Book Title
M: Business Communication 3rd Edition

978-0073403229 Chapter 4 Text Summary, Lecture Outline

April 5, 2019
Text Summary, Lecture Outline
Slides 4-1, 4-2, 4-3
here are to (1) use words that your reader can readily understand, (2) use an economical, lively
style, and (3) avoid any wording that hints of exclusion or discrimina on.
Adapting Your Style to Readers
Slides 4-4
The key to good wri ng choices is considering your reader.
You can use these slides to make the point that “adapta on” of one’s wri ng to the readers
goes all the way down to the word level. Good judgment on the word level is key to
communica on success. One ill-chosen word can alienate readers, thwar ng one’s purpose—
while an especially well-chosen one can strengthen the coopera on between writer and reader
Begin the wri ng task by visualizing the reader or readers (get a mental picture).
Consider such things as how they think and what they know, including educa onal level,
vocabulary, knowledge and values.
Then write to this person.
You might ask your students how one gathers informa on about one’s readers in order to adapt
the wording as skillfully as possible.
You may also use the following example of reader analysis to brie/y illustrate adapta on. An
adver sing agency is hired to create a campaign to sell new, high-end gas sta on co1ee drinks
to two audiences: middle-aged professionals and college students. How might the campaign
di1er based on audience values, knowledge, etc.? Commercials? Music? Graphics? Language?
Use Familiar, Short Words
Slides 4-5
These slides emphasize that, all other things being equal, short, common words are preferable
to complex, long words.
See if your students can supply simpler, shorter subs tutes for the examples on these slides
before you reveal the ones on the slides. As you do so, you might ask at mes when the longer
word might be preferable. For example, “bad” is a subs tute for “harmful.” But “bad” is a
harsh, blunt word that would rarely be the best choice.
Use Slang and Popular Clichés with Caution
Slide 4-6
When advising students to use slang and popular clichés with cau on, point out that such
phrases are especially troublesome for nonna ve English speakers.
See if your students can provide acceptable subs tutes for the examples on this slide, and if
they can think of any other examples.
Use Technical Language with Caution
Slide 4-7
When advising students to use technical words with cau on, you can invite them to supply
examples from the lexicon of their own field of study.
Every field has its technical language (accoun ng, informa on systems, medicine, =nance).This
language is good for communica ng within the field, for those words can quickly cover concepts
and specialized informa on. But it is likely to be meaningless to people outside the field. So
avoid technical language when communica ng with outsiders.
The real examples on this slide can illustrate the importance of this point.
Use Acronyms with Caution
Slide 4-8
Ini alisms and acronyms are not likely to be understood by people outside a specialized area.
Examples: ROI, FTC, CFO, RFP
See if your students can decipher the examples on this slide and o1er addi onal examples of
their own.
Select Words for Precise Meanings
Slides 4-9
Selec ng words for precise meanings is cri cal to clear wri ng. It means choosing the word
with both the correct denota on and the desired connota on. It also means geAng
expressions idioma cally correct.
You should study words so that you can use them as precisely as possible.
Words with similar meanings have slight di1erences in meaning.
For example, consider the shades of di1erence in these groups of words:
cemetery, graveyard, memorial garden
fight, dispute, lawsuit, disagreement
pleased, sa s=ed, happy, content, gra =ed, impressed
thin, slender, skinny, slight, wispy, lean, willowy, rangy, spindly, lanky, wiry
fired, dismissed, canned, separated, discharged
Knowledge of language also permits you to use words that carry the message you want to
For example, “fewer” means a smaller number of items and “less” means reduced value,
degree, or quan ty.
A1ect” means to in/uence; “e1ect” means to bring to pass.
“Con nual” means repeated but broken succession; “con nuous” means unbroken succession.
You should also take care to use correct idiom (the way things are said in a language).
Much of our idiom has liDle logic. It is just the way we have historically used words.
For example, we say “independent of” (rather than “independent from”); we “agree to” a
proposal, but we “agree with” a person; we are “careful about” an a1air, but we are “careful
with” our money.
The slides illustrate further.
Prefer the Concrete to the Abstract
Slide 4-10
Concrete language adds specificity and vigor to wri ng.
Concrete words stand for specific things that the reader can see, feel, taste, or visualize. They
relate to
They are the opposite of abstract words—the words that refer to broad and vague concepts.
Concrete: John S. Simmons, bagels and co1ee, Ms. Levi, oil stains.
Abstract: human resources, nourishment, management, damage.
Concreteness also involves being specific, as in the following examples:
A signiticant loss vs. a 53% loss
The majority vs. 62 percent
In the near future vs. by noon on May 1
Substan al amount vs. $3,751,321
Invite students to propose revised wording for the examples on the slide.
Select Words for Appropriate Usage
Slide 4-11
Many pairs of words are confused in English and cause problems for writers. Consider less vs. fewer,
affect vs. effect, and continual vs. continuous, to name a few.
This slide reveals inappropriate and appropriate usage of some of the most commonly confused words
pairs. The last sentence illustrates the problem of faulty idioms. You may want to ask students if they can
think of additional word pairs and faulty idioms.
Prefer Verbs in Active Voice
Slide 4-12
In most cases, one should prefer the ac ve voice to the passive. Ac ve voice is stronger and
more direct.
In ac ve voice, the subject does the ac on:
Joan examined the equipment.
In passive voice, the subject receives the ac on:
The equipment was examined by Joan.
More examples follow on the slide.
Before you leave this topic, ask the class in what kinds of situa ons the passive might actually
be preferable. Here are some good answers:
When the doer of ac on is unimportant: “Sports shoes are manufactured in Korea.
When one wants to avoid accusing the reader of an ac on: “The maintenance instruc ons were
not followed in this case.
When the doer of ac on is unknown: “During the past year, three automobiles were stolen from
this parking lot.
When the writer does not want to name the doer of ac on: “Seventeen accounts were lost in
the Portland area last month.
Avoid Overuse of Camou(aged Verbs
Slides 4-13
Avoiding overuse of camou/aged verbs adds clarity and vigor to wri ng.
A verb is camou/aged when the verb describing an ac on is changed to a noun—for example,
when one changes the verb “eliminate” to the noun “elimina on,” which results in a long,
passive sentence like this:
“Elimina on of the de=cit was accomplished by Thornberry.
A beDer sentence is one that uses the verb: “Thornberry eliminated the de=cit.
Addi onal examples follow on the slides.
Avoid Discriminatory Wording
Slide 4-14
We should strive to use nondiscriminatory wording—wording that treats all people equally and
with respect.
This means avoiding words that refer nega vely to groups of people, such as by gender, race,
na onality, age, disability, or sexual orienta on.
The more common problems are covered by the following sugges ons.
Avoid sexist labels.
Slides 4-15
There are three excellent ways to avoid the generic male pronoun:
1. rewording the sentence,
2. making plural references, and
3. subs tu ng a neutral expression.
When discussing solu on #2, be sure to point out that the sentence needs to be made
consistently plural.
Incorrect: Each team member should turn in their schedule tomorrow.
Correct: Team members should turn in their schedules tomorrow.
Avoid other stereotyping words and phrases.
Construction of Clear Sentences
Slide 4-16
Use this overview slide to preview the guidelines that will help students write clear,
easy-to-read sentences.
Slides 4-17, 4-18
Liming sentence content means keeping sentences rela vely short—not packing too much
informa on into one sentence. The examples on these slides illustrate.
Readability studies tell us that the more words and rela onships there are in a sentence, the
greater is the possibility of misunderstanding.
Slides 4-19, 4-20, 4-21
Economizing on words also helps you manage your sentence length.
Anything you write can be expressed in many ways, some shorter than others.
The shorter ways usually are beDer—clearer and more interes ng.
The following review of some of the causes of uneconomical expressions should be helpful.
Cluering phrases. Phrases that can be replaced by shorter wordings can add unnecessarily to
sentence length.
“in the event that” vs. “if
“in spite of the fact that” vs. “although”
Surplus words. Words that add nothing to the intended meaning should be eliminated.
“It will be noted that the records for the past years show a steady increase in special
appropria ons.
“His performance was good enough to enable him to qualify for the promo on.
Unnecessary repeon. Repea ng words obviously adds to length.
But some repe on serves a purpose, as repea ng for emphasis or for special e1ect.
Eliminate repe on that is without purpose.
“We have not received your payment covering invoices covering June and July
“We have not received your payment covering June and July purchases.
Slides 4-22
Wri ng clearly also means managing the emphasis in your sentences.
Your sentences should give appropriate emphasis to each item presented.
Some items are more important than others—for example, conclusions in a report or the
objec ve of a leDer. Some are less important. You should make the important items stand out.
The longer sentences give less emphasis to their contents because the items combined share
The shorter sentences tend to emphasize content because mul ple ideas aren’t compe ng for
aDen on.
Consider the varying emphasis in these three versions:
The company lost money last year. The loss occurred in spite of record sales.(The two items
receive equal emphasis.)
Although the company enjoyed record sales last year, it lost money.” (One idea is
subordinated; the other gets independent-clause emphasis.)
The company enjoyed record sales last year, although it lost money.” (Emphasis of the two
thoughts is reversed.)
Which is the best? The answer depends on what you want to communicate.
A warning: Subordina ng some ideas helps reduce choppiness, but the subordina ng needs to
be logical, as the slide examples show.
Slide 4-23
The op mum length depends on the reader and the nature of the contents. But the higher the
level of the reader, the longer the sentences can be. Around 16 to 18 words per sentence is a
good average for reaching the middle-level adult.
Slides 4-24, 4-25
Keep in mind that we are talking about average length. A mixture can be e1ec ve—longer
sentences for subordina ng informa on and shorter ones for emphasizing points. And too
many short sentences can create a choppy, elementary-sounding e1ect.
This slide reviews coordinaon and subordinaon. When a sentence contains two or more
ideas, the ideas share emphasis. How they share it depends on how the sentence is
constructed. If two ideas are presented equally, or coordinated (in two independent clauses, for
example), they get about equal emphasis. But if one idea is subordinated to the other (in one
independent clause and one dependent clause), the one gets more emphasis than the other.
The =rst sentence revision shows coordina on. The second and third show subordina on.
Slides 4-26, 4-27
Good sentences also have unity; their parts combine to form one clear thought.
Viola ons of sentence unity have two main causes:
Unrelated ideas. Placing unrelated ideas in a sentence is illogical. The ideas in a sentence should
have a reason for being together. The reason for items being together in a sentence should be
Sentences that appear to have unrelated ideas can be corrected by: making the ideas separate
sentences, subordina ng one of the ideas, and adding words that show a rela onship.
“Mr. Jordan is our sales manager, and he has a degree in law.(ideas not clearly related)
“Mr. Jordan is our sales manager. He has a degree in law.” (separate sentences)
“Mr. Jordan, our sales manager, has a degree in law.” (one idea subordinated)
Excessive detail. Placing too much detail in a sentence tends to hide the central thought. Breaking
up long sentences helps to reduce this problem.
Slide 4-28
Carefully avoiding illogical construcons also helps ensure that the reader will understand one’s
The examples on these two slides illustrate the following problems:
Mixed construc on (switches from ac ve to passive voice for no good reason).
Mixed construc on (a “because” clause can’t be subject of a sentence).
Mixed construc on (a “price” can’t be “expensive”).
Incomplete construc on (the “as far as” phrase is incomplete).
Dangling modi=er (the “Looking” phrase needs to be followed by who is doing the looking).
Faulty parallelism (items set up as equals, as in this series, need to be worded as equals).
Construction of Clear Paragraphs
Slide 4-29
Paragraphing is important to clear communica on.
Paragraphing shows where topics begin and end, which helps organize the informa on for the
Designing paragraphs requires the ability to organize and group informa on. It is a mental
process involving both logic and strategy.
These =ve sugges ons can help.
Slide 4-30
Give paragraphs unity. The paragraph should build around a single topic or idea.
The subject maDer included should have a reason for being together—it should be related.
Slide 4-31
Keep the paragraphs short. Short paragraphs produce more appealing text. They help the reader to
see the organiza on of the material being presented.
Of course, length is determined by the informa on to be covered, but an average of 8 to 10
lines is a good goal for longer papers.
A good rule to follow is to ques on all long paragraphs—say those over 12 lines. But some mes
a long paragraph has unity and is logical.
Slide 4-32
Use topic sentences e"ecvely. One good way of organizing paragraphs is to use topic sentences.
Topic sentences express the main idea of the paragraph.
Some paragraphs do not have them—for example, introductory paragraphs, transi onal
paragraphs, and concluding paragraphs.
Topic sentences can be in three places:
at the beginning,
at the end, and
within the paragraph.
Slide 4-33
Leave out unnecessary detail. Consider what your reader needs to know, and include only this
informa on.
Slide 4-34
Make paragraphs coherent. Each sentence and each paragraph should move the reader smoothly
toward the writers goal.
Three good strategies for achieving coherence are the following:
Repeat key words that hark back to the preceding sentence.
Use pronouns that refer back to elements of the preceding sentence.
Use transi onal expressions.
Writing for Positive effect
Slides 4-35, 4-36
Wri ng in conversa onal language has a friendly e1ect, as the good examples on Slide 4-36
Many of us change character when we write. Instead of being our natural selves (warm and
friendly), we become unduly formal and impersonal, perhaps under the impression that s 1 or
big words will impress.
In todays ever-shiQing business environment, where people oQen need to establish friendly
rela ons quickly, it is a beDer strategy to write naturally and sincerely, as oneself (though
oneself as a knowledgeable professional).
Two good ways to achieve a sincere, natural tone follow.
For a homework assignment or class exercise, consider asking the students to develop a
WhoPrint of their “writers persona.A WhoPrint is an adver sing term for the individual
consumer that adver sing copy targets. For this exercise, students would =nd an image of their
writers persona online, and list the values, style, beliefs, ac vi es, and favorite words and
phrases of this person. An alter ego of sorts, this persona can lessen the fear of wri ng because
students have a construct in mind when coming to the page. You may even include one of your
own in this presenta on to entertain students and lighten the mood.
Slide 4-37
Accentua ng the posi ve also helps create goodwill and pleasant rela onships.
This does not mean that nega ve words are always inappropriate. They are strong, they
command aDen on, and some mes you will need to use them.
But most of the me you will =nd the posi ve words to be more useful.
Posi ve words tend to put readers in a good frame of mind; they build goodwill. Nega ve words
—such as damage, error, mistake, problem, loss, and failure—produce the opposite e1ect.
Slide 4-38
Also called clichés, rubber stamps are words we use without thought every me a certain
situa on occurs. That is, we use them like “rubber stamps.
Because they are used rou nely, they communicate the e1ect of rou ne treatment.
This will acknowledge receipt of…”
This is to inform you…”
“In accordance with your instruc ons…”
Slides 4-39, 4-40
Wri ng from the you-viewpoint is another technique for building goodwill.
You-viewpoint wri ng emphasizes the readers interests and concerns—the you and the your. It
deemphasizes the we and the our.
But it is more than just using pronouns. It is an aAtude of mind. It places the readers in the
center of things—emphasizing their interests and showing concern for them.
Some claim that using the you-viewpoint is (1) insincere and (2) manipula ve.
The arguments have merit, for it can be used to the point of being insincere. And it can be
manipula ve.
But it does not have to be either if you use it with genuine sincerity—and if you use it only to
achieve ethical goals.
Slide 4-41
These are good words to consider: “treat your readers as intelligent people you understand and
respect.” Even when wri ng to someone with a low level of educa on or someone who has
made an angry complaint, you will almost always get the best result if you bring out the best in