Book Title
M: Business Communication 3rd Edition

978-0073403229 Chapter 5 Text Summary, Lecture Outline

April 5, 2019
Teaching Suggestions
This chapter introduces students to one of the standard organizational approaches in business writing:
the direct organizational pattern. Because this pattern is used most frequently in situations in which the
reader will react positively or neutrally, Chapter 5 discusses the direct pattern in this rhetorical context.
But many of the following suggestions for teaching Chapter 5 will also apply to teaching students to
write the other types of messages discussed in Chapters 6, 7 and 11 (e.g. negative-news messages,
persuasive messages, employment documents).
You can begin with a brief lecture that presents an overview of the direct approach and the contexts in
which it is appropriate or not appropriate. Students may be asked to assess either in an online or
face-to-face discussion their own communication style. Are they direct communicators? Indirect
communicators? Although you will discuss the indirect approach more thoroughly in Chapter 6, you may
also ask students to re/ect on a time when they received a message directly that should have been
communicated indirectly or vice versa.
Lecture notes for Chapter 5 to accompany the Chapter 5 PowerPoint presentation appear below.
Instructors should emphasize that the text suggestions are not formulas; students must use the skills
they learned in Chapter 5 to understand their writing goals and audiences and adjust their messages
accordingly. Emphasis should be given to developing logical approaches to problem solving so that
students see their communication goals as tied to their business goals.
A5er presenting the lecture, you may want to refer to the good and bad message examples in the
Chapter PowerPoint and have students analyze and articulate what happened in the writing that makes
the good message better than the bad message (e.g., the main point is at the beginning, the writing is
more complete and the language more precise). You may also want to create good/bad examples from
the problem solving cases at the end of the text as additional discussion and illustration opportunities.
Criticism of Student Messages
Students should write a direct message as an assignment for this chapter. A5er writing a dra5, students
can bring their work to class for peer editing. As a guide for peer editing, you may want to develop a
form based on your grading rubric for the assignment. Students should be reminded that a peer editor is
not a “8xer” or copy editor. The peer editor is simply to react to the format, content, and correctness.
The writer is ultimately responsible for the content. If the writer disagrees with the peer editor, the
writer is not obligated to make the editors changes.
Before beginning the one-on-one editing, you may want to discuss a few dra5s as a class, identifying
strategies that have better promise than others. A5er assignments are returned, you can show examples
of individual sentence or entire messages that were done well or that could still use work.
Writing Contests
Another option to motivate students to produce good messages is to hold writing contests. The judges
are the students. They read the messages, grade them, and determine the winners. A prize may be
bonus points.
specifically, this plan works as follows. We divide the class into groups of 8ve or six students. Each group
grades the messages of another group—making detailed comments on papers in the process. Each
grading group selects the best message in the group being graded. We give bonus points to the writer of
these messages. The grades given on all messages are the grades we record, but we permit anyone who
is not satis8ed with his or her grade to submit the message to us for reevaluation. Usually no more than
10 percent do so.
We like this plan because it gives the students a view of the other side of the fence. They learn to
appreciate the problems in grading. Also, we think grading is a very productive learning experience.
Recognition of Good Work
Another e?ective means of increasing student interest is simply to recognize good work. If you have a
class website or use a class management tool such as Blackboard, WebCT, or Desire2Learn, you can post
the best messages as examples for current students. Equally good results come from showing the best
papers on a screen if students agree to have their work shown.
Text Summary, Lecture Outline
Slides 5-1, 5-2, 5-3
Directness is appropriate in most messages such as routine inquiries, favorable responses, order
acknowledgments and thank-you messages, direct claims, adjustment grants, and operational
Slide 5-4
Begin preparing for a message by assessing the readers probable reaction.
If the likely reaction is positive or neutral, directness is in order.
If the likely reaction is negative, indirectness is in order.
The General Direct Plan
Slide 5-5
The general plan for direct order:
Begin with your objective: Whatever your key point is, lead with it. You may want to provide brief
background information before presenting it.
Cover the remaining part of the objective: Whatever else must be covered to complete your objective
makes up the bulk of the remainder of the message. Cover your information systematically—perhaps
listing the details or arranging them by paragraphs.
End with goodwill: End the message with some appropriate friendly comment as you would end a
face-to- face communication with the reader. Include a closing that is relevant to the topic of your
Routine Inquiries
Slides 5-6, 5-7, 5-8, 5-9
Routine inquiries are those where the writer expects a positive response from the reader. Begin with the
objective. In doing so, you may ask a question or give an answer to a question the reader has previously
asked you. These beginnings save time for writer and reader. A5er you have done that, you can present
any necessary explanation, ask additional questions, or give additional answers. To close, end with a
goodwill message that is relevant to the reader. Many students may have diDculty with this. One of the
most common errors we see is the ambiguous thank you. It is not wrong to end with “thank you,” but
the thank you should be specific to the topic. Many students will, as an example, write a favorable
response that answers a readers many questions. A5er answering all of the questions, the writer will
type “thank you.” “Thank you” for what? Encourage students to finish the thought: “Thank you for your
interest in ACME products.” Slides 7-6, 7-7, and 7-8 discuss suggested orders, types of beginnings, and
the suggested format for routine inquiries.
Begin directly.
Use either a specific question that sets up the entire message (“Is your Karatan line of leather goods sold
on an exclusive dealership basis?”) or a general request for information (“Will you please answer the
following questions about your dealership policy for your Karatan line of leather goods?”)
Note how both of the openings above are faster and more interesting than indirect openings such as this
“I saw your Karatan products advertised in this month’s Marketer Guide and am considering stocking the
line. But 8rst I need to know the answers to the following questions:”
Usually there is some need to identify or explain the situation. Such information helps the reader in
answering. Most often this information 8ts best a5er the opening. When a number of questions must be
asked, sometimes explanations are needed within the questions. The point is to tell the reader whatever
is needed to enable her or him to answer.
Place all explanations where they 8t best.
Cover the question or questions.
If your inquiry involves asking a single question, the message is short—a direct opening followed by any
necessary explanation and a friendly closing comment.
Sometimes a number of questions need to be asked.
In such cases, make each question stand out. Do this by
1. making each question a separate sentence,
2. organizing a paragraph around each question (especially if some questions require explanations),
3. ordering (1, 2, 3, etc.) the questions, and
4. wording each as a question rather than as a hint for information (“Please send me . . . rather
than “I would appreciate your sending me . . .”).
Generally avoid questions that can be answered with a simple “yes” or “no.
“Do long periods of freezing temperatures damage Gardex?” vs. “What are the e?ects of long periods of
freezing temperature on Gardex?”
End with a goodwill comment, preferably use words that 8t the one case:
As we must decide about using Natvac by next Monday, please have your answers to us by that date.
rather than “Thank you in advance for your help.
Slides 5-10, 5-11
These slides present bad and good versions of the same message. Notes are provided on the PowerPoint
slides for discussion. You may want to divide students into small groups to analyze what makes the bad
message bad and the good message good and then have the groups articulate their analysis to the rest
of the class.
Slide 5-12
This slide presents tips on how to organize questions for a routine inquiry. Most students need help with
formaLng and organization, so this is an important slide to share.
Favorable Responses
Slides 5-13, 5-14, 5-15, 5-16
Favorable responses are those that give the reader what he/she has requested. Because they are
messages that answer inquiries favorably and convey good news and because they do what the
respondent has asked you to do, the direct order is appropriate. The indirect order would get the job
done, but it would be slower, and it would waste time.
Directness here means beginning by giving the reader what is wanted—which is the information
So a good beginning is the one that starts answering.
If the inquiry concerned is one question, it is the answer to that question:
“Yes, Chem-Treat will prevent mildew if used according to instructions.
If it concerns a number of questions, the opening is the answer to one of them, preferably the most
important. An alternate possibility is to begin with a statement that you are giving the reader what is
wanted. Although this beginning really is not direct, it is positive. Also, it avoids the abruptness that
directness sometimes conveys: “The following information should tell you what you need to know about
Chem-Treat” or “Here are the answers to your questions about Chem-Treat.
Somewhere at the beginning, identify the correspondence you are answering.
One good way is to use a subject line of a message or in the subject identi8cation of an email message:
“Subject: Your April 3 inquiry about Chem-Treat.
Another is to refer to it incidentally in the opening: “. . . as requested in your April 3 inquiry. . .
If you are answering just one question, you have little else to do. You may include any explanation or
other information you think is needed. Then you close the message. If you must answer two or more
questions, you answer them in succession. Work for a logical order, perhaps using the order used in the
readers inquiry. You may choose to number the questions or to distinguish them by bullets.
If some negative information must be given with the good, handle it carefully. You may choose to
deemphasize it—placing it in a position of little emphasis or giving it less space. Be sure to avoid
language that is unnecessarily negative (e.g., unfortunately, disappointed).
For the best in goodwill e?ect, you may consider including the “extras”—something nice that is not
required (additional information, comment, or question).
End with friendly, cordial words that show your willingness to serve. Make these words 8t the one
“If I can help you further in deciding whether Chem-Treat will meet your needs, please write me again.
Slides 5-17, 5-18, 5-19
These slides present bad and good versions of the same message. Notes are provided on the PowerPoint
slides for discussion. You may want to divide students into small groups to analyze what makes the bad
message bad and the good message good and then have the groups articulate their analysis to the rest
of the class.
Order Acknowledgments
Slides 5-20, 5-21
Acknowledgments are sent to people who order goods principally to report the status of the order. They
simply tell when the goods are being shipped. Many companies use form messages for this; some use
printed notes. But individually written messages can be used, especially for important orders or to
welcome a new customer.
As this is a routine, good news message, it is appropriate to begin it directly—geLng to the point right
“Your April 4 order for Protect-O paints and supplies will be shipped Monday by Blue Darter Motor
The individually written acknowledgment message frequently includes various goodwill information
(e.g., reselling, appreciation for the order). Sometimes not all the items ordered can be sent. Some may
be out of stock and must be back-ordered. Sometimes the information in the order needs to be cleared
before shipment can be made. In such cases, shipment must be delayed—a negative happening. This
information also must be handled in the message. If the delay will be taken as routine, it can be reported
directly. If it will be bad news to the reader, you should handle the situation with a minimum of negative
wording and implication.
For example, if the reader failed to give complete information in the order, say: “So that you can have the
right color of leather on your master chair, will you please check your choice on the enclosed color
For an item that must be placed on back-order, say: “We will rush the Shannon master chair to you just
as soon as our stock is replenished by a shipment due May 4.
End with a friendly, forward look. Comments about enjoyable (or pro8table) use of the product or a wish
for continued opportunities to serve.
Slides 5-22, 5-23
These slides present bad and good versions of the same message. Notes are provided on the PowerPoint
slides for discussion. You may want to divide students into small groups to analyze what makes the bad
message bad and the good message good and then have the groups articulate their analysis to the rest
of the class.
Thank-You Messages
Slides 5-24, 5-25
Thank-you messages are written for many occasions as a way to practice good etiquette, build goodwill,
and present a positive professional image of the writer and the writers company.
The opening should be direct and include an expression of thanks.
The content should be personal and speak directly to the reason for the thank-you note.
The writer need not thank the reader again given that thank-you messages are very short and the writer
will have said “thank you” only a few sentences earlier. However, the closing should be relevant to the
topic of the message. This might be a statement regarding future business between the reader and
writer or wishes for success for the reader and his or her company.
Direct Claim
Slides 5-26, 5-27
Most businesses want to know when something is wrong with their products or services so they can
correct the matter and satisfy their customers. Many times the easiest and quickest way for you to address
these claims is simply to call the company directly to settle the matter.
Because you anticipate the reader will willingly grant your request, a direct claim begins with the claim,
moves to an explanation, and ends with a goodwill closing.
Beginning. The direct claim should open with the actual claim. This should be a polite but direct
statement of what you need. If the statement sounds too direct, you may soften it with a little bit of
explanation, but the direct claim should be at the beginning of your message.
Explaining the issue. The body of the direct claim should provide the reader with any information he or
she might need to understand your claim.
Providing a goodwill closing. Your close should end with an expression of goodwill. Keep it simple.
Slides 5-28, 5-29, 5-30
These slides present bad and good versions of the same message. Notes are provided on the PowerPoint
slides for discussion. You may want to divide students into small groups to analyze what makes the bad
message bad and the good message good and then have the groups articulate their analysis to the rest
of the class.
Adjustment Grants
Slide 5-31
Adjustment grants are written when you grant a request for an adjustment based on a claim someone
has made regarding a product or service (e.g., a request for a refund, a request for a product
replacement). Because you are doing what the reader wants done and are correcting an error or
problem, the situation is positive; therefore, directness is appropriate. Because claims themselves
require communicating negative news, claim messages are discussed in Chapter 5.
Even though the situation is primarily positive, it is not all good news. The problem that led to the claim
you are granting is in the readers mind. Something bad has happened.
Granting the adjustment may not eliminate all the negative feelings the reader may have toward you and
your company, but questions about the service or products of your company may remain. You may need
to regain any con8dence lost if the adjustment grant is to be completely successful.
The opening words logically present the good news—granting of the adjustment. You will also need to
identify the correspondence you are answering in a subject line or in an incidental reference in the
In the opening and throughout the message, you will need to avoid words that recall unnecessarily the
negative thing that happened. Words such as mistake, trouble, damage, broken, and loss are especially
Equally negative are general references such as problem, di!culty, and misunderstanding.
Except in cases in which the cause of the problem is routine or incidental, you will need to work to regain
lost con8dence. Just what you should or can do will depend on the case. Determining your goals,
analyzing your audience, and all of the other steps in planning your document that we discussed in
earlier chapters are particularly important here. Perhaps you can explain how a product should be used
to avoid the breakdown that occurred. Maybe you have taken steps to ensure that your personnel will
not repeat an error. Or you may explain how what happened was a rare occurrence.
Then if you have a reasonable explanation, present it—clearly and positively.
End the message on a positive note—a comment that 8ts the one situation and does not recall what
went wrong. Move forward in the conclusion; do not dwell on the reason for the adjustment.
Slides 5-32, 5-33
These slides present bad and good versions of the same message. Notes are provided on the PowerPoint
slides for discussion. You may want to divide students into small groups to analyze what makes the bad
message bad and the good message good and then have the groups articulate their analysis to the rest
of the class.
Operational Communications
Slides 5-34, 5-35, 5-36, 5-37
These are the internal communications necessary in conducting the company’s business—those needed
to get the work done.
They range widely in formality—from the brief, informal exchanges between employees to formal
documents. The informal messages do not require our study. They are simple, direct, frank exchanges of
information between workers. The more formal ones resemble the messages we have reviewed in this
chapter. A few resemble those message types we will take up in the next chapter.
The suggestions for writing these messages are much the same as for those types previously discussed.
The need for clarity, correctness, and courtesy should guide these e?orts.
To write an internal operational message, writers should do the following:
Organize in the direct order
Choose the appropriate tone (casual, moderately formal, or formal)
Be clear and courteous
Order the information logically
Close in a way that builds goodwill
Slides 5-36 and 5-37 give an example of an operational message from the text. You may want to use this
example to discuss proper format and technique.