version

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Professional and Technical Writing

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Original TOC

Welcome[edit | edit source]

This guide to technical writing was created by and for students enrolled in Technical and Professional Writing courses. The content is student-generated, with occasional feedback and guidance from course instructors and professional technical communicators. This technical writing guide is meant to be useful beyond the classroom.

We recommend reading the Rhetoric and Composition book as well.

Table of Contents[edit | edit source]

  1. Professional and Technical Writing/IntroductionDevelopment stage: 70% (as of Jan 11, 2005)
  2. The Rhetorical Nature of Technical and Professional Writing 50% developed  as of 12 April 2010 (12 April 2010) Development stage: 80% (as of Jan 11, 2005)
    1. Basic Assumptions and Potential Complications 75% developed  as of 12 April 2010 (12 April 2010) Development stage: 90% (as of Jan 11, 2005)
    2. Rhetorical Framework: Author-Subject-Audience 75% developed  as of 13 Jan 2009 (13 Jan 2009)
    3. Appreciating Technical Communication Audiences 75% developed  as of 13 Jan 2009 (13 Jan 2009) Development stage: 80% (as of Jan 11, 2005)
    4. The Special Nature of "Subject" in Technical Communication 75% developed  as of 13 Jan 2009 (13 Jan 2009) Development stage: 80% (as of Jan 11, 2005)
    5. Developing an Authorial Voice 75% developed  as of 13 Jan 2009 (13 Jan 2009) Development stage: 80% (as of Jan 11, 2005)
    6. Persuading the Reader 75% developed  as of 13 Jan 2009 (13 Jan 2009) Development stage: 80% (as of Jan 11, 2005)
    7. The Many Contexts of Communicating Technical Information 75% developed  as of 13 Jan 2009 (13 Jan 2009) Development stage: 80% (as of Jan 11, 2005)
  3. Ethics and Technical Communication 0% developed  as of 13 Jan 2009 (13 Jan 2009)Development stage: 80% (as of Jan 11, 2005)
    1. Legal Issues and Communications 0% developed  as of 13 Jan 2009 (13 Jan 2009)Development stage: 80% (as of Jan 11, 2005)
    2. Appreciating Different Cultures 0% developed  as of 13 Jan 2009 (13 Jan 2009)Development stage: 80% (as of Jan 11, 2005)
  4. The Basics of Technical Communication 0% developed  as of 13 Jan 2009 (13 Jan 2009)Development stage: 00% (as of Jan 11, 2005)
    1. Guidelines for Creating Your Own Voice 0% developed  as of 13 Jan 2009 (13 Jan 2009)Development stage: 80% (as of Jan 11, 2005)
    2. Revising and Editing Documents 75% developed  as of 8 Mar 2010 (8 Mar 2010)Development stage: 90% (as of Jan 11, 2005)
    3. Professional and Technical Writing/Documenting Your Sources 75% developed  as of 13 Jan 2009 (13 Jan 2009)Development stage: 90% (as of Jan 11, 2005)
  5. Career Documents 0% developed  as of 13 Jan 2009 (13 Jan 2009)Development stage: 80% (as of Jan 11, 2005)
    1. Résumés and CVs 50% developed  as of 26 Jan 2010 (26 Jan 2010)Development stage: 90% (as of Jan 11, 2005)
    2. Cover Letters 50% developed  as of 13 Jan 2009 (13 Jan 2009)Development stage: 90% (as of Jan 11, 2005)
  6. Business Communications 75% developed  as of 13 Jan 2009 (13 Jan 2009)Development stage: 80% (as of Jan 11, 2005)
    1. Beginning A Communication 75% developed  as of 13 Dec 2009 (13 Dec 2009)Development stage: 80% (as of Jan 11, 2005)
    2. Business Letters 75% developed  as of 13 Jan 2009 (13 Jan 2009)Development stage: 80% (as of Jan 11, 2005)
    3. Writing Memos 75% developed  as of 14 April 2010 (14 April 2010)Development stage: 80% (as of Jan 11, 2005)
    4. Composing E-Mail 75% developed  as of 13 Jan 2009 (13 Jan 2009)Development stage: 80% (as of Jan 11, 2005)
    5. Website Design75% developed  as of 13 Jan 2009 (13 Jan 2009)Development stage: 90% (as of Jan 11, 2005)
  7. Designing Documents 75% developed  as of 13 Jan 2009 (13 Jan 2009)Development stage: 80% (as of Jan 11, 2005)
    1. General Design Concepts 75% developed  as of 13 Jan 2009 (13 Jan 2009)Development stage: 80% (as of Jan 11, 2005)
    2. Document Organization 75% developed  as of 13 Jan 2009 (13 Jan 2009)Development stage: 80% (as of Jan 11, 2005)
    3. Organizational Patterns 75% developed  as of 13 Jan 2009 (13 Jan 2009)Development stage: 80% (as of Jan 11, 2005)
    4. Front Matter: Contents, Lists and More 75% developed  as of 13 Jan 2009 (13 Jan 2009)Development stage: 80% (as of Jan 11, 2005)
    5. Back Matter: Appendices, Glossaries and More 75% developed  as of 13 Jan 2009 (13 Jan 2009)Development stage: 80% (as of Jan 11, 2005)
    6. Effective Tables 75% developed  as of 13 Jan 2009 (13 Jan 2009)Development stage: 80% (as of Jan 11, 2005)
    7. Charts and Graphs 75% developed  as of 13 Jan 2009 (13 Jan 2009)Development stage: 80% (as of Jan 11, 2005)
    8. Photos and Illustrations 75% developed  as of 13 Jan 2009 (13 Jan 2009)Development stage: 80% (as of Jan 11, 2005)
    9. Usability Testing of Technical Communications 75% developed  as of 13 Jan 2009 (13 Jan 2009)Development stage: 80% (as of Jan 11, 2005)
  8. Composing Business Reports and Proposals 75% developed  as of 13 Jan 2009 (13 Jan 2009)Development stage: 80% (as of Jan 11, 2005)
    1. Planning Reports 75% developed  as of 13 Jan 2009 (13 Jan 2009)Development stage: 80% (as of Jan 11, 2005)
    2. Preparing Business Proposals 75% developed  as of 13 Jan 2009 (13 Jan 2009)Development stage: 80% (as of Jan 11, 2005)
    3. Preparing Feasibility Studies 75% developed  as of 13 Jan 2009 (13 Jan 2009)Development stage: 80% (as of Jan 11, 2005)
    4. Professional and Technical Writing/Presentations 75% developed  as of 13 April 2010 (13 April 2010)Development stage: 80% (as of Jan 11, 2005)
  9. Writing Technical Instructions 75% developed  as of 13 Jan 2009 (13 Jan 2009)Development stage: 80% (as of Jan 11, 2005)
    1. The Value of Visual Instructions 75% developed  as of 13 Jan 2009 (13 Jan 2009)Development stage: 80% (as of Jan 11, 2005)
  10. Project Management 75% developed  as of 13 Jan 2009 (13 Jan 2009)Development stage: 80% (as of Jan 11, 2005)
    1. Organizing Teams 75% developed  as of 13 Jan 2009 (13 Jan 2009)Development stage: 80% (as of Jan 11, 2005)
  11. Appendices
    1. Additional Information 75% developed  as of 13 Jan 2009 (13 Jan 2009)
    2. A History of this Text 75% developed  as of 13 Jan 2009 (13 Jan 2009)
    3. Glossary of Terms 75% developed  as of 13 Jan 2009 (13 Jan 2009)
    4. Frequently Asked Questions 75% developed  as of 13 Jan 2009 (13 Jan 2009)

Please add {{alphabetical}} only to book title pages.

Cover Page

Professional and Technical Writing
Dedication Print version Table of Contents

Book Abstract[edit | edit source]

Summary[edit | edit source]

This guide to technical writing was created by and for students enrolled in Technical and Professional Writing courses. The content is student-generated, with occasional feedback and guidance from course instructors and professional technical communicators. This technical writing guide is meant to be useful beyond the classroom.


Reading Instruction[edit | edit source]

To begin reading, select one:


Enlarge this image and see how the Wikipage Wizard can make it easy for you to begin exploring a wikibook through the use of a tree view.


Reading Suggestions[edit | edit source]


Professional and Technical Writing
Dedication Print version Table of Contents

The starting Wiki code for this page was generated by the Wikipage wizard using this book config on Wednesday, June 27, 2012.

Table of Contents

Professional and Technical Writing
Cover Page Print version Dedication

Table of Contents[edit | edit source]

Original TOC

Front Matter[edit | edit source]


Part I - Introduction[edit | edit source]

Chapter 1. About Professional Writing[edit | edit source]

Chapter Overview


Chapter 2. The Rhetorical Nature of Technical and Professional Writing[edit | edit source]

Chapter Overview


Chapter 3. Ethics and Technical Communication[edit | edit source]

Chapter Overview


Part II - General Process[edit | edit source]

Section Overview

Chapter 4. The Basics of Technical Communication[edit | edit source]

Chapter Overview


Chapter 5. Designing Documents[edit | edit source]

Chapter Overview


Part III - Specific Procedures[edit | edit source]

Section Overview

Chapter 6. Career Documents[edit | edit source]

Chapter Overview


Chapter 7. Business Communications[edit | edit source]

Chapter Overview


Chapter 8. Composing Business Reports and Proposals[edit | edit source]

Chapter Overview


Chapter 9. Technical Instructions[edit | edit source]

Chapter Overview


Chapter 10. Team Communications[edit | edit source]

Chapter Overview


Part IV - Reference Materials[edit | edit source]


Back Matter[edit | edit source]



Professional and Technical Writing
Cover Page Print version Dedication

The starting Wiki code for this page was generated by the Wikipage wizard using this book config on Wednesday, June 27, 2012.


Professional and Technical Writing
Table of Contents Print version How to Turn the Page

Dedication[edit | edit source]

Dedication[edit | edit source]

For students of the 2007–2012 global financial crisis

Professional and Technical Writing
Table of Contents Print version How to Turn the Page

The starting Wiki code for this page was generated by the Wikipage wizard on Wednesday, June 27, 2012.

How to Turn the Page

Professional and Technical Writing
Dedication Print version Part1

How to Turn the Page[edit | edit source]

Professional and Technical Writing
Dedication Print version Part1

The starting Wiki code for this page was generated by the Wikipage wizard on Wednesday, June 27, 2012.

About Professional Writing

Professional and Technical Writing
How to Turn the Page Print version Rhetoric

Introduction[edit | edit source]

This is a wikibook created by students and teachers of Technical and Professional Writing. It is intended to be used as a guide for anything from writing a resume and cover letter to a company memo, report, or proposal once you are on the job. When exploring this wikibook you will discover details and tips that you will find helpful when composing various writing structures common in today's work place.

This book begins with The Rhetorical Nature of Technical and Professional Writing and ends with an Appendix. The following gives insight to each area discussed in the book in addition to displaying an outline of the wiki book.

The Rhetorical Nature of Technical and Professional Writing[edit | edit source]

The goal of rhetorical writing is to effectively communicate information to a group or an audience. It can be used for general or professional communication. The main focus here is the communication with your co-workers or the boss. The Rhetorical Nature of Technical and Professional Writing

Ethics and Technical Communication[edit | edit source]

This section covers legal and ethical issues associated with the managing of communication between different cultures. Ethics and Technical Communication

Career Documents[edit | edit source]

This section offers guidelines as well as tips in constructing documents such as resumes and cover letters. These two documents are critical for obtaining a desired job. An excellent resume and cover letter will make you stand out among other competitors and help you get the job you want. Career Documents

Business Communications[edit | edit source]

Business Communications are the tools that would be used in the workplace. They teach us how to create a communication between coworkers. This includes having a main point to your writing, as well as something to attract your readers attention. This section offers a "how to" of writing a business letter, to composing business worthy e-mails, and memos. In addition, there is also a focus on website design, which is an essential tool in today's business world. Business Communications

Designing Documents[edit | edit source]

This is the nitty gritty of document design. Subjects discussed in this section include the details of front matter (i.e. table of content) and back matter (i.e appendix), how to organize a document, and usability testing. Having the ability to properly create, display, and organize the front and back matter of your document places you at a distinct advantage. The front matter is where most readers get the most interested and those who wish to look further into your document can view the appendix. These two sections are very important because of their effect on the reader. Designing Documents

Composing Business Reports and Proposals[edit | edit source]

This section starts by giving the reader the 3 P's of Reports and Proposals: Planning, Preparing, and Presenting. In addition is the "how to" of writing feasibility studies. Composing Business Reports and Proposals

Writing Technical Instructions[edit | edit source]

A comprehensive guide to writing instructions is offered in this section. Including the importance of using visuals with your documents. Using visuals properly not only helps the audience to understand but gives the writer some credit for his work. Visuals help convey the intended message much faster than words. The skills offered in this section will give you the ability to send a more powerful message to your intended audience. Writing Technical Instructions

Project Management[edit | edit source]

This section explains the art of planning and managing to attain a specified goal by offering strategies that will lead to successful team management. Project Management

Appendix[edit | edit source]

Which includes Additional Information, Text History, a Glossary, and FAQ. Giving a good example of what to consider including in your formal document(s).

CONCLUSION[edit | edit source]

This Technical and Professional Writing WikiBook is an in-depth book that covers a broad area in business writing. This wikibook is a great reference aid and will benefit you in all your future professional communications.

Main Page


Basic Assumptions and Potential Complications[edit | edit source]

Before you begin to learn about a subject, it is natural to make assumptions about it. It is important not to act on these assumptions unless you can prove that they are correct.

Writing for Work vs. Writing for School[edit | edit source]

The main assumption that most people have about technical writing is that it is like writing for a class: You start with a thesis, perfect it, build structural sentences, eliminate first person viewpoint, add an intro, body, and conclusion, and so on. What isn't taught in schools is that writing memos, proposals, business letters, and instructions is different than writing an academic essay. When writing at work, you do not build up to your main point--you get to it immediately. Your boss isn't grading you on how well you wrote your business memo, they're looking for pertinent information without filler and 'fluff'.

'Redos' in the world of Academia[edit | edit source]

Try to remember that when you write a memo, that memo can be changed after it is sent. This gives you the option to resubmit almost anything if you don't think you did a good job with the first submission. This option is rarely offered in school--once you submit a paper, there are no 'redos'. Your professor will more than likely ignore your efforts. Your boss on the other hand, expects revisions. If you send a memo for a meeting for Tuesday and the meeting gets canceled, people are going to be angry if they show up on Tuesday. Resubmission is important in business because business is always changing. However, when sending out your first draft of a memo, make sure it is as close to perfect as you can get it. Even if you redo this memo, people may still have already opened it, or may still open it to see the differences in changes. So, if you write a new memo saying the meeting will no longer take place on Tuesday, that is not necessarily a redo, but a whole new memo in itself. The new subject would be meeting canceled instead of meeting on Tuesday. But if you are redoing a memo on a progress report, your boss still may choose to read the first draft as well as your second. Also, be sure your second draft is better than your first. A lot of people think that if its a second draft it will obviously be better than the first but this is not always the case. Be sure to read and re read your memos.

Education vs. Practicality[edit | edit source]

When you are at school, your teachers expect you to show that you are learning. In order to best demonstrate that, you prepare reports, papers, projects and take exams. Few teachers will give you the benefit of the doubt that you know something without proving it. This is why writing in school serves an educational purpose. You are expected to write about everything you know, and if you leave something out, your teacher is going to assume that you don't know it.

However, writing something at work serves a completely different purpose. Your readers are coworkers and clientele who don't know as much as you do about the things you are writing about, and look to your writing as a guide. This is called writing for a practical purpose. Because your readers are trying to reach their own practical goals, they expect your writing to be clear, concise, and to the point. By including essential information only, you are helping your readers find out what they need without getting frustrated, bored, or overwhelmed.

Relationships Between People[edit | edit source]

Writing in school is often much more direct than writing for a business. When you write a paper, you only have one communicative relationship: The one between you and your professor. Since this is the only social situation you encounter with your assignment, you don't experience as much of a variety of relationships as you do with technical writing. When you look at your writing at work, you realize that you are connecting with many different people. There is the relationship between employee and employer, between supplier and customer, and between coworkers. You may often be competing with other people, or you may be working alongside them on a project.

Use of Graphics[edit | edit source]

Graphics in technical writing are not only encouraged, they are mandatory. A colorful graphic can be highly convincing when you're presenting something, especially if it gets the point across visually. Some examples of graphics are:

  1. Tables
  2. Charts
  3. Photographs
  4. Graphs
  5. Drawings
  6. Symbols

Not only are graphics visually appealing, but they also make a presentation easy to navigate. Usually, they are discouraged in school papers. In the business field, visuals can be the determining factor in getting a job, securing a deal, or impressing the boss. However, when using graphics, make sure they are appropriate and relate to the topic. It is very unprofessional to send inappropriate graphics to your work force, and it may cause confusion if the graphics do not relate to your topic. Graphics are used to enhance the document, not take away from it.

Teamwork[edit | edit source]

Many schools are starting to encourage writing in groups to get a sense of the teamwork that you will experience in the workplace. Collaboration at the office is common; even if you aren't part of a team, you might still consult coworkers and readers. You may also submit drafts that are constantly being revised.

Conventions and Culture[edit | edit source]

Another assumption you may have about technical writing is that it almost never changes. But if you look at the word "technical" as it relates to "technology," you may find that technology is always changing. That is why before you can become a successful technical writer, you must learn about your organization's style and about the social and political factors of your writing.

Your Company's Style[edit | edit source]

Technical writing is not a constant. Each company has its own way of promoting itself, from a liberal and casual style to a conservative and formal style. You will need to adjust your writing based on how the company wants you to represent it.

Cross-Cultural Communication[edit | edit source]

One of the major assumptions that many people who begin technical writing have is that the standard for their company in their city is the standard that should be in use all around the world. In fact, this is a huge mistake to make. Even if these assumptions are unconscious, they are still insulting. Geoff Hart speaks about this in his article, "Cross-Cultural Communication Requires Us to Test Our Assumptions."[1]. He mentions that there are many obvious traps that Americans miss when traveling, especially when they are in situations that they have experienced before, but with other American businessmen. Verbs can also pose problems, as do metaphors and phrases. Complex sentences are some of the largest problems--it is when we use big words and long sentences that we can most often be misinterpreted. Writing things that are short and sweet may not seem professional, but keep in mind that you are writing for a select audience who is looking for familiar words and doesn't have the patience to appreciate your grasp on the English language.

One of the most important things to keep in mind when writing for a different audience than you're used to is to never assume anything. If you reread something from another perspective and think, "Maybe my audience wouldn't get this," it's probably true. Technical writers should never think that their writing does not need to be edited. By learning to edit your own writing, you are conceding that it is not perfect. By doing this, you prove that you are trying to make the audience understand your message.

Potential Complications[edit | edit source]

If you choose to be a technical writer, you will face many complications (potentially). For the most part, they have to do with a changing world, changing beliefs, and changing cultures.

Technology[edit | edit source]

Technology is huge in technical writing because many writers are responsible for creating guides, instructions, policies and procedures, training materials, and so on. Since we have entered a digital age, we are becoming more dependent on machines to assist us and the variety of these machines changes every month. Since one of the main goals for tech writing is to anticipate any questions or problems that arise, it can be very difficult for a writer to adjust to shifting tastes.

Ethical Communication[edit | edit source]

Ethics are huge in technical writing. Usually, ethics codes are present at the workplace (even if they aren't always enforced, they exist). Ethics aren't in black and white and many people are apt to disagree with them, potentially complicating ensuing writing.

Technical Editors’ Eyrie[edit | edit source]

Technical Editors' Eyrie is a blog that has a section specifically for ethics, including how to avoid falsifying data, how to choose your words, how to stay objective, and so on. It is extremely helpful because a lot of the writing that we do can be subjective without us realizing it, so Technical Editor's Eyrie helps to look for red flags.

"What About Ethics?" by M. A. Dyrud[edit | edit source]

What About Ethics is another helpful link to visit about ethics. It is especially great because it provides examples of good and bad technical writing, explaining euphemisms and the dangers of not writing clearly and without bias.

Ethics Defined on this Wikibook[edit | edit source]

Without doing anything else, you can consult the Professional and Technical Writing/Ethics section in another part of this Wikibook. It is a good resource how how to employ ethical practices and address unethical practices.

Working in Teams[edit | edit source]

I have included this section because many technical writers may find themselves working in many teams over the course of their careers and it's a good idea to know well in advance what you're in for.

You and your teammates may not always agree on the best way to approach a problem. You may think that you have the best ideas, but get angry when you find yourself doing all the work. However, working in a team to collaboratively edit writing is the best way to get your work done because you're not just listening to yourself--you're listening to your team members, which can help disperse subjectivity. Although you may feel that you work better alone, that won't always be the case. Whether you like it or not, you will usually be in teams for most of your working life, so get used to it soon.

Losing Focus of Your Goal[edit | edit source]

As you can see from this complex Wikibook, you need to remember a lot of things in order to become a successful technical writer. Remember, when it comes to technical writing, the more concise and understandable your text is, the better. You may tend to wander off topic if you've been working on a project for a long time, but this can severely damage your end result. Keep focused and remember to leave any shred of an opinion out of your work. Just take things one word at a time.

Notes[edit | edit source]

  1. Hart, Geoff. "Cross Cultural Communication Requires Us to Test Our Assumptions. STC-Montreal, September 30th, 2008

Rhetoric/Rhetorical Framework

Rhetorical Framework: Author-Subject-Audience[edit | edit source]

Any communication starts with a sender or "author" who sends a message. This message is then received by the receiver or "audience". This relationship forms one part of the "author-subject-audience" rhetorical triangle. The difference between the triangle and linear model is that with the triangle, the audience interacts with the author either verbally or non-verbally in response to the subject of the message. The audience of a message will respond in some way to that message. This response will be either a negative or positive. The audience can choose to either follow the content of the message or to disregard it for any number of reasons and provide this feedback to the author of the message. Usually the receiver will send you something back just to let you know that they received it.

Appeals to the Audience[edit | edit source]

A key to effective communication is being aware of how the subject of a communication is being conveyed to the audience. The author must be aware of the complexity of the subject, the knowledge base of the audience, the actions they desire the audience to take as well as their likely response, and lastly the most effective appeals to use with that audience. Greek philosopher and rhetorician Aristotle named four important appeals which are useful to consider when trying to convey information to an audience: ethos (appeal to the character and credibility of the speaker or author), pathos (appeal to the emotion of the audience), logos (appeal to the logic of the subject or message) and kairos (appeal to timeliness or relevance).

Appeals in Technical Writing[edit | edit source]

In technical communication, logos are the most important. This is because technical communication is inherently logical. In order for a technical document to be well received, the content and organization must be logical. Appeals to ethos, establishing the credibility of the author is also important. If the document is otherwise logical but not worded properly or if the credibility of the author is not clearly established, it is likely that the audience will not receive the document well because they will not believe what the author has to say. This is true whether or not the information is correct. It is much more convincing to establish why you are writing that document or to write in a way that makes sense to the reader. Kairos is also an important element in technical communication because attention to time-sensitive details can effect whether or not your document is even read or well received. For example, if a computer manual references hardware that is several years old or uses examples from archaic software, the audience may assume that the author has not kept up with recent technological developments. Kairos involves knowing how much your audience knows and what society as a whole understands. In technical writing, it is highly unlikely that your writing will appeal to emotions.

Ethos, pathos, logos, and kairos can all help you convey your message. If you do not consider what your audience’s knowledge base is, then your appeal to logic will be ineffective. Likewise, if you try to include emotionally loaded words in an instruction manual, your audience will most likely turn away from the product because it appears unprofessional or unreadable.

Purpose and Appeals[edit | edit source]

As an author, it is important to consider the information that you want to convey. The way you go about conveying this information will depend on the purpose of your document. You could communicate information to persuade or inform. Once you have determined what your goal for a communication is, look to your different options for appeals. Typically, your communication will be in the form of technical writing. Therefore, an appeal to logos is most appropriate. If you were trying to persuade, an appeal to pathos might be more effective. You also have to know what you audience is expecting from you. If you are writing instructions for building a dresser, your reader is going to expect short sentences accompanied by pictures without wordy or excessive language. However, if you are trying to instruct someone on how to paint, you may use emotional language if your purpose is to spark that emotion while still instructing. Know your audience’s knowledge base, what they expect, and the best way to communicate to them using the various forms of appeal.

Audience Feedback[edit | edit source]

It is much easier to feel out feedback while giving a speech than while writing a technical document. Most likely, you will not be around to see the reaction from the audience. However, you can employ surveys or usability studies to help gauge what your audiences’ response will be. This process is a great way to get a feel for what the audience may or may not respond to and gives the author an opportunity to change the document to reflect audience feedback before it is finalized.


Appreciating Technical Communication Audiences[edit | edit source]

Types of Audiences[edit | edit source]

When preparing documents, it is important to remember potential audiences for your work. Awareness of the differences between Intended and Unintended audiences may impact how an author presents or includes information in a document, and may make a difference in the event of a legal issue concerning the document. Also, awareness of a complex audience will ensure that an author's writing does not exclude any potential readers. You do not want to leave an important figure out if they need to be touched on.

Intended vs. Unintended Audience[edit | edit source]

Intended audiences are best thought of as the people you are initially writing to. It is the audience for which your document is intended. Unintended audiences may be anyone that comes across your writing at any point in time. In a professional setting, its important to be mindful of the unintended audience of any written work. This includes any email, memos or proposals produced in the course of business. In addition to being a good rule of thumb, it is in your best interest legally to remain professional in every document you produce as these documents may be used as evidence in court against either the author or the business from which they originated.

Complex Audience[edit | edit source]

Writing for a complex audience is different from academic writing. In academia, there is a specific audience for most pieces of writing, generally an instructor, teaching assistant, or a fairly small group of peers. In a professional setting, you will often write for a complex audience of people with different backgrounds, specialties, and expectations. With that in mind, avoid using terminology that is too technical so you don't unintentionally exclude portions of your audience. This can become increasingly difficult when writing for larger and more complex audiences.

Tailoring Employment Documents For a Specific Audience[edit | edit source]

When it comes to an employment document such as a résumé or a cover letter there is no such thing as “one size fits all”. Each document should be individually tailored to catch the attention of the employer to which the document(s) are being submitted. To do this effectively, it helps to research the company and the position. Some different ways that this can be done are:

  • Looking at the job description – The job description usually gives a set of skills that will be required for the position. The skills outline what the employer is looking for, and therefore, what should be added into a resume. (One should never lie about applicable skills, but highlight and prioritize these skills among others).
  • Looking at the company website – Looking at the company’s website can help with understanding the company environment and values that may not be listed in a job description. This can be most beneficial when writing a cover letter, in which it is important to acknowledge the potential employer.

In addition to looking at the job description and company website, it is helpful to evaluate the type of job that you are applying for. If you are applying to a job in a design field, you would want to tailor your résumé to be more creative and avoid using any sort of generic template.

Depending on your level of experience, it can be beneficial to create a list of skills and job experience in a Word document. As mentioned above, different jobs typically look for a specific set of skills. To make it easier to tailor a business document to a potential employer, it can be easy to have a Word document of skills and job experiences listed. After you determine the specific job you're applying for, copy and paste the appropriate skills into the document.

It is important to remember that in employment documents you are selling yourself. Each job will be slightly different, so it is crucial to tailor your résumé to the employer. Additionally, make sure it is not cluttered with information that the employer may find unnecessary.

Online Sources[edit | edit source]

Online Technical Writing: Audience Analysis [1]

The OWL at Purdue: Workplace Writers [2]


The Special Nature of the Subject in Technical Communication[edit | edit source]

There are a couple of important factors that distinguish the subject of technical communications from those of an academic or social nature, and these are worth touching on.

The Subject of Technical Communication is Reader-Centered

• All written communication can be said to be reader-centered to some extent. Unlike academic or social communication however, technical communication is unique in the fact that it exists to help its readers perform a specific and practical task. Whether these tasks are physical (such as assembling a bicycle or bookshelf) or mental (such as operating a computer program), technical communications must be centered entirely around their readers and the translation of often complex subjects into clear and simple language. These documents must be both usable and persuasive to succeed.

• Usability is paramount to a technical document because this document exists solely to assist a reader in performing a task quickly, easily, and with a minimum of effort. The less clearly a document presents information, the less successful it becomes. Persuasiveness is equally essential, as every technical document is at the core, an attempt by the author to convince a reader to behave in a certain way. Persuasiveness can also help to offset the impatience and carelessness with which end users often approach instructional documents.

The Subject of Technical Communication is Dynamic

• As typified with the "Rhetorical Triangle" model, the interaction between an author, audience, and document is often dynamic. In order to improve usability and persuasiveness, authors will frequently change documents to reflect audience feedback. As a result of the reader-centered nature of technical communication, the subjects of technical documents are frequently open to change as a result of input from their reader base. If a set of instructions is unclear, they may be revised or enhanced with a visual aid to improve usability. This dynamism often extends beyond technical documentation to the processes themselves. User feedback in the business or commercial world often results in changes to an item or process that is the subject of a technical document. Revisions and upgrades to computer software is a good example of this process. Changes to the item itself will then require changes to the technical document regarding the item, and the process begins anew.


Developing an Authorial Voice[edit | edit source]

There are many types of writing, from formal writing, to scientific writing, technical writing, creative writing, and so on. It is important to discern what the purpose of your text will be to decide upon your tone and authorial voice within your composition.

Business writing holds its own challenges, as one has to balance a number of styles at once. Avoid being condescending, yet remain professional and use appropriate language. Adjust your style to fit different occasions. Observe others and examine their stylistic approach, but never change yourself in order to become more like another. The following are some ideas to help define your authorial voice.

Also see: Developing an Effective Style

Identify Your Audience[edit | edit source]

Who Is Going To Read This?[edit | edit source]

This is perhaps the most important step when writing. Identifying your audience has the potential to define your entire document, regardless of purpose. Defining an audience will influence just about everything in your document. It can influence purpose, tone, jargon, everything. Figuring out who you are addressing will be both a challenge and a very beneficial achievement. Once you determine your audience, your document must reflect this, no matter what. If the reader gets the impression that they are not the audience any longer, why would they keep reading? It is important to always check to make sure you are still addressing the same audience.

The persuasiveness of an argument can be directly related to the tone and language in your document. Think of your writing as your own voice. Thinking of writing as your own voice will help you articulate your words onto the page. The goal is to entice your audience to continue reading and persuade the reader to agree or at the very least understand the perspective of your work.

How Formal is the Occasion?[edit | edit source]

Your writing style should adapt to fit each new situation. Informal writing styles will sound conversational. Informal styles include contractions, shorter words, and occasional metaphors. Formal writing styles may be more appropriate for lectures or reports. Formal writing will include longer, "SAT" words, and formal structure. You should consider what context your writing will be in, as the tone of your article could determine the reader's opinion. It is up to you as the author to evaluate the information you want to present and what type of writing style best suits the situation. It is important to find a balance between each that is conducive to your situation.

Subjective Writing vs. Objective Writing[edit | edit source]

This refers to whether or not you use the first person in your text, or mask your presence. You can either choose a third person perspective or a passive perspective.

  • First Person: In first person tense, the author addresses themselves as the author. I am currently using subjective context, as I am referring to myself, the author.
  • Third Person: In third person tense, the author would be referring to themselves as if they were referring to someone else.
  • Passive Voice: In a passive voice, there is no author to refer to (phrases such as "it was discovered that...", or "during research it was found that...").

Establishing the Relationship between You and Your Intended Audience[edit | edit source]

It is important to consider how your reader views you, the author. You should consider your direct relationship to your reader.

  • Are you their supervisor or subordinate?
  • What is the purpose of your text? (routine subject or urgent matter?)
  • How are you communicating? Emails will vary in tone from formal reports.
  • Consider your employment's customs in writing (review their previous documentation)

By anticipating what your readers expect, the persuasiveness of your argument can be affected to your benefit. If your manager is reading your report, it should be objective, professional, and clear. If you are writing an email to a coworker, subjective language is appropriate. Consider the occasion carefully before choosing your tone.

Define Your Role to Your Reader[edit | edit source]

This is especially important to consider when writing a professional document. Defining your role as author is important. If you are the manager of a company you should not write a personable, first person memo unless the situation calls for it. However, avoiding a domineering, overpowering voice is important, as you do not want to patronize your reader. If you are writing to a coworker, it is important to maintain a balance between conveying your point, and maintaining your status as a peer. You don't want to seem overbearing and degrading, but you also don't want to come across as unsure of your purpose.

Attitude as an Author[edit | edit source]

The tone of your text conveys an attitude. Whether it is intentional or unintentional, your attitude can be easily determined by the language you use when addressing your reader. "Never include anything in the text you would be embarrassed if a large audience read" (Anderson, 261).

Use Your Own Words[edit | edit source]

It is extremely important to maintain your own point of view when writing, no matter the tone or purpose. Anderson suggests reading your text aloud to determine if it sounds like something you would say. Writing formally should still sound like it came from you - the mission is not to silence your voice but to enhance it.

Something to avoid falling into is "Bureaucratese" - a mindless way of 'puffing up' language and text to make it sound more important. Insurance companies and other businesses have been accused of doing this, making it extremely difficult for the common reader to understand policies. You can avoid this by sticking to plain English context.

Also, avoid any sarcasm within your text. Sarcasm is, essentially, saying one thing but meaning another. It is often extremely useful for making a point, but this will often not come across to your audience, especially in written communication, and can create misunderstandings. Also, consider your role as the author and avoid terms that could offend or upset your reader.


"In order to successfully review the technicalities of this experiment, I will be conducting a usability test." vs. "To review the effectiveness of this experiment, I will conduct a usability test." or "In order to facilitate the utilization of the vehicle, the inclusion of copious instructional material is recommended." vs. "To make use of the car easier, include instructions."

In each of these examples, the second sentence is much more concise and clear.

Cultural Contexts[edit | edit source]

Writing in plain English is extremely important to learn because it can be easily translated into other languages. In the business world, a text may have to be translated into multiple languages. The more concise a piece of writing, the easier it is to translate. Cultural metaphors and terms may not easily cross cultural boundaries: "Where the rubber meets the road" may mean absolutely nothing to someone in Korea, or even in another English-speaking country.

Making your own cultural and geographical position clear, as an author, can also help others to interpret your writing. The country your text will be sent to, if distribution is limited, is an extremely important factor in business writing, and can be important for technical and scientific writing. In the USA, talking about oneself (the author) may be intended to convey a friendly confidence in the reader; in other countries it may look like an inflated sense of self-importance, or bragging. Does the reader really want or need to know you, for the purposes of the text? Considering the reader's cultural background will help you to avoid embarrassing mistakes in cross-cultural technical writing.

Learning as much as possible about the common styles used in the country you are writing for will help improve your style and a reader's perceptions of your text.

Find readers for your drafts[edit | edit source]

In a commercial writing environment, it may be difficult to find volunteer readers for your drafts. You may need to find readers in your own company - a captive audience. It can also be very instructive to read the text out loud to yourself, pacing it (for example) to the imagined pace and sequence of activities for which instruction or technical information is being given. If you work and write for a large company, it may be possible to organize test-reading groups within the company. If you are an independent technical writer, and confidentiality is not critical, then you can try looking for potential test-readers through the Internet. The Research Cooperative, [3], for example, is an NPO with a large online community of researchers, writers, and editors involved with many different areas of science and technology. The forums can be used to seek volunteer or paid readers/editors/reviewers or help with any other aspect of technical and scientific writing and publishing. Test-readers can be made more-or-less visible in the eventual text, in various ways, adding another kind of voice to your work - the voice of a group that is familiar with the subject you are writing about, and sympathetic to the experiences of new readers.

Ethics[edit | edit source]

Avoid error, cultural insensitivity, libel, and conflict of interest. Acknowledge literary and other media sources. Acknowledge colleagues, editors and other human sources of help. These may be obvious matters, and are covered elsewhere in this book, but taking a recognizable ethical stance can help to give readers confidence in the author and the information provided.


Persuading the Reader[edit | edit source]

In order to create persuasive and effective professional documents, it is important to develop a persuasive style. Almost every document you will write will try to persuade or inform the readers. What is important to take into account is that readers have viewpoints on everything they are looking at so sometimes you want to be more or less obvious in your persuasive style. It begins with an initial thought and continues to change throughout the time they are looking at your document. It is important to realize that readers goals, concerns, feelings, and responses are likely to change from situation to situation. You may use your persuasive powers to change your readers' attitudes by reversing an attitude that they have, by reinforcing your attitude and by shaping their attitude on a subject which they currently have no opinion. The following points are centered on being able to successfully communicate with the readers, so your documents can correctly persuade or inform the readers the way they are supposed to.

-It is important to help your readers locate the valuable information first. In professional documents you often can see that the main idea and purpose is stated in the first paragraph and usually in the first few sentences. This is unlike papers that you may have written in regular writing classes throughout your time in school. Use headings, topic sentences, and lists to guide your readers towards specific points and information that you would like them to comprehend. Then later in the document you can go onto explaining why your points make sense. Your first goal should be to give them a reason to read on. If they don't care to listen to you, you won't be able to persuade them of anything.

-Use easy-to-read styles to make it readable to all levels. Take away unnecessary or more inter specific wording to make sure that your document can be understood. Put in action words to effectively make your point. Use low-impact versions to make it easier to read, and so people can read the document faster. This is especially important in business. Managers and executives are extremely busy, all the time. They want to be able to find the information they need right away, so they don't waste time wading through filler.

-Highlight persuasive points you are trying to make. Put main points in the beginning to capture the reader’s attention. Show how their actions will enable them to achieve their own goals. When deciding on what elements are persuasive, look at arguments that are credible and compelling to ensure they believe what you are trying to say.

-Communicate with your readers. Before you write a document, understand who is going to be reading your documents and what their current beliefs are. This will allow you to write towards the correct set of people. Then when writing your document, ask readers how they will use the presented information and what they are looking for in the communication.

If you cannot communicate with your readers, they will not understand the introduced concepts and strategies that serve as the springboard into your argument. Without a jumping point into your supportive information, you will not effectively communicate your argument. You also need to create an ethical dimension to your documents that do not go against any of your readers' viewpoints and personal thoughts. You should be talking with your readers and not towards them, meaning that you should not be directing them towards something they are not willing to pursue. Instead, direct them towards something they are considering, and offer ideas and concepts that can help them pursue a certain idea.

Advice for Persuading Your Readers[edit | edit source]

1. Listen to Your Readers

Make sure that you listen to the audience's goals, needs, aims, and concerns. Things you hear can help structure your persuasive document successfully, or it may help improve the action or idea that is being advocated.

2. Understand Readers' Goals and Values

If you know your reader's goals and values, you can structure your communication in a way that produces favorable thoughts about your action or ideas.

3. Respond to Readers' Concerns and Counterarguments

Address your reader's concerns and counterarguments to show that you understand their points and values.

  1. Ask questions such as: "What do other people who have looked into this matter think?"
  2. Offer a reason for relying on your position rather than the opposing position.

4. Reason Soundly

Use facts, statistics, and expert testimonies as evidence to show actuality of your idea or action.

5. Organize Your Communication

Organizing your communication will provide a favorable response from readers.

  1. A direct organizational pattern goes directly to the main point and then presents evidence.
  2. An indirect organizational pattern presents evidence and related information before stating the main point.

6. Build a Relationship With the Reader

  1. Present yourself as a credible person by showing expertise, associating yourself as a member of a reader's group, or using your position of authority.
  2. Present yourself as a friend by praising your readers, showing understanding of your readers, or maintaining a positive and helpful position. Avoid sounding confrontational. If you come across as attacking your reader's view, your reader will shut down and become unreceptive. This is the easiest way to lose your reader's attention.

7. Appeal to Readers' Emotions

Appealing to readers' emotions is considered inappropriate in scientific research reports, test reports, and many other communications. For some communications, appealing to emotions can be very successful. Emotional appeals are common among government agencies and private health providers advocating healthy lifestyles. Be sure to think carefully about whether an emotional appeal is appropriate for a specific situation.

8. Adapt to Readers' Cultural Backgrounds

If you are writing to readers in a culture other than your own, you will need to cater your persuasive strategies to their values, beliefs, and norms. The best way to do this is to do your homework. You won't be able to completely adapt to your reader by listening to them alone. You will have to do some research to get some background when dealing with other cultures.

9. Persuade Ethically

You never want to mislead or manipulate your readers. This not only deprives your readers of their rights, but also may negatively affect you if they come to find out about your false statements.

10. Keep your goal realistic

When most adults make up their minds, that idea is set in their heads and becomes very difficult to change. It is important to keep this in mind. If you know that your reader is set in their ideas, trying to completely change their mind is going to be extremely difficult. Instead, try to get your reader to consider your view. If you can accomplish this, then you never know what might happen. If the reader has time to think on the idea, they might start to agree with you in time.


The Many Contexts of Communicating Technical Information[edit | edit source]

Though you may already know a great deal about effective communication within an academic environment, technical communication is not limited to this area. You must know how to communicate effectively in many other settings such as a professional environment.

Technical Communication Can Take Many Forms

Many different types of documents are created and used every day by professionals. The most common and well known of these documents are memos and emails, which are used in every type of business. In addition to this, technical communicators also create instructions, product guides and documentation, graphs, charts, images, videos, and other forms of content. No matter what medium a technical communicator chooses to use, the main goal is always to be informative and clear.

Technical Communication Serves a Practical Purpose

Technical communication is employed in real world settings for practical purposes. Whether to instruct, inform, or persuade, technical communication is used for a myriad of purposes beyond the sort of straightforward informative writing typical of educational or certain social settings. Beyond being inspiring or entertaining, technical writing must be useful to an audience trying to perform a task.

Technical Communication Addresses Complex Audiences

Academic papers are often addressed to a single individual or a small group of peers with very similar experiences and expectations. Technical writing, because of its practical and collaborative nature, must often be geared toward a complex audience. Technical communicators must be careful to be conscious of intended and unintended audiences, foreign and domestic readers, and individuals with vastly differing responsibilities, experiences, and expectations of a given document. The context in which a document is read will differ with each reader and it is important to keep documents concise and free of bias and excessive or unclear language to ensure that they are understood.

Technical Communication is Collaborative

Technical communication documents will often require input or additional work from several co-authors, depending on the complexity of the document and the nature of the task with which it is dealing. Paul Anderson's Technical Communication textbook relates an anecdote regarding the proposal to build the International Space Station which contained text and drawings from more than 300 engineers. This may be an extreme example, but even when writing a technical document alone, collaboration and consultation with coworkers or other members of the intended audience may form a part of an author's writing process.

Technical Communication is Shaped by Conventions and Culture

Just as with academic writing, organizational conventions as well as culture will shape the style used in technical documents. Organizations may conceive of themselves as formal and conservative or informal and innovative, and reflect this self-conception in their communication style. This reflection often extends to social dimensions within the workplace or the culture of the society in which the organization operates. A technical communicator's style will change depending on the social and organizational contexts that they are working within.

Technical Communication is a complex discipline because it can occur in so many contexts. It can be encountered in nearly any professional setting from a construction yard to a courtroom. It is present when you consult a user manual for your car, microwave, computer, or un-assembled bookshelf. Adaptivity to ever changing audiences as well as legal and ethical issues and a variety of social factors is one of the most important traits of a successful technical communicator.

Ethics/Legal Issues

Professional and Technical Writing
Rhetoric Print version Basics

Legal Issues and Communication[edit | edit source]

In business, image is everything. Public opinion of a company affects a consumer's views on that company's products. This, in turn, affects the company's public profit, and essentially its standing. When a company is involved in a lawsuit or a recall, the company has to consider the consequences that these issues will have on their business and needs to consider the costs of repairing the company's reputation. These are among the reasons certain documents are carefully reviewed before being sent to their intended readers. To write ethically, you must also identify another group of people: the individuals who will gain or lose because of your message. Collectively, these people are called stakeholders because they have a stake in what you are writing. Only by learning who these stakeholders are can you assure that you are treating them in accordance with your own ethical values. When crafting your communication think about who will be affected by what you say and how you say it. You have to be sensitive to the following language in a professional document:

•Race and gender roles

•Political correctness


•Cultural awareness

•Religious symbols

Under the law, most documents written by employees represent the position and commitments of the organization itself. There are always legal issues to consider when writing a professional document and they reflect in writing style. Professional documents can serve as evidence in disputes over contracts and in product liability lawsuits. A lawsuit is a civil action brought in court. Today, the average company is involved in 400 lawsuits at any given time. While most companies win their lawsuits, being caught in a lawsuit has many consequences. Lawsuits cost companies time and money. The money spent on lawyers and the time spent in court takes away resources a company could use for improving business and products. Lawsuits also have ramifications for a company's reputation. Recalls can be another legal problem for companies. A recall is when a product is removed from the market or a correction is made to the product because it is either defective or potentially harmful. In most cases, a recall results from an unintentional mistake by a company rather than from an intentional disregard for the law. Sometimes a company discovers a problem and recalls a product on its own. Other times a company recalls the product after concerns are made.

There are a number of reasons why a company may face a lawsuit or a recall. One of the main reasons a company gets involved in a lawsuit is because the directions to the company's product were not clear to the consumer. For this reason, the general guideline is that instructions should be understandable, clear and concise at the fourth to sixth grade reading level. Also, when in a lawsuit, a company has to remember that all documents may be subpoenaed. This means that any document from memos and emails to proposals and studies can be subject to revision by a court of law. Another reason a company gets into a lawsuit may be over a recall. An aspect of recalls are those dealing with safety concerns. Many products are recalled for potential safety concerns, even if no one was actually hurt. To avoid safety recalls, companies need to make sure they consider every possible danger involved with a product. Some dangers may seem to be common knowledge, but companies should be aware of those and label the product accordingly, regardless of assumptions about common knowledge.

Communication Constraints[edit | edit source]

Constraints are limits for documents set by the company or industry. As you gather the information that will form the basis for the way you craft your communication, you should also learn about any expectations, regulations, or other factors that may constrain what you can say and how you can say it. In the working world, expectations and regulations can affect any aspect of a communication. Aspects that affect communication are as follows:

•Tone of voice

•Use of abbreviations



•Length of document (as a maximum)

It is important to find out about these constraints and take them into account as you create your communication. Some of these constraints come directly from the employer. Your employer and your readers probably have expectations about the way you write a professional document. There are often unspoken expectations about how the required elements will be prepared. You are cultivating a company's desire for a particular corporate image, to protect its legal interests, and to preserve its competitive edge. A toy company like LEGO, would not want to be associated with a technical document that includes slang or words that could damage their reputation. They are legally protecting their business. Since all documents can be used against individuals and companies in court, all written documents with the company name should include only professional content that properly represents the company.

Other times, constraints are set by government regulations that determine how certain reports need to be written. Regulations are laws made by the government that affect what is in a document or how a document is written. Writing constraints can originate from outside the company, such as from government regulations that specify how patent applications, environmental impact reports, and many other types of documents are to be prepared. Similarly, scientific, technical, or other professional journals have strict rules about many aspects of the articles they publish. These regulations act as standards for crafting your communication effectively.

Style Constraints[edit | edit source]

Constraints may be set by style issues as well. There should be no clichés and idioms in documents because they may pose a problem with translating documents from one language to another. A cliché is a worn-out or overused expression that tends to sound trite and often doesn't express what you truly mean to say. Examples include: the bottom line is, head over heels, or take it or leave it. Idioms, also known as jargon, are words or expressions that are specialized vocabulary used by a group of people. Look at the phrases that you use when you write and see if they make sense when translated literally. If they don't, replace them with language that is clear and direct and that will not be misunderstood. Don't use "compound" sentences (and, or, nor, but, however, yet). Opinions and jokes should also be avoided in business documents. Communicate, argue or persuade your readers through facts and data instead of opinions.

Many companies also like to form a "custom" way of writing. Companies like Microsoft want all their documents to be written in the same style and format. The only way to do this is to teach the writers the "correct" way to write in order to portray Microsoft. What many people may not know is that Microsoft does this to cover themselves in a legal trial. If every single document is written using the same format, they can make sure that the customers understand the entire document and do not run into trouble with inconsistencies.

How do you know if you are following the correct constraints? The easiest way to understand how to write in your specific field is to look at documents written by your company and other companies in the industry within the past few months. This will allow you to see their style and how they make their argument. Some companies even publish style guides for writing. By seeing your company's regulations, you can begin to draft your argument. Make sure to follow your company's guidebook (if they have one) to be sure that your style is consistent with their recommendations.

Remember that in professional writing you are trying to persuade the reader using an ethical style. This means avoiding content that will not stand up in court, especially since people file lawsuits for everything these days. Make sure that the documents you write for your company are persuasive while also preserving your company's competitive edge.


Appreciating Different Cultures[edit | edit source]

Today, the majority of workplaces are multicultural. Employees in the workplace are more likely to come from different backgrounds including cultural environments and different parts of the world. The textbook, Technical Communication by Paul V. Anderson, makes a point to emphasize cultural differences. It is important to take into account who a document will be read by.

The following characteristics show differences between cultures and should be considered by effective writers:

  • Amount of Detail Expected - High-context cultures such as Japan, China, and France provide little details in their writing. A high-context culture is based on fewer, deeper relations with people; there are many unspoken social rules and understandings within the culture. People in these cultures expect readers to have enough knowledge about the communication before they begin reading. In areas such as instructions, for example, it is assumed that readers have enough background knowledge or experience that there is no need to explain different tools used or walk the reader through any steps. People in low-context cultures such as the United States, Great Britain, and Germany assume readers know very little before they begin reading. Low-context cultures have a greater number of surface-level relations; rules are more explicitly defined so others know how to behave. People in low-context cultures expect detailed writing that explains the entire process. Writers should consider the cultural audience of their writing so that readers are not insulted by an excess or lack of information.
  • Distance Between the Top and Bottom of Organizational Hierarchies - Many organizations in the United States and Western Europe have great distances with many layers between top-level management and low-level workers. When the distance is large, writing to employees above and below tends to be more formal. In cultures where companies are more flatly organized, communication between layers tends to be less formal.
  • Individual versus Group Orientation - Many Asian and South American cultures are collectivist, meaning people pursue group goals and pay attention to the needs of the group. In individualistic cultures such as the United States and Northern Europe, people are more interested in personal achievement. Writers should know if they are writing to an audience that is "me-oriented" or one that is "we-oriented."
  • In-person Business Communications - There are several differences that one should be aware of when meeting a colleague with a different cultural background. For instance, some cultures stand very close to each other when talking and some prefer to have distance. Some cultures make eye contact with each other and some find it disrespectful. There are also certain cultures where an employee will not disagree or give feedback to their superior because it is seen as disrespectful. In these cultures, it is usually unacceptable to ask questions.
  • Preference for Direct or Indirect Statements - People in the United States and Northern Europe prefer direct communications, while people in Japan and Korea typically prefer indirect communications. When denying a request in the U.S., a writer will typically apologize, but firmly state that request was denied. In Japan, that directness may seem rude. A Japanese writer may instead write that the decision has not yet been made, delaying the answer with the expectation that the requester will not ask again. In Japan, this is viewed as more polite than flatly denying someone; however, in the United States this may give false hope to the requester, and the requester may ask again.
  • Basis of Business Decisions - In the United States and Europe, business decisions are typically made objectively with consideration given to cost, feasibility, timeliness, etc. In Arab cultures, business decisions are often made on the basis of personal relationships. Writers should know if a goal-oriented approach is best, or if a more personable communication would be preferred.
  • Interpretation of Images, Gestures, and Words - Words, images, and gestures can mean different things in different cultures. Knowing how images will be interpreted in another culture is crucial before sending documents to unfamiliar audiences. For example, hand gestures are interpreted differently around the world, and graphics showing hands should generally be avoided. Also, religiously affiliated wording can cause offense by readers. "I've been blessed to work with you" and comments that lend themselves to religious references should be avoided in the business setting.

Gaining Knowledge about Intercultural Readers[edit | edit source]

It is often difficult to determine who will be reading your documents. It is important to distinguish your audience before writing. When writing to a wide variety of people, knowing their cultural biases, assumptions, and customs are essential. There are a variety of resources online that provide cultural information about countries around the world. Understanding differences reduces the amount of miscommunication when doing global business. As an example, in the United States the date is commonly written Month, Day, Year, but in other countries they write a date Day, Month, Year. Knowing this can reduce the confusion with when things are sent or due and with timelines. Learning information about other nationalities helps you relate to your readers as well as prepare you for the future. Readers will appreciate your knowledge about their customs.

Online Sources[edit | edit source]

Geert Hofstede Cultural Dimensions[edit | edit source]

Professor Geert Hofstede analyzed data from 50 countries provided by IBM. The study was one of the most comprehensive studies ever conducted about cultures around the world. Professor Hofstede ranks cultures on Power Distance, Individualism, Masculinity, Uncertainty Avoidance, and Long-Term Orientation. The information gives insights into different cultures, allowing intercultural writing to be more effective.

Cyborlink[edit | edit source]

Cyborlink provides information about international business etiquette and manners. Cyborlink is organized by country, allowing writers to quickly find their target audience. Cyborlink's information draws heavily on the studies performed by Professor Hofstede. Each country page provides information about appearances (clothing and gestures), behavior (dining, gift-giving, meetings, customs, and negotiations), and communication (greetings, introductions, and conversation guidelines) as well as country facts, additional resources, and analysis from Professor Hofstede.

globalEDGE[edit | edit source]

globalEDGE gathers information about international businesses from a wide variety of sources. The site was created by the International Business Center at Michigan State University and is partially funded by the U.S. Department of Education. The site is broken into several categories. The Resource Desk collects thousands of resources organized by topics in international business. It provides research, news, and reference material as well as a glossary of terms used in international business. The Country Insights section provides data on 199 different countries. It includes statistics, economic and political conditions, and a brief country history. The culture section is useful for people writing to a multicultural audience; it provides information on business etiquette for each of the countries.

Other Sources[edit | edit source]

Coworkers are a great source of intercultural information. People familiar with you and the company provide the best information about the expectations of your audience. If coworkers have previously written to your audience, they may be able to offer insight as to how your writing will be interpreted.

Previous communications kept by your company can also be a useful tool for determining how to write to another culture. If the writing was well received, you will able to look for clues as to how to structure your writing. Writing that resulted in a new partnership or a completed sale may be the best indicator of how to structure your writing.

Unknown Readers[edit | edit source]

It is not always possible to know who your reading audience may be. Many emails or memos written to your intended audience may go through numerous people. Although you may be targeting one type of audience, it is important to not forget about the "phantom," "future," and "complex" readers.

Phantom readers- Real but unnamed readers are phantom readers. They are "behind the scenes" and their presence is usually unknown to a writer. Phantom readers are included in communications that require a decision. A clue to phantom readers presence is that the person written to is not high enough in organizational hierarchy to make a decision. It is important to meet the needs of the phantom readers because they may be the most important reader.

Future Readers- Written communications may still be used weeks, months or even years after being written. Every company document is considered a legal document, so lawyers and judges could be future readers. Future readers can also be employees who retrieve old communications for information or ideas. Writing communications with future readers in mind will save time and give documents an appeal that will please a wide range of readers.

Complex Audiences- Addressing a group of people who will be reading from many perspectives is a complex audience. Focusing on writing to complex audiences will allow you to relate to people from many different backgrounds. It is important to relate to each reader while not taking away from your overall communication.

Mindful Tips When Writing[edit | edit source]

  • 'Never Use Racial Profiling': Racial slurs, profiling or any other form in a professional document are unacceptable in every instance, NO matter how comfortable you are with your audience. If the document were to come in the possession of unintended hands it could look highly negative upon you. The professional world on no level tolerates writing like this. Save it for your personal or individual writing.
  • Never Use Profanity: Again, this is not accepted in the professional world on any level, even writing between co-workers. This can offend and look negatively upon you.
  • Be Mindful and Respectful of Religious Beliefs: Avoid words like bless, god, covet, bible, or any other religious connotations. Avoid mentioning holiday names; for example, instead of "During the Christmas Season...", you may use "During this holiday season...". This will ensure no one group feels excluded or discriminated against. Again, writing in this way is just professional courtesy.
  • Avoid Slang: This is a general tip for all writing, but avoiding slang terms will ensure your words are not misconstrued and taken other than your intended meaning.
  • Write As if the World is Reading: Once you have written your ideas on any medium—computer, email, paper, etc.—everyone has access to it. Remember that when your writing enters the public domain, you have no idea who will run across your document, so ensure there is no compromising information.


Guidelines for Creating Your Own Voice[edit | edit source]

Writing style means many things. On one end of the spectrum are the features that make the author's type of writing unique. On the other end of same spectrum, there is a legal or scientific style of writing, referring to writing characteristics shared by certain groups of professionals, like lawyers or scientists. Style can also mean a communication's readability, if it is written in a clear, muddy, or inspiring manner.

At work, you observe the stylistic convention of your profession and your employer's organization, while simultaneously expressing your individuality, make reading easy for your audience and impacting them while they are reading. Consider your options in light of the way they will affect your readers' view of your communication's usability and persuasiveness. Based on what readers see, they draw conclusions about you and your attitudes that can enhance or distract from the persuasiveness of your communications. Your ability to craft and control your voice is essential to your success at writing.

Guideline 1: Find Out What is Expected[edit | edit source]

An effective voice is one that matches your reader's sense of what is appropriate. However, you have the option to choose who your audience is by topic, word choice, and formality. You have to have a tone and style that is pertinent to your readers. The voice needs to be clear as to who it is directed towards.

How formal do my readers think my writing should be?

When you use contractions and colloquial words and phrases it starts to sound informal, like a conversation.
Note: Short words do not indicate an informal style. In fact, many people prefer plain language to create an ease of reading of difficult ideas or concepts to comprehend. Also, longer words may confuse your readers, or make the writing sound arrogant. This is also the same for long sentences. Avoid these in both formal and informal writing.
A formal style of writing uses correct word usage, sentence structure, formal phrasing, and appropriate language. Always be conscious of who your audience is when determining your writing style. There are many instances to use a formal language. Speeches, services, eulogy, and papers. These are good examples of how no matter the age of the audience, a formal document may suit any age. Some examples when one would use informal language would be writing letter to friends or in your journal. Sometimes informal writing may seem more sincere since it sends more emotions.

How subjective or objective do my readers believe my writing should be?

In subjective style you word opinions by using "I", in which you introduce yourself to your writing. In objective style you hide your presence of opinion, simply stating your beliefs as facts and by reporting about your own actions in the third person or in a passive tone. Objective writing is more formal and is expected in professional and technical writing situations.

How much "distance" do my readers expect me to establish between them?

In personal style, you appear close to your readers because you use personal pronouns and address readers directly. How conversational the piece is may also convey this message. In an impersonal style you distance yourself from your readers by avoiding personal pronouns and by talking about yourself and your readers in the third person. The style you choose depends on the purpose of the writing and the audience.
Factors that influence the readers' expectations about style:
  • Your professional relationship with the readers.
  • Your purpose.
  • Your subject.
  • Your personality.
  • Customs in your employers' organization.
  • Customs in your field, profession, or discipline.

What if the expected style is ineffective?

Note: Sometimes the expected style may be less effective than others.
For example, in some organizations the expected style is a widely condemned style called bureaucratese. This type of style is characterized by wordiness that buries significant ideas and information, by weak verbs that disguise action, and by abstract vocabulary that detaches meaning from the practical world of people, activities and objects.
Often this style of writing features an inflated vocabulary and a general pomposity that slows or completely blocks comprehension of what the writer is trying to get across.
Bureaucratese: According to optimal quality-control practices in manufacturing any product, it is important that every component part that is constituent of the product be examined and checked individually after being received from its supplier or other source but before the final, finished product is assembled.

Plain English: Effective quality control requires that every component be checked individually before the final product is assembled.
Bureaucratese: Over the most recent monthly period, there has been a large increase in the number of complaints that customers have made about service that has been slow.
Plain English: Last month, many more customers complained about slow service.
Bureaucratese is such a serious barrier to understanding that many states in the United States have passed laws requiring plain English in government publications and other documents, such as insurance policies. The guidelines will help you avoid bureaucratese. However, some managers and organizations want employees to use that puffed-up style, thinking it sounds impressive. If you are asked to write in bureaucratese, try to explain why a straightforward style is more effective. If you fail to persuade, be prudent. Use the style that is required. Even within the confines of a generally bureaucratic style, you can probably make improvements. For instance, if your employer expects a wordy, abstract style, you may still be able to use a less inflated vocabulary.

Guideline 2: Consider the Roles Your Voice Creates for Your Readers and Yourself[edit | edit source]

When you choose the voice with which you will address your readers, you define a role for yourself. As a manager of a department, you could adopt the voice of a stern taskmaster or an open-minded leader. The voice you choose also implies a role for your readers. Their response to the role given to them can significantly influence your communication's overall effectiveness. If you choose the voice of a leader who respects your readers, they will probably accept their role as a valued colleague. If you choose the voice of a superior, unerring authority, they may resent their implied role as error-prone inferiors and resist the substance of your message.

By using the appropriate voice in your communication you can increase your ability to elicit the attitudes and actions you want to inspire.

Guideline 3: Consider How Your Attitude Toward Your Subject Will Affect Your Readers[edit | edit source]

In addition to communicating attitudes about yourself and your readers, your voice communicates an attitude toward your subject. Feelings are contagious. If you write about your subject enthusiastically, your readers may catch and exhibit your enthusiasm. If you seem indifferent, they may adopt the same attitude. Make sure you believe what you say or pretend like you believe it. If you talk down to people or belittle them, you will lose their loyalty and willingness to follow your lead. If you use a pretentious voice when writing to superiors you will probably make them angry because they may feel that you are undermining their authority.

E-mail presents a special temptation to be careless about voice because it encourages spontaneity. Your risk of regretting an e-mail you've written is increased by the ease with which e-mails can be forwarded or sent to readers you didn't intend to see the message. Never include anything in an e-mail that you wouldn't want a large audience to view, like a court room. E-mails and text messages can be the basis of a trial or lawsuit. Check carefully for statements that your readers might interpret as having a different tone than the one you intended. Never talk badly about someone in an E-mail, and make sure to keep this mail in a file for future reference. Keeping the e-mail in a file will help protect yourself as a writer from lost or altered material. As long as you keep personal problems and biases out of office emails you should be just fine.

Guideline 4: Say Things in Your Own Words[edit | edit source]

No matter what style of voice you choose, be sure to retain your own thoughts in your writing. This can be achieved even in formal writing. When you are using a formal style, the objective is not to silence your own voice; it's to let your style sound like you, writing in a formal situation.

To check whether you are using your own voice, try reading your drafts aloud. Where the phrasing seems awkward or the words are difficult for you to speak, you may have adopted someone else's voice-or slipped into bureaucratese, which reflects no one's voice. Reading your drafts aloud will also help you spot other problems with voice, such as sarcasm or condescension.

However, it will sometimes be appropriate for you to suppress your own voice. For example, when a report is written by multiple people in a group, you should strive to achieve a unified voice so the paper is cohesive and all parts of the paper fit together well. Another example of when you should suppress your own voice is when writing something like a policy statement, which is written in the employer's style, not the individual writer's style.

Guideline 5: Global Guideline: Adapt Your Voice to Your Readers' Cultural Background[edit | edit source]

From one culture to another, general expectations about the voice vary considerably. Understanding the differences between the expectations of your culture and those of your readers can be especially important because the voice you use tells your readers about the relationship you believe you have with them.

In the United States and Europe, employees often use an informal voice and address their readers by their first names. In Japan, writers commonly use a formal style and address their readers by their titles and last names. If a U.S. writer used a familiar, informal voice in a letter, memo, or e-mail, Japanese readers might feel that the writer has not properly respected them. On the other hand, Japanese writers may seem distant and difficult to relate to if they use the formality that is common in their own cultures when writing to U.S. readers. In either case, if the readers judge that the writer hasn't taken the trouble to learn about or doesn't care about their culture they may be offended.

Directness is another aspect of voice. When writing to people in other cultures, try to learn and use the voice that is customary there. You can also learn about the voice used in your reader's culture by studying communications they have written. If possible, ask for advice from people who are from your reader's culture or who are knowledgeable about it.

Guideline 6: Ethics Guideline: Avoid Stereotypes[edit | edit source]

What do stereotypes have to do with voice and ethics? Stereotypes are very deeply embedded in many cultures. Most of us are prone to use them occasionally especially when conversing informally. As a result, when we use more colloquial and conversational language to develop our distinctive voice for our workplace writing, we may inadvertently employ stereotypes. Unfortunately, even inadvertent uses of stereotypes have serious consequences for individuals and groups. People who are viewed in terms of stereotypes lose their ability to be treated as individual human beings. If they belong to a group that is unfavorably stereotyped, they may find it nearly impossible to get others to take their talents, ideas and feelings seriously. The range of groups disadvantaged by stereotyping is quite extensive. People can be stereotyped because of their race, religion, age, gender, sexual orientation, weight, physical handicap, occupation and ethnicity. In some workplaces, manual laborers, union members, clerical workers, and others are the victims of stereotyping by people in white-collar positions.

There is absolutely no tolerance for stereotypes in professional writing. Anything you write will be worthless to most audiences if you include any type of stereotypes. Using stereotypes, even accidentally, will seriously damage your reputation with your readers and may even cause your professional relationship to end. So be very aware of any stereotypes that may exist especially when writing cross-culturally.

Constructing Sentences[edit | edit source]

Researchers who have studied the ways our minds process information have provided us with many valuable insights about ways to write reader-centered sentences. Based primarily on these research findings, the following six guidelines explain ways to construct highly usable, highly persuasive sentences.

Guideline 1: Simplify Your Sentences[edit | edit source]

The easiest way to increase usability is to simplify your sentences. Reading is work. Psychologists say that much of the work is done by short-term memory. It must figure out how the words in each sentence fit together to create a specific meaning. Fewer words means less work. In addition, research shows that when we express our message concisely, we make it more forceful, memorable, and persuasive.

Simplifying Sentences

1. Eliminate unnecessary words. Look for places where you can convey your meaning more directly.

Consider: The physical size of the workroom is too small to accommodate this equipment.

By removing unnecessary words, the sentence is just as clear and more emphatic: The workroom is too small for this equipment.

2. Place modifiers next to the words they modify.

Short-term memory relies on word order to indicate meaning. If you don't keep related words together, your sentence may say something different from what you mean.

Separated: A large number of undeposited checks were found in the file cabinets, which were worth over $41,000.

Together: A large number of undeposited checks, worth over $41,000, were found in the file cabinets.

3. Combine short sentences.

Often, combining two or more short sentences makes reading easier because doing so both reduces the total number of words and helps the reader see the relationships among the points presented.

Separate: Water quality in Hawk River declined in March. This decline occurred because of the heavy rainfall that month. All the extra water overloaded Tomlin County's water treatment plant.

Combined: Water quality in Hawk River declined in March because heavy rainfalls overloaded Tomlin County's water treatment plant.

Guideline 2: Put the Action in Your Verbs[edit | edit source]

Most sentences are about action. Sales rise, equipment fails, engineers design, managers approve. Yet, many people bury the action in nouns, adjectives, and other parts of speech. Consider the following sentence: Our department accomplished the conversion to the new machinery in two months. It could be energized by putting the action (converting) into the verb: Our department converted to the new machinery in two months.

Focusing Sentences on Action

• Avoid sentences that use the verb to be or its variation (is, was, will be, etc.).

The verb to be often tells what something is, not what it does.

Original: The sterilization procedure is a protection against reinfection.

Revised: The sterilization procedure protects against reinfection.

• Avoid sentences that begin with It is or There are

Original: It is because the cost of raw materials has soared that the price of finished goods is rising.

Revised: Because the cost of raw materials has soared, the price of finished goods is rising.

Original: There are several factors causing the engineers to question the dam's strength.

Revised: Several factors cause the engineers to questions the dam's strength.

• Avoid sentences where the action is frozen in a word that ends with one of the following suffixes: -tion, -ment, -ing, -ion, -ance These words petrify the action that should be in verbs by converting them into nouns.

Original: Consequently, I would like to make a recommendation that the department hire two additional programmers.

Revised: Consequently, I recommend that the department hire two additional programmers.

Although most sentences are about action, some aren't. For example, topic and forecasting statements often introduce lists or describe the organization of the discussion that follows.

Example of a topic sentence where the verb to be is appropriate: There are three main reasons the company should invest money to improve communication between corporate headquarters and the out-of-state plants.

Guideline 3: Use the Active Voice Unless You Have a Good Reason To Use the Passive Voice[edit | edit source]

Another way to focus your sentences on action and actors is to use the active voice rather than the passive voice. To write the active voice, place the actor--the person or the thing performing the action--in the subject position. Your verb will then describe the actor's action.

Active Voice: The consultant recommended these changes.

In the passive voice, the subject of the sentence and the actor are different. The subject is acted upon by the actor.

Passive Voice: The changes were recommended by the consultant.

Passive Voice: The Korean ore was purchased by us.

Active Voice: We purchased the Korean ore.

Research shows that readers comprehend active sentences more rapidly than passive ones. Also, the active voice eliminates the vagueness and ambiguity that often characterize the passive voice. In the passive voice, a sentence can describe an action without telling who did it. For example, "The ball was hit" is a grammatically correct sentence but doesn't tell who or what hit the ball. With the active voice, the writer identifies the actor: "Linda hit the ball."

Although the passive voice generally reduces readability, it has some good uses. One occurs when you don't want to identify the actor. If the writer decided that it would be ethically acceptable to communicate this news to the reader without naming the person who made the report, then she has used the passive voice effectively. Also be careful to avoid using the passive voice to hide an actor's identity when it is unethical to do so, like when trying to avoid accepting responsibility for your employer's actions.

Guideline 4: Emphasize What's Most Important[edit | edit source]

Another way to write clean, forceful sentences is to direct your readers' attention to the most important information you are conveying.

Emphasizing What's Most Important

1. Place the key information at the end of the sentence

To position the key information at the end of a sentence, you may sometimes need to rearrange your first draft.

Original: The department's performance has been superb in all areas.

Revised: In all areas, the department's performance has been superb.

Original: The bright exterior design is one of the product's most appealing features to college-age customers.

Revised: One of the product's most appealing features to college-age customers is its bright exterior design.

2. Place the key information in the main clause

If your sentence has more than one clause, use the main clause for the information you want to emphasize. Compare the following versions of the same statement:

Although our productivity was down, our profits were up.

Although our profits were up, our productivity was down.

In the first version, the emphasis is on profits because profits is the subject of the main clause. The second version emphasizes productivity because productivity is the subject of the main clause. (Notice that the emphasized information is the main clause and also at the end of the sentence.)

3. Emphasize key information typographically

Use boldface and italics. Be careful, however, to use typographical highlighting sparingly. When many things are emphasized, none stand out.

4. Tell readers explicitly what the key information is

You can also emphasize key information by announcing its importance to your readers.

Example: Economists pointed to three important causes of the stock market's declining: uncertainty about the outcome of last month's election, a rise in inventories of durable goods, and--most important--signs of rising inflation.

5. Avoid filler. While this is true in most writing situations, it is more important to do it in business writing than any other writing. In the business world, time is money. If your boss or your clients have to spend time reading your filler-filled emails, they are wasting time. When rereading your documents, ask yourself if what you wrote seems obvious.

Example: The time on the face of the clock showed that he was late getting to his job, where he would start his work.

Obviously, the time was on the clock and what else do people do at their jobs besides work. This is a crude example, but it shows that length of a document does not necessarily improve the quality of the document. In most business settings, shorter, simpler documents work better than wordy, drawn-out documents.

Guideline 5: Vary Your Sentence Length and Structure[edit | edit source]

If all the sentences in a sentence group have the same structure, two problems arise: Monotony sets in, and (because all the sentences are basically alike) you lose the ability to emphasize major points and underemphasize minor ones.

You avoid such monotony and loss of emphasis in two ways:

• Vary your sentence length. - Longer sentences can be used to show the relationships among ideas. Shorter sentences provide emphasis in the context of longer sentences.

• Vary your sentence structure. - For example, the grammatical subject of the sentence does not have to be the sentence's first word. If it did, the English language would lose much of its power to emphasize more important information and to de-emphasize less important information. One alternative to beginning a sentence with its grammatical subject is to begin with a clause that indicates a logical relationship.

Introductory clause: After we complete our survey, we will know for sure whether the proposed site for our new factory was once a Native American camping ground.

Introductory clause: Because we have thoroughly investigated all the alternatives, we feel confident that a pneumatic drive will work best and provide the most reliable service.

Guideline 6: Global Guideline: Adapt your Sentences for Readers Who Are Not Fluent in Your Language[edit | edit source]

The decision you make about the structure of your sentences can affect the ease with which people who are not fluent in English can understand your message. Companies in several industries, including oil and computers, have developed simplified versions of English for use in communications for readers in other cultures. In addition to limited vocabularies, simplified English has special grammar rules that guide writers in using sentences that will be easy for their readers to understand. Because readers may not need this degree of simplification, be sure to learn as much as possible about your specific readers. Remember that simplifying your sentence structure should not involve simplifying your thought.

Guidelines for Creating Sentences for Readers Who Are Not Fluent in English

• Use simple sentence structure. - The more complex your sentences, the more difficult they will be for readers to understand.

• Keep sentences short. - A long sentence can be hard to follow, even if its structure is simple. Set twenty words as a limit.

• Use the active voice. - Readers who are not fluent in English can understand the active voice much more easily than they can understand the passive.

Selecting Words[edit | edit source]

When selecting words, your first goal should be to increase the usability of your writing by enabling your readers to grasp your meaning quickly and accurately. At the same time, keep in mind that your word choices affect your readers' attitudes toward you and your subject matter. Therefore, you also need to choose words that will make your communication more persuasive. Word choice could make a difference of how your voice is heard, like how formal it is.

Guideline 1: Use Concrete, Specific Words[edit | edit source]

Almost anything can be described either in relatively abstract, general words or in relatively concrete, specific ones. You may say that you are writing on a piece of electronic equipment or that your are writing on a laptop computer connected to a color laser printer. You may say that your employer produces consumer goods or that it makes cell phones.

When groups of words are ranked according to degree of abstraction, they form hierarchies. You can increase the clarity, and therefore the usability, of your writing by using concrete, specific words rather than abstract, general ones. Concrete words help your readers understand precisely what you mean. If you say that your company produces television shows for a younger demographic segment, they won't know whether you mean teenagers or toddlers. If you say that you study natural phenomena, your readers won't know whether you mean volcanic eruptions or the migrations of monarch butterflies. Such vagueness can hinder readers from getting the information they need in order to make decisions and take action. Of course, abstract and general terms do have important uses. Like in scientific, technical and other specialized fields, writers often need to make general points, describe the general features of a situation, or provide general guidance for action. Your objective when choosing words is not to avoid abstract, general words altogether, but rather to avoid using them when your readers will want more specific ones.

Guideline 2: Use Specialized Terms When--And Only When--Your Readers Will Understand Them[edit | edit source]

You can increase the usability and persuasiveness of your writing by using wisely the specialized terms of your own profession. In some situations, specialized terms help you communicate effectively:

• They convey precise, technical meanings economically - Many terms have no exact equivalent in everyday speech.

• They help you establish credibility - By using the special terms of your field accurately, you show your fellow specialists that you are adept in it.

However, you should avoid using technical terms your readers won't understand.

Helpful Hints on Word Choice[edit | edit source]

To write concise sentences, use clear, concise words and phrases. Avoid using longer words when shorter ones will do just as well. (Write to express, not to impress.)

Instead of: Write:
accordingly so
accumulate gather
acquire get
acquaint tell
activate begin
aggregate total
assist help
communicate write, talk, tell
compensation pay
consequently so
continue keep up
demonstrate show
discontinue stop
endeavor try
facilitate ease, simplify
hence so
implement carry out
initiate begin
maximum most
modification change
nevertheless but, however
objective aim
optimum best
personnel people, staff
procure get
purchase buy
terminate end
transmit send
utilize use

Eliminate dead phrases - words that add nothing to the meaning of the sentence.

to the extent that in view of
with your permission inasmuch as
hence as a matter of fact
with reference to for the purpose of
in connection with in order
with respect to as already stated

Avoid words that sound knowledgeable without being specific. Many are technical words that have been overused and poorly adapted to non-technical situations.

parameters warrants further investigation
logistical interface broad-based
contact dynamics
impact infrastructure
input/output longitudinal study
conceptualize matrix
formalize meaningful
multifaceted monolithic
systematized paradigm
prioritize participatory involvement
time frame resource utilization
hard date viability
in-depth study

Avoid redundant phrases.

absolutely complete human volunteer
absolutely essential insist and demand
agreeable and satisfactory my personal opinion
anxious and eager necessary essentially
basic fundamentals past memories
complete absence point in time
consensus of opinion right and proper
each and every sincere and earnest
exactly identical small in size
example to illustrate summarize briefly
few in number thought and consideration
first and foremost true facts
general consensus very unique
green in color

Avoid business jargon.

Instead of: Write:
consideration was given I considered
prior to the before
at the present writing now
effect an improvement improve
in the neighborhood of about
beg to advise tell
cognizant of know
thanking you in advance I would appreciate
endeavor try
viable alternative possibility
in regard/reference to about
send under separate cover send separately
return same to the above return to us
needless to say [omit]
it goes without saying [omit]
in the normal course of procedure normally
in this day and age today
in my opinion I believe
it is our opinion we think
on a daily basis daily
on the grounds that because
pursuant to our agreement as we agreed
we are not in a position to we cannot
without further delay now
please be advised that [omit]

How to Explain Unfamiliar Terms If You Must Use Them[edit | edit source]

Sometimes you may need to use specialized terms even though some people in your audience may not understand them. For instance, you may be writing to a group of readers that includes people in your field and others outside of it, or you may be explaining an entirely new subject to your readers. In such cases, there are several ways to define the terms for readers who are not familiar with them.

Defining Terms Your Readers Don't Know

1. Give a synonym. Example: On a boat, a rope or cord is called a line.

2. Give a description. Example: The exit gate consists of tow arms that hold a jug while it is being painted and then allow it to proceed down the production line.

3. Make an analogy. Example: An atom is like a miniature solar system in which the nucleus is the sun and the electrons are the planets that revolve around it.

4. Give a classical definition. In a classical definition, you define the term by naming some familiar group of things to which it belongs and then identifying the key distinction between the object being defined and the other member of the group.


Word is bold, Group is italics, and distinguishing characteristic is underlined.

A crystal is a solid in which the atoms or molecules are arranged in a regularly repeated pattern.

A burrow is a hole in the ground dug by an animal for shelter or habitation.

Guideline 3: Use Words Accurately[edit | edit source]

Whether you use specialized terms or everyday ones and whether you use abstract, general or concrete, specific ones, you must use all your words accurately. This point may seen obvious, but inaccurate word choice is all too common in on-the-job writing. Errors can distract readers from your message by drawing their attention to your problems with word choice, and they may lead your readers to believe that your are not skillful or precise in other areas, such as laboratory or analytical skills.

How can you ensure that you use words accurately? There is no easy way. Consult a dictionary whenever you are uncertain. Be especially careful when using words that are not yet part of your usual vocabulary. Pay attention as well to the way words are used by other people.

Guideline 4: Choose Plain Words Over Fancy Ones[edit | edit source]

You can also make your writing easy to understand by avoiding using fancy words where plain ones will do. At work, some writers do just the opposite, perhaps thinking that fancy words sound more official or make them sound more knowledgeable.

There are two important reasons for preferring plain words over fancy ones:

1. Plain words promote efficient reading

- Research has shown that even if your readers know both the plain word and its fancy version, they will still comprehend the plain word more rapidly.

2. Plain words reduce your risk of creating a bad impression

-If you use words that make for slow, inefficient reading, you may annoy your readers or cause them to conclude that you are behaving pompously, showing off, or trying to hide a lack of ideas and information behind a fog of fancy terms.

Pompous word choice: I am transmitting the enclosed resume to facilitate your efforts to determine the pertinence of my work experience to your opening.

Plain word choice: I am sending my resume to help you decide if my work experience fits the job.

Don't misunderstand this guideline. It doesn't suggest that you should use only simple language at work. When addressing people with vocabularies comparable to your own, use all the words at your command, provided that you use them accurately and appropriately. This guideline merely cautions you against using needlessly inflated words that bloat your prose and open you to criticism from your readers.

Guideline 5: Choose Words with Appropriate Associations[edit | edit source]

The three previous guidelines for choosing words relate to the literal or dictionary meaning of words. At work, you must also consider the associations your words have with your readers. In particular, be especially sensitive to your words' connotation and register.


Connotation is the extended or suggested meaning that a word has beyond its literal meaning. For example, according to the dictionary, flatfoot and police detective are synonyms, but they connote very different things: flatfoot suggests a plodding, perhaps not very bright cop, while police detective suggests a trained professional.

Verbs, too, have connotations. For instance, to suggest that someone has overlooked a key fact is not the same as to insinuate that she has. To devote your time to working on a client's project is not the same as to spend your time on it.

The connotations of your words can shape your audience's perceptions of your subject matter.

First version: Our sales team is constantly trying to locate new markets for our various product lines.

In the second version of this sentence, the researchers replaced the flexible word by trying with the stiff word driving.

Second version: Our sales team is constantly driving to locate new markets for our various product lines.

The researchers found that people who read the flexible version believed that the company would actively commit itself to the welfare and concerns of its employees, voluntarily participate in affirmative action programs for women and minorities, receive relatively few labor grievances, and pay its employees well. People who read that version also said they would recommend the company to a friend as a place to work. People who read the stiff version reported opposite impressions of the company. That readers' impressions of the company could be affected so dramatically by just seven non substantive words highlights the great importance of paying attention to the connotations of the words you use.


Linguists use the term register to identify a second characteristic exhibited by words: their association with certain kinds of communication situations or context. For example, in an ad for a restaurant we might expect to see the claim that it offers amazingly delicious food. However, we would not expect to see a research company boast in a proposal for a government contract that it is capable of conducting amazingly good studies. The word amazingly is in the register of consumer advertising but not in the register of research proposals.

If you inadvertently choose words with the wrong register, your readers may infer that your don't fully grasp how business is conducted in your field, and your credibility can be lost.

Guideline 6: Global Guideline: Consider your Readers' Cultural Background when Choosing Words[edit | edit source]

Take special care in your choice of words when writing to readers in other cultures. Some words whose meaning is obvious in your own culture can be misunderstood or completely mystifying to readers from other cultures. This is true whether your communication will go to your readers in English or whether it will be translated for them. In fact, misunderstanding can even occur when you are writing to readers in other cultures where the native language is English. In the United States, people play football with an oblong object which they try to carry over a goal line or kick through uprights. In England, India, and many other parts of the world, football is played with a round object that people are forbidden to carry and attempt to kick into a net.

The following guidelines will help you choose words your readers will understand in the way you intend. Of course, different readers in other cultures have different levels of familiarity with English, so follow the guidelines only to the extent that your readers require.

Guidelines for Choosing Words for Intercultural Communications:

1.) Use simple words. The more complex your vocabulary, the more difficult it will be for readers not fluent in English to understand you.

2.) Use the same word each time you refer to the same thing. For instance, in instructions, don't use both "dial" and "control" for the part of a text instrument. In context, those two terms may be synonyms in your language, but they will each be translated into a different word in the other language, where the translated words may not be synonyms.

3.) Avoid acronyms your readers won't understand. Most acronyms that are familiar to you will be based on words in your language: AI for Artificial Intelligence; ACL for Anterior Cruciate Ligament.

4.) Avoid slang words and idioms. Most will have not meaning for people in other cultures. Instead of "We want a level playing field," say "We want the decision to be made fairly." Instead of saying "We want to run an idea past you," say "We'd like your opinion on our idea."

Even if you follow these guidelines, it's best always to ask someone familiar with that culture to review the words you've chosen. Doing so can also help you avoid another type of problem caused by words in your language that sound like words in another language but have a completely different meaning.

Guideline 7: Ethics Guideline: Use Inclusive Language[edit | edit source]

When constructing your voice, use language that includes all persons instead of excluding some. For example, avoid sexist language because it supports negative stereotypes. Usually, these stereotypes are about women, but they can also adversely affect men in certain professions, such as nursing. By supporting negative stereotypes, sexist language can blind readers to the abilities, accomplishments, and potential of very capable people. The same is true of language that insensitively describes people with disabilities, illnesses, and other limitations.

Using Inclusive Language

1.) Use nouns and pronouns that are gender-neutral rather than ones containing the word man.

Instead of: businessman, workman, mailman, salesman

Use: businessperson, manager, or executive; worker, mail carrier; sales person

Instead of: man made, man hours, man-sized job

Use: synthetic, working hours, large job

2.) Use plural pronouns or he or she instead of sex-linked pronouns when referring to people in general.

Instead of: "Our home electronics cater to the affluent shopper. She looks for premium products and appreciates a stylish design."

Use: "Our home electronics cater to the affluent shopper. They look for premium products and appreciate a stylish design."

Instead of: "Before the owner of a new business files the first year's tax returns, he might be wise to seek advice from a certified public accountant."

Use: "Before the owner of a new business files the first year's tax returns, he or she might be wise to seek advice from a certified public accountant."

3.) Refer to individual men and women in a parallel manner.

Instead of: "Mr. Sundquist and Anna represented us at the trade fair."

Use: "Mr. Sundquist and Ms. Tokagawa represented us at the trade fair" or "Christopher and Anna represented us at the trade fair."

4.) Revise salutations that imply the reader of a letter is a man.

Instead of: Dear Sir, Gentlemen

Use: The title of the department or company or the job title of the person you are addressing: Dear Personnel Department, Dear Switzer Plastics Corporation, Dear Director of Research

5.) When writing about people with disabilities, refer to the person first, then the disability.

Instead of: the disabled, mentally retarded people

Use: people with disabilities, people with mental retardation

What about Miss, Mrs., and Ms.?[edit | edit source]

People are unsure whether or not to use the more traditional terms of Miss or Mrs. or use the newer term Ms. On one hand, people believe that using the former terms suggests that a woman's marital status is somehow relevant to her ability to perform her job. After all, they point out, all men, whether married or single, are addressed as Mr. On the other hand, some women prefer to be addressed as either Mrs. or Miss. If you know an individual's preference, make sure to follow it. If you do not know the individual's preference, however, use the more modern term of Ms., which has now been accepted as the nonsexist term in the workplace.

Conclusion[edit | edit source]

Making sure you solidify your writing style matters a great deal in successful, technical and professional writing. The most pertinent aspects to be mindful of include the aforementioned: your voice, sentence structure and your word selection choices. The more you are attentive to these good practices of writing, the more you will connect with your readers and better persuade them to take your writing seriously.


Revising and Editing Documents[edit | edit source]

Why Revise?[edit | edit source]

Revising is an important aspect of the writing process in any context. No matter how well you follow the reader centered approach while drafting, improvements can always be made during the revising process.

Revising is essential to be a successful writer. When writing, the most influential writers know it is important to follow a reader-centered approach when drafting a document used for communication, especially in the common workplace. Revising one's documents allows for an increase in the usability and persuasiveness of the document. However, one must note what revising a document consists of, because it is such an important process in the development of a successful document. There are specific procedures and policies required in the revision of a document.

Revision Versus Editing[edit | edit source]

Editing is the process of making superficial changes to a document or rearranging what is already there. In comparison, revising is the process of making major changes in the document like adding new text or entire sections. In revising you can change the way you present the material. Revising is more time consuming compared to editing because it involves more critical thinking and less common sense. --Nardi82 (talk) 19:22, 30 April 2010 (UTC)

Examples of Editing

  • Correcting misspelled words
  • Rephrasing confusing sentences
  • Adding commas, periods, etc.

Examples of Revising

  • Modifying a thesis statement
  • Adding sections with supporting evidence
  • Adding graphics to make topics easier to understand
  • Deleting paragraphs that are redundant or off topic

It is useful to think of editing and revising as two separate topics, although they are sometimes done simultaneously. It is easy for writers to go off on a tangent and revise a part of the draft in the middle of editing. This is not necessarily a bad thing but you must remember to then edit that new section you have just created. Otherwise, it is easy to accidentally skip over a section in your editing process.

Revising Your Own Draft[edit | edit source]

There are five guidelines to consider when revising your own draft.

1. Check from your reader's point of view. Don't focus on punctuation, grammar, or spelling, but concentrate on your objectives. What do you want your readers to think about when they read your draft? How do you want them to feel? After establishing what your objectives are, read your draft slowly while considering what your reader's reactions may be towards your draft. What are some of the things your readers might change? Was your draft a persuasive document? Were your objectives clear? Is the information helpful to your readers? Consider all these questions. Try and read it as if you were reading it for the first time. Does it still make sense to you even with no prior background information? Pretend you were ten years old: Is it in a language that is so simple that a ten year old could understand it?

2. Check from your employer's point of view. When you are in a work environment, you should consider what your employer may think of your document. Questions you should ask yourself are:

  • Will it cause any conflicts within the organizations?
  • Am I making promises on behalf of the organizations?
  • Am I complying with the policies within the organization?
  • Am I answering the questions asked of me?
  • Are my solutions ethical?
  • Will my solutions represent the company only in a positive manner?

3. Distance yourself from your draft. Give yourself time before you re-read your document. Read it the next day and see how you feel about it with a fresh mind. Read the document aloud. It will help you find parts that do not make any sense. When you struggle with a sentence, that usually means it is not flowing correctly. If it does not make sense to you, it won't make sense to your readers.

4. Read your draft more than once, changing your focus each time. Read your document at least twice, once for persuasion and meaning and the second for mechanics. Focusing on one thing at a time will help you revise your documents better. However, when creating a meaningful document revision is key. Re-reading it only twice will not suffice. There is no such thing as overall perfection, but you can make your document perfect to you.

5. Take advantage of computer aids to help detect problems. There are many computer programs that offer aids of some kind to help you check your drafts. These aids consist of: spelling, grammar, and style checkers. They help bring your attention to possible errors within your document. If the grammar or style checkers are flagging things you feel are correct, check online to see what the rule is and see if there really is an error or if the computer is wrong.

Some Questions to Consider While Editing or Revising Your Draft[edit | edit source]

It is important to keep a few key questions in mind as you revise and edit your draft. If you keep them in mind as you go through your draft you will be more likely to catch problems and fix them to make the document more usable.

1. What is your reader going to gain by reading your document?

  • If you keep in mind what the reader is looking for as they read your document you will be able to focus on those points and emphasize them more than the less pertinent information. If you find certain information will be unimportant to your audience, then do not include it.

2. How will your reader's organization benefit from this document?

  • Similar to focusing on the reader's benefit, focusing on the organization's benefit as a whole will help you to emphasize important information to the goals and success of the organization.

3. Do you use appropriate tone throughout the document?

  • It is important to maintain a consistent tone throughout the paper. Choose a tone that is appropriate for you and your reader's expertise and position and stick with it. As you read through your document make sure you do not change your tone at all because if you do it will make you sound either unprofessional or pretentious.

4. Do you use the active voice and avoid the passive voice in your writing?

  • Using an active voice in your communication will help you keep the subject and the actor in your sentences together. Doing this will not only sound better and flow more smoothly, but it will also allow the actor that is performing the subject in the sentence to take credit for it. Consider the following examples:

Poorly written sentence: Updates to the company website will be conducted by our lead computer technician.

Properly written sentence: Our lead computer technician will conduct the updates to our company website.

  • Notice that in the first sentence the subject updating the company website is mentioned before the actor who will be performing them the lead technician. The second sentence corrects this by telling the reader who will be performing the subject in the sentence first.

5. Do you keep related words together to avoid confusion?

  • Always look for sentences that separate related words as this can be very confusing for readers. By reading carefully through drafts you should be able to spot these problems. Consider this example:

Poorly written sentence: Washers are used to bolt two pieces of wood together, which are doughnut shaped pieces of metal.

Properly written sentence: Washers, which are doughnut shaped pieces of metal, are used when bolting two pieces of wood together.

  • Notice that the second sentence makes it clear that the washer is the doughnut shaped piece of metal and that it is used in the process of bolting two pieces of wood together.

6. Are your sentences concise?

  • In a work setting readers are in a hurry and the last thing they want to do is read a paragraph of information that could have been said in one sentence. Wordy sentences take more time to read and cause confusion around your main point. Be certain that the information you are presenting to your audience is important to your argument.

Key Actions of Revising[edit | edit source]

There are three main actions involved in revising a document. Keep in mind that these three actions are usually done together while revising, but it is still important to consider them as separate actions when looking at the big picture.

1. Identify improvements that could be made in your draft through a reader's perspective. With this action, you read through your document with the perspective of someone who will be be reading your document when it is completed. Consider these criteria when revising: will your readers find the document useful or helpful to them? Is it a persuasive document? Is the purpose for writing your document being met when reading through it with the perspective of your audience?

2. Decide what improvements could be made to your draft. In a work setting, more than likely you will be pressured with deadlines and other responsibilities that need to be taken care of. It is important to use the time you have for revisions wisely. Take a look at your draft and identify the most important improvements that need to be made and which ones will produce the greatest improvements in the time you have available.

3. Make the changes you feel are important.

There are two methods that are used the most in the workplace in regards to making improvements to a document. These are:

  • Checking Personally examining your draft carefully, looking for any errors or discrepancies that appear.
  • Reviewing Refer to people who would not otherwise be part of the audience your document is targeting. Ask them if they feel your document is persuasive enough and that they understand it. Also, have them check the draft's usability.

Checking Your Draft[edit | edit source]

Use these five easy points to make sure you know what to look for while checking over your draft. The last thing you want to do is to submit an unprofessional document with errors in it to your colleagues and superiors.

1. Distance yourself from your work to gain the perspective of other readers.

  • Remember it is easy to miss errors in your work because you know the way you want it to sound and sometimes you read it that way too.

2. Read as if you are your intended audience.

  • Take their level of expertise into consideration
  • Be persuasive
  • Consider their time constraints

3. Consider your document from your employer's perspective.

  • Remember that you are always representing your employer even in interoffice communications
  • Do not put words in others' mouths or make promises on behalf of other employees or your employer
  • Make sure the document is appropriate and in the company's preferred format

4. Read your draft from the standpoint of those outside the company whom it may affect.

  • Again, consider who the audience is and if there is damaging information to any of the organization's stakeholders in the document

5. Read through your draft multiple times.

  • With each pass through the draft try to focus on different issues each time
  • Make sure that you catch any errors that you or your word processor may have missed during editing

Reviewing Your Draft Checklist[edit | edit source]

Use these three points as a checklist as you are reviewing your draft.

1. Prepare yourself for the review.

  • What is the objective of the review? Read through your document several times, each time focusing on a different aspect of editing. For example, during the first read-through focus on spelling and grammar, during the second read focus on eliminating passive voice and so on.
  • What are the objectives of communications? Keeping the objectives of the communication in mind helps you to locate and eliminate wordy sentences and paragraphs.

2. Giving comments and suggestions.

  • Identify revisions that are most important. It is always best to focus on major problems first to get them out of the way. This is especially important when time is short.
  • Give reasons for the revisions. It is always helpful when looking back at revisions to know the logic behind making them.

3. Use computer software to help.

  • Computer software can help you to catch little errors like poor spelling and grammar, but do not count on them too much. Remember that computer software only considers spelling and not proper word usage. Spellcheck is a good first step but reading through the document several times yourself is the best comprehensive method.

Documenting References[edit | edit source]

Documenting your sources of information is ethical and makes your document more valid to readers.

Choosing Your Documentation Style

In writing at work or in school you are expected to acknowledge your secondary sources. These may include readings, interviews, web sites, lectures, and other print and non-print materials. It is important to document sources correctly and accurately to avoid plagiarism. You are expected to cite sources when directly quoting, paraphrasing, or summarizing another author's material.

There are seemingly countless documentation styles used in writing today and it can be overwhelming to choose one for writers. The important thing is to choose the one that works the best and stick to it for consistency. There are two widely used styles of in-line documentation: author-page and author-year.

  • Author-page System:The author-page system is used by the Modern Language Association (MLA). This style requires the author's last name and the page number the information was taken from to be included in parentheses after its use. For example: It is common for birds of prey to make large nests high up in hard wood trees (Nestor 204).

  • Author-year System:The author-year system is commonly used by the American Psychological Association (APA). This style requires the author's last name and the year of publication of the original work in the citation. For example: During World War II the job opportunities for women expanded greatly (Milkman 1998).

In each style a detailed works cited page or bibliography is included for readers to reference. This page should give readers all the information necessary to locate the exact document you used in your citation should they want additional information or to check source credibility. More information can be found at The Writing Center Handbook

Documenting Your Sources

Documenting Your Sources 75% developed  as of 13 Jan 2009 (13 Jan 2009)[edit | edit source]


General Design Concepts[edit | edit source]

Designing Reader-Centered Pages and Documents[edit | edit source]

You build your communications out of visual elements: the dark marks of your words, sentences, and paragraphs against the light background of the page, as well as your drawings and graphs and tables. Your readers see the visual design of these elements before they read and understand your message. And what they see has a powerful effect on the success of your communications, on its usability and persuasiveness.

Here are ways that good design enhances usability.

• Good design helps readers understand your information.

• Good page design helps readers locate information quickly.

• Good design helps readers notice highly important content.

Here are some ways good design affects readers' attitudes, thereby increasing a communication's persuasiveness.

• Good design encourages readers to feel good about the communication itself.

• Good design encourages readers to feel good about the communication's subject matter.

A Reader-Centered Approach to Design[edit | edit source]

Because page design can have such a significant impact on your communication's usability and persuasiveness, you should approach design in the same reader-centered manner that you use when drafting text and graphics. Think continuously about your readers, including who they are, what they want from your communication, and the context in which they will be reading.

Design Elements of a Communication[edit | edit source]

It is helpful to think about the building blocks of a page design in the way that professional graphic designers do. When they look at a page, they see six basic elements.

Text. Paragraphs and sentences.

Headings and titles. Labels for sections of your communication.

Graphics. Drawings, tables, photographs, and so on -- including their captions.

White space. Blank areas.

Headers and footers. The items, such as page numbers, that occur at the top or bottom of each page in a multipage document.

Physical features. These include paper, which may take many shapes and sizes, and bindings, which come in many forms.

CREATING GRAPHICS[edit | edit source]


  1. Identify places where graphics will increase your communication’s usability.
  2. Identify places where graphics will increase your communication’s persuasiveness.

Note: Make sure not to add graphics to areas that will alter the flow of the document/communication. Add graphics in places in between paragraphs or other logical breaks in the document.


  1. Select the types of graphics that will best support your readers’ tasks.
  2. Select the types of graphics that will effectively influence your readers’ attitudes.
  3. Select the types of graphics that will best support your case.


  1. Design graphics that are easy to understand and use.
  2. Design them to support your readers’ tasks.
  3. Design graphics that your readers will find persuasive.
  4. Keep your graphics simple enough for easy use.
  5. Label content clearly.
  6. Provide your graphics with informative titles.
  7. Address the graphics with a sort summary of results or caption about the graphic.

Using Color

  1. Use colors to support your message.
  2. Use color for emphasis, not decoration or too distracting from the body text.
  3. Choose a color scheme, not just individual colors.
  4. Provide high contrast between text and background.
  5. Select colors with appropriate associations.
  6. Limit the number of colors.
  7. Use color to unify the overall communication.

Integrating with the Text

  1. Introduce each graphic in the text first.
  2. Tell your readers the conclusions you want them to draw from the graphic.
  3. Provide all explanations your readers will need in order to understand and use each graphic.
  4. Locate each graphic near its references.

Addressing an International Audience

  1. Check your graphics with persons from other nations for clarity when possible.
  2. Check your graphics with technology for problems when intra-converted between computer systems.

Using Graphics Ethically

  1. Avoid elements that might mislead your readers.
  2. Obtain permission from the copyright owner of each image that is not in the public domain.
  3. Give credit to all involved in the development or research of the graphic.
  4. Be sure the graphic will benefit the document overall and will not just add unnecessary clutter.

1 From Paul V. Anderson’s Technical Communication: A Reader-Centered Approach

Design/Document Organization

Document Organization[edit | edit source]

Organization in a professional business or career document is essential both to the writer as well as the reader. Each document has standards for specific organization that are universally accepted. Be careful to follow the accepted layout when writing a document.

There are different styles that can be used to fit specific situations. Below are possible techniques:

Classification[edit | edit source]

On the job, you may have to write about a certain set of facts. To organize these facts, you can use a strategy called classification. In classification, you arrange your material into groups of related items that satisfy the following criteria:

  • Every item has a place in one group or another; every item fits.
  • Every item has only one place. If there are two places, the information becomes redundant. If it belongs in two places and is put in only one spot the information becomes difficult to find. Neither of these situations is desirable.
  • These groupings should be easy to navigate by readers. Items that will be used together should be grouped together.

Formal Classification

In formal classification, group items according to a principle of classification - that is, according to some observable characteristic that every item possesses. Usually, there will be several to choose from. To choose among these potential principles of classification, one must think about the way an audience would use the information. In classification, large groups can be organized into subgroups. There are two main guidelines for formal classification:

  • Choose a principle of classification that is suited to your readers and your purpose.
  • Use only one principle of classification.

Informal Classification

Informal classification can help you create a reader-centered communication when you need to organize information about a large number of items, however. You find it impossible or undesirable to classify them according to the kind of objective characteristic that is necessary for formal classification.

For example, Calvin needed to organize his analysis, requested by his employer, of advertisements in three trade journals for the heavy equipment industry. Calvin could have created a formal classification by grouping the ads according to an objective characteristic, such as their size or number of words used in them. Instead, he classified them according to the type of advertising appeal they made. "Type of advertising appeal" is not an objective characteristic. Defining an ad's appeal requires subjective interpretation and judgment. Calvin used this informal classification because it best matched his readers' goal, which was to plan the advertising strategies he would use later in the year when he began placing ads in the three journals.

Like formal classification, informal classification enables you to organize communications in a way that achieves the following goals:

  • Every item has only one place
  • The groupings are useful to your readers

Comparison[edit | edit source]

In business, you will write comparisons periodically. Usually for one of the following reasons:

To help readers make a decision The workplace is a world of choices. People are constantly choosing among courses of action, competing products,and alternative strategies. To help them choose, employees often compare the options in writing.

To help readers understand research findings Much workplace research focuses on differences and similarities between two or more items or groups such as: people, animals, climates, and so on. To explain the findings of this kind of research, researchers organize their results as comparisons.

There are two patterns for organizing comparisons, divided and alternating. Both of these include the same content but arrange it in different ways. Consider the ways your readers will use your information to choose between the alternating or divided pattern. Because the alternating pattern is organized around the criteria, it is ideal when readers want to make point-by-point comparisons among alternatives. The divided pattern is well suited to situations where readers want to read all the information about each alternative in one place. Typically, this occurs when both the general nature and the details of each alternative can be described in short space. Whether you choose the alternating or divided pattern, you can usually assist your readers by incorporating two kinds of preliminary information:

Description of the criteria. This information allows readers to know from the start what the relevant points of comparison are.

Overview of the alternatives. This information provides readers with a general sense of what each alternative entails before they focus on the details provided.

Design/Document Organization/Organizational Patterns

Organizational Patterns[edit | edit source]

There are seven different patterns that are commonly used to organize documents: Formal classification, informal classification, comparison, partitioning, segmenting, cause/effect, and problem/solution. Which organizational pattern is used will depend on the type of document that is being composed; however, the goal of effective organizing is to make the document easier to use, and several organizational patterns are often used in a single document.

Formal Classification[edit | edit source]

Formal classification is simply grouping facts together based on their common attributes. Each group is often divided into subgroups enabling the facts to be precisely classified. Formal classification requires that each fact can only be present in one grouping, and each grouping must follow the same principle. For example, to classify three animals, each animal should only fit into one group. A tiger, wolf, and zebra could be grouped into categories such as feline, canine, and equine. Each grouping follows the same principle of grouping the animals according to their biological family. A faulty classification would be feline, canine, and mammal because feline and canine are biological families and mammal refers to a biological class. Still further, each species can be broken up into subgroups and divisions like in cattle, Herefords and Jerseys are both cattle, but one is a beef animal and the other is a dairy animal.

Informal Classification[edit | edit source]

Informal classification can help you create a reader-centered communication when you need to organize information about a large number of items but find it impossible or undesirable to classify them according to the kind of objective characteristic that is necessary for formal classification.

Informal classification differs from formal classification because the groupings need not follow a consistent principle of classification; however, like formal classification, each fact should still only fit into one grouping. For example, a tiger, wolf, and zebra could be classified into canines and African mammals. The groupings do not follow a consistent principle, but each animal can only be grouped into one category. Informal classification is a valid organizational pattern and can be very useful to readers when properly used.

Comparison[edit | edit source]

Comparisons are used in business documents to help readers make a decision and to help readers understand research findings. Two alternatives are compared to each other based on the same criteria. For example, two building sites may be compared to decide which site to build a warehouse. Site A and Site B could both be compared based on development cost, road access, property taxes, distance to customers, and so on. Comparisons are useful when readers must evaluate several options.

In some ways, comparison is like classification. You begin with a large set of facts about the things you are comparing, and you group the facts around points of comparison that enable your readers to see how the things are like and unlike one another. In comparisons written to support decision-making, points of comparison are called criteria. When writing a comparison, you can choose either of two organizational patterns. Both include the same contents but arrange the contents differently.

Consider, for example, Tiffany's situation. Tiffany's employer has decided to replace the aging machines it uses to stamp out metal parts for the bodies of large trucks. Tiffany has been assigned to investigate the two machines the company is considering. Having amassed hundreds of pages of information, she must now decide how to organize her report to the company's executives. For organizing her comparison, Tiffany can choose to use the divided pattern or the alternating pattern.

Divided Pattern
Machine A
Construction Time
Air Pollution
Et cetera
Machine B
Construction Time
Air Pollution
Et cetera
Alternating Pattern
Machine A
Machine B
Machine A
Machine B
Construction Time
Machine A
Machine B
Air Pollution
Machine A
Machine B
Et Cetera
Machine A
Machine B

Partitioning[edit | edit source]

Partitioning refers to describing an object. If a document must be written about a bicycle, a writer may divide the description into the smaller parts of the bicycle. A writer may first describe the braking system, then the gear system, then the frame, seat, and tires. By dividing the document into smaller parts, information becomes easier to locate and the document becomes more useful to the reader.

Guidelines for Describing an Object[edit | edit source]

  1. Choose a principle of classification suited to your readers and purpose.
  2. Use only one basis for partitioning at a time.
  3. Arrange the parts of your description in a way your readers will find useful.
  4. When describing each part, provide details that your readers will find useful.
  5. Include graphics if they will help your readers understand and use your information about the object.

Segmenting[edit | edit source]

Segmenting is similar to partitioning, except segmenting refers to describing a process. Typically, a writer will use segmenting when the goal of the document is for the reader to perform the process. Cookbook recipes are often segmented. When describing how to prepare a cake, the process to make the cake must be described first. Then, the process of making the frosting is described. After this, the recipe might explain how to frost the cake. By segmenting the document, the recipe is broken down into smaller, manageable steps. This makes the process easier to perform for the reader.

A general description of a process explains the relationship of events over time. You may have either of two purposes in describing a process:

  • To enable your readers to perform the process. For example, you may be writing instructions that will enable your readers to analyze the chemicals in a sample of live tissue, make a photovoltaic cell, apply for a loan, or run a computer program.
  • To enable your readers to understand the process, For example, you might want your readers to understand the following:
    • How something is done. For instance, how coal is transformed into synthetic diamonds.
    • How something works. For instance, how the lungs provide oxygen to the bloodstream.
    • How something happened. For instance, how the United States developed the space programs that eventually landed astronauts on the moon.

Principles of Classification for Segmenting[edit | edit source]

To determine where to segment the process, you need a principle of classification. Commonly used principles include the time when the steps are performed (first day, second day; spring, summer, fall), the purpose of the steps (to prepare the equipment, to examine the results), and the tools used to perform the steps(for example, table saw, drill press, and so on). Processes can be segmented by a variety of classification principles. Pick the principle that best supports your readers' goals.

Guidelines For Segmenting[edit | edit source]

  1. Choose a principle for segmenting suited to your readers and your purpose.
  2. Make your smallest groupings manageable.
  3. Describe clearly the relationships among the steps and groups of steps.
  4. Provide enough detail about each step to meet your readers' needs.
  5. Include graphics if they will help your readers understand and use your information about the process.

Cause and Effect[edit | edit source]

Documents organized by cause and effect help readers understand how one event is caused by another. Cause and effect documents often attempt to persuade readers that a cause and effect relationship actually exists. Cause and effect can be difficult to link. Evidence of the relationship must be chosen carefully. If used correctly, a document organized by cause and effect can be very persuasive and useful to a reader.

At work, you are likely to write about cause and effect for one of two distinct purposes.

  • to help your readers understand a cause-and-effect relationship.
  • to persuade your readers that a certain cause-and-effect relationship exists.

The strategies for organizing for these two purposes are somewhat different.

Problem and Solution[edit | edit source]

Problems and their solutions will be one of the most frequent topics of your on-the-job writing. The problems you discuss may arise from dissatisfaction with some strategy, product, process, or policy. Alternatively, they may arise from an aspiration to achieve a new goal, such as great efficiency, or take advantage of a new opportunity, such as the potential to do business in another country.

The goal of a document organized by problem and solution is to propose a future action. Like cause and effect documents, problem and solution documents need to be persuasive. The writer must first show that a problem exists, and then show that the proposed solution is the best method to solve the problem. Problem and solution documents are very common in business writing and often take the form of a business proposal.

Guidelines For Persuading Readers To Accept Your Proposed Solution[edit | edit source]

  1. Describe the problem in a way that make it seem significant to your readers.
  2. Describe your method.
  3. When describing your method, explain how it will solve the problem. Show them that your method is the best option for them given their circumstances.
  4. Anticipate and respond to objections.
  5. Specify the benefits.
  6. Acknowledge the weaknesses of your solution. Your audience is going to find weaknesses whether you present them or not. Your ideas will look more credible if you acknowledge the weaknesses of your solution, and then show how they can be overcome.
  7. Include graphics if they will help your readers understand and approve your proposed solution.
  8. Avoid sounding confrontational. This will deter your readers. You need them to open to your ideas, not defensive of their ideas.
  9. Keep in mind that you won't be able to persuade all of your readers, all of the time. Sometimes, you have to accept that they acknowledge your suggestions. In time, they might still change their minds.
  10. Get straight to the point. Business people don't want to waste time listening to you beat around the bush; just give them what they need.

Design/Front Matter

Hope like this hold on lifelong

Front Matter: Contents, Lists and More[edit | edit source]

Front matter is an extremely important element to writing any report whether it is for a specific company research or for other personal reports. Specifics such as the size of the font, font type, formatting, and organization also need to be taken into consideration when creating the front matter of your report.

The first few pages of a report are essential. An abbreviated abstract will assist the reader in finding what the main points of the report will be about.

These elements are often referred to as "Book Elements", as they are commonly found in larger works.

Important considerations should be made on how your publication will be used. To increase usability, you should consider how your readers will be using the report, and what they will be looking for, and focus on making this easy to find.

Covers[edit | edit source]

A cover page is a very simple, precise, brief way to introduce your report to the reader. This should contain:

  • A large specific title
  • Company name
  • Name of the author(s)
  • Date of the report
  • Relevant picture

The use of a relevant picture or two can help reinforce the subject of the report. One goal of the cover page is to be informative and scalable because once it is filed, it will need to be easy to pick out of a stack of other reports. A second goal is to make the report stand out. If the report cover looks bleak and dull, the reader will start reading with a negative outlook. Think of the cover page of a report like what is worn to an interview. The cover page is the first thing that is seen. It will be the foundation for first impressions, for better or worse. One easy way to make the report stand out is to use a theme for the report that your audience can connect to. For example, if a report is written to McDonald's, the cover page will be in yellow and red with the golden arches as a picture. It is important that the reader believes that he or she is the most important aspect of the report.

Title Page[edit | edit source]

A title page will be very similar to your front cover and it repeats the information on the cover, but adds more important details. --Nardi82 (talk) 17:12, 23 April 2010 (UTC) This may include a report number, date, title, the names and addresses of authors, specific contract information, the name and address of the supervisor, and the name and address of the organization who supported the report (Technical Communications, p. 312)

The title page is an opportunity to provide specific, detailed information about the document and its authors to its intended audience.

Executive Summary or Abstract[edit | edit source]

Abstracts are an important element in the business world. This will help a manager learn the main points of your document, and help the reader determine if the entire report is relevant to what they are looking for. Charts and graphs that show factual data are helpful visuals that can be implemented into this section of the document.

Major topics should be mentioned, but not the main points of each. This will be where most of the key words of your report are used, and will be a preview of the information to be covered. Often, summaries are used when representing a report in a database, so illustrating the main topics of your report in this segment can be useful.

The abstract should always be a page or less, especially in informative situations. Typically an abstract should not be more than 15 percent of the total report.

According to the Technical Communications text,

  • Identify the intended audience
  • Describe Contents
  • Tell the reader how the information is presented

Table of Contents[edit | edit source]

In any report or analysis, a table of contents is helpful to navigating the report. Some lengthy reports may also include a table of graphs and/or a table of figures.

In addition to the summary, this will allow the reader to quickly scan the topics you have covered. This will also help if they are looking for something particular. Use of proper headings and sub-headings give readers a good overview of all the information contained in your document.

Table of contents are usually extremely generic and similar to each other. This is for ease of navigation to the user. Table of contents can be formatted from Microsoft Word.

EXAMPLE:Chicago Manual of Style: Table of Contents: Formatting

Lists of Figures and Tables[edit | edit source]

This is a useful section to include because your images or tables are referred to repeatedly throughout your text. Include Figures and Tables lists when your article is over about 15 pages. This also allows for easy comparison between images when they are grouped together.

Design/Back Matter

Back Matter: Appendices, Glossaries and More[edit | edit source]

Back Matter is an important part of a professional business document, and any other long document. It may contain one or more of the following: appendices, bibliography, works cited, reference list, end notes, glossary, list of symbols, or indices. These elements are used for citing sources, giving definitions to uncommon words, and giving the reader a list of topics and where they are in the document. All may not be read by every reader, but they are still important parts to include. Back Matter is for the reader that wants to know more. You may decide to add more or less to a document depending on the situation.

How back matter strengthens a document:

  • Guides readers to the information they need
  • Expands on the information in the document
  • Leads readers to other documents on the topic

Appendices[edit | edit source]

Appendices are used to give more detailed information about a specific topic that was not included in the main body of the paper. Appendices are for giving extra information to your reader that doesn't need to be in the main body of the document. This is not necessary information, but some readers may find it interesting or useful depending on their profession or context for reading your report. In the body of the documents there will be a reference that will lead interested reader's to the added information. Appendices can also be an easy way to find reference materials in a more direct fashion. A series of titles that correspond to the references in the body are listed at the back of the document. Other uses of an appendix sometimes accompanies a figure located the paper. Also, appendices may contain calculations used for derivations given in the body of the document.

The appendix should be given its own section in a document and should be labeled "Appendix" at the top. Each appendix should be included in the table of contents. If there are multiple appendices they should be arranged in such a way that they correspond with the order they appear in the text of the paper. Each new appendix should start on a new page. The appendices should also be labeled in a way that shows order. For example, they can be labeled: Appendix A, Appendix B, Appendix C or Appendix I, Appendix II, Appendix III, also Arabic numerals are acceptable. This way, when finding information, it should be easy to navigate from the body of the paper to the appendix, and vice versa.

Example of what can be found in an appendix:

  • Calculations
  • Data analysis
  • Graphs
  • Figures
  • Photographs
  • Maps
  • Surveys
  • Personal reflection
  • Interviews

Reference List, Endnotes, Bibliography[edit | edit source]

These elements are used to cite the information used to write the document. It is very important to always cite initial sources of information. Books, magazine articles, authored web pages, and other print materials are most commonly used to gather information. The reference list, endnotes, and bibliography are put at the very end of a document.

Bibliography[edit | edit source]

Bibliographies are used to reference the sources used in document. They are found at the end of any document. Any reference used in the document should be documented in the bibliography. They are written in the form of a list, some being numbered while others are in alphabetical order. This allows readers to look up more information on the topic and shows that the information used is credible. All types of work can be in a bibliography, including: websites, books, articles, magazine, newspapers, speeches, interviews, videos, blogs, and many more.

There are many different formats that can be used when creating a bibliography. One of the most common styles used in scientific documents is APA, which is discussed later on this page. However, all documentation styles require some of the same information. Bibliography citations should include:

  • Author
  • Title
  • Publisher
  • Date of publication

Citations can be easily inserted into documents with the reference tool included in Microsoft Word and many other word processors. This tool allows you to insert information about a source into a simple form and insert a bibliography. The tool will automatically format the information according to the style chosen by the user.

Endnotes[edit | edit source]

Endnotes must be listed numerically both in your document and in your endnote citation. Each endnote should have a new number, even if you had previously listed that same citation earlier in the document. Endnote numbers must be superscripted. In your text, add a superscripted number immediately after the quote or reference cited with no space. Endnotes must be added on a separate Endnotes or Notes page at the end of your document just before the Works Cited or Bibliography page. Here is an example of a text with endnotes and the endnote citation:

Text Example[edit | edit source]

The Many Facets of Taboo: The World Book Encyclopedia defines Taboo as "an action, object, person, or place forbidden by law or culture."1 An encyclopedia of the occult points out that taboo is found among many other cultures including the ancient Egyptians, Jews and others.2 Mary Douglas has analyzed the many facets and interpretations of taboos across various cultures. She points out that the word "taboo" originates from the Polynesian languages meaning a religious restriction.3 She finds that "taboos flow from social boundaries and support the social structure."4 In reference to Freak Shows at circuses, Rothenberg makes the observation that people who possess uncommon features and who willingly go out in public to display such oddities to onlookers are acting as "modern-day taboo breakers" by crossing the "final boundary between societal acceptance and ostracism."5 In traditional British East Africa, between the time of puberty and marriage, a young Akamba girl must maintain an avoidance relationship with her own father.6 Looking at taboo in a modern society, Marvin Harris gives an interesting example of the application of cultural materialism to the Hindu taboo against eating beef.7

Endnote Example[edit | edit source]

1 Alan Dundes, "Taboo," World Book Encyclopedia. 2000 ed. 2 "Taboo," Occultopedia: Encyclopedia of Occult Sciences and Knowledge, Site created and designed by Marcus V. Gay, 18 Jan. 2005 <http://www.occultopedia.com/ t/taboo.htm>. 3 Mary Douglas, "Taboo," Man, Myth & Magic, ed. Richard Cavendish, new ed., 21 vols. (New York: Cavendish, 1994) 2546. 4 Douglas 2549. 5 Kelly Rothenberg, "Tattooed People as Taboo Figures in Modern Society," 1996, BME / Psyber City, 18 Jan. 2005 <http://bme.freeq.com/tatoo/tattab.html>. 6 Sigmund Freud, Totem and Taboo (New York: Random, 1918) 17. 7 Marvin Harris, "The Cultural Ecology of India’s Sacred Cattle," Current Anthropology 1992, 7:51-66, qtd. in McGrath, "Ecological Anthropology," Anthropological Theories: A Guide Prepared by Students for Students 19 Oct. 2001, U. of Alabama, 18 Jan. 2005 <http://www.as.ua.edu/ant/Faculty/Murphy/ecologic.htm>.

Reference List[edit | edit source]

The reference list should appear at the end of a paper. It provides the information necessary for a reader to locate and retrieve any sources cited in the body of the paper. Each source cited in the paper must appear in your reference list; likewise, each entry in the reference list must be cited in your text.

References should begin on a new page separate from the text of the essay; label this page "References" centered at the top of the page (do not bold, underline, or use quotation marks for the title).

Basic Rules according to the APA style:

•All lines after the first line of each entry in your reference list should be indented one-half inch from the left margin. This is called hanging indentation.

•Authors' names are inverted (last name first); give the last name and initials for all authors of a particular work if it has three to seven authors. If the work has more than seven authors, list the first six authors and then use elipses after the sixth author's name. After the ellipses, list the last author's name of the work.

•Reference list entries should be alphabetized by the last name of the first author of each work.

•If you have more than one article by the same author, single-author references or multiple-author references with the exact same authors in the exact same order are listed in order by the year of publication, starting with the earliest.

•When referring to any work that is not a journal, such as a book, article, or Web page, capitalize only the first letter of the first word of a title and subtitle, the first word after a colon or a dash in the title, and proper nouns. Do not capitalize the first letter of the second word in a hyphenated compound word.

•Capitalize all major words in journal titles.

•Italicize titles of longer works such as books and journals.

•Do not italicize, underline, or put quotes around the titles of shorter works such as journal articles or essays in edited collections.

Glossary or List of Symbols[edit | edit source]

Glossary[edit | edit source]

In writing, especially professional documents, you will be using words that are unfamiliar with your reader. If an unfamiliar word in your text is used a minimal amount of times you can describe the meaning right next to the usage. When you use unfamiliar words throughout the entire text, you must place a definition in the glossary because it can get quite repetitious to continue to state the definition throughout the entire text. In professions, ie: the sciences, your readers may not understand the definition to fancy scientific terms. Using a glossary enables you to provide a definition that readers can easily locate if they need to.

List of Symbols[edit | edit source]

Similar to unfamiliar words, they are unfamiliar symbols used in professional writing. If the symbols are used throughout the whole document a list of symbols should be put in the back of the document. When creating a list of symbols, it should be easy to navigate through. Some ways to promote easy navigation is by listing the symbols in alphabetical order. Also you want to create the list of symbols in two columns, the left column should be the symbol and on the right column should correspond to the letter and be the definition or meaning of the symbol.

Index[edit | edit source]

An index is a useful communication technique used when your writing is too long for your readers to skim through quickly. An index gives your readers a quick path to certain words or phrases that are easily accessible. When creating an index for a professional document, identify the kind of information that your readers will want to locate. This may also require you to look up words that mean the same thing. This work is compared to that of search queries online. These search queries provide results for a number of search able words. For example, if two people from different backgrounds are looking in the index for an answer, you must take into account that the people may be looking under different words. Indexes need to take into account its readers and the words choices they may be looking for.

Desktop publishing programs also can help you create an index by making a alphabetized list of words used throughout your publication. From these lists, you can see commonly used words and provide other words alternatives that your reader may be searching for.


Effective Tables[edit | edit source]

Why Use Tables?[edit | edit source]

Tables are an effective way to portray data in a visual way so it is easy for the reader to understand. Tables are used to report data which is too complicated to be described in the text and to reveal trends and patterns in the data. In addition, in many cases, incorporating a table is more beneficial than trying to explain something through text. Your reader is more likely to get all of the information if they can just scan a table rather than reading a long paragraph. Lots of words are not needed in business writing. There are many situations where information can be broken up into an easy-to-read table that will efficiently use your audience's time and attention. Adding color to a table or graph is a great way to make your design appealing.

In the business setting you will need to write communications regarding data, such as results of a test that you have performed, costs you have calculated, or production figures you have gathered. In such cases, many people find it helpful and beneficial to begin their writing process by making tables that they will include in their communication. They then can begin to interpret the data, and make notes about the meaning and significance of the data to their audience. Tables are also a good comparative tool to help illustrate why your company may be better than the opposing company or group.

Table or Graph?[edit | edit source]

It is important to choose the correct medium to accurately display your data. A table works best when it is used to look up individual values, compare individual values and if the data must be shown precisely. Graphs are better for showing relationships or trends in the form of shapes. Another good guideline is that relevant data always involves relationships such as comparison, distribution or deviation. [www.analyticspress.com, Designing Effective Tables and Graphs]

What to include in an effective table[edit | edit source]

General Guidelines[edit | edit source]

Experiments usually involve a large amount of data, so choose relevant data to be represented in your tables. Limit the number of tables in your document to those that convey a trend or pattern to the reader. Here are some more guidelines to follow:

  • Create the tables to be understandable without having to reference the text.
  • Avoid page breaks in the middle of tables, and do not wrap text around tables.
  • Acknowledge the source if the table is published, and obtain copyright permission if necessary.
  • Do not use more than six rows or columns in a table because the data will be crowded and difficult to understand.
  • Uses sans-serif fonts such as Arial, Verdana, Helvetica or Univers to make the numbers easier to read.
  • Use white space to separate the rows and columns to improve readability and add to the visual appeal.
  • Include concise titles which quickly portray the purpose of the table.
  • Align data properly. Words and labels should be center aligned or left aligned and numbers should be right aligned.

[De Rossi, How to Create Effective Tables]

Table Number[edit | edit source]

Numbering your tables can help your readers navigate the figures you refer to. This will make your document organize and easy to follow.

  • If you have multiple tables within a document, you should number your tables. This will allow your audience to be able to easily navigate through your document without any confusion.

Example: Table 1: Include a brief description of the table here. If you took a table from somewhere else to use in your document, make sure you cite the source.

  • Table numbers can also be included in the table of contents to be found easily.

Title[edit | edit source]

Titles can help distinguish your tables from other figures. A title is essential because it makes the reader aware of what the table will be about.

  • Every table should have a precise and specific title.
  • The title should be clearly displayed and easy to read.
  • Subtitles can be used to display more information.

Units[edit | edit source]

Units are essential to include because this informs your reader about a specific measurement. Units can help give your table a more effective argument.

  • Be sure to include units, either in the heading or after every number/measurement.
  • Use relevant units which make the table readable. If you are measuring the mass of different insect specimen samples, use units of milligrams not kilograms.
  • Include the uncertainty or precision if necessary. In the heading after the variable name put the unit and uncertainty in parentheses. For example, Mass(+/- 0.01 g).
  • The use of different units can change the effectiveness of your table and can make a table appear to be in your favor.

Row and Column Headings[edit | edit source]

  • Use precise headings.
  • Order the headings so they make the most sense and are easiest to interpret by the reader.

Color[edit | edit source]

The design of your tables can help enhance the readers' understanding of information that are being compared. Color is a way to distinguish information from one another. The formatting of your tables should be consistent. This gives your tables a more professional and organized look.

  • It is important to stick with the color scheme of the document even in the tables. The document should be visually appealing throughout.
  • Avoid using colors that can be hard to read. This could be exhausting for the readers to try and read.
  • Choose up to only three colors. Overwhelming colors can make the readers lost.
  • Include a key if colors represents a particular data set. This helps the readers distinguish between your information.

Data[edit | edit source]

  • Tables of useless experimental data are irrelevant. Instead, include tables of conclusions and results which the reader is interested in.
  • Round numbers as much as possible. The reader won't care if the voltage is 4.8993612 V, so just write 4.90 V instead
  • Center-align the data within the table.
  • Avoid misrepresenting data. It is important to always be honest with data when inserting tables. For example, let's say you want to show the board of directors that your stock has increased in value, but the stock has only increased by five cents. It is easy to misrepresent this data by making the axis of the graph or table on a scale of one cent, with only 10 points of the graph. This would make it appear as though the stock has increased dramatically, when in fact it has not. Never do this. You will be seen as dishonest and sneaky, and will lose the trust of your clients, peers, and bosses.

Footnotes[edit | edit source]

  • Sources of data can be cited with footnotes
  • Place any footnotes below the table.
  • Use letters to label the footnotes so the reader does not confuse them with the data.[4]

Source[edit | edit source]

Make sure you include sources when using data that is not yours. If you do not include the source to your tables, this could lead to legal issues. Plagiarizing others work for your document can cause your business to face legal challenges. Sources are important to include.

  • Identify the source of the data unless it is your data.
  • When using multiple sources be sure to name source after direct quotes.

How to Create Tables in Microsoft Excel[edit | edit source]

Excel is an efficient way to display data in a table in a report. Here are the steps required to create a table in Excel: 1. Enter your data in Excel including the proper row and table labels and include the units in the labels.

This links brings you to a page that shows you how to create a table in Excel. http://www.java2s.com/Tutorial/Microsoft-Office-Excel-2007/0080__Table/CreateaTable.htm

Tips on How to Make a Reader-Centered Table[edit | edit source]

  • Use extra space or draw lines to help organize your table, drawing the readers' eyes across the data efficiently and easily.
  • Use bold headings, color, and highlights to make the most important information stand out.
  • Sort the row and column headings so that your headings are organized in common groups to make the wanted information easier to find.
  • Avoid excessive information by not making your table too large or overwhelming. Include only necessary information and consider dividing a table into two or more separate tables if it is too large.
  • Provide a border around the table to contrast the table with the document.

Other Things to Consider About Tables[edit | edit source]

If your document is more than fifteen pages long, you should prepare a list of tables and figures to include in your document. It is similar to a table of contents, but for tables and figures. This makes it easy for the reader to find a specific table or figure within a larger document.


Charts and Graphs[edit | edit source]

Graphs and charts serve as a form of communication in many business settings. Since many businesses travel internationally language barriers often result, causing frustrations between businesses. Graphs and charts are used as a form of wordless communication to facilitate conversations, instructions, and directions. Graphs and charts can be used to convey important information, such as numeric quantities, trends and relationships between values. It is important to choose the right type of graph or chart to easily and accurately convey information. Make sure you define the graph or chart, give an explanation of the graph or chart in addition to choosing one that is easily read that conveys your information accurately.

When using a chart or graph, a key and title are essential for the reader to understand what the chart or graph is representing. Typically a chart is graphical, containing very little text. It has been proven that people are able to understand and process information better when it is presented in a graphical format, rather than in text. Using charts with accurate information in persuasive ways can help to engage your audience and get your point across clearly and resourcefully.

Scatter Plots[edit | edit source]

An example of a scatter plot.

Scatter plots are good way to display the values of two variables for a set of data. This means that for each separate point of data on the graph, there are two separate pieces of data, an independent and dependent variable, that determine the location of the point. The independent or controlled variable is usually on the horizontal axis. The dependent variable is then measured and placed on the vertical axis. A scatter plot is not good for measuring multiple sets of data.

Main things to be included in a scatter plot are as follows:

  • Title: Most important thing (what is a chart without a title). Must be to the point.
  • X-axis (Horizontal) and Y-axis (Vertical): Both axis should be labeled and provide units of measurement.
  • Points: The data points should be placed on the graph according to the experimental outcomes independent and dependent variables.
  • R squared value: Used to sense trends and correlation of the data.
  • Equations: Any equation that my help a reader interpret the data more clearly.
  • Trend Line: Shows if the data has a trend and can also show outliers and how well correlated the data is.

Example: x = 3 and Y = 5 would be graphed (3, 5) on the scatter plot.

Line Graphs[edit | edit source]

An example of a comparative line graph.

Line graphs are a good way to compare anything between two or more variables. These are one of the easier types of graphs to look at because you can clearly see the changes in the line as time goes on. A line graph should never be used to show statistics at a set moment in time. A disadvantage of line graphs is it can be difficult to see exactly what number is being specified at a data point. If it is important that the numbers be easily read, they may be inserted within the graph at their respective data points. Since most line graphs are used to convey a trend over time, however, specific numbers are not always necessary.

Main things to be included in a line graph are as follows:

  • Title: The most important thing (what is a chart without a title). Must be to the point.
  • X-axis (Horizontal) and Y-axis (Vertical): Both axes should be labeled and provide units of measurement. They should extend slightly past the highest graphed value.
  • Tick Marks: Use tick marks on both axes to show units. Make sure they are not cluttering the graph.
  • Line: The line shows the actual data being displayed. It can be displayed as a single data point, data points with a line connecting the points, or as a single smooth line with no data points. Different colors can also be used to designate various elements.
  • Source: Should be included if the source will not be obvious to readers.

Tips for making line graphs:

  • Use different colors to ensure that the reader can distinguish between the lines. If you cannot use different colors, use different types of lines, for example, dots or dashes.
  • If possible, start axes at zero to avoid misleading readers. If this is not possible, use hash marks to inform your readers that your graph does not start at zero.

Bar Graphs[edit | edit source]

An example of a bar graph.

Bar graphs can be used as a simple and easy way to compare quantities. The bars can extend up from the base of the graph, or extend horizontally from the sides of the graph. Bar graphs work best when comparing quantities over time and give a better visual when the changes are rather large. Main things to be included in a bar graph are as follows:

  • Title: This is the most important thing. Make sure to give a title that readers will easily understand and that will successfully convey the information that is contained in the bar graph.
  • X-axis (Horizontal) and Y-axis (Vertical): Both axes should be labeled and provide units of measurement.
  • Bars: This is what shows the actual data being displayed. The bars start at zero and extend to the value which is necessary. Appropriate colors and a key should be used if multiple bars could be used to simplify the reading process. The bars can be touching or separate, depending on space and preference.
  • Labels: Label every piece of data so it is clear what each bar in the graph represents. It is important to do so, in order to promote clarity and usability of the graph.
  • Source: This should be included if it will not be obvious to readers.
  • Key: When bars are repeated, include a key of the colors, or place labels next to each bar to clarify what they represent.

Tips for creating bar graphs:

  • Arrange bars in an order that readers will find most helpful. They could be arranged alphabetically, chronologically, from longest to shortest, or vice versa.
  • If possible, begin bars at zero. If this is not possible, use hash marks to inform your readers the bars do not start at zero.

Pie Charts[edit | edit source]

An example of a pie chart.

Pie charts are effective for showing pieces of information that have a direct correlation to one another. Pie charts are one of the most commonly used graphics to communicate varying values or percentages in relation to each other. However, they are not useful for demonstrating changes over time. They only show parts of a whole at a specific moment in time.

The chart is made up of a circle that contains many "slices" representing values in percentages or magnitudes that add up to a whole circle, or 100%. These are used in the business world, but are rarely used in technical or scientific reports because of their inability to communicate differences between the slices of the pie, as well as the inability to compare multiple pie charts to each other. The main things to be included in a pie chart are the following:

  • Title-Most important piece of information.
  • Labeling on all sections of the pie (including percentages).
 -A legend could also be used to inform the reader of the set of data being compared. 
  • Use Color, it makes the chart more visually attractive and may help distinguish between slices of the chart. Color coding and a legend may also be used if the slices are to small to be labeled individually, of if you do not want to label the slices individually.

Other charts[edit | edit source]

Organization charts

  • Note that the purpose of an organization chart is to map the various divisions and levels of responsibility within an organization.
  • Make the chart as simple as the organization itself, with the levels of hierarchy organized highest to lowest and positioned on the chart from top to bottom. The more levels of hierarchy in the organization, the more vertical the chart; the more divisions in the organization, the more horizontal the chart.
  • Use the same shape in the same size for all divisions of the organization that are at the same level in the hierarchy.
  • Label each division of the organization.
  • If space allows, put the labels directly on the division; if not, attach the label to the subject with thin rules (never arrows).
  • Position all the labels on the horizontal so that the view doesn't have to rotate the page or screen to read the labels.
  • Connect each level of the organization to the higher and lower levels with a clear line (never arrows).
  • Connect optional, informal, or temporary relationships with a dotted line.

Flow charts

  • Note that the purpose of a flow chart is to show the sequence of steps in a process or procedure.
  • Make the flow chart as simple as the process itself. If a process is simple, design the flow chart so that it progresses in a single direction, usually top to bottom or left to right. Complicated designs that spiral and zigzag imply a more complicated process.
  • Use the same shape in the same size for all equivalent steps or phases, but different shapes for steps or phases of a different kind (e.g., circles for the stages in researching a document, squares for the stages of writing, and diamonds for the production stages of printing and binding).
  • Label each of the steps or phases.
  • If space allows, put the labels directly on the step; if not, attach the label to the step with thin rules (never arrows).
  • Position all the labels on the horizontal so that the viewer doesn't have to rotate the page or screen to read the labels.
  • Connect each step or phase in the sequence to the next step or phase with a clear directional arrow.
  • Connect reversible or interactive steps or phases with double-headed arrows.
  • Connect recursive or cyclical steps or phases with circular arrows.
  • Connect optional steps or phases with dotted-line arrows.


  • Note that the purpose of a diagram is to identify the parts of a subject and their spatial or functional relationship.
  • Keep the diagram as simple as possible, avoiding unnecessary details or distracting decorations and focusing the viewer's attention on the key features or parts of the subject.
  • Label each of the pertinent parts of the subject.
  • If space allows, put the labels directly on the part; if not, attach the label to the part with thin rules (never arrows).
  • Position all the labels on the horizontal so that the viewer doesn't have to rotate the page or screen to read the labels.

Pictographs[edit | edit source]

Pictographs are similar to bar graphs except, instead of bars, symbols are used in order to simplify the viewing process. Pictographs are not seen often in professional work. They can best be put to use in communicating with children or young adults that may not have adequate reading skills.

Main things to be included in a pictograph:

  • Title: Most important thing
  • Key: a key should be present in order to show the viewer how much each symbol represents. Each symbol should be as simple as possible. Color, size, or orientation can be varied to represent different items.
    • For Example: A ticket stub could equal 2 movies watched. If the number the symbol is assigned to is simple, it can be cut in half in order to show fractions. For Example: Half of the ticket stub equals 1 movie watched.

The definition of a pictogram or pictograph is a symbol used to represent an object or place that is widely recognized and understood, sometimes even across cultures. This form of showing and representing information could be extremely useful when dealing with multiple cultures and languages. A common example of a pictogram is the man and woman symbols used to distinguish the woman's bathroom from the man's bathroom. These two symbols are recognized throughout the world and, in each situation, mean the same thing. So, a pictogram would be appropriate for communicating to a varied audience either of young children or people of many languages. The pictures and symbols along with a proper key will convey meaning without the necessity of words.


Photos and Illustrations[edit | edit source]

Photos are used in professional documents as tools for communicating a message that a writer feels can be strengthened through the use of proper imagery. Photographs can do many things to enhance a message, some examples can be seen here:

Illustration Checklist[edit | edit source]


  • What kinds of illustrations are your audience familiar with?
  • Do you have information that could be more easily or quickly communicated to your audience visually or in a combination of words and graphics?
  • Do you have definitions that could be displayed visually in whole or in part?
  • Do you have any processes or procedures that could be depicted in a flowchart?
  • Do you have information on trends or relationships that could be displayed in tables and graphics?
  • Do you have masses of statistics that could be summarized in tables?
  • Do you need to depict objects? If so, what do you need to display about the objects? Do you need to focus attention on specific aspects of the objects? Do you require the realism of photographs?
  • What are the design conventions of your illustrations?
  • Are there suitable illustrations you could borrow or adapt? Or will you need to create them yourself?


  • Are you illustrations suited to your purpose and audience?
  • Do your illustrations communicate information ethically?
  • Are your illustrations effectively located and easy to find?
  • Are your illustrations numbered and labeled?
  • Do your verbal and visual elements reinforce each other?
  • Are your illustrations genuinely informative instead of simply decorative?
  • When necessary, have you helped your readers to interpret your illustrations with commentary or annotations?
  • Have you acknowledged the sources for borrowed or adapted tables and figures?

How To Perform an Action[edit | edit source]

Pictures are an effective tool for giving visual representation of how to do something. They can can stand alone or work in conjunction with the given text, and they can enhance a message if used properly.

If you are using pictures in conjunction with text: As in a set of instructions, the imagery increases understanding of the task, in addition to decreasing confusion that may arise from text that stands alone. When using a picture to help portray how to perform a task, it is your responsibility to make sure the picture matches up with the text. You must explain the picture using text, and vice versa, explain the text using a picture. Also, the viewer will accomplish the task more often when the picture looks how it would if they were watching the task, not necessarily if they were experiencing it.

An example would be: if your task was doing a cartwheel, you wouldn't want the pictures at an angle where the person is looking through the eyes of the one doing the cartwheel. You would want the pictures to be from someone watching the event, so that the viewer isn't confused by what they can't see (such as where their feet are when they're looking at their hands). It's the simple things that make or break a document when using pictures. Think and re-think the pictures you are using and how someone seeing them for the first time will react to them.

How a Finished Product Should Look[edit | edit source]

When textual information does not capture the essence of what your trying to describe, try putting an actual photo of what your trying to describe in the document. This type of picture enables you to come as close to reality as possible. Make sure your pictures are in color and of high quality. Black and white photos tend to blur easily on paper and lack the detail needed to fully understand a photo. Images cut down on excessive use of describing words. "A picture is worth a thousand words" relates to this situation.

Be sure to use the text wrap abilities of most word processors. A well placed picture with clean text wrapping can make an otherwise overwhelming block of text seem reasonably approachable. Looking at 25 pages of block, justified alignment, plain black text is one of the most boring ways to see a report. A picture can liven up a report, make it more memorable, and help clarify the report all in one motion.

Map Out an Object, Place, or Process[edit | edit source]

An example of these types of pictures can be found in an automotive manual or a science textbook. This can be anything from a picture of a machine to an example of how photosynthesis works. Arrows and labels can be used in order to show where everything is and how the process takes place. The picture should include a big enough background so that the reader can locate the area in relation to things around it.

Photographs can also play a major role in connecting with the audience. They are useful in multi-cultural situations when a shared written language may not exist. Pictures can speak louder than words, and usually portray the message quicker. It is very important to keep the first initial reaction in mind when choosing the image you will place within your document. Be sure to avoid photos that may have several meanings, or the true meaning may be unclear. In order to avoid this type of situation, put yourself in the audience that you are writing for and try to be unbiased when you view the image. Better yet, test the image on someone who does not know much about your photo's topic and ask them what message the photo sends to them. Clarity is essential in conveying your message.

Do not rely too heavily on pictures though. Pictures and text should be used simultaneously in order to give the audience the most accurate direction. Pictures can make a great break in words, but are not always as useful to get a point across as words are.

Software Can Tremendously Increase Photograph Effectiveness[edit | edit source]

There are a great deal of photo editing programs for computers that can be utilized to bring out the right angle, zoom, view, and color of a photo. Some of the most popular photo editing software includes Photoshop, Corel, and Image Smart. Many computers now come with basic image editing software, which allows one to adjust color, brightness, crop, and other basic edits.

Cropping is an essential key feature that allows you to enlarge the area of the photo you want the reader to see, while omitting the background and obsolete area of the background. Cropping is equivalent to looking at an image under a microscope where you can focus on the areas you want the readers to see the clearest. However, this can decrease image quality and make the image hard to see. When possible, it is best to use images that need little to no editing.

When using imagery make sure it is of high image resolution (300 dpi for print, 72 dpi for screen) and the proper format to be inserting into your document. Typically, sticking with images from original sources, such as a camera or other .jpg or .tif file are best.

If you find your photograph is not using the right coloring, computer programs such as Photoshop, Corel, etc. will allow you to adjust the color balance and light in many different variations. This is an important feature, especially when the photograph was not professionally taken or lacks the appropriate lighting for the setting. Be careful not to over or under expose the photography.

Labeling is also another feature you can do in a computer program. You can insert boxes with text and arrows into a photograph in order to label key details. Labeling your photographs keeps the information you are trying to convey to the reader clear.

These computer programs may take some time to become familiar with how they work. It might be necessary to take a course or tutorial on how to use them to their full advantages, but it's worth it for all the features these programs have. There are some free tutorials available on the internet or through the actual program.

Using Graphics From the Artists, Internet, and Other Misc. Sources[edit | edit source]

Graphics can be found for just about any topic relatively easily if you know how to search for them and cite the artist properly. Like any written material, pictures are also property of the original artist in many cases. It is important to use good ethics and cite artists when necessary. The internet and your computer's clip art file have countless pictures and graphics as well. Knowing how to use these techniques and tools will make finding and using images easier.

Citing Images[edit | edit source]

In order to use or manipulate an image or graphic not your own, from either the Internet or any other source, you must obtain permission from whoever created or has rights to that image. Usually some type of arrangement between you and this person or organization will have to be negotiated. This could be anything from paying for the rights to use the image, or citing the image in the way that is expressed by the owner. Sometimes graphics will be considered public domain. Studying the copyright information of an image is one way to determine whether or not it is public domain. Images belonging to a government agency or even to your employer would typically be considered public domain. Even so, these images should still be cited. A quick guide to citing images from books and internet can be found at, [[5]]

Finding Images on the Internet[edit | edit source]

If you are looking for a high resolution image from the internet, you can select in the Google header bar that you want it only to search for "large images, or extra large images". If you are not finding what you are looking for, there are many stock photography sites out there that allow you to have the image, royalty free for very little of your own money. Some sites to consider would be: Stock.XCHNG (this is a free site, with some restrictions), Stock Xpert, Corbis, Getty, or others, just type in stock photography in the search bar.

Clip Art/Illustrations[edit | edit source]

An example of Clip Art

Illustrations are a great way to convey information easily and effectively to an audience of all ages. However, when using illustrations be sure that there is relevance from the illustration to the topic your discussing. Illustrations can serve as tangents if they have no relevance to the topic being discussed. Illustrations must be chosen to highlight the topic you are discussing and not to distract readers from it.

Graphics can portray ideas more easily than a picture. They give a different type of quality than text in the document. However, when presenting the ideas to well-educated and technologically savvy professionals, clip art may not present the information efficiently. Illustrations that have a low image resolution can take away from the details you are trying to portray to your audience.If this is the case then photos may be a better choice because they are more clear and may get you point across better.

Headline text[edit | edit source]

Headline text is used to introduce or even explain graphics. It is expected that you label all of your graphics in one way or another so that when you reference them in you document the reader knows which graphic you are talking about. Headline text can be as simple as a title for a graph or as complex as a short paragraph below a photo explaining the origin and context of the image. Your images and text may seem to go together logically without headlines to you, but your readers will not have your same familiarity.


Usability Testing of Technical Communications[edit | edit source]

What is Usability Testing?

Usability testing is a tool used to evaluate a set of instructions or product. It tests to see if these instructions or product do what it is designed to do. Usability tests are a necessary part of the process of writing instructions or developing a product.

What is the Purpose of Usability Testing?

Usability testing involves test readers who read and/or use a draft in a similar situation as the intended audience would be in. After the test, you gather important information by observing and questioning the test reader. This allows you to get a good sense of the overall response of your draft so you can revise areas that need improvement. Usability testing can be simple or complex depending on the situation and importance.

Why is usability testing such a big deal and who uses it?

You may think your writing is easy to understand but more importantly, does your reader? Does your draft work the way it is intended to? The only accurate way to answer this question is to have a test subject read and evaluate your draft. Primary draft testing is the best method to increase the quality of a final draft that will be read and studied by thousands of people. Test materials range from drafts of websites, to print instructions, to informational documents.

Everybody from Fortune 500 companies to college students use usability testing in order to improve the efficiency of their final draft. Big corporations treat testing as such a big deal that they build special buildings for the sole purpose of usability testing. These special facilities can be equipped with video cameras, monitored computers, as well as one-way mirrors so testing specialist employees can observe customers' responses to drafts. College students can use this strategy with a roommate or classmates. Whatever the situation, usability testing is proven to be a valuable tool in the writing world.

Preparing for Usability Testing[edit | edit source]

Establish Your Test Objectives

Create questions or concerns that you want answered as a result of your usability testing. Be prepared for questions to arise during the testing process. Pay close attention to what your tester is telling you as this is valuable information to help improve your instructions. Be sure to annotate your observations so you can recognize any trends or red flag that exist in a particular section. Once you recognize what you want to learn, you can customize the test so it evaluates and provides the specific information you are looking to obtain. The two most general questions usability testing seeks to answer are:

  • How can my draft be improved?
  • Is my communication sufficient?

Other examples of more specific question are:

  • How well is the page formatted?
  • Does the draft influence the test readers’ attitude the way I intended it to?
  • Are my tasks easy to follow?

To help evaluate this criterion, try creating measurable criteria. Measurable criteria may involve a test reader reviewing an informative draft and then answering questions. Make sure the criteria is highly specific towards your objectives. Criteria that is too broad will not be useful during later assessments. If the reader gets a certain percentage correct, the draft is adequate. It can also be time related. For example, can the test reader navigate to the website link provided within twenty seconds?

Selecting Testers

Choose readers who are suitable to the testing scenario. This is a very important part of testing because if a test reader is not part of the target audience, they may influence you to make ineffective adjustments to your document. A vital rule for most cases is to pick a dentist for dentistry or an electrician for electrical instructions. Furthermore, the knowledge levels of your target readers on the subject you want to test them on should vary according to the objectives of your testing. For example, you are constructing an origami instruction manual for individuals with intermediate origami skill levels and you want to test the clarity of your instructions with a usability test. If you select test readers with no origami experience, your instructions will seem overly complicated to the readers and the outcome of the usability test will send you a message that additional clarification is needed, where in actuality your instructions might be sufficient for your target audience. Similarly, testing the clarity of your instructions with origami experts could lead you to over-simplify your instructions. The number of test readers used can vary and play a role in determining the usability of your final draft. The number of test readers used depends on the type of draft and the availability of test subjects. For example, there may be a situation where ten or more test readers are needed to determine the overall comprehension of a draft. The purpose of needing more test readers is that each test reader has a unique perspective and can contribute different opinions and ideas. In the case of a more structured draft, such as step-by-step instructions, fewer testers are needed since you are testing only for clarity of these instructions. The key here is to make sure that your test readers use your draft the same way your users will.

Major Categories for Readers' Tasks

The tasks performed by the test readers can be categorized into three categories:

  • Perform a Procedure (performance test): For example, navigating through step-by-step instructions.
  • Locate Information (location test): For example, finding information in a reference manual.
  • Understand and Remember Content (understandability test): For example, learning something through reading.

If you are testing for a newly designed website, all three categories are needed to ensure accurate results.

Testing[edit | edit source]

There are three main types of usability tests:

Performance Test

Performance tests are instructions that assist the reader in performing an action. Provide the performance test to a tester in an environment that has the same tools, information, and references as your target audience. As they read the instructions, observe them without interference to see if they can perform the process without any complications.

Here are the four major elements of performance tests:

  • Tasks: Ask testers to perform the same tasks your target audience will perform.
  • Location: Use the same setting for testing that your target audience will be in.
  • Resources: Provide testers with the same tools, equipment, and resources that your target audience will have.
  • Information Gathering: Gather information in ways that will enable you to observe the details of the testers' experiences without interfering with their testing of your draft.

Location Tests

Location tests ask readers to locate information in reference manuals or websites. One way to test the effectiveness of your layout is to measure how fast the testers can locate information in the text. This type of test is valuable in measuring the quality of your headings, topic sentences, front matter, back matter, and determining if your links are properly guiding the reader through the text or website.

Understandability Tests

Understandability tests are extremely important just for the fact that if your reader does not understand or comprehend what you are communicating then the writing is useless to them. Understandability testing should be utilized in every writing test. The main way to conduct understandability tests is to have the test reader read the information and then answer strategic questions in order to get responses that will help guide your editing process.

  • Note: Conducting many small usability test drafts is far more efficient than conducting one large test after the finished draft is complete. If you are testing a web page, sketch the design on paper to be tested so you get a sense of what is needed before starting the website creation. Testing drafts more frequently will allow for many small easier revisions instead of one big overhaul of the draft.

After Usability Testing[edit | edit source]

After the test subject reads and uses your draft, the first step is to interview the person. This is used to gain more crucial information in addition to the information you observed during the testing. The questions vary according to the type of draft and the criterion of the usability test, but here are some general questions that could be asked:

  • What was the biggest problem you encountered in the draft?
  • What do you suggest?
  • What did you like about the draft?
  • Was the format user friendly?

After usability testing, the second step would be to analyze the data you collected. A very helpful way to analyze data is to input your raw data into an application such as Microsoft Excel from which graphs and tables can be constructed. From the test and the interview, you should be able to determine specific areas of your draft that need improvement or revamping. Examples could be anything from simply rewording to make more sense or possibly even a complete revamping of your draft. For this reason, usability testing is a great tool for determining the effectiveness of your draft.

The third step would be to implement the necessary changes to your draft. After the changes are made, further testing is often carried out to see whether or not the changes worked. It is important to realize that your first draft of instructions are usually not perfect and multiple revisions and testings are often necessary.

How to Make Usability Testing More Effective[edit | edit source]

Usability testing can often be a lengthy process. For this reason you want it to be as effective as possible. Listed here are some ideas to make your usability testing more effective.

  • Make sure you are prepared to take notes on your testing. Have documents with charts that can be filled with text during the testing process to make data more easy to analyze
  • Ensure testers are part of your target audience.
    • ex. If you have a set of instructions designed for adolescent men, do not perform usability testing on women or men outside the specified age group
  • Have all the materials for the tester be within reach, or easily available
  • Since you will be testing multiple people on a given day, bring enough testing material so you can perform all the tests you wanted to do
  • Be sure to be descriptive about what criteria you will be recording. You can make a number system to rank experience or possibly overall clarity of whatever is being tested.
  • Also leave room for a short descriptive interview at the end of the usability sheet to get the users thoughts and concerns. This will be valuable when you are revising your document to ensure it is of the highest quality and free of complications.

Avoiding Bias in the Testing Process[edit | edit source]

Avoiding bias is a big thing that can help save a lot of time spent revising. Test readers' responses need to be natural and must be similar to how the target audience would see the draft. Five simple things can minimize biased test results are:

  1. Downplay the fact that the writing is yours. This will allow the test readers to be more honest because they will not be afraid of offending or criticizing you. Do not show expression when the tester is critiquing the draft because the tester may not be as honest if they see that the work is yours.
  2. Pay attention to how you phrase questions. Make the questions so the reader has an open path to answer either way. If the format of your questions creates pressure to pick the ideal answer for the test reader, your results could be considered biased.
  3. Only intervene into the testing phase if it is absolutely necessary. Letting the test reader struggle through issues in the draft himself will allow for pure results that are unbiased. Of course, intervention should be used if the test reader is in danger of injury.
  4. Make sure the environment is as distraction-free as possible for the test reader. Keep your distance! You do not want to impede in the testing process distracting the subject.
  5. Ideally, if possible, watch the test from a video camera, one-way mirror, or afar while somebody else conducts the test. However, if this person conducts the interview also, he probably will not summarize the answers the same way you would.

Cross-cultural Testing[edit | edit source]

If you are going to have your writing read by people around the world or in different cultures, you are going to have some extra issues to consider. This is because every culture has different beliefs and norms. Writing in one culture that is clear and simple can be complex and inappropriate in another culture, unless special measures are taken when conducting usability testing. For example, when Breathe Right(R) nasal strips were going global, their box contained dark coloring because the product was supposed to be used to clear up the nasal passage during the night time. However, this dark package theme did not work well in Europe. They saw it as dark and gloomy and they wanted the package to be light and clear. The key to obtaining global technical communication is to have usability testers from that culture.

Ethics in Usability Testing[edit | edit source]

Due to the fact that technical communication is lawsuit prone, appropriate measures should be taken even when usability testing is used. Technical writing testing has the same loose guidelines as research in medicine and psychology:

  1. The volunteer must be informed and fully aware of the process.
  2. The volunteer must have agreed and given approval to participate in the testing.

For some types of tests, this is only an ethical issue. However, there are situations where there are legal restrictions for the researcher to inform the volunteer of the situation in writing.


Résumés[edit | edit source]

What is a Résumé?[edit | edit source]

A résumé is a summary of your educational background, employment experience, and skills. It is a way to communicate your qualifications for a desired position to an employer. Your résumé is your tool to market yourself and the key to getting an interview. Essentially, you are creating your résumé as a pitching, selling, and branding tool of yourself to potential employers.

There is no "best way" to write a résumé. However, there are some general guidelines, such as clarity, accuracy and neatness, that should be followed. It is important to choose a résumé style and format that will work best for you and the job you are applying for. How do you decide what approach will be the best? Here are some questions you can ask yourself to help with the decision:

  • What are the employer's needs and interests for the position for which I am applying?
  • What are my strengths for the job and how can I emphasize them?
  • How can I format and organize the content and graphics of my résumé to show what I have to offer?

There are three main types of résumés: Experiential, skills, and a combination of the two. What format to use is up to you. Each type emphasizes a different component of the résumé. Experiential résumés emphasize work experience, skills résumés emphasize skills and abilities, and combination résumés seek to find a balance between the two. When deciding what type of résumés to create, choose one that is common to your industry. Every industry uses different types of résumés according to what the industry standard is.

Experiential Résumés[edit | edit source]

Experiential résumés list information in reverse chronological order. Résumés are organized under headings such as “Education,” “Work Experience,” and “Activities.” Most college students will choose to list education first, because students have limited work experience. The most recent degrees are listed first followed by previous degrees. The same format is followed under each heading. Skills gained from each job are listed under each job title, along with accomplishments and responsibilities. Experiential résumés are useful for establishing a work history and for showcasing accomplishments made at each career position. Experiential résumés are the most common type of résumé and are a simple way to detail responsibilities held at different jobs. The following link is an example of an experiential résumé: http://www.stpaulcareers.umn.edu/img/assets/14461/Env_Nat_Resources_Resume.pdf

Skills Résumés[edit | edit source]

A skills (or functional) résumé organizes information around types of skills and abilities. Headings may include “Computer Skills,” “Foreign Languages,” and “Leadership Experience.” A skills résumé will list the skill and then explain when and how that particular skill was used. Skills résumés are useful for several reasons.

  • Avoids repeating the same information under each job title
  • Emphasizes skills and abilities (a college graduate’s work history may be from only part-time work, and a skills résumé will merely mention these positions)
  • Hides gaps in an applicant's work history

Anytime attention should be focused away from work experience, a skills résumé is recommended. Here is an example of a skills résumé: http://jobsearch.about.com/od/sampleresumes/l/bltransresume.htm

Combination Résumés[edit | edit source]

A combination résumé lists skills and abilities first, but also lists accomplishments and responsibilities under specific job titles and experiences. A combination résumé allows an applicant to highlight specific skills that may be desired by the employer while also emphasizing job experience. Combination résumés are useful for applicants with an extensive job history in a highly specialized field. For example, applicants in computer programming may want to highlight their computer language skills before detailing their computer programming experience.

Defining Résumé Objectives[edit | edit source]

When writing your résumé you must make decisions about such things as what to say, how to organize, how to design pages and so on. Think about your readers. What will they be looking for? How will they look for this information? How will they use it when they find it? What are their attitudes about your subject and what do you want their attitudes to be when they have finished reading? The following sections provide your general style when writing your résumé:

Personal Information: Include your name, address, and professional email address. Many employers like to see a home or cell phone number on the résumé as well. This gives them assurance that they can reach you at almost any time of the day and that they are speaking to the right person. Your name should stand out as the title of the résumé. This helps readers locate your résumé quickly when searching through a stack of applications. Regarding personal information, there are certain details that you do not want to put in your résumé. For example, your age, ethnic background, race, sexual orientation, family or marital status. It is not a good idea to put these on your résumé because an employer can see these as reason not to hire you. For example, if the job entails lots of traveling, they will not want someone who is married or with a family. In addition, even though it is illegal and unethical, some employers will not hire people of a certain race or gender, so it is best to leave these details out.

Whenever you’re listing your work responsibilities, write about your own most relevant experience 1st. Think about which areas of your current job are usually most transferable to the particular position you’re applying with regard to, and prioritize them upon your resume.[1][2]

Career Objectives: Many people believe that they need to have an objective listed underneath their contact information; however, the truth is that objectives should not part of your résumé because they are limiting. For example, Mary writes as her objective, "To receive the internship offered as the new event planner assistant." What about after she receives the internship? Does she not want to go further in the company? Objectives are limiting because there is no way to encompass everything you would like to do and accomplish within one objective.

Education: Education should be included immediately after your identifying information unless you have had significant work experiences in the field for which you are applying. In that case, education should be placed at the end of the résumé. You should name the institute you attended, the degree you achieved or are working to achieve, and the graduation date or expected graduation. Provide information directly relevant to the employment such as advanced courses taken or achievements. Your GPA should be included only if it is above average. You should avoid adding anything about high school unless it is particularly impressive. Other facts to highlight about your education include study abroad programs, training programs, academic honors, or even classes outside your major to show your broad range of abilities.

Work Experience: Include information about your employment history within your résumé. For each job, include the company name, location, and specific dates employed. Be sure to spell out the months you worked at the company to make your résumé internationally accepted. For example, 1/10/2010 can mean different things in different places. A good example of a listed date is April, 5, 2010. In addition, employment should be listed in reverse chronological order. If applicable, advancements in the company or accomplishments should be included. You should also list some of the knowledge you gained from your work experience and some of the responsibilities you were given. When describing your work experience, make sure to use action verbs, not nouns. You should use strong verbs to show what you did at that job and avoid lifeless, uninteresting verbs. Lastly, you want to make sure the verbs are parallel

Achievements: Awards, recognitions, or other special circumstances should be included if they are outstanding and directly related to the job for which you are applying.

Volunteer Experience:Include information on present or former volunteering sites within your résumé. Information included should be the company name, location, and specific dates you volunteered.

Skills: Be sure to include any special skills that you have, such as being fluent in another language or being an expert in Microsoft applications. These skills can be what set you apart from the other applicants.

References: References are to be included at your own discretion, including "references available upon request" is appropriate. This gives the company power to ask your reference anything about you that they will answer. When choosing a reference or references, make sure that you can trust them to answer honestly and that they will not reveal any intrusive information. Be sure to ask them if they are willing to be a reference before giving their information to a potential employer.

Designing Your Résumé[edit | edit source]

Your résumé is the first step in obtaining an interview and potentially getting hired. A major question you want to ask yourself when creating your résumé is "How do I want the employer to see me?" You can create a résumé that is uniquely yours and that will stand apart from others by illustrating your personality within your résumé. In the text book Technical Communication they give a list of key visuals you should include in your résumé design that employers look for.

  • Short, informative headings
  • Bulleted lists
  • Italics
  • Left, center, right tabs
  • Variety of type sizes
  • Different typefaces for headings than for text
  • White space to separate sections
  • 1" margins
  • Having a visual balance

Just as companies market products, you must market yourself. Below are some helpful tips on how to design your résumé. These tips about visuals may help your résumé stand out from other candidates if properly done. You also must organize your information in a way that is accurate yet interesting to the employer. You do not want an employer to overlook your résumé because the type is too small or the graphics on the page are too distracting. Having a clean, crisp, and organized résumé design will enable your potential employer to easily read and find information, thus creating an esthetically pleasing experience.

Use Accomplishment Statements[edit | edit source]

Think in terms of the value you bring to the potential employer. All of the following examples have one thing in common - they all affect the profitability and productivity of a company.

  • Increase productivity and quality...
  • Improve service...
  • Improve communications and information flow...
  • Streamlined operations...
  • Developed new administrative procedure that...
  • Implemented a new program in...
  • Reduced cost of...
  • Increased sales...

Any time you can quantify your results you should. It gives your statements more power. You need to prove that you can contribute to the organization by adding value. Statements that are specific and show how you will add value will increase your chances of being selected for an interview.[3]

Résumé Design Tips[edit | edit source]

Simplicity: Do not clutter the page with unnecessary information. Keep your headings short, informative, to-the-point, and clear of graphics. Résumés should be concise and easy to read to ensure that the potential employer can find the information they need quickly. Generally, people look at these for about 30 seconds, so you want them to have a solid idea of your qualifications in less time than that. However, while you may be tempted to use templates that can be found in programs such as Microsoft Word, do not use it! Employers receive many résumés and you want yours to stand out!

Eye Catching: It is important that the person reviewing your resume is interested. A person looks at a resume an average of 30 seconds. If they do not get interested, the resume is set down and forgotten. There are so many people looking for jobs, if your resume does not stand out you will just blend in with the crowd. So use descriptive words and make yourself look interesting.

Format: Typically, résumés should not be no longer than one page, unless stated otherwise. Also, remember to keep your 1" margins on all sides of the page. However, there are many different opinions on this. It is best to keep it to one page because that is what the majority of employers like; however, some people have no preference. It would be best to do some research about what company you are applying for looks for. DO NOT GO OVER TWO PAGES!

Tabs: Be sure to use tabs when aligning the elements of your résumé. Avoid using the spacebar to align different elements, such as dates and cities of employment. Many résumé templates include the dates worked, etc. in the right margin. Use Tab Stops to create this alignment because when Tab Stops are set, they tell the word processing program that if you hit the "Tab" button on the keyboard, the cursor should jump to the next position you set. Setting Tab Stops is different from just hitting the tab key, which will usually jump ahead 1/2 inch from where you were last typing. Tab Stops are making a specific place the cursor should stop at when you use the "Tab" button on the keyboard.

Consistency: Use the same formatting for similar sections on your résumé. Use line breaks, indents, and font variations to organize relevant information into sections. For example, you could use a different font for the headings. This will make your résumé more aesthetically pleasing. Make sure all headings are the same size and type (bold, italic, etc). The largest font of your résumé should be your name and should be no smaller than 18 point font. Headings the second largest, name of organizations third largest, and the smallest should be your bullet points.

Hierarchy: Create a system that uses different sizes of headings, subheading, and body text. It should follow a pyramid layout. For example:

                      Body Text

Font: Be sure to use fonts that are easy to read. Do not try to make the font a creative piece of your résumé. It is important when sending a résumé as a Microsoft Word document or any other word processing software that you use common font styles such as Arial, Verdana, or Times New Roman. This is because the fonts may transfer improperly and be unreadable.

Paper: Choose a fine grade paper. There are many paper options, but remember white or slightly off white paper that is slightly thicker than traditional printer paper is the gold standard. Avoid using colored paper to avoid sending the wrong impression to your reader. Remember, your résumé is the first glimpse into who you are.

Branding: Create your own brand (your personal touch or signature if you will) through the paper type you choose, the envelope in which you enclose the necessary information, and how you format the résumé. Consistency is important with all contents of the résumé package, which may include your résumé, cover letter, referral letters (be sure to only enclose this when it is asked, you do not want to give out references information to just anybody), portfolio, and the job application itself. Consistency will create a lasting impression on the employer.

Verbs: When speaking of past tasks you held at a previous job, verbs should be in the past tense form. If you are speaking of job tasks you currently preform, use the present tense. Use action verbs! Use a thesaurus as a resource in order to not repeat verbs.

Templates: Many word processing applications have templates for résumés. Using these templates is acceptable, but may lack the branding discussed above. So try designing your own, before using a template. Some employers may prefer that all résumés are standardized. This allows employers to go through them quickly and look for specific qualifications.

Helpful design trick: To see how your potential employer will view your résumé, be sure to have your peers proofread and offer constructive criticism. Many universities have career offices and counselors who are able to help edit your résumé and give advice.

Electronic Résumés[edit | edit source]

An electronic résumé has the same content as a traditional résumé; however, it has a different format, and it is intended to be sent via e-mail, copied and pasted into electronic forms, or posted online. Electronic résumés are becoming more popular in society today. This type of résumé should be in plain text format (ASCII text file) in order to be opened and read by most computers (PC's, Macintosh's, UNIX Workstations, and mainframe terminals). Most word processing software provides the option to convert the document into an ASCII file or some other type of text file. Find out how to create a plain-text version of your résumé.

The résumé should be saved as a Rich Text File (RTF) or converted into PDF if it is intended to be an attachment to an e-mail or if keeping the current format is important (unless there are specific directions from a prospective employer to use another format).

Since many employers use keyword searches to find qualified candidates, it is very important to use relevant words associated with particular job openings, industries, and professions, especially words that appear on the job announcement (NOT synonyms). In addition, action verbs like "managed" or "designed", which are recommended for use in traditional paper résumés, are not effective in electronic résumés because most applicant-tracking systems (ATS) keywords are NOUNS. Nouns indicate your accomplishments rather than verbs that focus on duties. It is better for you to use the noun version of these verbs like “management” instead of “managed, and "design" instead of "designed."

Scannable Résumé[edit | edit source]

A Scannable résumé is formatted in a way that it can be easily scanned and stored electronically. Many employers use automated applicant-tracking systems that scan traditional résumés and store them in a database. This means that the first "person" to scan your résumé, is a computer. Then, employers search the database for candidates whose résumés contain specific keywords relevant to a particular position.

Tips on how to write a scannable résumé:

  • First, ask the employer if your résumé will be scanned. Otherwise, enclose both a regular and scannable résumé.
  • Make a list of keywords.
  • Put your keywords in the form of nouns.
  • It is fine to create a "keywords" section on your résumé for words that you cannot fit nicely into anywhere else in your résumé.
  • Make sure everything is spelled correctly, computer programs do not always pick up misspelled words.
  • Avoid the use of fancy text, italics, underlining, and other decorative designs. Stick to bold, caps, and bullets.
  • Do NOT use staples. Mail your résumé.
  • Make sure your name is on top of every page, on a line of its own.
  • Scanners don't care how many pages your résumé is.

Submitted by E-mail[edit | edit source]

Résumés submitted by E-mail are used by more than one-third of human resource managers because they are convenient for employers to take a quick look at your résumé without having to waste their time in an interview right away. Employers may have different ways that they suggest e-mailing your résumé to them, but the common ones are to send it as an attachment or copy the résumé into the actual body of the e-mail. If you are sending it as an attachment, make sure to save the file as a PDF file. This way all of the formatting will remain intact, even if the person opening the e-mail is not running the same version of a software as you are. The employer can see the résumé exactly how you intended. If you are instructed to copy the résumé into the body of the e-mail, design your résumé the way you would for a scannable résumé. In both of these instances, make sure to include a subject line. A great subject for an e-mail résumé is, "Résumé- Full Name: Position applying for". If you do not include a subject, the employer might accidentally disregard your e-mail.

Web Page Résumé[edit | edit source]

A Web Résumé is created using HTML (Hypertext Markup Language) and displayed on a personal Web page. The Web résumé is preferred for people in professions where they benefit from multimedia and rich detail such as actors, graphic designers, photographers, dancers, etc. Keep your design simple and uncluttered. In addition, make sure there is a link to your e-mail address so it is easy for an employer to contact you. Lastly, keep security in mind, and make sure that the website is secure so no one can alter your résumé.

Tailoring Your Résumé[edit | edit source]

To tailor your résumé, you need to figure out what specific things to include or exclude. Of course you need to include your name, address, phone number and email at the top of the page. The objective is rare, but when you are applying for a specific job, this might be an option. Your education should always come before anything else. In your education section, you must include the name of your university, your major with an optional emphasis, and the year of your expected graduation. You should include your grade point average if it is high for your major.

You should also include every related job that you have worked at. For example, if you are applying to be a designer and have worked for a design company or department store, include it. On the other hand, if you are applying for a designer and have worked for a gas station, that would be one job that you want to leave out.

If you have attended any related classes about your hopeful job, that would be important information to include. You must always think about what the reader wants to hear. Awards and evidence of teamwork is always impressive. When you include rewards, you should put them in chronological order and the highest awards first. If you do not have any awards or leadership opportunities, you should think about including some interests that might help you build relationships with coworkers.

Some aspects you should exclude in your résumé are: gender, religion, race, age, national origin, and martial status. Lastly, you do not need to include your references. You can mention "references available upon request." That way, if your interviewer needs to know your references, they can simply ask you.

Helpful Résumé Tips[edit | edit source]

  • Your name appears in the center at the top of the page
  • Everything on your résumé supports your job objective, whether that objective is stated on your résumé or not.
  • Achievements, rather than job descriptions, are stressed.
  • Achievement statements start with action verbs and do not contain vague terms such as "responsible for"
  • There are no paragraphs anywhere on the résumé. Use bulleted statements to make achievements quick and easy to read.
  • Statements and sections are prioritized so the most impressive information comes first.
  • Write out the word for all numbers ten and under. For example, ten instead of 10.
  • Write out all acronyms to anything that the reader may not understand followed by the abbreviation in parentheses. Ex. Do not write CLA, write out College of Liberal Arts (CLA)
  • When writing dates, spell out the month rather than writing it in number form, and be sure to write the year out in full. Ex. March 12, 2010
  • Be as concise as possible while still including all the important information.
  • Be sure to include keywords that might make the résumé stand out. Many employers will scan a pile of résumés for key words that fit what they are looking for before handing them off to the hiring manager for further consideration.
  • Make sure all verb tense forms are correct. Use the past tense verb form for items completed in the past, and present tense verb form for tasks you currently still complete.
  • Make sure to include your contact information on your résumé. Only send documents from a professional e-mail address. For example, firstname_lastname@yahoo.com is an acceptable e-mail address. Nickname e-mail addresses such as, Babygurlzz98@hotmail.com is not acceptable for professional correspondence.
  • Leave only one space in between sentences. Modern software puts the correct amount of space after a period.
  • Cater your résumé to each company and employer to which you apply, so your résumé and cover lever feel individualized to the company.
  • Include a PAR statement in your cover letter.
  • Write using an inverted pyramid style, with the most important information at the beginning and the least important at the end.
  • Keep the length to one page, unless applying for a senior executive position or otherwise stated.

References[edit | edit source]

  1. Ashira Prossack (Jan 26, 2019). "Tips To Write A Strong Resume".
  2. "chronological format resume template". May 5, 2019.
  3. Resumes. (2004). Undergraduate job search handbook. Minneapolis: Carlson School of Management.

Career/Cover Letters

Cover Letters[edit | edit source]

Cover letters are meant to be cohesive and well thought out. A résumé serves as a first impression, and a cover letter reiterates how your skills and abilities will accentuate the company’s mission and beliefs. Your cover letter introduces yourself to potential employers on a more personal level. Employers typically spend the most time examining a résumé, but if your cover letter is unorganized and unattractive, they won't be examining you further. The key is to be both professional and personal while keeping the look of your cover letter clean and concise.

Why Use a Cover Letter[edit | edit source]

  • It is an informational letter used to highlight your most relevant skills for the employer.
  • It is a letter of introduction to introduce you and your background to the employer.
  • It is a sales letter intended to convince the employer that you have something to offer that makes it worth his/her time to interview you.

Functions[edit | edit source]

  • Introduces you to potential employer and explain in detail who you are and what you can offer the employer.
  • Enhances your résumé because if the potential employer likes your résumé, your cover letter is the next document they will look at.
  • Describes how your experiences make you a prime candidate for the open position.
  • Shows your interest in a position.
  • Enables you to provide reasons on why you would fit the position best and work with the other employees.

Cautions[edit | edit source]

Even though a good cover letter will advertise your accomplishments and explain how well you fit in with the company, cover letters are not meant as an opportunity to brag. If you exaggerate and lie, you will be held accountable for your actions and your cover letter will have the opposite effect of what you intended. Be honest and upfront in your cover letter. Remember that the goal is to get an interview and to not explain your life story. Save the very specific details of your experiences for the interview.

Unlike résumés, cover letters must be specific to each individual job. They must be thoroughly researched to show that you know the mission and objectives of the company and how you fit that profile. By doing some background research, you immediately make yourself sound qualified for the job you are applying for; therefore, cover letters cannot be generic. Sending the same letter, without any regard to the specifics of the company would risk you sounding bland and broad, thus not getting an interview with the prospect employer.

Ethics[edit | edit source]

It is important to practice good ethics even in the early stages of applying for a job. Unethical representation of yourself is not only unprofessional but in some instances it is illegal. Be confident with the skills and experiences you already have and represent them honestly. Your personality and work ethics will speak for itself to impress employers. The following are three major areas where prospective employees tend to cross the boundary of ethics:

Team Efforts: Although it may be more impressive if you take sole credit for a major project, it is unethical to do so if you worked with a team. Many companies respond well to suggestions of teamwork, because it shows that candidates work well with others and can switch back and forth between leading and following. If you have worked in teams in the past, try to subtly reference it instead of writing, "I work well in groups." It sounds more impressive to work your teamwork into a PAR (P - problem, A - action, R - results) statement. For example, "When my team and I encountered a budget problem, we were able to save the company money by reducing the need for unnecessary resources." This is less blunt, but gets the point across that you can work with others in a team.

Exaggeration: Some applicants believe that although lying in a cover letter is frowned upon, exaggeration is fine. Exaggeration is the same as lying. Employers react to it the same way, and although it may seem more difficult to trace an exaggeration back to an applicant, it is not. Some people may try to avoid exaggeration, but opt to use a lot of flowery, excessive language in their cover letters to either impress potential employers or provide filler to cover up lack of experience or accomplishments. The skills and abilities you tell an employer in a cover letter will expected of you if you happened to get the job. If you cannot perform like you stated, they can fire you and sue you for false statements. They will do this because it took time and money to hire you, and if they have to replace you right away, they will not be impressed. It can and will hurt your reputation.

References: Make sure your references know you intend to include them before you submit your cover letter. That way, if an employer contacts your references, they are prepared to give you a good review instead of being caught off guard (or worse, letting the employer know that they weren't aware of their involvement in your job search). It is a good idea to give a copy of your cover letter (and résumé) for each employer to your references so they are prepared for possible questions about your job skills and what you intend to bring to the company.

Objectives[edit | edit source]

Creating and personalizing your cover letter is a step-by-step process. You want to advertise yourself to the employer by showing them what you can do for their company. There are three things that you should imagine employers asking you before they read your cover letter:

  • Why have you chosen us over another company?
  • How are you going to help us be successful?
  • What makes you a good fit with our other employees and clients?

How to Start[edit | edit source]

Thoroughly research every company you apply for. Employers are impressed if you know background information about their companies; however, do not fill up your cover letter with too many facts. They work for the company, so they already know the information. The company's website is a great place to start researching, but you can also contact the company's current employees. Employers want to know that you know the position you are applying for and how it impacts their bottom line. Knowing yourself is the first criteria, since that will enable you to fit yourself into the company plan.

Drafting Your Cover Letter[edit | edit source]

Like most papers, cover letters have three main parts: An Introduction, a Body, and a Conclusion. How you utilize these three parts is up to you and your creativity; however, try to focus on answering these following questions:

  • What job do I want?
  • What do I know about this company?
  • Why have I applied for this job over another?
  • What are my qualifications and how will they help the employer?

Having a friend, family member, co-worker, classmate, teacher, or anyone read through the first draft of your cover letter is important and helpful. While you may think your letter makes sense and sounds perfect, others may think differently. A set of "fresh eyes" can often find hidden mistakes, unintentional exaggerations, or awkward phrasing that the author might not notice. If there is no one else that can proof read for you, read it aloud to yourself.

It is very important to go through several drafts before sending out your final cover letter to potential employers. Revision is often overlooked, but it is a very important part of the writing process. It is also important to understand that one cover letter for one company will be completely different for another company, even if they are in the same profession. It is important to make sure your cover letter is written to the specific audience that will be reading it. This will change with each company, so it is essential to know the culture of each organization.

Here is an example of a cover letter's format:

P.A.R. Statements[edit | edit source]

PAR statements are an extremely important element of the cover letter.

Problem: Define a problem that existed in your previous work environment. This should be something related to the position for which you are applying, something that will appeal to the reader of your cover letter as something you might come across if you were hired, or something that shows an above and beyond initiative. For example, "The company wasted paper that could have been recycled".

Action: Describe the actions or methods you took to resolve or prevent the problem. This should be an opportunity to show the employer your desire to improve the company or your creativity in problem solving. For example, "I implemented numerous recycling bins throughout the company"

Resolution: This is an opportunity to portray the benefits you brought to the company. You can point out the benefits of your actions, and the results of your initiative and leadership. "Recycling bins reduced unnecessary waste by 80%."

Using P.A.R. statements will get you noticed, while the prospective employer is reading your cover letter. They will see direct results and resolutions that you have done.

Revision[edit | edit source]

After the initial cover letter is written, it is very important to look over your work to make sure everything is grammatically correct and free of errors. A good idea is to get the help of a friend, classmate, family member, or colleague to read your work and make suggestions for improvement. A set of "fresh eyes" typically can find errors and confusing sentences that you accidentally read over. More than one opinion is always helpful. An effective cover letter is one that is well written with no errors. Many employers will discard letters and résumés of those that have even a slight error. A simple proofreading by yourself and others can make your chances of obtaining an interview increase. Re-thinking and re-wording certain sentences can alleviate possible confusion and hardship in explaining yourself to the hiring authority.

Researching a Company[edit | edit source]

In order to best portray yourself as an ideal candidate for a company, you must know something about the company's mission, interests, values, and history. By showing your knowledge of the way they run their business, you prove to the company that you are willing to work hard for their overall success. If your values do not match those of the job you're applying for, the position may not work out. Knowing ahead of time what the company is looking for in employees helps both the applicant and the hiring authority find who is best for the position. At the same time, however, a person must be careful to not appear too eager when "selling" oneself to a company.

Business Reference Library[edit | edit source]

The University of Minnesota's Business Reference Library is an excellent resource for students. The library has many resources for researching companies through many different databases. The Business Reference Library is also a great way to find companies in a specific industry in which to apply.

Hoovers[edit | edit source]

Hoovers is a company database with information on 43,000 companies in 600 industries. Each listing has information on company officers, locations, financial data, and primary competitors. Hoovers is a convenient resource that gathers a large amount of public information about many different companies.

Million Dollar Database[edit | edit source]

The Million Dollar Database lists companies in the United States with at least $1 million in sales or at least 20 employees. The Million Dollar Database currently lists over 1.6 million companies. The listings include company executives, business descriptions, subsidiaries, industries in which the company operates, and competitors. The Million Dollar Database holds information on smaller private companies that is not otherwise easily found.

Reference USA[edit | edit source]

Reference USA is a database of over 14 million U.S. and 1.5 million Canadian companies. Information is updated monthly and includes company executives, industries, competitors, and sales and expenditure information. Reference USA does not offer the breadth of information that is offered in databases such as Hoover's, but it lists information on a huge number of companies, searchable by industry, location, and other parameters.

Which company is right for me?[edit | edit source]

The first thing you must do is to determine what core values and morals are most important to you as a person. Once you know where you stand on certain issues, finding companies that have similar ideals is much easier. One area that will show how a company stands on major issues is political contributions. There are several websites available to view political contributions, which give a clear idea of where the company lies in terms of issues.

Open Secrets[edit | edit source]

Open Secrets is a website that enables one to find specific contributions by companies and special interests in political campaigns. At this particular website, under the "Influence and Lobbying" tab, clicking on "Industries" will bring you to a page where you can search specific industries relating to the type of company you are interested in applying for. From here you can determine how much money is donated and which party is the major recipient of employee and company dollars. By learning which major political party the company donates their money to, you are able to associate yourself with companies that match your own affiliations.

MAPLight.org[edit | edit source]

MAPLight.org is another website similar to Open Secrets, where one can find information about political money and interest groups. The full title of the site is, "Money and Politics: Illuminating the Connection." In election years, such as 2008, websites like these were helpful in learning about where money comes from and how politicians were funded. It is another useful tool in matching your own values with those of a specific industry.

How can I obtain this information?[edit | edit source]

An effective research method is to directly contact those individuals already employed or affiliated with the company or organization you are striving toward. It helps to network and make contacts with successful individuals who can give you advice on how to break into a certain industry. Inside knowledge on how an organization works will give your cover letter an edge over other potential applicants. Knowing what current employees know shows your willingness to go further in future endeavors. Calling the company or organization directly can help you in obtaining the basic information given out to the public about their mission statements or what exactly the company is selling.

Chances are if you are hoping to work in a specific field for a specific organization or company, you already know something about the desired employer. Drawing on what you already know about the company will diminish the possibility of fake enthusiasm for an employer you recently discovered. If you are an expert in your chosen field from years of experience, the hiring authority will be able to detect these from the applicants with little fervor for the job.

Libraries are often overlooked when it comes to research, due in part to the emphasis on the internet. However, a library usually has an extensive amount of journals, magazines, and books not found in a simple search on the web. Citing specific articles about a company or organization adds to your appearance.

Researching is only as difficult as you make it. There are plenty of resources available to discover great companies and organizations that match your interests and values. The time spent to further your knowledge of industries is well worth the effort for an effective cover letter. By catering to a specific company's values in each cover letter written, your work will speak for itself.

Cover Letter Revision Checklist[edit | edit source]

The following checklist describes the basic elements of a cover letter.

Preliminary Research

_____ Determined exactly as possible what the employer wants?

_____ Learned enough about the job and employer to tailor your letter to them?


_____ Addresses a specific individual, if possible?


_____ Tells clearly what you want?

_____ Persuades that you know specific, relevant things about the reader's organization?

_____Conveys that you like the company?


_____ Explains how the knowledge, abilities, and experiences described in your résumé are relevant to the specific job for which you are applying?


_____ Sounds cordial, yet clearly sets out a plan of action?


_____ Uses clear sentences with varied structures?

_____ Uses an easy-to-follow organization?

_____ Uses a confident but modest tone?

_____ Expresses the action in verbs, not nouns?

_____ Uses strong verbs?

_____ Uses correct spelling, grammar, and punctuation?


_____ Looks neat and attractive?

_____ Includes all the elements of a business letter?


_____ Describes your qualifications honestly?

_____ Avoids statements intended to mislead?


_____ Shows that you are aware of your reader's goals and concerns when hiring?

_____ Demonstrates that you are a skilled communicator?

Cover Letter Dos and Don'ts[edit | edit source]


  • Do use the first paragraph to grab the employer's attention and highlight your company research.
  • Do keep thing simple - using complicated, lengthy sentences will make your letter cumbersome and a difficult read for recruiters. Keep it articulate and easy to understand.
  • Do keep your letter short and sweet. Don't ever use more than one page. Generally, each paragraph should have no more than 3 sentences.
  • Do avoid being negative about anything in a cover letter - this includes previous jobs, supervisors, etc.


  • Don't send out mass mailings of your cover letter and resume. This has extremely low odds for success in today's job market. Personalize and individualize each letter.
  • Don't focus your letter on what the company can do for you. Rather, tell them what you can do for them. Focus on how you can contribute to the success of the organization.
  • Don't walk step by step through your resume. A recruiter can read your resume. Use your cover letter to highlight the things that you want to call attention to.
  • Don't forget to personally sign the letter

Resumes. (2004). Undergraduate job search handbook. Minneapolis: Carlson School of Management.

Business Communications

Professional and Technical Writing
Career Print version Design

Business Communication[edit | edit source]

Professional business communication is essential to the success of any corporation. This could include writing memos, reports, or proposals. Small businesses all the way up to corporations can benefit from professional and technical communication.

There are many different forms and aspects of business communication. Every document must be reviewed for legal implications, because any and all written documents in a business environment can and will be used in court. For all documents, use professional language and tone. When writing any document, it is important to pay attention to your audience and consider their background when writing. Two criteria for solid communication involves the ability to persuade and to be usable in business writing.

When writing business documents such as memos, reports, or workplace e-mails, it is important to consider these points. Efficiency in the business setting is of extreme importance and it all begins with communication. Wasting time in communicating is ultimately wasting money in today's society.

Accuracy[edit | edit source]

The accuracy of any work is extremely important, especially if it is something that is intended to be truthful or obtain a position of interest; like a resume. If an employer or anyone associated with the employer (audience) finds out that you lied or exaggerated on anything you severely risk not obtaining or even losing your job. It is in everyone’s best interest to be completely truthful when compiling any form of business document. Not only can your job be tainted, but the loss of respect from others can be even more damaging.

Audience: Intended vs. Unintended[edit | edit source]

Every document that is created is normally crafted to someone specifically. This someone would be your intended audience. Your writing style and content will be tailored to them because they are the ones you must impress. In many situations, however, an unintended audience could come into play. This could be anyone that you never expected to see your document, such as a boss or co-worker. For example, if you send an email to a co-worker talking about the company that you work for, or even your peers, the co-worker is your intended audience. Although, if your boss were to come across this document, he or she would be the unintended audience and there could be severe repercussions if the email was not crafted with other people in mind.

All aspects of your business documents should take into consideration everyone that could potentially read it. By ensuring this, you will save yourself and possibly even save your job. The worst case scenario could be that your document's untended audience is the people in a court of law.

Overall, one must always consider who will be reading or witnessing their documents. With the business world becoming more and more global, it is increasingly important to understand how to communicate with a foreign audience as well. Something that might not be offensive to you, could easily be offensive to someone from another culture. No one will make decisions in your favor if they feel that you deliberately offended them. This could all be caused because your communication was lacking, and you weren't properly considering your audience.

Different Types of Business Communication[edit | edit source]

Communication in business varies from task to task. Here is a list of just some of the different documents that can come up in the business setting:

-Memorandums (Memos)




-Feasibility studies



-Cover letters


Ending a Communication[edit | edit source]

After getting your main point across you should properly end communication. Ending a communication is as important as getting your point across. Research has shown that the reader is able to remember things said at the end of communication more than in any other part of communication. The ending is an important place to influence the readers' impressions of the subject you are presenting. In order to properly end communication, it is important to follow the guidelines presented below.

             Guideline One: After you've made your last point, stop. Try to use a pattern of organization that allows you to stop at a
                                   natural place.
            Guideline Two: Repeat your main point. Make sure to emphasis your main point in your conclusion. It allows the reader to 
                                   think about the main point one last time.
            Guideline Three: Summarize your key points. Although this guideline is similar to the one above, when you summarize, 
                                   you are ensuring that your audience understands your entire communication.
            Guideline Four: Refer to a goal stated earlier in your communication. It is common to state a goal in the beginning of 
                                   communication. Referring to your goal at the end of communication sharpens the focus of your communication.
            Guideline Five: Focus on a key feeling. In some communications, it may be important to encourage your reader. Therefore,
                                   focusing on a feeling will help focus your reader.
            Guideline Six:  Tell your readers how to get more information. Giving future communication assistant will encourage your
            Guideline Seven: Tell your readers what to do next. Giving guidance will help lead your reader in the direction you want.
            Guideline Eight: Identify any further study that is needed.
            Guideline Nine: Follow applicable social conventions. Examples of this are letters ending with an expression of thanks,
                                   and a statement that it has been enjoyable working with the reader.

Main Page

Business Communications/Beginning

Beginning A Communication[edit | edit source]

Reading is a dynamic interaction between your readers and your words and graphics. Your reader's response to one sentence or paragraph can influence their reactions to all the sentences and paragraphs that follow. Consequently, the opening sentence or section takes on a special importance. It helps to establish the frame of mind readers bring to all the sentences and sections that follow. It also grabs the viewer's attention and keeps them focused until the end.

In the beginning, you will learn eight reader-centered strategies for beginning your communications in highly usable and highly persuasive ways. Rarely, if ever, will you use all eight at once. To decide to use one or a combination in a particular circumstance, you will need to build on the knowledge of your readers that you gained while defining your communication's objectives. The chapter's ninth guideline discusses ethical approaches to situations in which people at work sometimes wonder whether they should begin to try communicating at all.

The first three guidelines announce the topic, state the main point, and forecast your communication's organization.

Guideline 1: Give Your Readers A Reason To Pay Attention

The most important function of the beginning is to persuade your readers to devote their full attention to your message rather than skimming it or setting it aside unfinished. At work, people complain that they receive too many e-mails, memos, and reports. Your goal is to convince them not only to pay some attention to the message but to pay close attention. Doing so will be especially important when your communication is primarily persuasive. Research has shown that the more deeply people think about a message while reading or listening to it, the more likely they are to hold the attitudes it advocates, the more likely they are to resist attempts to reverse those attitudes, and the more likely they are to act upon those attitudes.

To grab your reader's attention you must do two things:

• Announce Your Topic

• Tell your readers how they will benefit from the information you are providing

Be sure to do both things. Don't assume that your readers will automatically see the value of your information after you have stated your topic. Benefits that appear obvious to you may not be obvious to them.

Importance of Subject Lines[edit | edit source]

Subject lines are used to grab the readers attention, and are generally only a few words long. When writing a subject line, keep in mind the following:

• Keep it brief. The subject line is supposed to inform the reader about the content, not be the content

• Make it interesting. When people read your subject line, will they want to read more?

• Make sure it is on topic. The subject line is used to inform the reader of what is to come.

E-mails present a special challenge. They have in effect two beginnings: the subject line and the first sentences of the email. Your intended reader won't read unless your subject line persuades them to open your message. Name your topic precisely and indicate that what you have to say about it will benefit your readers. Take advantage of subject lines in memos and letters as well.

Two Ways to Highlight Reader Benefits[edit | edit source]

Two strategies are particularly effective at persuading individuals who will overall benefit from reading your communication.

Refer to Your Reader's Request

At work, you will often write because a coworker, manager, or client has asked you for a recommendation or information. To establish the reader benefit of your reply, simply refer the request.

Offer to Help Your Readers Solve a Problem

The second strategy for highlighting reader benefits at the beginning of a communication is to tell your readers that your communication will help them solve a problem they are confronting. Most employees think of themselves as problem-solvers. Whether the problem involves technical, organizational, or ethical issues, the reader or individual will welcome communications that help them find a solution.

Communication experts J.C. Mathes and Dwight W. Stevenson have suggested an especially powerful approach. The key is writing beginnings that builds on readers concerns by offering problem solving/time saving solutions. First, list problems that are important to the readers you are going to address. From the list, pick one problem that your information and ideas will provide the readers with solutions. When you've done that, you have begun to connect yourself and readers as partners in a joint problem-solving effort in which your communication plays a critical role. Once you have determined how to describe a problem-solving partnership between you and your readers, draft the beginning of your communication.

Establishing a Problem-Solving Partnership with Your Readers

1. Tell your readers the problem you will help them solve. Be sure to identify a problem your readers deem important.

2. Tell your readers what you have done toward solving the problem. Review the steps you have taken as a specialist in your own field. For example, you may develop a new feature for one of your employer's products or your findings while investigating products offered by competition. Focus on building up on why your research or information will be significant to your readers rather than listing everything you've personally done to boast.

3. Tell your readers how your communication will help them perform their jobs more efficiently and how their contributions will further the problem-solving efforts of the joint cooperation.

Here are some situations in which a full description of the problem-solving situation usually is desirable

• Your communication will be read by people outside your immediate working-group. The more distant some or all of your readers are, the less likely that they will be familiar with your message's context.

• Your communication will have a binding and a cover. Bound documents are usually intended for large group of current readers and they often filed for consultation by future readers. Both groups are likely to include at least some readers who will have no idea of the problem-solving situation you are addressing.

• Your communication will be used to make a decision involving a significant amount of money. Such decisions are often by high-level managers who need to be told about the organizational context of the reports they read.

Defining the Problem in Unsolicited Communications[edit | edit source]

In your career, you will have many occasions to make a request or recommendation without being asked to do so. When writing these unsolicited communications, you may need to persuade your readers that a problem even exists. This can require some creative, reader centered thinking.

Guideline 2: State Your Main Point

You can usually boost your communication's usability and persuasiveness by stating your main point in your beginning. Three major reasons for doing so:

• You help your readers find what they most want or need

• You increase the likelihood that your readers will accurately read your main point instead of putting your communication aside before they get to it.

• You provide your readers with a context for viewing the details that follow

Choose Your Main Point Thoughtfully[edit | edit source]

Choose the main point of your communication in the same way you choose the main point of each segment. If you are responding to a request, your main point will be the answer to the question your reader asked. If you are writing on your own initiative, your main point might be what you want your readers to think or do after reading your communication. For example, if you need your boss to sign off on something, you might make your subject line "Signature Required," and then explain what needs to be signed as the main point of your document.

Guideline 3: Tell Your Readers What to Expect

Unless your communication is very short, its beginning should tell readers what to expect in the segments that follow. A forecasting statement positioned at the beginning of a communication should focus its organization and scope. This will serve a couple of purposes. First, it will narrow the readers attention to only what needs to be addressed. Second, it will deter some of the readers who you are not intending to write for. This could help in avoiding lawsuits.

Tell about Your Communication's Organization[edit | edit source]

By telling your readers about your communication's organization in your beginning you provide them with a framework for understanding the connections among the various pieces of information you convey. This framework substantially increases your communication's usability by helping your readers to see immediately how each new point you make relates to point they have already read. It also helps skimming readers to navigate quickly to the information they are seeking.

Tell about Your Communication's Scope[edit | edit source]

Readers want to know from the beginning what a communication does and does not contain. Even if they are persuaded that you are addressing a subject relevant to them, they may still wonder whether you discuss the specific aspects of the subject they want to know about. Often you will tell your readers about the scope of your communication when you tell about its organizations: When you list the topics it addresses, you indicate its scope. There will be times however, when you will need to include additional information. That happens when you your to understand that you are not addressing your subject comprehensively or that you are addressing it from a particular point of view.

Guideline 4: Encourage Openness to Your Message

Other chapters in this book have emphasized that readers can respond in a variety of ways as they read a communication. When they read a set of instructions you have prepared, they can follow your directions in every detail or attempt the procedure on their own, consulting your instruction only if they get stumped. Because the way you begin a communication has a strong effect on your readers' response, you should always pay attention to the persuasive dimension of your beginnings. Always begin in a way that encourages your readers to be open and receptive to the rest of your communication.

Readers' Initial Reactions Can Vary[edit | edit source]

Ordinarily, you will have no trouble eliciting a receptive response because you will be communication with fellow employees, customers, and others who want the information you are providing. In certain circumstances, however, your readers may have more negative attitude toward your message. In such situations, you will need to take special care in drafting the beginning of your communication if you are to win a fair hearing for your message. Your readers' initial attitude toward your message will be negative if the answer to any of the following questions is "yes". If that is the case, try to pinpoint the attitudes that are likely to shape your readers reactions to your communication, and then devise your beginning accordingly.

• Does your message contain bad news for your readers?

• Does your message contain ideas or recommendations that will be unwelcome to your readers?

• Do your readers feel distrust, resentment, or competitiveness toward you, your department, or your company?

• Are your readers likely to be skeptical of your subject or situation?

• Are your readers likely to be suspicious of motives?

The strategy that is most likely to promote a positive initial reaction or to counteract a negative one differs from situation to situation. However, these are the three strategies that often work.

Strategies for Encouraging Openness

• Present yourself as a partner, not as a critic or a competitor. Suggest the you are working with your readers to help solve a problem they want to solve or to achieve a goal they want to achieve.

• Delay the presentation of your main point. An initial negative reaction may prompt your readers to aggressively devise counterarguments to each point that follows. Therefore, if you believe that your readers may react negatively to your main point in your beginning. If you delay the presentation of your main point, your readers may consider at least some of your other points objectively before discovering your main point and reacting against it.

• Establish your credibility. People are more likely to respond favorably to a message if they have confidence in the person delivering it. Consequently, you can promote openness to your message if you begin by convincing your readers that you are an expert in your subject and are knowledgeable about the situation. This does not mean, however, that you should announce your credentials, you merely burden your readers with unnecessary information. Avoid discussing your qualifications when writing to people, such as your coworkers, who have already formed a favorable opinion of your expertise.

• Ask for assistance. Most individuals are more receptive to new ideas when being asked for help. Even if you know everything about the situation, you might not be able to solve it on your own. In these situations it would be beneficial to ask the reader for help. This shows your reader that even if you know everything there is to know on the situation at hand, you don't know everything there is to know. When writing, it is often important not to come off as arrogant or snobbish. Sometimes we have to swallow our pride to get things done. Try to connect with people on the same level. Acting like you know more will invite more negative reaction.

Tell Yourself A Story[edit | edit source]

Although the strategies suggested will often encourage openness, don't employ them mechanically. Always keep in mind the particular attitudes, experience and expectations of your readers as you craft the beginning of a communication. You might do this by telling yourself a story about your readers. The central figure in your story should be your reader, an individual if you are writing to one person, or a typical member of your audience if you are writing to a group. Begin your story a few minutes before this person picks up your communication and continue it until the moment he or she reads your first words. Although you would not actually include the story in your communication, creating it can help you decide how to begin.

Guideline 5: Provide Necessary Background Information

As you draft the beginning of a communication, ask yourself whether your readers will need any background information to understand what you are going to tell them.

Situations that might require information at the beginning

• Your readers need to grasp certain general principles in order to understand your specific points.

• Your readers are unfamiliar with technical terms you will be using

• Your readers are unfamiliar with the situation that you are discussing

Not all background information belongs at the beginning of your communication. Information that pertains only to certain segments should appear at the beginning of those segments. In the beginning of your communication include only background information that will help your readers understand your overall message.

Guideline 6: Include a Summary Unless Your Communication is Very Short

Summaries help busy managers learn the main points without reading the entire document, and they give those readers an overview of the communication's content and organization. For longer communications, especially those that are longer enough to have covers and tables of contents, these summaries are longer and often printed on a separate page.

Guideline 7: Adjust the Length of Your Beginning to Your Readers' Needs

There is no rule of thumb that tells how long the beginning should be. A good, reader-centered beginning may require only a phrase or may take several pages. You need to give your readers only the information they don't already know.

Readers Should Know the Following

- The reason they should read the communication

- The main point of the communication

- The organization and scope of the communication

- The background information they need in order to understand and use the communication

If you have given your readers all this information, and have encouraged them to receive your message openly, then you have written a good beginning, regardless of how long or short it is.

Guideline 8: Adapt your Beginning to your Readers' Cultural Background

Readers' expectations and preferences about the beginning of a communication are shaped by their culture. The suggestions your have just read are suitable for readers in the United States and some other Western countries. However, costume carries widely. You must have good understanding of the communication customs of your readers' culture in order to create an effective opening. If you do not have this understanding, do some research or seek out someone who is from that culture to ask them.

Guideline 9: Ethics Guideline: Begin to Address Unethical Practices Promptly and Strategically

Suppose you learn that your employer is engaged in an action you consider to be unethical. Or you are asked to write something that violates your sense of what is ethical. Should you speak up or express your concerns in writing? New employees are sometimes advised to wait until they have achieved security and status before trying to bring about change. But that means you could spend years before addressing a practice you regard as ethical. Ignoring an unethical act would be seen as unethical in itself. When determining how to draw attention to something you consider to be ethical you face a challenge similar to that of figuring out how to begin a memo in which you will recommend a course of action with which you believe your readers will disagree.

3 Strategies for Changing Unethical Practices without Risking Your Job

- Plant the seeds of change

- Use reason rather than accusation

- Remain open to others' view

You may someday witness a practice that is so outrageous that you will be willing to risk future promotions and even your job in order to stop it. If you find yourself in that situation, seek the aid of influential people inside your company. If the practice you object to violates the law or a government regulation, alert the appropriate agency. This is called whistle blowing. There are some state and federal laws to protect whistle blowers.

10 Questions to Ask Yourself[edit | edit source]

As you plan your letters, e-mail, and other routine communications ask yourself the following:

  1. How well do I know this person?
  2. How much do they know about the topic discussed in the letter?
  3. How will they respond to what I will need to say? In what ways can I use this communication to build rapport for the firm?
  4. What exactly am I trying to accomplish with this message?
  5. What is their level of knowledge about the concepts discussed?
  6. What is their attitude toward me and the firm?
  7. What previous business dealings have I/we had with them?
  8. How much and what kind of information should I include, based on their profile?
  9. How technical can I be in presenting my message?
  10. What strategies can I use to make this message easy to read and understand?

Business Communications/Letters

Business Letters[edit | edit source]

Business letters are written messages to a person or group within a professional setting. Business letters are used when the writer would like to be formal and professional. Letters may vary in length depending on the writer's objective, purpose, and message of the letter. The letter can address anyone including, but not limited to: clients and customers, managers, agencies, suppliers, and other business personnel or organizations. It is important to remember that any business letter is a legal document between the interested parties. These documents can be held for up to seven years, so it is important that all information is honest and legitimate.

The Difference Between a Business letter and other letters[edit | edit source]

The main thing that differentiates a business letter from other letters is that a business letter is a legal document. The writer can be held liable for anything written in the letter. For example, if it is stated that a project will be completed by a certain date in a business letter, the project legally must be completed by that date. However, if the project can't be completed by that date, another letter can be written stating that the project is behind schedule and why. For this reason, business letters must be written differently than letters used for personal use.

A business letter is used primarily to request or provide information, to relate a deal, to bring or continue conversation, and/or to discuss prior negotiations. A business letter can be classified as private, however, it is typically not circulated to others, but rather meant for the eyes of the participants involved. Therefore, a business letter needs to be clear, focused, and to the point. When writing a business letter, the author should avoid interjecting personal stories.

A business letter needs to be concise and clear. Being too wordy is the biggest downfall in this form of writing. Keep sentences short and precise. Avoid over using adjectives and adverbs that distract from the focus of the message. Organize the letter from most important subjects to least. The content of the letter should be persuasive and usable. The tone of the letter should be formal and professional.

Also, in a business letter, it is preferable to use personal singular pronouns like "I" and "you". Avoid using plural pronouns like "we" since it can mislead the audience to assume that the company supports the message of the letter. In addition, personal pronouns are easier to understand, because it directly refers to the parties involved.

Formatting Your Business Letter

  • Use single spacing. NEVER use double spaces within the business letter.
  • Use a simple format with font that is easy to read.
  • For block, and modified block formats use single spaces.
  • Leave a blank line between each paragraph. This makes it easier to follow the changes of topics within the letter.

The Introduction

  • This paragraph should introduce why you are writing the letter and sum up the key points in the following paragraphs.
  • Include a statement that shows you are knowledgeable of the audience to which your letter is directed.

The Body

  • Provide background or history regarding the purpose of the letter.
  • Talk about key points you are making.
  • Include a justification of the importance of the main points.
  • List any important dates, discussions, and conversations that are relevant.
  • Ask questions, if necessary.


  • Summarize the main points of the letter.
  • Restate the problem and resolution if pertinent.
  • Include deadlines.
  • Provide contact information (Email, Phone Number, Fax, Etc...).

Closing Salutation/Salutation Block

Always close a letter. ‘Sincerely’ would be the safest way to close out a business letter. On a typed business letter, following the closing, you should leave a space to sign your name with a pen. This will allow for a more personal touch on an otherwise bland letter. This is the only handwriting on the paper so make sure the signature is clear. Below this personal signature should be your typed first and last name to allow for easy reading. After this you can include anything else that the reader may need to know. This could include anything from job title, identification, a notation that there are copies attached at the bottom of the document, or other contact information, such as e-mail address or business phone number.

It is important to take into account your audience when ending any business document. Being both respectful and professional are two important elements of your ending salutation. You must remember that each employer, boss, or co-worker may have different expectations as to what is acceptable as a proper salutation. A few general ending salutations deemed professional include:

  • Sincerely,
  • Respectfully yours,
  • Yours truly,
  • Best,

These should be used with individuals whom you do not have a relationship with, new co-workers, potential clients, or a large email to a wide variety of individuals. When you are sending a business document to an individual to whom you are accustomed, your salutation should change. Consider a professional salutation, which is not too formal. Examples include:

  • Kind regards,
  • Best regards,
  • Many thanks,
  • With appreciation,
  • Best wishes,

When in doubt about which type of salutation should be used, a simple "Thanks" or Thank you" is always appropriate.

Tips on Writing Business Letters[edit | edit source]

  • Address the reader formally (Mr., Miss, or Mrs.) unless otherwise directed.
  • Avoid using contractions such as "it's" and "won't". "It is" and "will not" are more professional.
  • Address the letter to a specific person whenever possible, and not the company so it does not get discarded.
  • Use a colon after the salutation if using the reader's last name and a comma if using their first name.
  • Use company letterhead to make the document more professional, if the document is related to company affairs.
  • Use a subject line to inform the reader quickly of the documents content.
  • Sign your name in ink neatly at the bottom, between the closing and the Electronic Signature of the document.
  • If a letter does not fill an entire page, be sure the content of the letter is in the middle of the page and the document is balanced.
  • Be sure to list the people on the letter that you are sending copies to so a certain individual is not left out.
  • It is okay to use specific pronouns, such as "I" and "You", but be careful when using "We". This is simply because it can commit your company to what you have written.

Business Communications/Memos

Writing Memos[edit | edit source]

A memo or memorandum is a communication note that records events or observations on a topic. Memos are typically used within a business environment as an interoffice tool and can serve many purposes. Today, emails can be considered a common type of memo. For example, they call attention to issues that may need to be resolved, they update clients and other colleagues on the status of active projects, and finally, they give solutions to colleagues on issues that are related to the project being worked on. They are good tools to provide a concise method of delivery. Remember to keep it simple.

Guidelines to follow when writing a memo[edit | edit source]

Use An Informative Subject Line[edit | edit source]

Be specific from the beginning, tell the reader what the subject of the memo is and what is a proposal, progress report, question, or result. The subject line is one of the first things the reader is going to look at as soon as they pick up a memo. For this reason the subject line needs to be informative so the reader knows exactly what they are reading as soon as they look at the memo.

Use Strong Opening Sentences[edit | edit source]

Like a subject line the first few sentences need to elaborate on the topic and purpose of the memo. This gets the reader right into the information and avoids wasting time on lengthy introductions. Don't waste time and space with irrelevant information, get right into the issue at hand.

Use Active Voice, First Person[edit | edit source]

Memos always have a conversational style, and use words like "I", "you", and "we". It sounds more natural to say, "I would like you to do this" and it is more personal because you are addressing a specific individual. To get action from people, write in the active voice as opposed to the passive voice. Write as if you were talking to the person face to face. Use contractions, however, avoid using slang words or phrases that might be misconstrued by a reader. On the other hand, keep the document appropriate for a work place setting. Remember: Memos are professional documents. Although technical writing is not meant to sound academic, it is also not meant to sound unprofessional. A memo is a business document which is a reflection upon a business itself. It is also a legal document that can be kept for many years and can be used as a reference in given situations. It needs to stay formal and professional. Colleagues, superiors, and clients do not want the document to be too casual because it can be possibly interpreted as disrespectful. Never start a memo like you are talking in a conversation with a friend, using words like, "hey and hi." You always want to start a memo using a professional opening, such as "hello" or "dear," etc. This applies even when the person you are writing the memo to is a close friend.

Do Not Get Wordy[edit | edit source]

Avoid words that might not be known to readers. The language should be simple, but it should not be overly simple. Instead of writing “per your request” think of using a more casual way to say it for example, “as you requested” or “as you wanted” would be more appropriate. Be brief.

Avoid “fluff” Words[edit | edit source]

Get to the point by keeping to the important topics, while avoiding the use of fluffy adjectives. No one likes to have to read between the lines when they are on a limited schedule. Be honest in your word choice, without sounding wordy or pretentious. Only use jargon if it helps keep the memo concise and you are sure that the reader will understand the jargon. Your English teachers will all disagree, but in business, short and sweet is the standard for memos.

Check Before You Send[edit | edit source]

Take time before you send the memo to make sure that you have covered all the correct information. Double check names, dates, and the specifics of the project/topic to make sure that everything is accurate and up to date. Keep in mind that any written business document is legally binding, which means everything in the memo needs to be accurate. Make sure that you look at your spelling, since the spell check on the computer program is not always reliable.

Don’t be Overly Sincere[edit | edit source]

Try to avoid phrases such as “we’re sorry for any inconvenience this may have caused” or “please don’t hesitate to call.” Too many phrases such as this may appear to be insincere or trite to some readers. You can be honest without sounding like a child. Do not overuse cliché phrases; instead, make sure to express yourself and make sincere apologies when appropriate.

Become the Reader[edit | edit source]

Keep your reader in mind when you are writing a memo. One tip for achieving a reader-centered memo is to pretend that you are having a face-to-face conversation with the memo recipient. Again, make sure that you are professional, yet, at the same time, get the point across to your audience by being clear and concise.

Make the End the Beginning[edit | edit source]

Memos often begin with a statement of the problem or a found solution. Put what you want the reader to get out of the memo at the top and then continue to go into more detail in the body of the memo. This is known as an inverted pyramid style of writing. This style of writing is important because readers often only take time to skim memos. Putting the most important information at the beginning of the document ensures that the reader understands the purpose of the document. Most readers will miss the important subject if the memo is not written this way. This is mainly due to the fact that they are skimming towards the middle of the document and are not thoroughly reading the memo. Another tool that accounts for the skimming of memos is the use of bullet points, tables, and lists. These can be effective because they summarize the current situation of the project, as well as offer a checklist for future reference on things, such as deadlines. Bullet points are easily accessed by the reader and can relay important information to the reader quickly and concisely.

List Recipients of the Memo[edit | edit source]

It is considerate to inform the readers of who all is receiving the memo you have written. This way the readers know who the informed audience is and who has this information. This enables the readers to be prepared to explain the situation and answer questions from others who have not been informed through the memorandum.

Initial Your Memo[edit | edit source]

Like signing a letter, initialing a memo that is to be mailed is a sort of stamp of approval from you.

  • The Basic Structure of a Memo Is: Statement of the Problem, Discussion of Why the Problem Exists, Suggested Course of Action, and Your Concluding Statement.

Do not Give Too Many Whys[edit | edit source]

It's necessary to explain why you want something done, but be sure not to overdo it. A memo should be short and to the point. The reader will not read the entire document, so the memo needs to be able to be skimmed easily.

Keep Paragraphs Short[edit | edit source]

Limit each paragraph to about five lines or less. Put each reason in a separate paragraph, rather than bunching them up. If a paragraph gets too long, the reader's attention is lost and the purpose of the document is gone. It is natural for people to skim and find key words to focus on when reading a document. If the paragraph is long, they will resort to looking less for key words and try to skim through it even faster.

Call to Action[edit | edit source]

Close your memo with a call to action. It’s simple; if you want a response by Friday at 3 P.M., then say so. This gives the reader an obligation to send you something back.

Closing[edit | edit source]

The closing in a memo is as simple as a signature line. The signature line needs to include a contact phone number, e-mail address, and, if your company has a Web URL, that should be included too. A closing line may not be needed, and will depend on your relationship with the recipient.

Dates[edit | edit source]

Make sure you write any dates in the following format: month in written format, (ex. December), followed by the day in numerical format, concluding with the year in numerical format. This format is important so that dates are not confused. If the memo is sent to another country, the date will not be misinterpreted.

Legality of Document[edit | edit source]

Memos are legal documents. That is why it is important to write them in a professional manner. The date is not only beneficial for the employees within a company, but it is also beneficial in the event that a court case arises. Dates can be used as a form of documentation. Furthermore, a memo should always be accurate and honest. Do not state something that is knowingly inaccurate. Make sure to always check your facts. Memos can be required in court if the business gets sued. These documents need to be formal, accurate, and business-like, since they may provide proof that something was or was not done.

The legality of the document also heightens the importance of professionalism within a memo. Do not include nicknames or inside jokes. If jokes are stated, the courts may think that it is a code used between people and may be a red flag for the court system.If these documents are read in court, it reflects badly upon the company. Also, in order to protect oneself, do not commit anyone but oneself to a time schedule, unless it has already been agreed upon.

How a Memo will look[edit | edit source]

Beginning of a Memo[edit | edit source]

When typing memos in a company setting, the very top of the memo should contain the company name and that it is an office memorandum, only for office distribution. If this is not the case then your memo will start like this:


Keep in mind that the information after the colon needs to be aligned with each other. To do this you want to use tab. If you are familiar with Microsoft Word you can use the left tab on the ruler to do this.

Sample draft:

TO:            Candace Harris
FROM:       Candace Seay
DATE:        January 1, 2000
SUBJECT: Join us at the yearly picnic

Middle and End of Memo[edit | edit source]

After the subject line use a double space before starting the body of the memo. In memos do not indent paragraphs, just double space between each one.

One thing to remember is that most memos will only be a page long, but if you do go over a page then you will need a header on the second page. The header will include your name, the page number, and the date.

The ending of an informal office memo might only have the sender's name. If it is a more formal memo, then the person should put their full name, along with their job title and contact information. It is also customary to initial memos by hand next to your printed name at the top.

Sample draft:

There are several additional expenses that will decrease the net earnings amount. These include rent, supplies, and depreciation. Therefore, the company does not appear to be profitable, which is common for small businesses at the beginning of their operations. A focus on maintaining control over expenses while increasing revenues should result in net earnings in future periods. It would also be useful to prepare a cash flow budget each month for the upcoming year to decide how potential cash shortages will be overcome.

Final Product for Memo[edit | edit source]

To:        John Doe
From:    Jane Doe
Date:     January 1, 2000
Subject: Join us at the yearly picnic

There are several additional expenses that will decrease the net earnings amount. These include rent, supplies, and depreciation. Therefore, the company does not appear to be profitable, which is common for small businesses at the beginning of their operations. A focus on maintaining control over expenses while increasing revenues should result in net earnings in future periods. It would also be useful to prepare a cash flow budget each month for the upcoming year to decide how potential cash shortages will be overcome.

Business Communications/E-Mail

Composing E-mail[edit | edit source]

E-mail (Electronic Mail) is now used by virtually every business and company (in North America, East Asia, Australasia and most of Europe) as a way of communicating both within the business and with other outside businesses. As a fast, reliable way of sending messages and interacting with people in all sectors of the business world, e-mail has emerged as the number one way of communicating.

Historically, E-mail was used as an informal way of communicating to other workers. E-mail straddles the line between informal communication and formal business interaction and while it has become increasingly more formal in manner, e-mail is still hard to pinpoint in a business setting because of the inability to tell emotion or tone of typed text. Caution must be used when writing e-mails in a professional business setting as to choice of words and selection of organizational elements of the document. As stated below, all e-mails are saved and recorded, as well as potentially read by any number of people. Emails are a great tool in the workplace, but must be used with caution. Keep in mind the following tips when composing an e-mail.

  • Limit email use in the workplace to business-specific information and topics.
  • Review email for legal implications, because any and all written documents in a business environment can be used in court.
  • Use professional language and tone.
  • Pay attention to your audience and consider their background when writing.

Professional business communication is essential to the success of any corporation. This could include writing memos, reports, or proposals. Any corporation, even small businesses, can benefit from professional and technical communication. There are many different forms and aspects of business communication. Two criteria for solid communication involves the ability to persuade and to be usable in business writing.

Business, in the modern day, is extremely intense. When writing business documents such as memos, reports, or workplace e-mails, it is important to consider these points.

  • Efficiency in the business setting is of extreme importance and it all begins with communication.
  • Wasting time in communicating is ultimately wasting money in today's society.

Accuracy[edit | edit source]

The accuracy of any work is extremely important, especially if it is something that is intended to be truthful or obtain a position of interest; like a resume. If an employer or anyone associated with the employer (audience) finds out that you lied or exaggerated on anything you severely risk not obtaining or even losing your job. It is in everyone's best interest to be completely truthful when compiling any form of business document. Not only can your job be tainted, but the loss of respect from others can be even more damaging.

Audience: Intended vs. Unintended[edit | edit source]

Every document that is created is normally crafted to someone specifically. This someone would be your intended audience, for your writing style, and content will be tailored to their appeal. Emails, unlike some other business documents, are not restricted to just one person, or intended audience.

Carbon copies and blind carbon copies
When working with emails, it is possible opt to use carbon copies (CC) and blind carbon copies (BCC). Carbon copies are used to send messages and other documents to other recipients. In many situations, however, an unintended audience could come into play. This could be anyone that you never expected to see your document, such as a boss or co-worker. For example, if you send an email to a co-worker talking about the company that you work for, or even your peers, the co-worker is your intended audience. Although, if your boss were to come across this document, he or she would be the unintended audience and there could be severe repercussions if the email was not crafted with other people in mind. Another issue is you may be sharing personal information without permission, since all emails addresses involved sender and receivers will be visible to all. This is where blind carbon copies come in handy. A blind carbon copy is used to send copies of documents and messages to other recipients without the original recipients knowing. For example, you find out that one of your co-workers could be involved in potentially illegal activities, so you send an email to your co-worker confronting them about the activity, and you send a blind carbon copy to your boss, so that he or she becomes aware of the current situation and potential future consequences.

All aspects of your business documents should take into consideration everyone that could potentially read it. By ensuring this, you will save yourself and even possibly save your job. The worst case scenario could be that your document's untended audience is the people in a court of law. Please keep in mind that by protecting your company, your boss, and your job by examining your work for legal liabilities will also be protecting the public. As mentioned above, you never know who will be reading your documentation, so if an unintended reader who is not authorized to read or use your document, decides to use it, they could be putting themselves and others in significant danger.

Overall, one must always consider who will be reading or witnessing their documents. With the business world becoming more and more global, it is increasingly important to understand how to communicate with a foreign audience as well. Something that might not be offensive to you, could easily be offensive to someone from another culture. No one will make decisions in your favor if they feel that you deliberately offended them. This could all be caused because your communication was lacking, and you weren't properly considering your audience.

Different Types of Business Communication[edit | edit source]

Communication in business varies from task to task. Here is a list of just some of the different documents that can come up in the business setting:

  • Memorandums (Memos)
  • Presentations
  • Proposals
  • Reports
  • Feasibility studies
  • E-mails
  • Résumés
  • Cover letters
  • Websites

Ending a Communication[edit | edit source]

After getting your main point across you should properly end communication. Ending a communication is as important as getting your point across. Research has shown that the reader is able to remember things said at the end of communication more than in any other part of communication. The ending is an important place to influence the readers' impressions of the subject you are presenting. In order to properly end communication, it is important to follow the guidelines presented below.

Guideline One
After you've made your last point, stop. Try to use a pattern of organization that allows you to stop at a natural place.
Guideline Two
Repeat your main point. Make sure to emphasise your main point in your conclusion. It allows the reader to think about the main point one last time.
Guideline Three
Summarize your key points. Although this guideline is similar to the one above, when you summarize, you are ensuring that your audience understands your entire communication.
Guideline Four
Refer to a goal stated earlier in your communication. It is common to state a goal in the beginning of communication. Referring to your goal at the end of communication sharpens the focus of your communication.
Guideline Five
Focus on a key feeling. In some communications, it may be important to encourage your reader. Therefore, focusing on a feeling will help focus your reader.
Guideline Six
Tell your readers how to get more information. Giving future communication assistant will encourage your reader.
Guideline Seven
Tell your readers what to do next. Giving guidance will help lead your reader in the direction you want.
Guideline Eight
Identify any further study that is needed.
Guideline Nine
Follow applicable social conventions. Examples of this are letters ending with an expression of thanks, and a statement that it has been enjoyable working with the reader.

Business Communications/Website

Website Design[edit | edit source]

Goals[edit | edit source]

Before designing a website it is important to set goals. What purpose is the website serving? Not all sites serve the same purpose. For example, a retail site will have very different goals than a nonprofit site.

Some common website goals are:

  • Sales
  • Marketing
  • Update information
  • Generate leads
  • Distribute information

Goals, in any setting, are important to business success. By setting goals for one aspect of the business, in this case, the website, it will help in accomplishing other goals of the business, such as:

  • Expanding the audience
  • Increasing sales
  • Connecting other businesses or other parts of the company
  • General communication

Design Message[edit | edit source]

The design message is the image the organization wants to portray to the reader. This can also be called the brand. When creating the look of the website you must consider logos, colors, fonts, and images. These must all support the personality of the organization.

Communicating the brand is something that is becoming more prevalent in the workplace. Consistency is needed everywhere within a business so that the company can portray a unified front--and believe in it. Giving web pages a consistent look will help define it as a cohesive website and will make it easier to navigate. Since companies are building their workplaces around the "theme" or the "brand", there is no reason that the website should not be done in the same manner. In fact, it is necessary for brand identification, therefore helping the company advance and succeed. A consistent brand and image also build trust and value for a company.

Some important items to consider when communicating the brand are:

  • The brand, whether communicated through the website or the customer service, must be consistent
  • The brand should be found everywhere--there are no limits to exposure of brands
  • Short and simple is always the best route
  • You are the brand and the brand is you. If your brand does not reflect the values and beliefs of the company, it most certainly should not be on your website.

Recognizing Your Audience[edit | edit source]

Knowing your audience will help you to make better decisions when it comes to deciding which browsers to support and which new technologies to endorse. Before designing a new website, it would be helpful to look into the likely browsers, computer user knowledge, and connection speeds of the audience you are addressing. In redesigning a website that already exists, you can review the past site usage information so that you are providing improvements to the site where it is needed most.

There are several different guidelines that should be used when designing websites. Here are common site types:

  • academic and scientific sites should have additional focus on how the site functions in graphics-free browsing environments
  • consumer audience websites should pay special attention to site performance and presentation
  • a controlled environment where a specific browser is being used, as in a corporate environment, is where it is best to use all that the website has to offer. Employees usually attend training to learn how to use these sites and the designer can use the browsers full potential.
  • gaming websites is where you can assume that the users will have the latest plug-ins and browsers and are quite technologically savvy

You can also take a balanced approach to web design. This type of design integrates the latest web technologies, but implements them in a way that is still functional to those that have older browsers.

Examining the Site's Purpose[edit | edit source]

Figuring out how the site will be used in another important step in website design. Those who use the internet usually fall into two categories:

  • those who seek information
  • those who search the internet for entertainment

For the informational sites, you may want to consider the technology of the client or use more general approach in design. For the sites of those seeking entertainment, more cutting-edge technology can be used to better the experience of the user when they are accessing your site.

There are options for those who want to use the latest technology for their websites, but want to make it available to everyone. For this situation, you can use a browser detector to serve alternate version depending on the type of browser the user has. This allows you to use the latest technology and still recognize users that have older browsers.

Testing Your Site[edit | edit source]

Test your website on many different browsers and browser versions. Doing this before going live will help off-set problems you may encounter before it is available to the public. Professional web design firms run their sites through an intense quality assurance phase. If this is not a feasible task, you can make your site available on a private test site. You can then run your own quality assurance test throughout the following browsers:

  • Acquaintances' browser
  • Corporate office browser
  • Different ISPs

Website pages will appear different depending on the environment it is viewed on. The overall idea of this testing phase is to make sure that the information is being presented clearly and there are not any overt problems.

Content[edit | edit source]

Content is one of the most important reasons for even creating a website in the first place. If you think about it, a website with no content has no purpose. A website with no purpose is wasted space on the internet.

When considering content for your website, be sure to think of the following items:

  • What is the goal of the website?
  • Who is the website trying to reach?
  • How much time to people have to spend reading information on the website?
  • How did individuals reach this website?
  • What is the most important information to the reader?
  • What questions do the readers have?
  • What action is the reader supposed to take after reading the website content?

Another aspect to consider about website content is how it will be searched within different search engines. Key words are needed throughout your website to make sure that the website is found by people who are looking for specific information. It is important to be specific with words, and use them multiple times, so that search engine robots find the word and place it high on the results list.

Content must also be age and audience appropriate. Age appropriate is hard to determine on the internet since it is something that can be accessed by everyone who knows how to use a computer. Content on websites, however, still must be age appropriate so that the right audience is reading the right material. Age appropriateness also falls under appropriateness in general of making sure that private information does not become public on the internet. Audience appropriate means that the content of the website is serving the people with the right information at the correct level of reading to which the intended readers will understand.

With companies becoming more interested in the usability of their websites, positions are being created specifically for content writing. A website content writer is someone who specifically writes information for websites. This is written in a different voice than academic writing so that a web surfer will stay interested in the website, and therefore the information.

Creating a Home Page[edit | edit source]

Your home page will be the most visited page on your website. Your home page may not always have what your viewers are looking for, so if you have something that will draw them in to make them want look further for their information. You will have ten seconds to draw your customers into your site, or else they will hit the "back" button and will begin to look elsewhere. Your home page should be able to load quickly. The ten seconds you have to draw the customers into your site begins when they click on the link to your site. If it takes five seconds for your site to load, you only have a few seconds left to draw customers further. Here are some tips to help your site download quicker:

  • Keep media images small
    • limit images to no more than 5 to 10KB
    • pages should not be more than 30KB total per page
  • Avoid using ads from external websites on your home page that may slow down the loading time. You cannot control how fast another server will serve its content.
  • Write your HTML in sections so that when the bottom of the page is still loading, your customers can read the top sections of your home page.

Another important point about home pages it to never stop modifying it. Reviewing your log files once your website is up and working can help you make your home page more user friendly. Updating the links or the colors may improve the appeal or ease of use to your site. Remember that everything can be changed, and you don't have to settle with something if it's working.

Compatibility[edit | edit source]

Features do not always display the same way in different Web browsers. It can be useful to check a created page using more than just one browser, to ensure that the page displays correctly for a wider audience. Completed HTML code can be validated by visiting validator.w3.org. Saved HTML code can be uploaded and checked for accuracy. Any issues with the syntax of the HTML will be listed, as well as suggestions for changing the errors. This eliminates the need for a person to search their own code for errors after attempting to display it in a browser.

Design Considerations[edit | edit source]

Synthesis[edit | edit source]

Usability[edit | edit source]

Usability is defined as the ease of using the website. This could be for the intended audience of the website (see Audience), or it could be determined by the industry or business standards needed for websites. Usability of websites has gone through different definition changes with the evolution of the internet. In its early years, many people did not know how to navigate through websites or read the information provided. This made the website unusable. Now, people look for the easiest possible access to whatever information is needed.

Usability means Communication[edit | edit source]

Websites are a form of visual communication, serving multiple purposes. Websites can be informative, persuasive, long-term, advertising, or entertaining. Usability is determined based on the goals of the website.

If the website accomplishes its goals and communicates the necessary messages, it can therefore be considered usable.

Developing Usability[edit | edit source]

Starting to test a site before it is built will help avoid some problems before a lot of effort is put into the site. Plan on doing usability testing in focus groups to help you prepare for a better, more user friendly site. If you do not have access to a focus group, you can print out your ideas and share them with family and friends and ask for their insight. Some points to keep in mind when beginning your site are:

  • Find out what people expect from your site. Customers may want something different than what you were preparing to build.
  • Wording that you use will be important in how effective your site will be. If you begin testing early, you can find out what words relay your message better with your audience.
  • Customers will provide you with good ideas. Testing with customers will give you ideas that you may not have thought of.
  • Use descriptive headings, bold words, and bullet lists for easy reading
  • Incorporate links and resources for more information
  • Add pictures, charts, and graphs to enhance communication
  • Avoid adding unnecessary information, pictures, sounds, or colors that are more distracting than helpful
  • Test the website with audiences to determine usefulness

Testing is key to building a website. You must be willing to listen to the input of others, friends or potential customers, so you'll have a better site from the start.

Appearance[edit | edit source]

Appearance should be aesthetically pleasing. One that is easy to look at and maneuver. Tasks (what the user has come to this page looking for, such as an email address or information about an event) that are most important and or most commonly sought should be the main focal points of a web page. Whether it be certain colors driving that importance, or size, or placement on the page, even directional line guiding you to that point, the important tasks must not become secondary. In other words, they should stand out more, not become secondary to an image or a background. Everything on your site should have a purpose, a reason for being where it is and looking the way it does.

Pictures and colors are important and interesting, but far less important than the content. This is true for any web page. The user must not get confused upon entrance to a site. They should know where they need to click (and understand what will come from that click) and not be distracted by images. Unless it's intended, images should be minimal and only help PUSH the contents importance, not overwhelm the page. As such, it is the web designers job to make sure that doesn't happen. Be it by Layout (see layout) or by visual distractions, forced eye movement using line or color, or by any other means deemed worthy by the designer, the content should be seen first, images second or third.

Visability[edit | edit source]

Visibility could be considered the most important aspect of website design. People must first find the website before they can view it. Most often people find websites through search engines.

Here are some tips to increase visibility:

  • Add text to pictures
  • Check the html code for errors
  • Use relevant title tags
  • Use navigation that all internet users are able to view
  • Get rid of duplicate content
  • Do not use hidden text

Layout[edit | edit source]

The layout of a website should be as simple as possible. Extra fluff will only distract the user and cause confusion. You want your site to be visually pleasing, but first and foremost, understandable. The user is at your site for a reason, if the layout isn't successful, the user will most likely leave the page and look for their information elsewhere.

Things to keep in mind while creating your layout:

  • Start with a wireframe; use simple boxes and lines to organize your page. Pictures should be an afterthought.
  • Think of what you want the user to see first and what is the most important. Make those the biggest, the boldest, the most colorful, anything you can think of to draw attention (but be careful not to overwhelm your users)
  • Always remember, as accustomed, most cultures read from left to right, up then down
    • Put your logo in the UPPER LEFT-HAND CORNER to draw the user into the rest of your page
    • Put your least important info (contacts, outside links, site map, related info, etc.) in the bottom left hand corner. People wont miss it, but they will have gone through the rest of the page before wandering into that corner. This prevents the viewer from seeing things they may not be looking for
  • Try to draw your viewer through your page at a downward diagonal from the upper left hand corner to the bottom right hand corner. If this is the way you design your information, your viewer will see that the things in that diagonal first. Then they will proceed to see any other information you have placed strategically throughout your page
  • If you're new to wed design, I'd advise sticking to a custom layout with title in the upper left, tabs across the top left (leave space under the logo before you insert your tabs, logo's need room to prosper), scroll bar down the right side, buttons are semi 3D (afford clicking, let the user know "hey, I'm clickable, I have more information about this on another page." People scan for things that stand out, if something doesn't look clickable, no one will try to click on it)

These are just some basics. There are far more things to think about before achieving a successful web page, but this is a starting point.

Constructing the Web Site[edit | edit source]

Get Organized[edit | edit source]

Assembly[edit | edit source]

Web-authoring Programs[edit | edit source]

Site Files[edit | edit source]

Templates[edit | edit source]

Be Search Engine Friendly[edit | edit source]

Title Tags[edit | edit source]

The title tag plays an important role in any web page. The text that is placed inside the title tag becomes the name of the page, which can be seen in the browser toolbar. For example, if you are looking at Google's website, the title of the page will simple be "Google." Titles are helpful because they allow the user to easily see what websites they have open by simple looking at the tabs in their web browser. The title tag also provides a title for the page when it is added to favorites and displays a title for the page in search-engine results.

In HTML, the title tag lives inside the head tag. Similar to all other HTML tags, it is opened with <title> and closed with </title>. Between the two tags, the creator of the HTML document can place whatever text they think best identifies the web page they are creating. For example, the Google title would be written as <title>Google</title>.

Body Tags[edit | edit source]

The body tag defines the body of an HTML document. This is where all of the content of an HTML document is placed. This includes text, links, images, tables, lists, and anything else that the page needs. Everything that can be seen when looking at a web page is inside of the body tag.

While the body tag is written in the same manner as all other HTML tags, it almost always is more than one line. For example:

Document content

Each line in the body is usually a single element. For example, one line might be a link and the next line is a picture. Splitting the body in to multiple lines in this way makes writing and editing the HTML much easier because it makes everything easier to see individually. In addition, lines can be indented to make the document even easier to read and edit. For example:


This also helps the creator of the HTML document easily see if all the tags are properly opened and closed. While splitting the HTML into different lines and indenting accordingly is recommended, it is not required.

ALT Tags[edit | edit source]

META Tags[edit | edit source]

The <meta> tag provides metadata, or information, about the HTML page. Some things commonly found in the <meta> tag are the page description, keywords, author, date created, and any other data that the author wishes to be included with the document. While it is never visible on the web page itself, it can be seen and used by computers and search engines. The <meta> tag is always placed in the <head> element of an HTML document.

Unlike many other tags in HTML, the <meta> tag has no end tag. That is, all of the information included in the tag is placed within the brackets. For example:

<meta name="keywords" content="HTML, CSS" />

In this example, the <meta> tag is telling the browser that the keywords for the HTML document are HTML and CSS. The name and content fields can be any information that the author wants to include. If the author wished to include the date the document was created, he or she could write

<meta name="created" content="3/28/2012" />

This makes the <meta> tag very valuable when one is creating and organizing multiple HTML documents.

The <meta> tag can also tell browsers to perform certain tasks, such as reload the page. To do this, one would simply write:

<meta http-equiv="refresh" content="30" />

This tells the browser to reload the page every 30 seconds. In addition to this, the <meta> tag can also tell the browser how to handle cookies and specify the text direction, and many other things.

Doorway Pages[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

Concepción, Anne - Marie. Professional Website Design From Start to Finish. Cincinnati: How Design Books, 2001.

Heng, Christopher. "How to Create a Search Engine Friendly Website". http://www.thesitewizard.com/sitepromotion/search-engine-friendly.shtml. April, 11 2010.

Kyrnin, Jennifer. About.com Guide to Web Design. Avon, MA: F+W Publications, Inc., 2007.

Niederst, Jennifer. Web Design in a Nutshell. Sebastopol, CA: O'Reilley and Associates, Inc., 1999.


Planning Reports[edit | edit source]

The first task to be completed before starting a report is to determine what needs to be addressed. According to Paul V. Anderson's text, Technical Communication: A Reader-Centered Approach, the basic superstructure for a report and the questions to be answered in each section are the following(p. 541):

  • Introduction - What will the readers gain from reading the report?
  • Method of obtaining facts - Are the facts reliable?
  • Facts - What have you found that is useful for the readers?
  • Discussion - How do the facts work from the reader's point of view?
  • Conclusions - Why are the facts significant to the readers?
  • Recommendations - What do you think the readers should do?
  • Attachments

This is a basic superstructure, not an outline. Some of these elements may be in a different order, addressed together, or completely omitted. An effective report includes these elements to improve the usability and usefulness of the report. If the report isn't easy to navigate, the persuasiveness of the report will be lost and/or it will be thrown out.

Introduction[edit | edit source]

For some reports, the introduction may only need to be a sentence or two, but for longer more extensive reports it may take multiple pages. The introduction is where the objective of research is stated and briefly explained. An introduction should tell the reader what the main focus of the report is and in doing so tell the reader why the research and report is important for them to read. Essentially we answer the question "What will we gain from reading this report?" The introduction should explain the problem that the report is aiming to solve.

For longer reports, your introduction may take multiple pages. Such things such as 1) What problem your report solves, 2) what activities you performed toward solving that problem and 3) how your readers can apply your information to their own efforts towards solving the problem should be answers within the introduction. Also, ensure that within your introduction your main points are stated.

The main points within most introductions will include your major conclusions and recommendations. Although you should discuss these fully at the end of your report, your readers will appreciate a brief summary of your main points in your introduction.


  • Beginning of report:"In this report, I present the information you wanted to have before deciding whether to place new university stables on next year's list of major funding drives." (Anderson, 2007, p.542)

  • Summarizing main points: "Overall it seems that the stables would make a good fundraiser project because of the strength of the current programs offered there, the condition of the current facilities, and the existence of a loyal core of alumni who used the facilities while undergraduates." (Anderson, 2007,p. 543)

In addition, the introduction may explain how the report is organized, outline its scope, encourage openness to your message, and provide important background information for your readers to understand the rest of the report.

Method of Obtaining Information[edit | edit source]

The purpose of this section is to show the readers how you obtained your information. Stating where you obtained your information will help to tell the readers if your research is reliable. Your method will help readers to understand the uses and limitations of your research. A good, descriptive method section will allow anyone else to recreate your experiment exactly and obtain the same result. Be very detailed in the method section and reread it as if you were trying to do this experiment for the first time based on your method section.

Results[edit | edit source]

The results section is the most valuable part of the report to readers. The whole point of research is to find the results so they need to be conveyed clearly and effectively. A results section may likely contain tables, graphs, text, and pictures. Include anything that is important in showing the reader what was found through research. Do not include extraneous information as it will only clutter the results section. Make sure you check the date of your information, where it comes from, and who the source was. Keep the prose simple and descriptive in this section, leave the analysis of the results for the discussion section.

Discussion[edit | edit source]

The discussion section is where you interpret your results. Your results section may be nothing but tables and graphs with a few accompanying sentences. Your discussion section is where you make sense of those tables and graphs and explain how they relate to the problem or question the report is trying to research. The discussion also explains what the results mean to the company. In some reports, mainly shorter ones, the discussion and facts sections may be put into one to make reading the report shorter and easier.

Conclusion[edit | edit source]

The conclusion section explains why the results are important and how they affect the reader. It is a good practice to summarize your facts and restate the problem so the reader clearly understands the importance of your findings. This is your chance to tell the reader how they or the company will benefit from your findings. The conclusion usually does not make recommendations for action but will inevitably get the reader thinking about it.

Recommendation[edit | edit source]

Here is where you state the purpose of the report and what you want to be accomplished after the readers are done with your report. This section may not be in some reports because the decision to be made may be beyond your knowledge and power.

Reader's Six Basic Questions[edit | edit source]

When reading your report, readers will ask six questions that revolve around one goal: does the information and ideas that you provide offer a guide for future action? Examine these questions while pretending you are the audience you're writing to. Ensure your report answers the questions in order to create a well written report.

  • What will we gain from reading your report?

Readers in the workplace only want to read information relevant directly to them. Therefore, you need to make sure that you explain how this information is relevant to the readers responsibility, interests and goals.

  • Are your facts reliable?

Readers want to ensure that the facts you provide will give a sound basis for their decisions or actions.

  • What do you know that is useful to us?

The readers are not interested in all the information you know about a given subject. They only want to know information that is pertinent to them. Especially ones they can put directly to use (Example: The most important sales figures for this quarter are as follows:....")

  • How do you interpret those facts from our point of view?

Facts within relevancy are meaningless. in order to make facts meaningful, people must interpret them and identify the relationships or patterns among them. Usually Readers want you to do this form them, rather than leaving the work up to them.

  • How are those facts significant to us?

Readers also want you to go beyond just the interpretation of the facts, they want you to explain what these facts mean in terms of their responsibilities, interests and goals.

  • What do you think we should do?

Because you have studied the facts you're presenting in detail, readers will make the assumption that you are qualified to make a recommendation.

These questions are general in order to be applicable to a variety of reports. Some reports will take very little to answer these questions, however in larger reports writers often need to take hundreds of pages to answer these question. Readers often seek answers to these basic questions by asking multiple more specific questions. However, these six questions are the general ones that can be applied to your work.

Revision Checklist[edit | edit source]

Once you have written your report review it using the checklist.


  1. Does it clearly state the topic of the report?
  2. Does it tell your reader why you are writing about this topic?
  3. Does it persuade the reader to continue reading?
  4. Does it provide background information for the reader?


  1. Does it explain the process of obtaining the facts and ideas within the report?


  1. Does it present clear and specific facts?


  1. Does it present the generalizations from the facts that will be meaningful to the reader?


  1. Does it explain the significance of the facts?


  1. Does it tell your reader what they should do next and why?

References[edit | edit source]

Anderson, Paul V. Technical Communication: A Reader-Centered Approach. 2008. Thompson Wadsworth Publishers. 2008. Pages 541-545.


Preparing Business Proposals[edit | edit source]

A business proposal is a statement that is meant to persuade the reader.

Objective[edit | edit source]

In a proposal, you make an offer in attempt to persuade the reader to accept it. In exchange for money, time, or some other consideration, you will give the reader something they want, create something they desire, or do something they wish to have done.

Business proposals have two objectives: To persuade and to protect.

  1. Persuasion comes from the wording of the proposal. By definition, a proposal is an offer that needs to be accepted by the reader in order to succeed. If the proposal is not persuasive, you will not get what you want. * Refer to Chapter 2, Section 6 on Persuading the Reader to learn more
  2. Proposals serve metaphorically and often legally as a contract, so they need to protect you. If they are worded vaguely or they exaggerate promises, clients can take legal action if you do not perform the expectations stated. You also need to make sure you comply with any state laws when writing a proposal.

Expertise in writing proposals requires two things: you must be able to present your offer in the most appealing way possible, while carefully defining the limits of your offer so that no one thinks you are promising more than you can offer.

Making a proposal appealing without promising more than you can offer can be difficult, since you need to set limits on your persuasiveness.

Variety[edit | edit source]

There are many different kinds of proposal situations.

  1. You may need to write for a reader who is employed in your own organization.
  2. Your proposal may be your own idea, or the idea of your reader.
  3. Your proposal may stand alone or compete with other proposals.
  4. Your company/group may have to proofread and approve of your proposal before you submit it to your readers, or you may have to send it directly to them.
  5. Your proposal may be heavily regulated for content and structure, or you may have free range on what you think it should sound like.
  6. Finally, the proposal can be evaluated in a plethora of ways.

Readers[edit | edit source]

When you write a proposal, you are representing yourself, your idea, and your company. You are asking your readers to invest something (time, money, other resources), because you can not provide it yourself. The readers will review the proposal with caution because they may have limited supplies and if your idea does not seem well thought out or effective, they will not consider it. If your business proposal is competing against others, the readers will need to consider each one in order to pick the best.

Point: If your business proposal is not convincing, respectful, or well-written, it will not be considered.

Writing a Business Proposal[edit | edit source]

Business proposals need to be organized. There are many different ways to write a business proposal. Asking the reader to make a decision whether to invest in you or not is a very important aspect and should be incorporated in every business proposal. For the reader, investing in you takes their limited resources and puts them in your hands. Therefore, business proposals should be precise and address many different issues the reader might have such as money, time, space, etc.

Frequently Asked Questions[edit | edit source]

Most of the time, readers want to know three things when they consider a proposal: Problem, solution, and cost.

The problem, need, or goal of your proposal should be clearly addressed in order to let the reader know why the proposal was written and why they should be interested in it. A properly written problem/need/goal will add clarity to your proposal.

If you provide a problem, be sure to describe what actions you plan on taking to solve the problem. The reader wants to make sure that your solution will work effectively and if it is worth investing in.

Cost is also important. The reader will consider the problem and solution and determine their answer on what their financial situation is. A good business proposal can flounder because the cost may be too high.

Capability can be considered as well, if you agree to perform some work. If you are being paid, readers want to make sure that you will work hard.

Strategy of Conventions[edit | edit source]

A business proposal needs to have a framework. Usually, there are ten topics that need to be addressed. However, all proposals need to have the following:

Introduction, Problem, Solution, and Cost

The following is a detailed description of the ideal sequence of thought you should lead your reader through:

• In the introduction, the reader should learn what you want to do.

• You should present a problem, need, or goal to the reader. This should persuade the reader that the problem is important to them.

• The plan of action to solve the problem, meet the need, or achieve the goal should give objectives and solutions in order to persuade the reader that the plan of action is effective.

• Giving methods, providing a schedule, showing resources, and describing qualifications should persuade the reader that you are capable of planning, managing, and completing the proposed solution.

• Explaining how the benefit exceeds the cost will persuade the reader that the proposed action is reasonable.

By including at least these four sections, you are leading the reader through a persuasive argument on why your proposal deserves to be considered. If you divide the proposal up into several sections, it is more efficient for the reader to concentrate on the sections that are more important and skim through the other sections, instead of having to read the whole thing and look for key points.

Superstructure[edit | edit source]

The superstructure provides a framework for writers to organize their proposal. Writers can use it as a guideline, but note that it is not mandatory for writers to include every single element listed below in their proposal. Sections can be combined or even briefly stated in other sections.

Introduction[edit | edit source]

In the introduction, you want to focus on what you are announcing. Although you may want to reveal the full description in the beginning, it may be better to make the introduction brief and allow the full description to be revealed throughout the letter. This way, readers can get a glimpse of what you will be talking about without you explaining it several times (in the beginning and later on).

Problem[edit | edit source]

After the introduction, you should present your readers with a problem, need, or goal that is significant to them. It is important to summarize the problem from the readers' point of view, otherwise they may think that it doesn't affect them and become disinterested. Stating a problem can take some research. Sometimes, readers may provide a problem for you (like when a firm writes your company a letter explaining a problem and how you should solve it). Other times, readers may still give you a problem, but be vague. Other times, you may have to define the problem yourself, based on your own frustration or helplessness. Before you consider something to be a problem, try to talk about it with a potential reader to see if it is worth writing a business proposal about. If the feedback is positive, you will know you have more means for continuing the proposal.

Objectives[edit | edit source]

After you describe your problem and before you state your solution, tell your reader what the goals of the solution are. The objectives help to connect the problem and solution together. Objectives should be brief or listed, and should tell how the action of the solution solves the problem.

Solution[edit | edit source]

How do you want to achieve the objectives that you have listed? Your solution should answer this question. To do this, you must address each objective and persuade your readers that your solution is the best way to achieve the objectives. These statements are only necessary when they are not obvious to the readers. This can be the case when your readers are coworkers and are aware of problems around the workplace.

The solution's description can be tricky because you may find that you are promising more than you can deliver. The best way to counter that is to be very specific (i.e., what are the limits of the program, what are the capabilities, etc.) Make sure that everything you are not sure you can perform is clearly noted as a possibility, not a promise.

Method[edit | edit source]

After you propose a solution to the problem, readers will want to know the steps you will take to make sure the solution is carried out. How will you produce the result? These are the aspects that most readers will look for:

  1. Facilities
  2. Equipment
  3. Your schedule
  4. Your qualifications
  5. A plan for managing the proposed project

Sometimes, explaining the method is superfluous. If everyone is already familiar with your methods, you do not have to give a detailed explanation. However, make sure your readers know what you are talking about before you assume that they will know everything about your project.

Resources[edit | edit source]

If your plan requires equipment, facilities, or other resources this section should be included. Tell your readers what you need and why it is needed. If no special resources are required, you do not need to include this section in your proposal.

Schedule[edit | edit source]

Schedules help provide readers with three things. First, they give readers a deadline so they know when to expect a final result. Second, schedules can be critiqued by readers to make sure they are feasible. Third, a schedule is a good way to keep track of how a project is proceeding.

In addition to project deadlines, schedules should also include due dates for drafts, resources, and other information that is needed to assist you with your project goal.

Qualifications[edit | edit source]

A qualifications section is a good place to explain the talent and experience of yourself and your team members. Depending on your readers, this section may be small or large. As with all business documents, you need to be honest when you write your qualifications. If you think that you need to learn new programs, remember that the time and money spent gaining experience can take away from the project's completion.

Management[edit | edit source]

A project's success depends on its management team, and readers are impressed if you can describe your project management structure in your proposal. By identifying each person on your team and explaining what their tasks and responsibilities are, you can coordinate your work efficiently. It is very helpful for each person to know what they will be doing beforehand so there won't be many problems concerning leadership and time management further into the project.

Costs[edit | edit source]

Since your readers are investing their money and time into your project, it helps to know how much it will cost. A budget statement is good for organizing your expenses, but you should also think about the amount of time you and your team members will spend on the project. You may also include how much money your project will save the readers to make it seem more appealing.

Design[edit | edit source]

Believe it or not, design DOES matter when writing a business proposal. You want to make the proposal appealing to the readers. If the reader is looking at two proposals and one has graphics and color on the front cover and one has just text, which one do you think they will want to read first?

Revision Checklist[edit | edit source]

Now that you know what information is required, you can prepare a checklist to make sure that everything is covered and you are not missing something that may be essential.


  1. Does it state the purpose clearly?
  2. Does it provide sufficient background information?
  3. Does it foreshadow the rest of the proposal to help guide the reader?


  1. Does it explain the proposed action's need or goal?
  2. Does it persuade the reader that the problem is important to them?


  1. Do your objectives relate directly to the problem?
  2. Can you present them without going into the solution?


  1. Is it understandable when it is being described?
  2. Is it persuasive in saying that it will achieve the objectives?
  3. Does it effectively show that it is the most desirable way to achieve the objectives?
  4. Does it offer protection to you and your team members/employer by only promising things that you can deliver?


  1. Are the steps in the method described clearly?
  2. Is it persuasive enough for your readers to be convinced that it will work?


  1. Can you persuade the readers that you have them or can attain them?
  2. Can you clearly identify all of the resources you can supply, protecting you and your employer?


  1. Does it say when the project will be completed?
  2. Has your work been reasonably scheduled?
  3. Does the schedule clearly state what you must do to meet your deadlines, protecting you and your employer?
  4. Have you included a schedule chart (if it makes your proposal more persuasive?)


  1. Can you persuade your readers that you can complete the project successfully?


  1. Can you persuade your readers that your team is organized effectively?
  2. Have you included an organizational chart that illustrates the hierarchy of your team members and their responsibilities?


  1. Have you presented all of them?
  2. Are they reasonable?
  3. Are all of your costs included, protecting you and your employer?
  4. Do you have a budget table?


  1. Are all of your key points summarized?
  2. Have you ended on a positive note?


Preparing Feasibility Studies[edit | edit source]

Feasibility Report[edit | edit source]

What is a Feasibility Report/Study?[edit | edit source]

What you should include when putting together a feasibility study/report:

  • A feasibility report is a testimony that attempts to create some sort of action. Feasibility reports are created to persuade/help the decision makers to choose between available options. Remember that your option is not the only one, the decision makers will probably have many to choose from. A feasibility report also determines whether or not the investigated task can be done with the amount of resources available OR how many resources will be necessary in order to complete the task. A feasibility may be useful in a lot of different situations such as event planning, finances, or even remodeling your home.

What is a feasibility study?[edit | edit source]

A feasibility study is a way to evaluate the practicality and desirability of a project. Before a company invests time and money into a project, they need to know how successful the project will be before investing. Sometimes companies want to understand input costs, the amount of research that will need to be done, or even the marketability of a project. With input prices, it is essential that companies understand, (even before they put time and research into the project), how much it would cost to go through with their product. Companies also like to know if they put time into research and go through with their change or promotion of a product, how the public/people will react to the change. Will people be fighting over the new product or will it fall through? The purpose of feasibility studies is to provide companies information and analysis on whether or not you or your company should pursue this course of action.

Feasibility reports are usually used to sway decision makers towards one direction or the other. Many times there is only one course of action but, there needs to be a second course of action.

Questions to Consider for Your Report:[edit | edit source]

What to consider in creating feasibility studies/reports?[edit | edit source]

It remains important to consider alternatives when you are creating a feasibility study. Decision makers in companies want to understand why they have to make a choice, and then why they should choose this certain option. Feasibility reports need to include detailed information on the problem that has presented itself to provide decision makers with a reason to consider further options.

Is your argument important and appropriate?[edit | edit source]

When deciding on whether or not your feasibility study is important you must first recognize the target audience or reader. For professional organizations people want your argument or study to be based around needs or aims of the organization and their future. In professional settings, it is believed that those guiding points or criteria should be known by the people judging your study. In other words, make the study reasonable and have it relate to what you are looking at implementing or the change you want to see happen.

Facts can make your argument important. However, decision makers want to know that your sources are reliable. They want to be assured that the information they are receiving is from a credible source in the industry. This may turn out to be the most important aspect of any feasibility study and report. Due simply to the fact that any information you gather, no matter the presentation, can be ruined if you're lacking information about your sources or in the worst case if your sources are not credible.

What to consider about your alternatives?[edit | edit source]

It is important to understand how your alternatives compare to the criteria you set in place. In most cases your readers will want to understand how your results compare to others. This allows them to make an educated decision based simply around facts and results. Anderson considers this to be the heart of any feasibility report.

What have you found against your alternatives?[edit | edit source]

Based on experiments and finding results about possible alternatives and how they fare, it is important to draw conclusions about the alternatives. This is not made to bash other options or products, but is made to set your product or idea apart. You should include general knowledge or conclusions about what each product does well. This remains an important part because once again decision makers need a basis for comparison, they need a reason to select your idea compared to the alternatives and may already be set in place, or in the near future.

What should you throw into a conclusion?[edit | edit source]

Include in your conclusion how you’re going to go implement your ideas for the company and how it will enrich the company. Explain why the company should choose your course of action. Compare statistics and data and help the readers understand the logical choice and the course of action that would aid in selecting one option over the other. Explain your expertise on the subject matter and help them realize that your idea is the choice they are looking for. Based on your experiences they will most likely take your side if you present the argument efficiently. The company will select your course of action, based on the key points you outline in your feasibility study.

Important Features of a Basic Feasibility Report[edit | edit source]

Below are the seven elements of a feasibility report:

  • Introduction - You need to persuade the decision maker to even consider any sort of alternative. You need to convince them to even read your report first. Tell them what they will gain personally or as an organization by considering your work.
  • Criteria/Constraints - You must specifically map out the criteria of what the ideal outcomes are. This will allow you to make practical and logical decisions. You can present the criteria in your feasibility report in one of two ways. First, you can separate the criteria into its own section. This is best when you have a extensive report and you need to go in-depth with the explanation. Second, you can incorporate the criteria throughout your report as the criteria become relevant. However, it is important to realize that whichever strategy you chose make sure that the criteria is introduced early in the report. It is also very important to map out the constraints of your suggested solutions. This will show the audience that you understand and acknowledge the fact that no solution is perfect. This will also make sure that the audience makes the decision in their best interest.
  • Method - It is very important to present facts that are accurate and relevant. You should state the reliable sources you used and what method they came from (internet,interview, book, etc.). Without a credible research method or credible sources your document itself will lack credibility.
  • Overview of Alternative Options - You must underline the key features of each possible option. Make sure they are easy to understand and presented in a friendly layout. Keep in mind that the goal is to allow your audience to make the best decision.
  • Evaluation - This should be the bulk of your report, you must evaluate the options using the criteria you created. Add graphs, charts, etc. to show that you have studied your options, and have come up with statistics that back up your reasons as to why your alternative beats the competition.
  • Conclusions - You need to state the conclusion you have came up with. How did you evaluate the alternatives? And then from there, which alternative best fit your organization.
  • Recommendations - You need to use your experience and knowledge in order to state which option you think should be adopted.
  • Note: All seven element outlined do not need to be included in the feasibility report depending on audience, circumstance, mission, etc. Also the elements do not need to be in the exact order outlined above. Specifically the conclusion should be mentioned more than just at the end of the report. It should also be summarized in the beginning of the report and in the case the feasibility report is long, it can be mentioned in the middle as well.

Executive Summary[edit | edit source]

An executive summary should be included at the beginning of the report. In 2-3 pages, the main points of the feasibility study are summarized for a quick review by busy administrators and school board members. The executive summary provides the reader with an overview of the feasibility study and will help them see the entire picture before they read the details. Some decision-makers may only read the executive summary. Thus, the executive summary should be concise and include the major findings of the study followed by a recommendation.

Introduction[edit | edit source]

The purpose of the introduction of a feasibility report is two-fold:

  • To answer the readers' question: "Why do we need to look into these alternatives-do they matter?"

In order to answer this question, it is necessary to identify the problem that your report will help resolve or what your report is aimed at accomplishing.

  • To talk about the other options that you have looked at and analyzed, as well as to tell how you went about researching and analyzing them.

Note: Usually, the introduction to a feasibility report briefly discloses some of the important conclusions and the most feasible options for change. Other elements of a report of this nature, such as the criteria, method, or any other kind of general background, may also be concisely noted and mentioned in this portion of the report.

Criteria/Constraints[edit | edit source]

What to consider in your feasibility study/report. As you begin formulating what you would like to consider you should realize that usually criteria works around one or more of the following questions.

Will your plan or course of action really do what is desired?

This is often seen on the technical sides. What you have to ask yourself is whether or not your implementation or change really makes that much of a difference. Lets say you are looking to improve an aspect of your company. Will your change really improve the proficiency and speed of what their trying to do. Or will you find in your study that the change actually slows down production or the efficiency of the company’s workers. This is important to predict beforehand because sometimes an improvement in the workplace is not always an improvement in how a company works. But many of these factors you will not notice until after you complete your study. And in the worst case you may not see negative ailments until after the plan is implemented.

What will it take to implement your course of action?

Even though your plan of action may seem correct and efficient on paper, it may not be practical towards your line of work. You must take into account the circumstances that arise in every aspect of a professional setting. What you may find is that in one field your plan may be extremely successful, but in another may be a bust. This can also take place from company to company. As you work at different companies along the same field, you will begin to understand what can be successful in one workplace that may not work in another. Sometimes you have to take into account the amount of changes that will need to be implemented for your plan. Do you need to go through extensive changes in operations, or make upgrades to current equipment or materials that are currently in use or in stock? Sometimes the amount of money that needs to be put into a new project may be much more than the actual amount of benefit that would be received from the changes. You must consider your plan as a cost-benefit analysis.

Cost of implementation.

This may become the biggest factor in any business decision. How much will it cost? In not only business, but any professional field, the benefits must outweigh the costs in any decision. This is even the case when deciding to work on one aspect of a project compared to the other. When forming criteria for a feasibility report, you must understand the costs if all went as planned. Then you might even want to find out what the cost would be if you had minor or major setbacks. It is important to understand the costs because unless the benefits outweigh the costs, a company will most likely not go through with your proposed plan of action. Also it is important to look into the future of the company. Maybe your plan of action will not be beneficial for the first year in existence, but what about the years following that? This must be considered because like any other decision in business, the original fixed cost may be high but the marginal gains may be high. In that case it may be a good decision for the company to make a change if it is beneficial for the future. Think about health care companies. Would it be beneficial for a company to invest in new equipment even though the upright payment is very high?

Is your idea/product desirable?

This is as simple as is your plan going to sell. Will people want to overextend themselves for change, or will they reject what you are trying to do? Sometimes a change or solution must be more than just effective and affordable. You must consider the consumers and people that will be changing. Sometimes many feasible courses of action do not succeed simply because they create effects that drive the consumers away. Because of this, the product or plan does not sell. These undesirable side effects can be as simple as tearing away employee morale. Sometimes even though a plan is promoting and expected to increase productivity, how will the employees react? Many times companies overlook how their employees are going to react to change. But the fact of the matter is that the only way to increase production is to keep employees happy. If they are not pushed to improve the company and their own status then they simply will not find change necessary.

Method[edit | edit source]

Things to keep in mind:[edit | edit source]

This section of your feasibility report is one of substantial magnitude and importance. This part of your paper demonstrates to the reader what you discovered, through your research, actually matters and has reliability. By telling your audience how you came to know what you have found out and know now, you are demonstrating to them that your results are trustworthy and that they truly hold significance in meaning. With strong methods for finding out your facts, your readers will then feel comfortable and confident to make the necessary changes.

It's all about the source[edit | edit source]

The question of what sources to use completely varies from study to study. There are several different types of sources that you could use to find your facts-it all just depends on what you are trying to find answers to. Sources can include (but are not limited to):

  • Academic journals or reports
  • Library research
  • Phone calls
  • Face-to-face interviews
  • Meetings with those who are knowledgeable about the topic or are in your company/organization
  • Surveys (Survey Monkey!)
  • Usability Testing
  • Lab testings
How much is enough?[edit | edit source]

The length and density of content will vary from each report to the next. You should take into consideration your audience as well as the context and purpose, for which your paper is written. The main goal is to purely get the point across to the readers that what you are reporting has validity, by describing how the means of attaining your information are sound and secure. Make sure that your writing is reader-centered and that they would be satisfied. Doing thus will ensure that your method is long and descriptive enough.

Where does it fit?[edit | edit source]

The placement of this section of your report will also depend on the type of report that you are writing. If there are only a couple of different methods used throughout your research, it might be a good idea to fit them into the beginning of your report, writing a paragraph for each technique. If you have several, unrelated methods, however, it would be good to place those paragraphs throughout the report, where they would best accompany your analysis or data.

Important note[edit | edit source]

Sometimes, if it is really obvious how you went about your research, then there might not even be a need to talk about your methods. It is key, though, that your readers always have a clear understanding of the way you obtained your facts and that they are worth trusting.

Revision Checklist[edit | edit source]

Once your feasibility study is complete analyze the checklist to ensure every topic has been addressed.


  1. Does it tell your readers why you conducted this study?
  2. Does it provide background information the readers will need or want?
  3. Does it identify the action or alternatives you investigated?
  4. Does it persuade readers to use this study as a valid document?


  1. Does it identify the standards by which the action or alternatives were evaluated?


  1. Does it explain the way you obtained the facts and ideas presented in the report?
  2. Does it persuade the readers that this method would produce reliable results?

Overview of Alternatives

  1. Does it present a general description of each alternative?


  1. Does it evaluate the action or alternative in terms of criteria?
  2. Does it present the facts and evidence that supports each evaluative statement?


  1. Does it explain the significance from the reader's viewpoint of your facts?
  2. Does it state the conclusion plain and simple?


  1. Does it advise which course of action or alternative you recommend?
  2. Does it present recommendations which stand out?
  3. Does it suggest specific steps your readers may take to act on each of your recommendations?


Presentations[edit | edit source]

Define Your Presentation's Objectives[edit | edit source]

Oral presentations are designed using some of the same techniques that you would use in written communication; however, there are different techniques since oral presentations are another form of communication. To accurately accomplish what you want to present, it is important to analyze the situation by looking at four differing aspects.

Think about your listeners and your communication goals- Know who your listeners are and how you want your presentation to affect them. For example, ask yourself what you really want to tell your listeners and what they really want to hear from you.

Think about what your listeners expect- Understand what your listeners’ expectations are about the presentation. For example, ask yourself, "what is the purpose of my listeners hearing me?"

Know the time limit of your presentation- Listeners appreciate knowing how long the presentation will take. Have your watch or clock with you anytime you present.

Assess the environment of your presentation-

  • The size of your audience: With a smaller audience, you can use smaller graphics, present in a less formal manner usually, and can expect to be interrupted with questions.
  • The seating of your audience: Consider what the seating is like and if your audience will be able to move their chairs to best see the visuals.
  • The type of equipment available: The availability of equipment determine the types of graphics you can use. If a projector is not available, you will not be able to use PowerPoint or slides.

Planning the Verbal and Visual Parts of Your Presentation[edit | edit source]

Why Use Visuals?[edit | edit source]

Speakers who use graphics are viewed as:

  • Better prepared
  • More professional
  • More understandable
  • More persuasive
  • More credible
  • More interesting

To gain the full advantage of the combined communicative power of the verbal and visual dimensions of your presentations, you must integrate them fully. First choose the type of oral delivery and the visual medium you will use. Then plan how you will weave your words and images together.

Choosing the Type of Oral Delivery[edit | edit source]

Oftentimes at work, people generally use three forms of oral delivery: the scripted talk, the outlined talk, or the impromptu talk. Sometimes the situation or the profile of your listeners will dictate the types of talk you will give. At other times, you will be free to choose.

Scripted: A scripted speech is a word-for-word speech. Everything is written out that the presenter is planning to say. It can either be read or recited from memory. This offers security to the presenter if he/she is nervous or has a lot of specific or complex important information he/she needs to inform the audience about. It is also helpful for keeping within a time limit. Having a scripted talk ensures the presenter that each key point will be talked about, but be careful because this can make the speech rigid and is hard to deliver naturally.

Outlined: An outlined speech is just that, a speech that has been outlined to hit its main points. The outline helps the presenter remember to touch on a certain topic and offers more flexibility to “tune” the speech to the reactions from the audience. With this type of speech the presenter should be knowledgeable on the subject matter. Some may have trouble with phrasing an outlined speech or get tongue-tied. If critical information is not written down the presenter may forget to fully elaborate on key points that are vital to the success of the speech. This type of presentation is ideal when presenting information that is familiar to you.

Impromptu: An impromptu speech is given with little or no preparation. The presenter should be very knowledgeable on the subject matter. It is not uncommon for information delivered to the audience to be disorganized. Impromptu speeches are usually used in short informal meetings where the audience can interrupt and ask questions to help guide the speech and retrieve the information they need from the speaker. Although, depending on how interactive the audience is, without the help of proper questions, the speaker may miss the main point of the speech entirely.

Who is Your Audience?[edit | edit source]

When planning out your speech remember that in order for it to be effective it needs to be tailored as best as it can to reach the specific audience. If your audience cannot understand what you are trying to say you will find it much harder to deliver your message. This means that you should figure out who your audience is so that you can format your presentation accordingly. The easiest way to figure out your audience is to focus on their characteristics.

Be Mindful of Your Audience's:

• Age

• Knowledge Level

• Gender

• Occupation

• Ethnicity and Culture

• Values and Morals

• Goals

Keep in mind though; your audience members are individuals not stereotypes.

If you do not know much about your audience, research! Researching your audience can only benefit you, the more that you know the better prepared that you will be. If you are presenting to another culture or non-English fluent audience, doing research cannot be stressed enough. Different cultures have different ways of presenting speeches. For instance, in the Chinese culture all of their points are made indirectly and speeches do not give the audience an overview of what their presentation will cover. You will find instead, an introduction offering an observation of a concrete reality followed by a story.

→Important aspects to research include:

Opening format, organization style, directness, tone, eye contact, gestures, and visuals

Basic Guidelines That Would Be Safe to Follow For Any Speech:

• Avoid Slang (Generational gaps must always be kept in mind)

• Use Graphics to Highlight Key Points (Pictures can help break confusion or a language barrier)

• Use Full Sentences Not Phrases (Phrases can make you sound unintelligent, or lazy)

• Avoid Using Gestures (A friendly gesture in one culture could be considered rude or offensive in another)

• Avoid Jargon (Language or terminology that is industry specific)

• NEVER Discriminate (This includes age, gender, race, ethnicity, etc.)

• Maintain Good Eye Contact (Maintain with the entire audience, not just a select few)

• Speak Up (You want to sound confident and knowledgeable to your audience)

How Will You Start Your Introduction?[edit | edit source]

Will you start with a quote, statistic, personal story, a joke, or an overview?

Opening: There are many ways to start a speech before segueing into an introduction, beginning with a quote, statistic, personal story, or even opening with humor are all good options; but only if they are used correctly. So be careful, because humor is only funny when it is told right, and humor can do more harm than good if it is not used properly. Be sure to avoid all sexual, religious, and racial topics if you open with humor. As far as opening with a statistic, quote, or sharing a personal story, it doesn’t matter which one you choose, just be aware that they have to be directly related to the main point of the speech.

Overview: An overview should follow whichever opening you choose, or can be just used as an opening. Formal speeches usually start with an overview as an opening. Using an overview as an opening would be the best to use if you are unsure how your audience will react to a joke or a startling statistic. Your overview for your introduction should contain the following: a brief introduction of your topic, an explanation of the relevance of the topic to your audience, a forecast of the organization for your presentation, and possibly some background information if necessary.

What the Body of Your Speech Should and Shouldn’t Include[edit | edit source]

The body of your speech should help you elaborate and develop your main objectives clearly by using main points, sub points, and support for your sub points. Try to limit both your main points and sub points to three or four points each; this goes for your supporting points as well. Select your main points according to the relevancy of your audiences need and interest. Develop a logical structure for your points, shorten words and phrases whenever possible, and be sensitive how your words sound, not just look. Keep you listeners in mind while writing, and if necessary make a good argument by citing evidence and providing examples. Don’t get set on using certain words and ignore the main goal of your speech. Also, use repetition; it adds rhythm to your speech and helps the words stick in your listeners mind.

George Orwell Summarized How to Write Well:

• Never use a long word where a short one will do

• If it is possible to cut out a word, always cut it out

• Never use the passive where you can use the active

• Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent

• Break any of these rules sooner than say anything barbarous (meaning: uncivilized, primitive, or lacking refinement)

Don’t Forget About Your Conclusion![edit | edit source]

The last thing presented tends to be what the audience remembers best. Restate your main points in a short summary. You can create a lasting impression by using one of the techniques to open a speech with, a statistic, fact, or personal story, but remember only do so if it can directly relate. If possible, summarize the next steps your audience can take, and lastly always thank your audience.

Example of a Speech Outline[edit | edit source]

When Should You Ask for Questions?[edit | edit source]

Traditionally, the speaker asks for questions after the speech is finished and has thanked the audience. That is not always the case though. A speaker can guide the audience to ask questions throughout his/her speech, by simply pausing in between points and asking the audience. Or, a speaker could politely ask the audience to hold all questions until the end. If the speaker does not ask the audience members to hold all questions until the end, he/she should be prepared for interruptions and rehearse accordingly.

Tips for Answering Questions:

• Make a point to have everyone hear the question, repeat the question if you are in a large room and then follow-up with a response so that every audience member is aware.

• If you do not know the answer to a question simply say so, do not lie, and explain any relevant information you do know.

• If an audience member asks a question in disagreement with your topic, remain in good terms. Politely and respectfully acknowledge the opposing thoughts.

• If an audience member interrupts your speech with a question, answer it, and return to where you left off.

What Visual Aids Will You Use?[edit | edit source]

To help your audience focus on and remember your major points, you should present them verbally and visually. Visual aids can help your audience better understand what you are talking about and reinforce the point you are making. Before you decide which types of visual aids to use, you need to figure out where you will be presenting, what technology will be available, and your audience. Figure out about the layout of the room and the seating, if you can move the seating around (if necessary), as well as how large your audience will be. These all will play a factor in choosing which visual aids you should use.

The Four Most Common Visual Aids:

PowerPoint – a visual aid which can incorporate sound, video clips, photos, charts, tables, and graphs.

Advantages: Is beneficial for large audiences, easy to modify slides in a timely manner, and creates a colorful, attractive design for viewers.

Disadvantages: It has to be shown in a room with dim lighting which makes note taking for listeners difficult. Depending on seating, screen size, and room layout not everyone may be able to see. A projector and computer/laptop is needed which can be expensive to buy and challenging to rent. Also, many people make "poor power point presentations." Make sure to research what is proper power point etiquette before presenting.

Overhead Transparencies – slides can be written on and observed through an overhead projector.

Advantages: Allows you to maintain eye contact with the audience, able to be write while talking towards the crowd, and can be created easily. Also, easy for note taking.

Disadvantages: Transparencies are plain looking without motion or sound, and have to be shown in a room with dim lighting. A large, deep room may have visibility problems from the back of the room. Overhead projectors are becoming outdated and contain light bulbs which may burn out.

Chalkboards/Dry Boards – boards which can be written on with chalk or dry erase markers.

Advantages: There is no preparation necessary, very flexible, can be used to record audience responses, and are great for discussions. Fast, easy, and simple to use. No learning curve.

Disadvantages: Writing on a chalkboard/dry board can delay the presentation and may make you talk to the board instead of the audience. Does not present well for large groups and poor spelling and handwriting can become problematic. No sound/motion available.

Handouts – materials with key points and information for the audience to use.

Advantages: Beneficial for large and small audiences and aid listeners with note taking. The audience is able to refer to the information later on. Can enhance key points of presentation by reiterating the points.

Disadvantages: Requires preparation and access to a copier. Audience members may read ahead or never look at the handout again. May be a distraction to the presentation.

Make Sure Your Visual Aid Uses Easy-to-Read Text and Graphics[edit | edit source]

Use graphics! People identify items more quickly when using graphics in addition to text alone. When creating your visual aids, however, make sure your text and graphics are easy to read.


•Use headlines and sub headlines in a larger font

Bold, italicize, or CAPITALIZE important information

•Use bullet points or create lists to organize material. Make sure this is "nice" to look at (easy to read)

Charts and graphs

•Make sure there is clear information presented and support your presentation. Color coordinate charts/graphs if necessary

•Use text to support/explain your charts and graphs (be brief but cover the high points)

•Avoid charts and graphs that can be misleading to your readers

Wording and Lettering

•Use large sized easy to read fonts

•Be concise with as little text as possible. Also use simple language to avoid confusion

•Limit number of fonts to one or two

•Think about the age of your audience when setting font size and type

•For slides, limit the number of lines to no more than six lines per slide with six words per line

→Overcrowding slides is common and can be easily avoided by limiting the amount of text


•Use color for clarity and emphasis, not for decoration

•Use color schemes

•Keep a similar color scheme throughout the entire presentation

•Use contracting colors to highlight main points

Making a Proper PowerPoint[edit | edit source]

We have all encountered boring power points with overloading information and lack of creativity. The following are precautions to ensure that you are making a proper power point using PowerPoint etiquette.

• Do not write the entire presentation on your Power point. Instead, create bullet points and headings no longer than three to five words that give the main points.

• Have no more than five to seven lines per slide.

• It is better to have two slides than it is to cram too much information on one.

• Be consistent with your "theme". (Do not use a different theme for each slide)

• Do not overuse transitions. They are meant to enhance your presentation, not take over.

• Be careful with your color scheme. Again, this is meant to enhance your presentation. Make sure the audience can read the text.

• Make an outline of what you will be talking about so the listeners can know what to expect within the presentation.

• Use at least 18 point font, and for each sub-bullet portion use a smaller font size.

• Do not use complicated and unreadable font.

• Use a font color that stands out against the background.

Preparing for Your Speech[edit | edit source]

When preparing to give your speech, it is important to rehearse just as you plan to present it. This, then, includes using your visual aids when you practice. This is necessary to do, since it trains you to make smooth transitions between slides. Take time into consideration as well- it is hard to sit through a long speech, even if it is interesting. Usually, people can only concentrate for about twenty minutes at a time. This may mean you need to break your speech up into two parts if it is lengthy. Doing this gives the audience a short break in between and allows them to refocus and retain the important information.


• Pay special attention to the delivery of your key points; this is typically where stumbling for your words can become the greatest problem.

• Speak in a conversational style. Do not talk at your audience; pretend you are talking with your audience.

• Prepare for interruptions and questions. On this note, make sure to leave room for a formal time of questions at the end of your presentation.

• Practice pausing in your speech after important information you would like to stress, as well as when you are transitioning from one main point to another. By doing so, the audience can better digest the information and reflect on what they have just heard.

• Rehearse with your graphics and coordinate them to your talk.

• Display your graphics only when you are talking about them. Graphics should support your presentation, not detract from it.

• Time your rehearsal, and use the same pace you will use when you present.

• Rehearse in front of others. Feedback can improve your speech and having an audience for practice can pin-point weaknesses in the presentation.

• If possible, rehearse your speech in the location you will be giving it. This will allow you to feel more comfortable when you are giving your presentation.

• Make sure you hear your speech aloud, either by recording it, or listening carefully to yourself during rehearsal. This will enable you to make sure that your words flow smoothly in an understandable manner.

Presenting Your Speech[edit | edit source]

Your appearance and delivery are just as important as your speech. You want your audience to give you respect and to take you seriously, so show your audience this by how you dress and in how you present your speech. For your dress, consider what your particular audience will expect of you, in most cases this means business casual, but sometimes a suit/dress may be necessary.

Dress to Impress:

• Men – button-up shirt and tie, blazer (optional), dress pants, and dress shoes. Be clean shaven and have tidy hair.

• Women – button-up shirt, blouse, or a nice sweater, dress pants or skirt (of appropriate length – below the knee), and dress heals or flats. Not too much make-up and have tidy hair. Avoid large dangling jewelry, as this can be distracting to your audience.

Deliver Your Message

Act poised and confident; don’t let your nerves get the best of you. Accept your nervousness and work with it, everyone understands how it feels to be nervous and will be supportive. When rehearsing identify your weak spots, practice fixing them, as well as practice hitting the crucial points in your speech. Do your best to avoid fidgeting, pacing, looking at the floor, and over using “um”, “uh”, or “and”. Try to breathe easy and pace your speech. The most important thing to remember before giving your speech is to deliver your message. If you forget to say certain points it is fine, just deliver your message and let the audience know the main objective of your speech. Also, find comfort in knowing your nervousness is not as visible to others as it is to you.

Body Language

While standing in front of a large or small audience for a presentation body language is crucial. Audiences may become distracted with flailing laser pointers or fidgeting fingers playing with a useless pen or paperclip. As a presenter remain relaxed and calm while creating animated and lively facial expressions. Always remember to smile, maintain eye contact with the audience, and enjoy your experience as being a presenter.

Tips That May Help Calm You:

• Practice and rehearsal- the more you practice, the less nervous you will be

• Arrive early

• Talk with a few of the audience members before your speech

• Take a few minutes to relax before you speak

• Pause for a moment before you start talking

Involve Your Audience

The great thing about presenting a speech is you can gauge your audiences understanding by paying attention to your audience. If your listeners are looking confused, you can ask if they understand before moving on to the next point and back-up and re-explain your points as needed. Make eye contact with your audience members, and make sure not to stare at your notes the whole time. If you have a large audience, make sure to alternate talking to the audience members to the right and left of you as well as in front of you. When you begin your speech do not look at your notes, look at your audience! You know your topic and who you are so introduce yourself and your topic as you would introduce yourself when you meet a new person.

Tips For Looking At Your Listeners

• Look at your audience before you begin

• Create and follow a plan for looking

• Pick a particular feature of your listeners' face

• Practice looking at the audience while rehearsing

• Avoid skimming over faces in your audience

Extra: Team Presentations[edit | edit source]

Team presentations are becoming increasingly common in the workplace. Usually each person will specialize on a certain part in the project and then each will present the piece of the project he/she is most knowledgeable on.

Team Presentation Tips:

• Make plans in advance and set dates for team meetings

• Plan thoroughly

• Allow for individual differences

• Make effective transitions between speakers

• Show respect for one another

• Rehearse together

• Be familiar with all parts of the presentation

• Have speakers discuss how the pieces fit together if it is unclear

Checklist:[edit | edit source]

Preparing For Your Speech

• Which speech will you present? (scripted, outlined, or impromptu)

• Who is your audience? (Consider: age, gender, knowledge base, etc.)

• What is your introduction? (Will you begin with a statistic or story? Or Start with an overview? What is your objective?)

• What is in body of the speech? (Elaborate on your main points)

• What is your conclusion? (Will you add a statistic in at the end? Be sure to summarize your main points and thank your audience!)

• When will you ask for questions? (Throughout the speech or at the end?)

• Which visual aids will you use? (PowerPoint, blackboard/dry board, handouts, or overhead transparencies?)

• Are you graphics easy to read and understand?

• Don’t forget to rehearse! (Yes, with your graphics!)

Helpful Tips

• Do not chew gum while your giving your speech

• Do not put your hands in your pocket- to stop yourself, hold a pencil or a pen in your hand (make sure not to fidget with it though)

• If you're nervous, take a deep breath before you begin

• If you're nervous about the crowd size, try and focus on one person until you feel comfortable

• If you lose your place, calmly look down at your notes rather than saying "um" or "ah"; it is better to pause for a moment to find your place than to fumble with your words

• If you're feeling under the weather when giving your speech, bring a bottle of water with you because you can always pause for a second to take a sip

• When rehearsing, try practicing in front of a mirror so you see if you have any bad habits that you can try and correct before giving your speech

Presenting Your Speech

• Dress to impress!

• Arrive early!

• Look at the audience not your notes or the presentation screen

• Don’t forget to involve your audience! (Talk with them, not at them!)

• Smile and present with energy

• Deliver your message

• Thank your audience!


Professional and Technical Writing
Reports Print version Project Management

Writing Instructions[edit | edit source]

Many people are used to following written instructions, but most people have never written instructions for another person. In many professional roles, you may have to write instructions. While some instructions may be simple and brief, other instructions may be more complex and take longer to complete. For this reason, it is important to know how to write useful instructions.

Writing useful instructions can be difficult because people read and comprehend things differently. For example, some people are visual learners and may have difficulty following written instructions. Readers also have a variety of educational backgrounds. When writing instructions, it is important to use a simple, logical style and format.

Guidelines for Writing Instructions[edit | edit source]

When writing instructions, avoid persuasive language and take a task-based approach. Keep the writing concise and clear, and focus on enabling the user to successfully accomplish the task.

In general, follow these guidelines:

Conciseness and Clarity

Keep sentences short and understandable. Use common terminology whenever possible. Avoid using idioms, slang, jargon, nicknames, abbreviations, and acronyms. If you do use terminology that might be new or confusing, then clearly define each term when it first appears in the instructions.


It is important to know your audience when writing instructions so that you include all necessary information and exclude unnecessary information. Knowing your audience allows you to make reasonable and well-informed assumptions based on the audience's likely background, experience, and familiarity with the subject. For example, if you are writing instructions for a group of senior citizens at the local branch of the public library, it may not be safe to assume that they are familiar with the basics of opening a specific software application. However, if you are writing instructions for a group of software developers within a professional organization, it may be safe to assume that they are familiar with the basics of opening a specific software application.

When deciding what information to include and exclude from instructions, it is important to clearly identify who your audience is and what their likely proficiency is with the topic of the instructions and related background information.

If an audience is likely to have a wide range of experience and knowledge that includes varying levels of familiarity and expertise, you can use various techniques to keep each set of instructions concise and focused on a single task, while still providing necessary information. For example, you can create separate instructions for prerequisite information and provide your audience with the means to quickly and easily access the separate instructions (through hyperlinks, appendices, etc.).


Pictures speak louder than words. Adding graphics to convey your thoughts may be more effective than the words themselves. Instructions that are well illustrated and accompany your written instructions are usually highly successful. It adds an extra level of understanding and allows the reader to skim or troubleshoot if problems occur. Pictures add an additional dimension that will allow your reader to visualize the end product. Also, when using graphics you should be mindful of those visual learners, and adapt the graphics.

Although pictures are great, you must be cautious not to include photographs or illustrations that are confusing or not associated with the actual written instructions. If you pair a poor picture with your instructions, you might cause the reader stress or introduce confusion when trying to decipher what you mean.

Also, when taking pictures, ensure that the area is well lit and the pictures are clear and bright. Dark or fuzzy pictures are often difficult to follow. Take care to photograph the subject in the same orientation each time to avoid confusion and consider using a tripod.

Size is also important when using images in instructions. A picture that is too small to see is just as useless as a blurry image.

To be powerful and understandable, your text and graphic for each step should clearly correlate to that step of the instructions.


Remember that the readers will actually be performing the task as they read along with the instructions. So you should not use solid blocks of small, hard to decipher text. Make sure to create a design and layout for your instructions page that will allow easy readability and add aesthetic quality. Keeping the page simple, but with a defined hierarchy, will assist the reader in completing the steps of the instructions.

When designing your page, a solid hierarchy is important for scan-ability. The use of bold headings, italics, and roman numerals will aid the reader in finding their place easily and helps with the overall visual appearance.


It is important for your instructions to be planned out in a logical progression. Make sure to state the problem clearly on the first page. Follow your problems with a set of specific steps detailing how to solve the proposed problem. Technical instructions must flow in a logical pattern. For example, when assembling a table it would not be good if you put the finishing touches on it before you had all the screws in place. As stated before, there should also be clear graphics where necessary to clarify the action. Remember, a picture is worth a thousand words.

Testing and Verification

We all know that instructions are difficult to write and that sometimes it sounds good on paper, but when you actually attempt to put the instructions to use, you might find that your wording makes no sense to others. Remember what might be common or obvious to you might baffle your readers, so know your audience. In addition to testing your instructions on yourself, have someone who knows nothing about your product test it. This is called a usability study. Take notes on what worked and what didn't and then revise your instructions accordingly. In the long run the more people that test your instructions, the more effective the final set will be.

Tailoring Instructions to the Intended Audience[edit | edit source]

Tailoring your instructions to the intended audience can be one of the most difficult tasks of your writing process. Before you begin your writing process you need to identify who your audience will be and how you can tailor your instructions to make them as understandable as possible. To help you do this, there are several questions you can ask yourself:

  • What background might your audience members have, and what prior knowledge might they possess? This will help you to determine what you will need to include or not include in your instructions.
  • What will their needs/interests be?
  • How will their demographics affect how you write? If the majority of your audience comes from a different demographic than you, you need to take into consideration language issues and make sure graphics are clear.
  • Is there a variability in your audience? If your audiences are composed of people with varied backgrounds, your writing should be tailored to the majority of your audience, and you may also consider adding additional information in appendices.

Based on your answers to the above questions, there are several ways you can ensure that your instructions will be as clear as possible to your readers.

  • Add information (such as tips, side notes) the readers will need in order to understand your instructions, and make sure no key information is missing.
  • Do not add information that is unnecessary; it may confuse or mislead your readers.
  • Make sure the document is at the level of your audience.
  • Add examples/graphics. Graphics can be very helpful to a reader.
  • Have a clear organization. Lack of organization creates confusion and frustration.

Writing Your Instructions[edit | edit source]

The following sections are descriptions of the different parts of the general superstructure of a set of instructions. What sections to include will vary based on the complexity of the instructions. Your document may contain any of the following sections:

  • Introduction
  • Description of Equipment
  • Materials and Equipment Necessary
  • The procedures
  • Visual aids
  • Troubleshooting

Introduction[edit | edit source]

What is included in your introduction will depend on what your instructions are for and who will be using them. In any case, the introduction should be brief, but still informative. The introduction can include any or all of the following sections:

  • Subject/Aim: Here you should indicate the specific task that will be explained and what the outcome of the procedure will be.
  • Intended Readers: You may want to identify who the intended readers of the instructions are and if the reader will need additional knowledge or background in order to complete the task.
  • Scope: This will help the reader to know if the instructions will help them complete the task they want to or not.
  • Organization: Giving the reader an overview of what the rest of the instructions will look like can help them to more easily understand them. This section could also go under scope.
  • Safety: It is your responsibility to inform the readers of any hazards or dangers that could occur while they are completing the task. You need to display warnings in a clear and understandable fashion.

Description of Equipment[edit | edit source]

If there is equipment that the reader will have to use in order to operate or repair a piece of equipment, you may want to include a description of it.

Materials/Equipment List[edit | edit source]

Provide a list of equipment that the reader will need to accomplish the task so they know if they need additional tools or things they may not normally have. A list of supplies is also helpful for a reader to make sure that they have all the parts and pieces they need.

Procedure[edit | edit source]

This section is obviously the most important part of an instructions set since it is the actual steps that the reader will follow to complete the task at hand. There are many ways to format the procedures, but most are done with numbered lists. The following are things you should do to make the steps clear and concise:

  • Write each step with concise wording so it is easily understood and completed.
    • Techniques:
      • Give readers enough information to perform the step, avoid redundancy.
      • Put the steps in a list. Numbering often works the best.
      • Highlight key words.
  • Make sure the reader can locate steps quickly and easily.
    • Techniques:
      • Number steps.
      • Skip lines between steps.
  • Make actions stand out from the rest of the text.
  • Tell the reader what to do if they make a mistake. Not knowing what to do will cause frustration and the reader may give up on the task.

Visual Aids[edit | edit source]

The use of graphics and pictures to correspond to each step is highly recommended. Each person has different learning habits; some like texts while others are better off with pictures. The presence of graphics also allows the reader to make sure he/she is still on the right track. In most situations it would be beneficial to have a combination of both graphics and words.

Troubleshooting[edit | edit source]

Instructions should include this section to tell the reader what to do if something goes wrong during the building process or if the completed project does not look like the expected outcome. Putting this information into a table format often works the best.

For an example set of instructions visit [6] This webpage contains information from the textbook entitled Power Tools for Technical Communication by David A. McMurrey.

Usability Testing[edit | edit source]

Usability testing is an absolutely crucial step in preparing an effective set of instructions. Once you have completed a draft of your instructions, it is important to test them to see where improvements can be made. A usability test should be performed on multiple testers for each updated draft of your instructions. Here is how you go about performing a usability testing:

1. First, you should choose your testers from a group that is representative of your intended audience. In order to single these specific users out, you may need to ask a few preliminary questions. For example, asking what their experience level with the task is or what their job field is.

2. Next you need to choose how you will evaluate the tester's performance in completing the task. There are different methods to choose from, but one method is called the "Think Aloud" method. When using this method you ask your tester to complete the task using your instructions while verbalizing everything that is going through their head as they go through the instructions. Do not offer any help to the tester as he or she goes through the test, kindly tell them that you can answer their questions at the end. As the tester says what is confusing or hard you take notes. You can record this information in a chart that has three columns. In the first column you will record the problems your tester had. In the second column you write down what the possible cause of each problem was. In the third try to generate a possible solution to the problem or possible ways you can change your instructions to make them more understandable. Be sure to be descriptive in what you want to find out. Be sure to lay out the testing form to collect all pertinent information about your testing so no information is overlooked or misplaced.

3. After the test is done look at your notes and ask the tester to elaborate on the problems that you noted. This is an important step because you are getting direct feedback from your audience. Make sure that you understand exactly what was confusing for them, as this will help you in writing the most successful set of instructions. Ask testers how you could change that step or part of the instructions to make them unambiguous.

4. Based on your findings edit and update your instructions. After you do so they should be more understandable and easier to follow for your intended audience. In many cases it is appropriate or even necessary to conduct one or more rounds of usability tests as you perfect your instructions. More testing may prove beneficial in discovering problems that were overlooked the first round of testing or because the problems may have been masked by original complications. If time permits, be sure to run as many rounds of usability testing as needed.

  • Note: Pay special attention to your intended audience and ensure that you have the number of testers, and accurate demographics necessary to accurately represent your sample. For example, if you are making instructions for a 'beginner audience' and test an all 'expert' audience your sample will not be representative. In addition, if you are wanting to make instructions for a large audience of several ages, gender and experience level, your sample will need to be large and representative of that population.
  • If the instructions require the tester to use both hands (like tying a tie), consider making all the instructions visible without turning pages so it is easier for them to complete the task.

General Writing Style Tips[edit | edit source]

Many people resist reading instructions. They try to figure out for themselves how to operate a product or perform a task and will turn to the instructions only if all their efforts fail. When they do read the instructions, they want to understand everything immediately without having to read anything twice. A simple design, plain wording, and clear instructions will be critical to encouraging readers to pay attention to your instructions or procedures.

When writing technical documents and instructions there are several style tips you should keep in mind:

  • Use a lot of imperative, command or direct address, kinds of writing. It is OK to use "you" when writing instructions, because you are addressing the reader directly.
  • Use active instead of passive voice.
  • Do not leave out articles such as a, an and the.
  • Use action verbs.
  • Ensure graphics match descriptive text to avoid confusion.
  • Label graphics by steps, for example Step 17 "...Put...", the graphic should be labeled clearly with a number "17" or if multiple graphics exists for a line of text writing in chronological order "17a, 17b, etc." or if different views "17 front, 17 back, etc."
  • Keep text short but descriptive.
  • Avoid complicated jargon, use simple verbiage to ensure understanding by a broad spectrum of users.
  • Use concise headings and subheadings to describe and highlight each section.
  • Leave plenty of white space around headings.
  • Highlight safety information and warnings.
  • Keep illustrations as simple as possible.

Main Page


The Value of Visual Instructions[edit | edit source]

Visual instructions may or may not include text. Generally, it is good to have both being that there are different learning styles. However, it can often vary depending on the intended use of the instructions. Visual instructions serve to clarify a concept that is difficult to explain using only words. Graphics may be used to show how something looks, how something should look once the step has been completed, how something is done or constructed, show trends or relationships, add liveliness to the project or simply organize information. Graphics are useful since almost everyone (including children and others of a different language) can understand visual instructions. It also eliminates the cost of having to translate and print text instructions in multiple languages. Graphics are useful in instructions because people can see exactly what they need to complete.

Business and Marketing:[edit | edit source]

  • Minimize language barriers.
  • Speeds up the learning curves.
  • Minimize human variability.
  • Increase instruction use rate and comprehension
  • Reduce product returns.
  • Decrease assembly time- increase customer satisfaction
  • Ease technical support.
  • Visualize and generalize data into understandable trends
  • Increase integrity of reports and memos
  • Promote professionalism
  • Ensure universal understanding

Academia:[edit | edit source]

  • Make abstract ideas visible and concrete.
  • Connect prior knowledge and new concepts.
  • Provide structure for thinking, writing, discussing, analyzing, planning, and reporting.
  • Focus thoughts and ideas, leading to understanding and interpretation.
  • Help students to clarify thoughts, organize and analyze information, integrate new knowledge, and think critically.

History[edit | edit source]

Graphics have been used for communicating a message or story long before written text. Graphics have a deeper impact across cultures due to their ability to create their own meaning from the picture not words. Although words may be a part of the Graphic, the images themselves produce the desired response or understanding in the intended audience. Cave paintings and maps are some of the oldest that we know of and anyone that looks upon them can see what the graphic means and what it is for. A map from today would naturally look different from one in the 18th century, but the message would still be the same. The sea routes from England to Africa or the Caribbean would consist of different names, boundaries, and possessions but the audience would still find the same meaning.

Common Problems with Visual Instructions[edit | edit source]

An example of visual instructions.

While there are a number of benefits of visual instructions, there are also some drawbacks. When there are no words included people may interpret graphics differently. Some graphics can be unclear, and this can confuse the intended audience if the process is very detailed and requires pieces that look identical. When the pictures include a lot of different peices it is also necessary to zoom in on difficult parts in order to see them better. Also, if each peice is not drawn to scale, then a circle could represent the top of a table or a washer. There are also certain graphics that not everyone understands. If you work in a field that employs specialized graphics, use these graphics only when communicating with readers in your field who will understand and expect them. If you are using the graphics for a wide audience (such as a board game that may be used for young children to senior citizens), make sure that the graphics you choose can be understood by all.

Project Management

Project Management[edit | edit source]

Project management is the art of precisely planning and managing certain tasks and resources in order to reach a desired goal. It takes strong business and organizational skills to be a successful project manager. If projects were not managed, then nothing would ever get accomplished. Project management is often thought to be associated with construction and engineering, but it can apply to any job where one person is combining the efforts of others to finish a task. For example, the coach of a sports team could be considered a project manager in the sense that the game is a project. The coach uses his resources (the players, timeouts, etc.) to carry out his objective. The objective is to win the game. The art of project management relies on effective use of everyone's skills to achieve a goal.

Project[edit | edit source]

The project is important part of "Project Management". The project is the manager's sole responsibility.He is in charge of all the aspects of the project. Projects involve specific goals, tasks, objectives, plans and deadlines. For example, the Minnesota Twins are working on building their new stadium, Target Field. The specific task is building the stadium and they have building plans and funding plans set forth before they start the process of building. The new stadium is defined as one big project.

Management[edit | edit source]

Management is the task of bringing people together to accomplish a desired goal or project. Management takes discipline, organization, and strong personal communication skills. Without the ability to communicate and lead people effectively, a project would ultimately end with poor results. Management can also be used to describe the people who operate a company.

Manager[edit | edit source]

A manager is the person or people who are given the duties of overseeing those who carry out the details of the project. They are in charge of a group of people who work for them. The size of the group and number of people involved in the project varies depending on the size of the project.

The unique thing about managers is that they do not need to be good at the tasks that are involved with the project. They do, however, need to be able to delegate assignments and resources to the appropriate people and meet the deadlines. A knowledge of what is required to accomplish the project is what makes an outstanding manager along with great organization and communication skills.

It is important for a project manager to act and look professional. Their job is important, and of course in all things business, image is everything.

History[edit | edit source]

Project Management was a term developed in the early 1900s in America when a man named Henry Gantt developed a chart, which he called the Gantt chart. Gantt was a mechanical engineer by profession, and developed the chart to keep his projects on schedule. For nearly fifty years this was how project management was run. Not until the 1950s did a new system begin to take place which is how we now know project management. Like everything else in life, it got complicated. Mathematical equations were introduced to help keep things accurate with costs, time, and resource allocation.

Gantt Chart[edit | edit source]


A chart of this type shows the critical elements of a project via horizontal bars. At the top is a list of the days or weeks depending on the size of the project. The bars are then situated to line up with when each element will be started and completed. The solidness of a bar represents the duration of the task at hand.

Resources[edit | edit source]

Resources such as time, money and the inputs going into the project are the most crucial aspects of a quality project manager's job. Appropriately using these resources is the task the manager faces. Without these resources there would really be no need for the project manager, as they are in charge of managing the resources in order to achieve the task at hand.

Time[edit | edit source]

Time is an important factor in the day to day work of a project manager. Time involves deadlines, which are crucial to a job. If a project manager does not stay on track with the schedule, the consequences could be severe. On a construction job, if the construction company fails to finish on time, the hiring firm may decide to fire them, and find someone who will do the job on time. A good project manager uses time wisely. If a certain part can not be delivered on time, the manager must find another way to continue doing something constructive. Time should never be wasted. A project manager needs to be efficient in allocating time and meeting deadlines. The project manager not only has to worry about his time, but also the time of everyone he or she manages. Good use of time by all parties involved leads to high productivity.

Money[edit | edit source]

Money is important to a project manager because it enables them to buy the materials that are needed to complete the project. There are many costs associated with construction. For example, there is the lumber, the fixtures, the delivery costs and labor. Most importantly, all of these things need to be figured into the overall budget. The main goal with money on a project is to stay on budget. A project manager can often prove to the hiring firm that they are exceptional by doing a job that comes in under budget, without sacrificing the desires of the customer. This is due to great allocation skills and creativity. The reason that money management is so important is because the overall goal of business is to increase profits. This reason alone makes money management that much more significant. If a budget is ignored and the project is over cost, then the firm loses money.

Inputs[edit | edit source]

The allocation of the resources of a project is important in the fact that some things yield a higher efficiency when used in different ways. You would not want to run out of a given input at any time. Also there is a need to not waste any products if possible. Some pieces may need to be moved around to accommodate the availability or certain goods. This is where a good project manager can succeed. If a delivery is delayed, they could use inputs from another area of the project, that may have more time to complete.

Main Page

Project Management/Teams

Organizing Teams[edit | edit source]

Overview of Creating Communication in a Team Setting[edit | edit source]

In most professional organizations it is imperative for employees to have the experience and the communication skills to work in teams. Advantages and disadvantages of working in teams are prevalent; however, teams usually increase work quality. In many business settings, employees have to work in teams to accomplish a task or project. The success of the project is usually reflected by the amount of team work and communication that occurs.

Advantages of Working in a Team:

  • Teams usually combine people with different expertise that have unique abilities to contribute to the completeness of the document or project. The differences in ability is a key to making the project focused from different aspects. The combination of the team's knowledge, skills, and abilities can really contribute to a much better end product than if done alone.
  • Teams reduce the workload of doing the whole project alone. Many projects are large and time consuming. With many members of a team working together the quality of the project will be greater. We must also keep in mind that, generally, a team project is much more extensive than an individual project which is why they assigned it to more than one person.
  • Teams bring together more ideas and increase creativity. In teams there are more ideas and more discussion of which ideas would work and why. There is also more conflict which can lead to further discussion about many ideas.
  • Teams help bring out the best qualities of every person, and as you all work together, your team may help teach you things you didn't know.

Disadvantages of Working in a Team

  • Team members may fear being the outcast so they might just agree with the group even though they think differently. There can be a loss of self, people might have to adapt to please their teammates. They may feel "deindividualization" which can make a team gang up on one person's idea. It is also very likely that the team will attack the person, and not their idea.
  • Some team members do not allow peers to voice their opinions on a topic or task, making the project very one-sided. Strong opinions and individuals sometimes assume the leadership role and do not include their teammates opinions. This can defeat the purpose of a group project, and generally the person in the leadership role feels they are carrying the team on their back and can get upset with the team, when in reality they are not allowing the other team members to work.
  • Team work takes more time because members should agree to a certain extent. It takes more time, because members have to wait for completed portions of the project from their teammates before moving on. If it was individual project they could just continue at their own pace. It also takes a significant amount of time for group meetings. Emailing is a common form of communication in group projects which can also lead to miscommunications because people may interpret the emails differently, technology may fail causing it not to send to everyone, or people do not open the email.
  • Some Team members may not pull their weight causing others to do more work. They are known as free loaders. The success of the team depends on the completeness of the work. If a team member slacks off, someone has to pick up their slack. Also, other team members may get upset because the free loaders will get the same credit as they do, causing a rift in the energy of the group, which can in return cause the end product not to live up to its potential.

Team Formations[edit | edit source]

Type of Leadership

Teams can have two different types of leadership. They can have a single person lead, who may be known as a manager, dictator, or team leader. This is most effective for larger groups where someone is needed to keep the group on task, coordinate, and stimulate conversation. There are a variety of ways to choose a leader. They can be appointed to be the leader by the boss, volunteer, or be voted upon by their fellow teammates. The leader’s role is to make final decisions, appoint teammates roles, and manage progress. The leadership role is very important. Teams can also have a leadership style where each member is equally responsible for the work. Both strategies have positive and negatives. For example, having a single person in charge can often lead to a domination of sorts where some members contribute close to nothing and others do all the work. Another negative to one leader is the document or project you are preparing may be his or her vision alone, not the whole group's vision. However, some positives are that there is no miscommunication between the management of the project and you have to only report to one person causing much less confusion.

Distribution of Tasks

Teams need to define objectives, plan, draft, and revise when doing communication activities. Teams have to choose how to distribute the workload among members. Also, to keep everyone on task, the group should determine a time line to make sure everyone has his or her own part done in a timely manner. Also, consequences need to be drawn up to address what happens in case a team member is not getting their work done, causing the group to slow down in the progress of their project.

  • Recommended for small teams is the style where all team members work with each other on all tasks that need to be completed. This type of task distribution is good at covering all the details; however, it may be very time consuming. There are many cases where it is difficult to coordinate with one another due to conflicting schedules. Also, ideas have to correlate and finding common ground can be time consuming.
  • The next type of task distribution is where each team member specializes and works on his/her own task. This way of distribution is less time consuming; however, it will be less effective because the group members are working alone and do not have a lot of time to listen to others ideas and thoughts. Sometimes pieces of the project do not flow in a linear manner due to the variety of individuals and their styles.
  • The last way to distribute tasks is a combination of the two. This is where team members do some tasks independently and some in a group. The ones who can be around at same times can be members that do a bigger part of the project while the smaller things can be left for the people who will be working independently. If finding time to work together as a team is difficult, this way can prove to be very beneficial. People can perform their own tasks independently and share their progress with the entire group. Once the group has a chance to look over their peers' work they can come together to provide feedback for one another on what needs improvement. Keep in mind that this method could easily be accomplished via e-mail in today's society. Other effective forms of communication including white boarding, chat, text, conferencing, and more.

Guidelines for Valuable and Efficient Communication[edit | edit source]

Make Sure that All Group Members Share Understanding of the Communication’s Objectives (This step is the same in a group as if you were communicating as an individual)[edit | edit source]

This is the first basic step that a team must complete in order to produce a reader-centered communication. It includes understanding the readers' expectations and needs from the communication. Second, consider what task(s) you expect your form of communication to help the reader do in order to set the objective(s) for the usability of your team's reader-centered communication. Last, consider how you think your communication will influence the readers’ feelings and actions in order to set your persuasive objectives for your team’s reader-centered communication. It is vital that all of the team members interpret and comprehend the communication objectives before beginning the process. Here are six things that can be done so the team fully understands everything before it starts:

  • ask/invite questions
  • keep talking until everybody agrees and is on the same page
  • discuss strategies
  • record and make copies of the group's decisions and distribute it to every member
  • be flexible to new thoughts about readers and purposes
  • ask the quiet person his/her opinion; it's a group project, so make sure they are involved.

Create and Share Team Plans[edit | edit source]

It is imperative for the plans of a group to be as detailed as possible to begin. If the plans are general when a team member begins to work alone, he/she could come up with something that does not match what the team is looking for. This can lead to wasted time and research. A team plan for a project should include:

  • Discussing plans with the team – Discussions can lead to a better understanding of the goal because conversations are easier to remember and questions can be asked. Ideas can be agreed upon and implemented into the work. One idea would be to sit down as a group and brainstorm ideas regarding how you want your document to look, then there will be a general consensus and the group can move forward.
  • Create an outline – This will help guide the team and give the team a written “schedule” of what will be done. It also allows members to get a role that fits their schedule.
  • Use Storyboard – This is done before drafting and it helps decide what the content for each part of their communication will be. Usually team members write down main points, sub-points, and some graphics that may be included.
  • Use a Style Guide – This is crucial so that each section is in the same format. Make sure the team knows what format to use before the project begins so that the team does not have to go back and edit according to the style.
  • Develop File Naming Rules – It is important for teams to be similar in terms of file naming through email so they can be more easily opened and viewed. For example, a team may agree to write the section first with an apostrophe and then the writer's last name.

Create a Project Schedule[edit | edit source]

Schedules are very important so that team members do not fall behind and complete their part on time. Schedules are important for any team communication but especially when individuals are working alone. The schedule allows individuals to always know what is going on without a meeting. There are three important things to be included in a schedule. The four important things to include in a project schedule are the following:

1. Allow time for planning and defining goals

2. Include milestones

3. Allow enough time for people to write and research his/her part

4. Allow time for editing and revising.

Including these three pieces in a schedule will keep the group on task and will conform the group. To make the deadline it is important to have a cohesive plan among team members.

Share Leadership Roles[edit | edit source]

In order to get the highest amount of productivity, a group must play many roles to keep the group healthy. There are two different categories of roles. Groups should occupy most of the roles.

Task Roles – Elaborates, clears confusion, and keeps groups on task.

  • Analyzers/Summarizers – Explains ideas and their consequences, reduces confusion, sums up progress, and formulates a conclusion.
  • Energizers – creates enthusiasm for the task and, if needed, a sense of urgency. Motivates team members and acts like a “cheerleader”.
  • Initiators – propose ideas and suggestions, provides direction for the team, and gets the group moving.
  • Information Givers – Provides group with relevant information. Organizes, researches, and presents information.
  • Information Seekers – Asks for needed facts and figures, makes group aware of information needs, and requests clarification and explanation of ideas.
  • Opinion Seekers – Tests for group opinions and consensus. Attempts to discover what others believe about topics.

Maintenance Roles - Keeps the group healthy, focuses on task and relationship aspects.

  • Compromisers – Offers suggestions that minimize differences and searches for solutions that will help group reach a consensus.
  • Encouragers – Agrees and comforts team members, provides recognition to good thoughts, and urges shy members to speak up about opinions.
  • Gatekeepers – Monitors participation, controls flow of meetings, and suppresses members that are too talkative/dominant.
  • Harmonizers – Helps to resolve conflicts, and stresses the importance of group members' cooperation.
  • Followers – Supports the group's ideas and serves as an interested member who is willing to listen.

Hold Productive Meetings[edit | edit source]

Communication teams have deadlines that are important to meet to be an effective team, therefore meetings must be productive because they take away from the time members could be working on their sections. To not waste time, teams must balance the fun with the business aspect. There are four main things that should be included for a meeting to be efficient. Teams should prepare an agenda, bring the discussion to a close when appropriate to avoid becoming off task, summarize the meeting and what was discussed, and the last thing that must be done is to set goals for what should be accomplished before the next meeting. Keeping a form of communication between meetings is also important. The ways members keep in contact these days are though emails, phones, and text. Keeping in contact helps keep members on task.

Allow and Encourage Discussion, Debate, and Different Perspectives[edit | edit source]

Team members need to feel comfortable for a team to fully benefit from group work. Individuals must be able to debate and state their ideas freely without being ridiculed or picked apart by their peers. Debate is an important group tool, because it does not allow a group to become complacent and go with the first idea that comes to mind. Of course, debate is not always the perfect solution, because some group members may be shy and/or fearful of voicing their ideas. To prevent fear of being ridiculed, be sure to encourage everyone to speak their mind about any and all decisions made. This can be a valuable addition to the document that your group is preparing. By having group members assume group maintenance and task roles mentioned above, it can be a good way to mediate debates. Certain strategies to encourage diversity of ideas and to increase debate production exist in this text. Communication among group members is the main key to the group's success.

Working Together Through Computer Tools[edit | edit source]

  • Computers can be used as a great method for supporting teams that are in need of communication.

Asynchronous Tools[edit | edit source]

These tools allow team members to work independently of each other.

E-mail[edit | edit source]

E-mail allows teams to efficiently communicate and share ideas, drafts, and comments. A listserv makes e-mail even easier, since it allows the sender to relay a message to multiple team members, by using only one e-mail address.

Commenting on files[edit | edit source]

When a whole team needs to edit and look over a draft, this Comment feature, seen in Microsoft Word, lets all team members directly and specifically comment about the document. All team members can see what their other members commented and who made each edit.

Reviewing suggested changes[edit | edit source]

Using the Track Changes feature in Microsoft Word, team members can edit a document or file independently from one another. They can then send them back to the author of the original file for review. The author then can identify all of the edits and can either accept or reject the changes.

Tracking drafts[edit | edit source]

Using the program called NextPage, team members can differentiate which draft of a file is which. They can tell which one is the most recent and who edited which version of the document.

Real-Time Tools for Collaboration[edit | edit source]

These tools allow team members to work synchronously, at the same time, even if they are miles apart and on different computers.

Chat text conferencing[edit | edit source]

Using one of several different methods of chatting, such as Microsoft's Chat, teams can communicate through this online forum. Here, members can communicate and relay messages to the whole of the team, so that everyone is communicating at once. One message appears on all members' computer screens at the same time. This is helpful when decisions need to be made quickly.

Video and audio conferencing[edit | edit source]

Another incredible invention of technology that unites those from all around the world is the video and audio conference call. Using such methods as Apple's ichat, skype, or some other form of instant messenger that has an audio and video option as well, teams can truly come together around the conference table, while being miles apart. In this form of communication, members can almost feel like they're really meeting with their other members, since they can see and hear them through this conferencing.

Whiteboarding[edit | edit source]

Another way that members can increase their efficiency and communication is through programming such as Whiteboards. A classic example of this that is free and easily accessible to the public is a feature of Gmail E-mail-Google Docs. On here and other programs such as these, members can edit text and images on one shared computer file. This is efficient, since many are able to view this file at once and refer to the appropriate points, thereby increasing their communication.

Integrated Groupware[edit | edit source]

This is basically a collaboration of the tools for communication already stated. An example of this, such as IBM's Lotus, combines such modes for team building and puts them all together to increase the dynamic of the group and their level of productivity.

Being Keen of Important Differences: Culture and Gender[edit | edit source]

In order to allow for each team member to contribute to their maximum potential, it is extremely important for the team environment to be one of support and sensitivity. All members should be aware of individual styles of group work and be responsive in helpful and encouraging ways that ultimately foster a community of growth and a high level of excellence from each team member. It is essential to note that many of people's styles, in reference to communicating on teams, may be influenced and based off of their cultural background and gender.

Culture[edit | edit source]

It is important to keep in mind the differences between team members that are a natural result of cultural differences. Clearly, this pertains most to interactions in international collaborations, but it is still necessary to be mindful of these differences even within one's own group work, where individuals are all unique and different in their styles of communicating. After all, we are the great "Melting Pot," are we not?

Deborah Bosley (1993), a writing researcher, has recognized multiple differences that we should all be aware of when interacting with other cultures on writing team settings. One should be ready to encounter these differences anytime, from using the various computer methods to communicating face-to-face in meetings.

Expressing disagreement[edit | edit source]

The way different cultures express disagreement can vary. Some are very direct and communicate their disagreement openly. Other cultures tend to be indirect and try to avoid tension for themselves and for the other members as a whole. This can then create conflict if team members are not on the same page and do not honestly know how the other is feeling.

Making suggestions[edit | edit source]

Some cultures are quite open in how much they suggest ideas and possible changes. People from other cultures try to sound agreeable as possible, and in so doing, do not often offer ideas.

Requesting clarification[edit | edit source]

Some cultures often ask for repetitions and a more thorough explanation to understand the subject matter more clearly. Some people from other cultures may see this as rude and disrespectful towards the speaker, suggesting that the speaker is unknowledgeable, a poor speaker, or is not finished speaking as of yet.

Debating ideas[edit | edit source]

The way in which ideas are debated or discussed can also vary from culture to culture. Some cultures look positively on hashing out ideas in a fervent tone and manner. In other cultures, this would seem very rude and a sign of disloyalty-something completely unacceptable to the team.

Other important cultural distinctions[edit | edit source]

  • Body language is another large indicator of cultural norms and their meanings may vary and may communicate different things to different cultures.
  • Pay attention to the differences in cultural eye contact. Some cultures, such as that seen in Japan, believe it is rude to maintain eye contact. Other cultures, for example, in the west, believe eye contact is a sign of respect and being genuine.
  • A necessary practice to exercise in the company of intercultural teams is to not assume the meaning of another's behavior. Take the time to understand their culture and use their standards of how to assess how they are acting.
  • Make sure that your communication with your teammates, particularly those from another culture, is open and continuous. It should be frequent and, if necessary, take place outside team meetings on a regular basis, to ensure understanding between cultures.
  • In order to grow as teammates, it is a tremendous opportunity to learn from the present cultures and to adjust one's own cultural norms and perceptions of others at times. Doing thus, it will also increase the team's productivity.

Gender[edit | edit source]

Although gender of team members does not always affect communication, it is good to be aware of possible differences that may arise.

Conclusion[edit | edit source]

  • Remember, no one way of communicating is necessarily better than the other-it is quite dependent upon culture. Keep this in mind and do not uphold your own method as more valuable than another.
  • By learning about another culture's way of interacting, one can add to their own method of communicating and increase their own understanding of how to best relate to others in a team setting.
  • Allow others to be different-encourage and respect them in their own culture. Help them reach their potential.
  • Embrace your own culture!


Additional Information[edit | edit source]

Documenting Your Sources[edit | edit source]

Introduction[edit | edit source]

When communicating information, the writer often finds it necessary to incorporate outside information into a document. This outside information must be credible and factual. There are several reasons why a writer might use outside sources within their documents:

  • To clarify information the writer has provided
  • To emphasize a point made by the writer
  • To prove that an idea has merit
  • To acknowledge people who have contributed to your project
  • To illustrate how your research contributes to new knowledge and ideas

Choose a Format[edit | edit source]

A wide variety of documentation styles exist. Because no one style is suitable for every type of document, the circumstances of a document dictate which style should be chosen. Most organizations state which documentation style should be used by their employees. If you are writing a document for a different organization, find out which documentation style they prefer, and use it. Many organizations develop style guidelines which include sample reports and documents. Citation preference should be found within these guidelines. Conversely, other organizations choose their documents to be cited using a professionally developed system such as APA or MLA. A little research must be done by the writer to determine the preferred style.

Decide Where to Place In-Text Citations[edit | edit source]

When using in-text citations, both MLA and APA styles place the author's name in parentheses following the borrowed information. The APA style includes the year of publication along with the author's name. This in-text citation directs the reader to an alphabetized bibliography found at the back of the document. The bibliography styles for APA and MLA are different, but the in-text citations are relatively the same. In-text citations are used to inform the reader where the information being provided is coming from. This is simple when the citation is relevant to a single piece of information such as a quotation or a fact. However, if the citation is relevant to multiple ideas, the citation should be placed in the topic sentence of the information. The author's name may also be used in subsequent sentences to help further aid the reader in determining the initial author of the information being provided.

APA In-Text Citations[edit | edit source]

When doing an APA in-text citation, place the author's name and the date of publication behind the pertinent information being cited. This enclosure should be placed inside normal punctuation. Furthermore, a comma should be placed between the author's last name and the date of publication. When citing a specific page, use p. When citing more than one page, use pp. For example, When two molecules approach, they attract or repel each other (Wade, 2006, p. 61). If the author's name is included within the quotation, only include the date and page number in the citation.

For help with these citations there are multiple website that will create the works cited and citations including:

•Son of Citation Machine[7]

•EasyBib [8]

•American Psychological Association [9]

•NoodleTools [10]

Other Types of Citations[edit | edit source]

(Wade & Whitman, 2006) Two authors

(Ewert, Paradise, Butterfass, 1986) First citation for three or more authors

(Ewert et al., 1986) Subsequent citations for three or more authors.

(Henderson, 1992, p. 24) Reference to a specific page

(Department of Labor, 2008) Government or corporate author

("Human Metabolism," 2007) Citation refers to an article in which no author is listed.

(Hill, 2003; Lorn, 2001; Spa, 1999) Multiple sources cited together.

(Johnson 1992a) Two sources by the same author

Writing an APA References List[edit | edit source]

Print Sources[edit | edit source]

  • Book, One Author

Ozick, C. (1983). Art & ardor. New York: Pantheon Books.

  • Book, Two or More Authors

Talbert, S.H., & Betzalel A. (1992). Elementary mechanics of plastic flow in forming. New York: Wiley.

  • Anthrology or Essay Collection

Rubin, B. & Laqueur, W. (Eds.). (1989). The Human Rights Reader. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press.

  • Government Report

McCleod, S.A. Rural Broadband Stimulus Program. Political current affairs. 92-2736. Omaha: Stimulus Survey, 2009.

  • Article in an Encyclopedia, Dictionary, or Similar Reference Work-MLA

Strauss, Sharon. "Sea Turtles." Encyclopedia Smithsonian. 1994 ed.

  • Pamphlet or Brochure-MLA

University of Minnesota. Department of Food Science and Nutrition. Managing Diabetes. Minneapolis: Minnesota, 2005.

  • Article in Journal that Numbers Pages Continuously-MLA

McCornack, Brian. "Prevalence of Aphid Populations in Western Minnesota." Nature 222(2003): 363-42.

  • Article in Journal that Numbers its Pages Separately-MLA

Creighton, George. "Real World Application of Intermolecular Bonds." Chemistry Universe 11 (1992): 35-36.

  • Article in a Popular Magazine-MLA

Cowman, Whitney. "The Ticking Time Clock." Time. 15 Nov. 2004: 53-55.

  • Newspaper Article-MLA

Henry, Devin. " Biomed Building Funding Could Be Cut." Pioneer Press 13 June 2009, natl. ed.: A9.

  • Article with No Author Listed-MLA

"Making Exercise Your Own." Improve Health. 120.1 (2009): 54.

Electronic Sources[edit | edit source]

  • Report From the World Wide Website-MLA

American Heart Association. Watching Your Cholesterol. 22 Oct. 2007 [11]

  • Online Journal Article That Is Not Available in Print

Johnson, Michael. "Geometric Significance of Refraction." Journal of Physics 6 2002. 18 April 2009 [12]

  • Email-MLA

Ewert, Julie. "Rhetoric in the Workplace." Email to Jamie Butterfass. 3 Feb. 2009.

Other Sources[edit | edit source]

  • Interview-MLA

Metz, Paul. Telephone Interview. 19 Dec. 2007.

Main Page

Text History

A History of This Text[edit | edit source]

What is a Wiki Book?[edit | edit source]

Wikipedia was first created as a free ongoing encyclopedia project. The idea about a collaborative encyclopedia came about to allow many different people to add information to a certain page. Wikipedia, what many consider to be the main Wiki on the web today, was founded in 2001 by volunteers and today is known as one of the largest reference sites on the web. Like many other wiki’s on the web today, visitors do not need certain qualifications to contribute information to a wiki page. The problems with this aspect of wiki books is that even though many accomplished, knowledgeable people add information to wiki’s, wiki’s could essentially be formed without any credibility.

Creation of this Text[edit | edit source]

This Wikibook was created during the summer of 2008 to encourage students to create a supplemental text for the course Technical and Professional Writing offered at the University of Minnesota. This online text is supposed to serve as a substitution for having a textbook, but the overall hope is to develop the text until it is a publishing level and can be used by future students of 3562W. The Technical and Professional Writing Wikibook will help to produce a new insight into using effective communication practices by written completely by students. The Wikibook 3562W will help you to understand how to write professional. This Wikibook starts off with basic business writing techniques that will help you develop a resume, learn to write proper memos, create business documents, draft proposals, etc. The goal of the text is that tools will learn and gain from the Wikibook will help readers become not only proficient and successful writers, but also successful individuals.

Main Focus of this Text[edit | edit source]

Professional and Technical Writing emphasizes teaching students to grasp a difference between the educational, practical, and business purposes one may have when writing.

  • Educational- Will be read by teachers
  • Practical- Will be read by co-workers, customers, and other individuals
  • Business- Will be read by employers, clients, and different organizations

Technical and Professional Writing tries to prepare students for their future careers by teaching them the basic business writing strategies and techniques.

Philosophy[edit | edit source]

Student creation of a text reflects a student-centered educational philosophy.

{a student needs to conduct interviews, and add background information}

Classes Contributing[edit | edit source]

In reverse chronological order (most recent to first), these are the classes making major contributions to this text.

  • ENGL3025A Technical Writing, Robert Morris University, Moon Township, PA, Spring 2012
  • Writ 3562 Technical and Professional Writing, University of Minnesota Twin Cities, Spring 2010

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Frequently Asked Questions[edit | edit source]

When creating a business document/ proposal how can you grasp your reader’s attention and persuade them that what you are writing is beneficial to them?

  • Be very direct and clear when explaining your topic
  • Avoid vague, non-descriptive sentences
  • Be straight forward and state your topic first
  • Then express that what they are reading has many benefits to them as readers (State the benefits)
  • Be sure to write in your reader's perspective. Pretend that you are the reader, what will you want to see on the proposal?

Remember that the number one thing that writers do wrong when presenting their proposal/ documents is assuming that the readers understand the value of the information you present. (Paul V. Anderson, Technical Communication, A Reader- Centered Approach). To avoid this error, put yourself in the reader’s position and make sure you explain the value of your topic and that all your key points are being met.

'Proposal'[edit | edit source]

When creating your proposal, how can you tell that you have included all the information necessary to sell your product?

In the book Technical Communication, A Reader-Centered Approach, by Paul V. Anderson, they have created a list of key points to include in your proposal. The following key points can determine how well your proposal will sell.

  • Having an introduction
  • Introducing the problem
  • Projecting the objective
  • Proposing a solution
  • Producing a method
  • Identifying all the resources needed
  • Creating a schedule of deadlines
  • Sharing your qualifications
  • Showing you have management skills
  • Explaining all costs involved
  • Show that your idea or plan can be profitable

Positive vs. Negative[edit | edit source]

When writing a business letter should more positive or negative words be used?

  • Generally people respond to positive wording rather than negative wording. Words are powerful and the way they are presented can affect how the reader will respond to the letter one is writing. Positive wording can persuade the reader into getting on board with what your letter is trying to convey. In contrast, negative words can build a roadblock and create resistance to the key points in your business letter. The effects of positive vs. negative writing can also be seen in other types of business writing. It is a good rule of thumb to write in a positive manner when writing to promote the completion of your objective.'

What if you have to incorporate negative words within your business letter?

  • The Owl at Purdue says: When you need to present negative information, soften its effects by superimposing a positive picture on a negative one.

The Owl at Purdue emphasizes in the following to help with incorporating negative information.

  • Stress what something is rather than what it is not.
  • Emphasize what the firm or product can and will do rather than what it cannot.
  • Open with words of action rather than an apology or explanation.
  • Avoid words which convey unpleasant facts.
  • Turn the negative into a positive.

Words to Use[edit | edit source]

When writing your business document, memo, or proposal, how do you know when the words you are using are too descriptive?

  • The number one thing you should never include is short phrases. An example of a type of short phrase is, "In order to" when all you need to say was "To". If you were writing an English paper, you would say "In order to", but for a professional business document that phrase is wordy and unnecessary. Using "to" instead is straight and to the point.
  • Next, using words ending in -ly, are extra and make the document very wordy. Again this is not straight to the point.
  • Another key point is to not use the words "very", "so" or "really". These are redundant and do not need to be included in documents.
  • Lastly, being over descriptive could potentially hurt you. In the business world things are fast pace. Employees, client, etc, don’t have time to read lengthy documents. Less can be better and getting straight to the key points when writing your business document, memo, or proposal is big part of being successful. Make your reader wants to read your document and never feels it is a waste of their time.

Business Writing vs. Academic Writing[edit | edit source]

How is technical writing different from academic writing?

Technical writing is short, concise, and to the point. Academic writing is lengthy and uses strict grammar techniques. In business as long as it all makes sense you can get a way with improper grammar. For example, ending a sentence with a preposition is okay in business. When writing in business, the shorter the document is (as long as it has the right information) the better. Also, in business the more charts, graphs, and pictures that can be used to make the document easier to read and quicker to read, the more it is effective.

What are some examples of when technical writing is appropriate?

  • Resumes
  • Memos
  • Instructions
  • Business Proposals
  • Marketing Plans
  • Outlines
  • Cover Letters
  • E-mails
  • Feasibility Studies

Memo[edit | edit source]

When writing a memo, how should you format it? How many pages should it be? What key point should be included?

  • Memos should always be placed in a template to insure order.
  • Usually when writing a memo you only want it to be one page, this allows only key points to be presented. But sometimes you may be asked to write a longer memo, and that is okay, as long as all the content pertains to your project and is important.
  • Generally, key points include dates, times, deadlines, or overview on what you are working on.
  • Make sure to include a specific, informative subject line so the reader knows what the memo is about.
  • A memo can be used as a legal document and can get you in trouble, so make sure that you are stating facts and including dates, so it doesn't hurt you in the long run.
  • To make sure you keep organized and in order, headings are used often in memos.