BUS210 Study Guide

Unit 4: Effective Business Writing

4a. Explain the processes involved in effective business communication

  • What are the eight essential elements of communication?
  • How are written and oral communication similar?

Many people find writing to be a challenge. Often, people don't know where to start or how to craft a message that effectively communicates their meaning, and because of this, they find oral communication much easier. However, oral and written communication methods are quite similar based on the words we choose and how we say and write those words.

When we follow the essential communication elements, the writing process becomes less stressful, making an effective outcome easier to achieve.

There are eight elements of communication:

  1. Source – the creator and communicator of the message
  2. Receiver – the one who gets the message from the source
  3. Message – the content of the meaning created by a source for a receiver
  4. Channel – the conduit by which a message travels between a source and a receiver
  5. Feedback – the response a source gets from the receiver
  6. Environment – the actual place where the communication takes place
  7. Context – the psychological expectations of both the source and receiver
  8. Interference – the noise that can hinder the communication process

While writing enables communication between a sender and a receiver, communication does not take place simultaneously. As a result, there is no opportunity for immediate feedback or response, and we should consider the reader's needs and potential responses when we write our messages. In face-to-face communication, however, we can receive immediate feedback and responses to our messages.

To review, read, Oral vs. Written Communication.


4b. Identify the rhetorical elements and cognate strategies that contribute to good writing and explain their purposes

  • What are the three elements of rhetoric? How are they applied to both written and oral communication?
  • Which cognate strategies match with each rhetorical element? Give an example for each.

Good writing fulfills the goals of two systems of communication; rhetoric and cognate strategies. Rhetoric is comprised of logos (logic), ethos (ethics and credibility), and pathos (emotional appeal). Cognate strategies help to promote understanding. By applying cognate strategies to rhetorical elements, we can facilitate good writing and achieve our desired writing goals.

Cognate strategies relate to rhetorical elements as follows:

  • Logos – clarity, conciseness, and arrangement
  • Ethos – credibility, expectation, and reference
  • Pathos – tone, emphasis, and engagement

For more information, read Good Writing.


4c. Demonstrate how the rules that govern written language relate to the legal implications of business writing

  • How has the internet changed the development and use of original written content?
  • What does the concept of ownership mean in the context of online content?
  • What are the consequences of committing libel?

When we write business documents, our work reflects both ourselves and the organization. This content can contribute to organizational success but lead to legal consequences if the material includes false statements about products or individuals or is taken from previously published sources. It is important to remember that our written words will last long after moving on to other projects.

The rapid growth of technology and the internet have made the sharing of information even more complicated, with laws and legislation still attempting to catch up. However, basic rules and laws that govern written documents still apply no matter where our work appears.

Plagiarism, the act of using someone else's words and taking credit for them, violates copyright laws and most company policies.

Libel is a false statement that is communicated in writing and can damage someone's reputation. If this statement is published, whether in a printed media platform or online, the writer may face legal ramifications and be sued for libel. If the person about whom these statements are made is a public figure, the person must prove that there was intent to harm.

While we have the right to share our thoughts and opinions, we must do so in a way that is not harmful to others and ensure that what we are saying is factual.

When writing for a job, whether online or in a document, it is important to adhere to all rules and regulations that protect both the writer and the organization.

To review in more depth, read Principles of Written Communication.


4d. Describe some common barriers to written communication and how to overcome them

  • Why is it important to pay attention to small details in written communication?
  • What is bypassing? Why does it occur?
  • How can the nonverbal aspects of a message hinder understanding?
  • Why are reviewing, reflecting on, and revising a document important?

Effective written communication plays a major role in a business' success. The ways we communicate reflect on our own professionalism and the image of the organization. When we take the time to pay attention to the details in our writing, ensure that what we have to say is meaningful to the receiver, and consider our message's non-verbal aspects, we can better overcome the communication barriers.

It is important to pay attention to small details. Using proper grammar, spelling, and punctuation ensures that our message is properly written. It also demonstrates that we have taken the time to review our message, reflecting positively on the writer.

Bypassing is when the meaning of our message is not clear to the receiver. Since words can mean different things to different people, our intentions may not be accurately understood, causing goals to be missed. Therefore, it is important to know your audience and ensure that your syntax and word usage is appropriate and clear.

There are also non-verbal aspects of a written message that need to be considered. These include the format of a message, headers, contact information, and a subject line, where appropriate. Other non-verbal elements include our font choice, the use of symbols, bullet points, and other structural elements.

Finally, it is important to review and revise any written document before it is distributed. Reflect on the content and word choices. Review the document to ensure your meaning is clear. Proofread for any stylistic errors, and recognize when your document is complete.

To review these concepts, read Overcoming Barriers to Effective Written Communication.


4e. Identify the purpose, elements, and formats of memos, business letters, business proposals, reports, resumes, and sales messages

  • How are memos used? How are letters used? When is each appropriate?
  • How can the rhetorical elements of ethos, pathos, and logos be integrated into a business proposal or a sales message?
  • What are the various types of reports? How are they are each organized?

As noted in earlier sections of the course, creating effective business documents requires skill and a great deal of effort. In all types of messages, what we say and how we say it reflects on the writer and the company. As the writer of any document, your goal should be to create a clear, concise, and meaningful message.

Memos are used to communicate with people within an organization. The purpose of a memo is to inform but may also include a call to action. This communication method may be used to dispel any rumors that may be communicated through informal channels, often known as the "grapevine".

In comparison, a letter is a brief message that is sent to people outside an organization. Letters are generally printed on company letterhead as representing the company and should be no longer than a page or two. Letters can be used to discuss business plans or deals, present a sales pitch, accompany a resume, or contain an emotional message.

As discussed earlier, the rhetorical elements of ethos, pathos, and logos play a role in all communications. In a business proposal or sales message, we must demonstrate ethical practices and behavior, represented by the element of ethos. Our documents should also contain an element of enthusiasm and passion, which is noted by the inclusion of pathos. We must also ensure that our proposals and sales message are logical and reasonable, representing the element of logos. Each element is essential for communicating your credibility, responsibility, and that customer needs can be met.

Reports are documents that record and communicate information to the reader. The kind of report developed is determined by the document's purpose and can be either informational or analytical.

Reports come in all different sizes and formats. When developing a report, it is important to remain flexible and consider the characteristics of your audience. The key elements that define how a report is organized include:

  • Who is the report being prepared for?
  • What problem is being addressed? What are the results and recommendations?
  • What is the location of the subject being discussed?
  • What is the timing of the subject being discussed?
  • What is the reason for the report? Who requested the report?
  • How will the topic of the report be used?

For a review of the purpose of various documents, read Business Writing in Action.


4f. Craft effective examples of text messages, emails, memos, business letters, business proposals, and sales messages in business communication

  • How can you apply strategies for creating effective memos to your own writing?
  • What are the elements of a properly-written letter? How do these compare to the letters you have written?
  • What are the differences between a solicited and unsolicited business proposal?
  • What are the differences between an informational report and an analytical report?

When writing any business document, it is essential to ensure that the content is relevant and understandable. Organizing the document in a meaningful way to the reader and including appropriate information will ensure that the document is effective and purposeful.

A memo should always include a header that identifies the sender, the receiver, the date, and a subject line, along with a clear discussion of the message's purpose.

When writing a letter, it is important to use the correct structure and include the proper elements. These elements are:

  • The heading – identifies the sender and may include an address and date
  • The introduction – states the purpose of the letter
  • The body – discusses the overall message
  • The conclusion – sums up the main points and may include a call to action
  • The signature – identifies the sender and may include contact information

Business proposals come in two forms: solicited and unsolicited. A solicited proposal is when a person or company is asked to submit a proposal. The request can be verbal or written and may be an open bid that can be publicly viewed. Business proposals are often referred to as RFPs, or Request for Proposal, and are typical ways for businesses to choose suppliers for goods and services.

An unsolicited proposal is when an individual or organization sends material to a company without being requested. They are generally tailored to that specific business' needs and how the sender can help solve the company's problems or enhance their business operations.

There are two different kinds of reports; informational reports and analytical reports. An informational report may provide instructional information, include details about an event or activity, or discuss specific individuals. This kind of report will include only facts, without any commentary or evaluation.

In contrast, an analytical report will include a detailed analysis that solves a problem, illustrates relationships, or makes recommendations for a solution.

To review more strategies for writing effective documents, read Business Writing in Action.


4g. Explain the purpose and features of functional, reverse-chronological, combination, targeted, and scannable resumes

  • What are the differences between functional, reverse-chronological, combination, targeted, and scannable resumes?
  • When might each type of resume be appropriate?

The purpose of a resume is to illustrate the relationship between an individual's experiences, skills, and ability to perform a job or task. resumes can be written using various formats depending upon the job being sought, which experiences are being highlighted, or how a resume is delivered.

Functional resumes are also be known as competency-based resumes. They focus on the applicant's skills and how that person can perform the functions of the job to which they are applying. Often, people who have gaps in their employment history may use this resume format.

Reverse chronological resumes are also known as reverse time order resumes. They focus on the applicant's consistent work history. However, in this kind of format, it may be difficult to illustrate specific skills and experience.

A combination resume lists skills and experience first, followed by employment history and education. Skills that relate specifically to the job are noted in reverse-chronological order.

A targeted resume focuses on the applicant's skills and experiences that are specific to the job to which the person is applying. The resume highlights the connection between the applicant's experience and his/her ability to perform job functions. This kind of resume takes a great deal of time to prepare and may not fit the requested guidelines for resume submission.

A scannable resume is one that is read by a scanner and is converted to a digital format. Companies use this format to speed up the search process and for environmental reasons. One problem with this strategy is that a scanner may be inaccurate and read the information presented in the resume incorrectly.

For more details about writing a resume that can lead to an interview, read Business Writing in Action.


4h. Critique a set of writing samples, and identify their writing styles and traits associated with effective business writing

  • How do the elements of formal and informal writing differ?
  • In what business situations might a conversational tone be appropriate?
  • What is the purpose of direct and indirect introductions? How are they used?
  • Which is more effective, passive or active voice?
  • What commonly confused words?

Everyone has their own writing style, which can engage, inform, and influence the reader. By planning out the tone, format, and structure of a written document, we have a better chance of creating effective and meaningful work. Connecting with our reader should be a primary objective; the ways that our documents are crafted can be the difference between a document that misses the mark and a document that draws in the reader.

A formal writing style is characterized by a third person focus that is passive and wordy. Sometimes this obscures the actual meaning of the message, which can cause misunderstandings and problems. As a result, less formal styles of writing have evolved to make messages clearer and more concise. However, it is important to consider the reader, the purpose of the communication, and the rules of etiquette. Proper grammar should be used, and the message should always be professional. Further, though, the definition of "professional" can vary and should reflect the company's expectations and the recipient.

Sometimes, business writing can take on a conversational tone. This style reflects our oral tone and word choice and by be appropriate for certain audiences and contexts. However, it should be noted that this style may present an unprofessional image.

A direct introduction to a document states the main purpose upfront. This style makes the meaning clear and immediately evident. This approach is generally used when the writer anticipates a positive response from the reader. An indirect introduction places the main purpose after the opening paragraph, where the writer may seek to gain the reader's attention quickly. This approach is used if a negative response is expected or if bad news is being delivered.

An active voice is when the subject acts. Active sentences are generally shorter, more precise, and easier to understand. This style is the generally recommended method for business communication. Messages written in a passive voice are characterized by the subject as receiving the action and may not identify who is doing the action. This style enables the writer to be more objective.

For a more in-depth review of how to create an effective written document, read Writing Styles.


Unit 4 Vocabulary

This vocabulary list includes terms that might help you with the review items above and some terms you should be familiar with to complete the final exam for the course.

Try to think of the reason why each term is included.

  • Asynchronous communication
  • Essential elements of communication
  • Rhetoric
  • Cognate strategies
  • Plagiarism
  • Libel
  • Bypassing
  • Nonverbal aspects of a written message
  • Business proposal
  • Business reports
  • Resumes
  • Writing style
  • Conversational tone
  • Passive voice
  • Active voice
  • Commonly confused words