Writing

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Your written communication leaves a lasting impression on those who read your documents. Writing is a large part of your communication and it should be done well. Great written communication will help you demonstrate your value and ability to convey ideas. In this module, you will learn the basic structure of the following types of written communication:

  • Business letters
  • Proposals
  • Reports
  • Executive summaries

Business letters can be used in many situations. Let’s begin with this form of written communication first.

Business Letters

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Effective writing is essential in networking. Many times, you will need to following up with a contact by writing a letter. The business letter is the most basic form of written communication. Understanding the elements that make up a business letter will ensure you are writing at the minimum standard. 

There are seven basic elements to a business letter. They are the following:

  • Letterhead or return address
  • Date– type this two to six lines below the letterhead/return address. Type the date out and avoid using the numerical format (ex. MM/DD/YYYY).
  • Inside address– this is the address of the recipient. The first line should include the recipient’s name.  This is then followed by their address.
  • Salutation– if you know the person’s name use Mr., Mrs., or Ms., and their last name only. Remember if you are writing to a doctor, use Dr.
  • The body of the letter– try keeping this brief and specific. Business letters should not be too long. You should use double spacing between paragraphs. This will give your letter a better appearance.
  • Complimentary close– there are many ways to close your letter. To make it simple, use “Sincerely”. This is a happy medium between very formal and informal. 
  • Signature block– after you complimentary close, add three spaces and then type your full name. The spaces give you an area to sign your name between the complimentary close and your typed name.

All these elements should be on the left side of the page and in block format. Using this basic format will ensure your letter will look professional. If you are enclosing an item with your letter, remember to add the word “Enclosure(s)” near the bottom of the page. This will tell your recipient that there is an item included in the envelope. 

Writing Proposals

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A proposal is a useful tool in communicating your ideas to decision makers in and out of your organization. There are many reasons to write a proposal. You may wish to resolve an organizational problem or propose a new idea that will help your company be more successful in the marketplace. Perhaps you need to propose your product to a client. In general, your proposal should be detailed enough to make a decision, but brief so busy leaders will not put it aside because it is too wordy. 

The goal of the proposal is to evoke a decision to move forward into a project or purchase. Of course, how your organization, department, or client handles projects/purchases is something to consider. The key to writing good proposals is being consistent. A format is the best approach. Here are eight basic elements to a proposal:

  1. Summary: this is a brief and concise statement of your request along, including information about yourself, your overall plan, what you need in terms of resources and money.
  2. Introduction: 
  • History
  • Accomplishments
  • Company background, vision, and mission
  1. Problem/Need Statement: state the specific problem or need. Explain how your proposal will correct or meet that need. Use data as applicable.
  2. Objectives: 
  • Objectives should be derived from you problem or need statement.
  • State as outcomes and benefits you anticipate.
  • Make objectives time limited, measurable, about changes, and quantifiable.
  1. Methods: tell specifically what you plan to do. Why you want to do it and how you plan to resource your project with people.
  2. Evaluation: discuss how you plan to measure success.
  3. Funding needs: provide a cost/benefit statement. Also, if possible, provide how the project will bring a return on the investment.
  4. Budget: provide a summary of how you plan to use the funds.

Reports

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Reports are used to discuss findings or results. Reports can range in length due to the complexity of what the report is trying to communicate. Reports are used to communicate to organizational leaders all the information they need about an issue or result. Reports are meant to present as much fact as possible in a concise format. Management may use your report to make decisions. 

The goal is to write reports that are compelling and accurate. Proper language, grammar, and spelling are essential. The language in your report should be objective and written in the third-person. Avoid exaggerating the report for effect. The report should not evoke emotions. In fact, your report should be persuasive by the factual content and the level of detail. Reports that appeal to emotion may be discarded. 

When writing reports, remember the following elements to a report:

  • Title section: this could be a title page or it includes a table of contents if the report is lengthy.
  • Summary: this section should contain a concise description of the main points, conclusions, and recommendations.
  • Introduction: in this section, you should provide the background of the situation or problem and demonstrate to your target audience the importance of this report. Give a brief description of how the information is arranged. Keep the language simple in this section.
  • Main body: this portion of the report may contain several sections with subtitles. You may use technical words or jargon, but try to define concepts as you go along. Remember to arrange your data logically. Prioritize your information with the most important facts first.
  • Conclusion: your conclusion should be logical and should strive to pull the investigation together. You may also provide options for the future. Remember to write this section like the introduction, in plain English.
  • Recommendations: provide a suggestion. Make a clear and determined statement in plain English.
  • Appendices: in this area, you will put your technical data that supports your report. The language here can be very technical. 

Executive Summaries

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The executive summary is a short report that can be placed at the beginning of a larger report or it can be presented as its own document. The executive summary presents only the most important information to executives, managers, and or supervisors. 

In order to be successful writing an executive summary, your document should leave your reading audience with the following understanding:

  • Nature of the subject
  • Essential points
  • Decisions needed
  • Alternatives with cost and benefits 
  • Your recommendations
  • Sources of additional information

Here is a brief outline of what should be included in your executive summary:

  • Title page
  • title
  • version
  • author(s)
  • abstract (very brief)
  • Body
  • Every page has a footer with the following elements:
  • subject
  • version
  • author(s)
  • running page number and total number of pages
  • The title page is page 0 (or more properly, page i).
  • References

Here are some recommendations the style of your executive summary:

  • Be succinct
  • Use a very structured format for the layout of your summary
  • Design your summary so it can be placed onto a slide for presenting
  • The reference page should always begin on a new page

Case Study 

Tania’s head plopped on her desk. Sadie heard the bang and went running to help. Tania looked up from the desk, her eyes rolling in her head. Tania needed help. Her presentation deadline loomed and Tania didn’t have the words to put it together. Sadie read what Tania had written and stifled a laugh. Tania slumped in her chair, saying that she gave up. Sadie swallowed her laughter and offered to help. Tania gave her the chair and paced while Sadie reworded the presentation, plucking one word at a time. Two hours whizzed by and Sadie created a masterpiece full of eloquent prose and built to withstand any criticism. Tania read over it word for word. Sadie had hit the jackpot. The presentation sounded perfect. Tania thanked her and prepared to make the presentation feeling much more confident than she had this morning.