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Business Communication  - Business Writing Essentials

Business communication  -, business writing essentials, business communication business writing essentials.

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Business Communication: Business Writing Essentials

Lesson 6: business writing essentials.


Business writing essentials

writing process business communication

At some point in your professional life, you may need to write something. It’s nothing to be intimidated by, though!

Business writing is any written communication used in a professional setting, including emails , memos , and reports . It’s direct, clear, and designed to be read quickly. With time and practice, you too can become an effective business writer.

Watch the video below to learn some tips for business writing.

The basics of business writing

Good business writing shares crucial information and keeps the concerns of the audience in mind. So before you write anything, ask yourself these two questions:

What do I need to say?

Who is my audience?

Your answers will influence what and how you write, so take a moment to understand exactly why you’re writing. If you can’t clearly answer these questions, you’ll probably have trouble communicating effectively.

Most business writing needs a call to action , which is information that instructs and encourages a response. Let your readers know what they should do, where to go, and so on. Provide your contact information (such as your phone number or email address) in case anyone has questions. Essentially, make sure everyone knows what their next move should be, like in the following example.

writing process business communication

Writing craft

Get to the point quickly. Do you need to tell your employees about a change in work schedules or an update to company policy? Tell them what they should know upfront, and don’t leave them guessing.

Make every sentence as short and clear as possible. Simplify your word choices, as you shouldn’t use complex words when simple ones will do. Also, cut any rambling thoughts. A company-wide memo about a health insurance change is not the best place to mention your recent fishing trip. In short, always omit needless words .

Although you’re in a professional setting, remember to speak to others how you would like to be spoken to. Consider using a brief greeting or conclusion, especially if you’re sharing unpleasant news, and remember that saying please and thank you goes a long way. And whenever you’re in doubt as to whether something is appropriate to write, don’t include it.

Aim to keep your paragraphs brief, as they will add focus to your message while making it easier to scan and remember. The example below is an efficient read, thanks to short paragraphs, clear sentences, and a polite, professional tone.

writing process business communication

Good writing comes out of revision , so read over your first draft and figure out what works and what doesn’t. Clarify sentences and organize the loose structure until everything flows in a logical order. Don’t be surprised if it takes a few revisions until your document is ready to go.

As part of your revision process, try reading your work aloud, which may reveal problems you may not have noticed before. You can also get someone you trust to provide feedback on your work. Hearing their perspective can lead to new insights and issues you never knew were there.

Proofreading is another key part of revision. After you use a spell checker, read over your work again and look for spelling and grammar errors the spell checker may have missed. Also take a moment to ensure the information you’re writing about is accurate and up to date. If you submit incorrect information or sloppy writing, you may not be taken seriously. Does the following example look professional?

writing process business communication

Remember, you won’t master business writing overnight. Effective writing is a skill that takes a lot of time and practice to develop. But once you get comfortable with it, you’ll possess an incredibly valuable job skill.




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The Science of Strong Business Writing

  • Bill Birchard

writing process business communication

Lessons from neurobiology

Brain scans are showing us in new detail exactly what entices readers. Scientists can see a group of midbrain neurons—the “reward circuit”—light up as people respond to everything from a simple metaphor to an unexpected story twist. The big takeaway? Whether you’re crafting an email to a colleague or an important report for the board, you can write in a way that delights readers on a primal level, releasing pleasure chemicals in their brains.

Bill Birchard is an author and writing coach who’s worked with many successful businesspeople. He’s drawn on that experience and his review of the scientific literature to identify eight features of satisfying writing: simplicity, specificity, surprise, stirring language, seductiveness, smart ideas, social content, and storytelling. In this article, he shares tips for using those eight S’s to captivate readers and help your message stick.

Strong writing skills are essential for anyone in business. You need them to effectively communicate with colleagues, employees, and bosses and to sell any ideas, products, or services you’re offering.

writing process business communication

  • Bill Birchard is a business author and book-writing coach. His Writing for Impact: 8 Secrets from Science That Will Fire Up Your Reader’s Brain will be published by HarperCollins Leadership in April 2023. His previous books include Merchants of Virtue, Stairway to Earth, Nature’s Keepers, Counting What Counts, and others. For more writing tactics, see his website .  

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Module 2: Writing in Business

Introduction to the three-part writing process, what you’ll learn to do: identify the three parts of the writing process.

Writing a message that is consistently well received can become a habit, but it can be hard for new writers to achieve. The three part writing process ensures the best outcome each time.

A diagram of the writing process. Step 1 is "Plan", which includes "purpose, preliminary research, [and] outline/organization". The second step is to "write", which includes "writing, phrasing/wording, [and] layout and pages". The third step is to "revise", which includes "grammar, proofreading, [and] verify purpose."

Good writers plan their messages, often using an outline or notes made before writing the message. Lack of a plan before writing may seem  to save a writer time, but it can confuse the writer once they begin, and it slows the receiver. The communication will not be at its best that way. This module discusses how to improve speed and clarity in communication. With a solid outline, the actual writing focuses on phrasing and word choice. This module discusses how to word the message with a you-view. Finally, the message is reviewed and revised. This module provides the final clean-up tools to help you proofread during the revising step.


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  • Introduction to the Three-Part Writing Process. Authored by : Susan Kendall. Provided by : Lumen Learning. License : CC BY: Attribution

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Chapter 4: The Writing Process—Drafting

Chapter learning objectives.

  • Use effective reading strategies to collect and reframe information from a variety of written materials accurately.
  • Apply outlining techniques to begin drafting a document.
  •  Plan, write, revise, and edit short documents and messages that are organized, complete, and tailored to specific audiences.
  • Apply the principles of reader-friendly document design to various written formats.

Now that you’ve planned out your document and gathered information that meets your audience’s needs, you’re just about ready to start drafting the document’s message. At this point it’s worthwhile reminding yourself that the words you start entering in your word processor will look different from those your reader will eventually read. By the end of the drafting stage examined in this chapter, your document will be partway there, but how much revising you do in the fourth stage (see Chapter 5) depends on how effectively you’ve organized your message in the first step of this third stage.

1 Preparing, 2 Researching, 3 Drafting, 4 Editing

Figure 4: The four-stage writing process and stage 3 breakdown

4.1: Choosing an Organizational Pattern

  • 4.2: Outlining Your Message

4.3: Forming Effective Sentences

4.4: forming effective paragraphs.

  • 4.5: Writing in the Business Standard Style

4.6: Effective Document Design

Section 4.1 learning objectives.

Target icon

3. Plan, write, revise, and edit short documents and messages that are organized, complete, and tailored to specific audiences.

The shape of your message depends on the purpose you set out to achieve, so a clearly formulated purpose must be kept in mind throughout the writing process. Whether your purpose is to inform, instruct, persuade, or entertain, structuring your message according to set patterns associated with each purpose helps achieve those goals. Without those familiar structures guiding your reader toward the intended effect, your reader can get lost and confused, perhaps reflecting the confusion in your own mind if your thoughts aren’t clearly focused and organized enough themselves. Or perhaps your message is crystal clear in your own mind, but you articulate it in an unstructured way that assumes your reader sees what you think is an obvious main point. Either way, miscommunication results because your point gets lost in the noise. Lucky for us, we have standard patterns of organization to structure our thoughts and messages to make them understandable to our audiences.

From paragraphs to essays to long reports, most messages follow a three-part structure that accommodates the three-part division of our attention spans and memory:

  • Attention-grabbing opening
  • The job of the opening is to hook the reader in to keep reading, capturing their attention with a major personal takeaway (answering the reader’s question “What’s in it for me?”) or the main point (thesis) of the message. In longer messages, the opening includes an introduction that establishes the frame in which the reader can understand everything that follows.
  • This accommodates the primacy effect in psychology, which is that first impressions tend to stick in our long-term memory more than what follows (Baddeley, 2000, p. 79) , whether those impressions are of the people we meet or the things we read. You probably remember what a recently made friend at college looked like and said the first time you met them, for instance, despite that happening weeks or even months ago. Likewise, you will recall the first few items you read in a list of words better than those in the middle. This effect makes the first sentence you write in a paragraph or the first paragraph you write in a longer message crucial because it will be what your reader remembers most and the anchor for their understanding of the rest. Because of the way our minds work, your first sentence and paragraph must represent the overall message clearly.
  • Detail-packed body
  • Evidence in support of a thesis
  • Background for better understanding
  • Detailed explanations and instructions
  • Convincing rationale in a persuasive message
  • Plot and character development in an entertaining story

This information is crucial to the audience’s understanding of and commitment to the message, so it cannot be neglected despite the primacy and recency effects discussed in this section.

  • Our memory typically blurs these details; thus writing notes for future reference is important. You don’t recall the specifics of every interaction with your closest friend in the days, months, and years between the strong first impression they made on you and your most recent memory of them, but those interactions were all important for keeping that relationship. Likewise, the message body is a collection of important subpoints in support of the main point, as well as transitional elements that keep the message coherent and plot a course toward its completion.
  • Wrap-up and transitional closing
  • The closing completes the coverage of the topic and may also point to what’s next, either by bridging to the next message unit (e.g., the concluding sentence of a paragraph establishes a connection to the topic of the next paragraph) or by offering cues to what action should follow the message (e.g., what the reader is supposed to do in response to a letter, such as reply by a certain date).
  • Depending on the size, type, and organizational structure of the message, the closing may also offer a concluding summary of the major subpoints made in the body to ensure that the purpose of the message has been achieved. In a persuasive message, for instance, this summary helps prove the opening thesis by confirming that the body of evidence and argument supported it convincingly.
  • The closing appeals to what psychologists call the recency effect , which is that, after first impressions, last impressions stick out because, after the message concludes, we carry them in our short-term memory more clearly than what came before (Baddeley, 2000, p. 79) . Just as you probably remember your most recent interaction with your best friend—what they were wearing, saying, feeling, etc.—so you remember well how a message ends.

The effective writer therefore loads the message with important points at both the opening and closing, because the reader will focus on and remember what they read there best, as well as organizes the body in a manner that is engaging and easy to follow. In the next section, we will explore some of the possibilities for different message patterns while bearing in mind that they all follow this general three-part structure. Learning these patterns is valuable beyond merely being able to write better. Though a confused and scattered mind produces confusing and disorganized messages, anyone can become a more clear and coherent thinker by learning to organize messages consistently according to well-established patterns.

4.1.1: Direct Messages

4.1.2: indirect messages, 4.1.3: organizing principles.

In this method, the writer adopts the direct approach of frontloading the main point, which means getting right to the point and not wasting precious time. In college and in professional situations, no one wants to read or write more than they have to when figuring out a message’s meaning, so everybody wins when you open with the main point or thesis and follow with details in the message body. If it takes you a while before you find your own point in the process of writing, leaving it at the end where you finally discovered what your point was or burying it somewhere in the middle will frustrate your reader by forcing them to go looking for it. If you don’t move that main point by copying, cutting, and pasting it at the very beginning, you risk frustrating your busy reader. Leaving out the main point because it’s obvious to you—though it isn’t at all to the reader coming to the topic for the first time—is another common writing error. The writer who frontloads their message, on the other hand, finds themselves in their readers’ good graces right away for making their meaning clear upfront, freeing up readers to move quickly through the rest of the document.

Whether or not you take the direct approach depends on the effect your message will have on the reader. If you anticipate your reader being interested in the message or their attitude to it being anywhere from neutral to positive, the direct approach is the only appropriate organizational pattern. Except in rare cases where your message delivers bad news or is on a sensitive topic or when your goal is to be persuasive (see §4.1.2 below), all messages should take the direct approach. Since most business messages have a positive or neutral effect, all writers should frontload their messages routinely unless they have good reason to do otherwise. The three-part message organization outlined in the §4.1 introduction above helps explain the psychological reasons why frontloading is necessary: it accommodates the reader’s highly tuned capacity for remembering what they see first as well as respects their time in achieving the goal of communication, which is understanding the writer’s point.

Let’s say, for instance, that you send an email to a client with e-transfer payment instructions so that you can be paid for work you did for them. Because you send this same message so often, the objective and context of this procedure are so well understood by you that you may fall into the trap of thinking that it goes without saying, so your version of “getting to the point” is just to open with the payment instructions. Perhaps you may have even said in a previous email that you’d be sending payment instructions in a later email, so you think that the reader knows what it’s about, or you may get around to saying at the end of the email that this is about paying for the job you did, effectively burying it under a pile of details. Either way, to the reader who opens the email to see a list of instructions for a procedure they’ve never done before with no explanation as to why they need to do this and what it’s all for exactly, confusion abounds. At best the client will email you back asking for clarification; at worst they will just ignore it, thinking that it was sent in error and was supposed to go to someone who would know what to do with it. If you properly anticipated your audience’s reaction and level of knowledge as discussed in Step 1.2 of the writing process, however, you would know that opening with a main point like the following would put your client in the proper frame of mind for following the instructions and paying you on time:

Please follow the instructions below for how to send an e-transfer payment for the installation work completed at your residence on July 22.

In the above case, the opening’s main point or central idea is a polite request to follow instructions, but in other messages it may be a thesis statement, which is a summary of the whole argument; in others it may be a question or request for action. The main point of any message, no matter what type or how long, should be an idea that you can state clearly and concisely in one complete sentence if someone came up to you and asked you what it’s all about in a nutshell. Some people don’t know what their point is exactly when they start writing, in which case writing is an exploratory exercise through the evidence assembled in the research stage. As they move toward such a statement in their conclusion, however, it’s crucial that they copy, cut, and paste that main point so that it is among the first—if not the first—sentences the reader sees at the top of the document, despite being among the last written.

Choosing an organizational approach in the writing process infographic

While the direct approach leads with the main point, the indirect approach buries it deeper in the message when you expect that your reader will be resistant to it, displeased with it, upset or shocked by it, or even hostile toward it. In such cases, the direct approach would come off as overly blunt, tactless, and even cruel by hitting the reader over the head with it in the opening. The goal of indirect messages is not to deceive the reader nor make a game of finding the main point but instead to use the opening and some of the message body to ease the reader toward an unwanted or upsetting message by framing it in such a way that the reader becomes interested enough to read the whole message and is in the proper mindset for following through on it. This organizational pattern is ideal for two main types of messages: those delivering bad news or addressing a sensitive subject and those requiring persuasion, such as marketing messages pitching a product, a service, or even an idea.

For now, however, all we need to know is that the organization of a persuasive message follows the so-called AIDA approach, which divides the message body in the traditional three-part organization into two parts, making for a four-part structure:

  • A ttention -grabbing opener
  • I nterest -generating follow-up
  • D esire -building details
  • A ction cue

Most commercials you’ve ever seen follow this general structure, which is designed to keep you interested while enticing you toward a certain action, such as buying a product or service. If a commercial took the direct approach, it would say upfront “Give us $19.99 and we’ll give you this turkey,” but you never see that. Instead you see all manner of techniques used to grab your attention in the opening, keep you tuned in through the follow-up, pique your desire in the third part, and get you to act on it with purchasing information at the end. Marketing relies on this structure because it effectively accommodates our attention spans’ need to be hooked in with a strong first impression and told what to do at the end so that we remember those details best while working on our desires—even subconsciously—in the two-part middle body.

Likewise, a bad-news message divides the message body into two parts with the main point buried in the second of them (the third part overall), with the opening used as a hook that delays delivery of the main point and the closing giving action instructions as in persuasive AIDA messages. The typical organization of a bad-news message is:

  • Buffer offering some good news, positives, or any other reason to keep reading
  • Reasons for the bad news about to come
  • Bad news buried and quickly deflected toward further positives or alternatives

Delaying the bad news till the third part of the message manages to soften the blow by surrounding it with positive or agreeable information that keeps the audience reading so that they miss neither the bad news nor the rest of the information they need to understand it. If a doctor opened by saying “You’ve got cancer and probably have six months to live,” the patient would probably be reeling so much in hopelessness from the death-sentence blow that they wouldn’t be in the proper frame of mind to hear important follow-up information about life-extending treatment options. If an explanation of those options preceded the bad news, however, the patient would probably walk away with a more hopeful feeling of being able to beat the cancer and survive. Framing is everything when delivering bad news.

Consider these two concise statements of the same information taking both the direct and indirect approach:

Table 4.1.2: Comparison of Direct and Indirect Messages

Here we can see at first glance that the indirect message is longer because it takes more care to frame and justify the bad news, starting with an opening that attempts to win over the reader’s agreement by appealing to their sense of reason. In the direct approach, the bad news is delivered concisely in blunt words such as “cutting” and “shutting,” which get the point across economically but without tact. The indirect approach, however, makes the bad news sound quite good—at least to shareholders—with positive words like “improve,” “streamlining,” and “strengthening.” The good news that frames the bad news makes the action sound more acceptable. The combination of careful word choices and the order in which the message unfolds determines how well it is received, understood, and remembered, as we shall see when we consider further examples of persuasive and bad-news messages later in Chapters 6 and 7.

Several message patterns are available to suit your purposes for writing in both direct- and indirect-approach message bodies, so choosing one before writing is essential for staying on track. Their formulaic structures make the job of writing as easy and routine as filling out a form—just so long as you know which form to grab and have familiarized yourself with what they look like when they’re filled out. Examples you can follow are your best friends through this process. By using such organizing principles as chronology (a linear narrative from past to present to future), comparison-contrast, or problem-solution, you arrange your content in a logical order that makes it easy for the reader to follow your message and buy what you’re selling.

If you undertake a large marketing project like a website for a small business, it’s likely that you’ll need to write pieces based on many of the available organizing principles identified, explained, and exemplified in Table 4.1.3 below. For instance, you might:

  • Introduce the product or service with a problem-solution argument on the home page
  • Include a history of the company using the chronological form as well as the journalistic 5W+H (who, what, where, when, why, and how) breakdown on the About page; you may also include short biographies of key staff
  • Use technical descriptions and a comparison-contrast structure for product or service explanations that distinguish what you offer from your competitors
  • Provide short research articles or essays on newsworthy topics related to your business in the general-to-specific pattern on the Blog page
  • Provide point-pattern questions and answers on the FAQ page, such as the pros and cons of getting a snow-removal service in answer to the question of whether to pay someone to do it for you
  • Provide instructions for setting up service on the Contact page

Checking out a variety of websites to see how they use these principles effectively will provide a helpful guide for how to write them yourself. So long as you don’t plagiarize their actual wording, copying their basic structure so you don’t have to reinvent the wheel means that you can provide readers with a recognizable form that will enable them to find the information they need.

Table 4.1.3: Ten Common Organizing Principles

Though shorter documents may contain only one such organizing principle, longer ones typically involve a mix of different organizational patterns used as necessary to support the document’s overall purpose.

Key Takeaway

key icon

2. Consider some bad news you’ve received recently (or fear receiving if you haven’t). Write a four-part indirect-approach message explaining it to yourself as if you were the one delivering it.

3. Draft a three-paragraph email to your boss (actual or imagined) where you recommend purchasing a new piece of equipment or tool. Use the following organizational structure:

i. Frontload your message by stating your purpose for writing directly in the first sentence or two. ii. Describe the problem that the tool is meant to address in the follow-up paragraph. iii. Provide a detailed solution describing the equipment/tool and its action in the third paragraph.

4. Picture yourself a few years from now as a professional in your chosen field. You’ve been employed and are getting to know how things work in this industry when an opportunity to branch out on your own presents itself. To minimize start-up costs, you do as much of the work as you can manage yourself, including the marketing and promotion. To this end, you figure out how to put together a website and write the content yourself. For this exercise, write a piece for each of the ten organizing principles explained and exemplified in Table 4.1.3 above and about the same length as each but tailored to suit the products and/or services you will be offering in your chosen profession.

Baddeley, A. (2000). Short-term and working memory. In E. Tulving & F. I. M. Craik (Eds.) The Oxford Handbook of Memory (pp. 77-92). New York: Oxford University Press. Retrieved from https://books.google.ca/books?id=DOYJCAAAQBAJ

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 4.2: Outlining Your Message

Section 4.2 learning objectives.

2. Apply outlining techniques to begin drafting a document.

Once you’ve clarified the organizing principle of your message, outlining with hierarchical notes helps you plot out the bare-bones structure of the message’s full scope so that you can flesh it out into full sentences and paragraphs shortly after. Outlining helps you get past one of the most terrifying moments in any student’s or professional’s job, especially when beginning a large writing project: writer’s block. Even after completing all the other steps of the writing process explored above, freezing up while staring down a blank screen is an anxiety-driven mental bottleneck that often comes from either lacking anything to say because you haven’t researched the topic or thinking that your draft writing has to come out perfectly just as the reader will see it by the end of the process. It absolutely doesn’t. Drafting is supposed to produce a sketchy, disappointing mess only because the goal at this stage is to get ideas down fast so that you can fix them up later in the editing stage.

Outlining is a structured brainstorming activity that helps keep you on track by assigning major, overarching ideas and relatively minor, supporting points to their proper places in the framework of your chosen organizing principle. At its most basic form for a three-part message, an outline looks like the following:

  • Sub-subpoint 1
  • Sub-sub-subpoint 1
  • Sub-sub-subpoint 2
  • Sub-sub-subpoint 3
  • Sub-subpoint 3

You can add further points in the body and, as shown in the middle of the above outline template, subdivide them even further with lowercase roman numerals, regular numbers, lowercase letters, etc. depending on the size of the document and the support needed. Even when drafting a short email, throwing down a few point-form words as soon as you think of them, arranged in the basic three-part message structure, can help you get started, especially if you don’t have time to write the full email as soon as you think of it but nonetheless need to get some quick ideas down before you forget so that you can expand on those points later when you have time. For instance, if it occurs to you that subscribing to a snow-removal service might be a good idea and you quickly draft an email on the weekend while doing several other winterizing chores, it may look like the one in the left column of Table 4.2a below.

Table 4.2a: Brief Message Outline as a Basis for an Email Draft

However numbered, the hierarchical structure of these notes is like the scaffolding that holds you up as you construct a building from the inside out, knowing that you will just remove that scaffolding when its exterior is complete. Once the outline is in place, you can likewise just delete the numbering and flesh out the points into full sentences, such as those in the email message in the second column of Table 4.2a above, as well as add the other conventional email message components (see §6.1 below).

The specific architecture of the outline depends on the organizing principle you’ve chosen as appropriate for your writing purpose. In the case of the 10 common organizing principles used throughout the Wolfe Landscaping & Snowblowing website example in Table 4.1.3 above, Table 4.2b below shows how the outline for each of the first three principles keeps each piece organized prior to being fleshed out into sentences.

Table 4.2b: Outline Possibilities Based on Organizing Principles

As we shall see later on, outlining is key to organizing other projects such as presentations. If your task is to do a 20-minute presentation, preparing for it involves outlining your topic so that you can plot out the full scope of your speech, then fleshing out that outline into a coherent script with smooth transitions linking each point and subpoint. If it takes you 15 minutes to read that first version of the script out loud, then you simply add a third more material in the form of points in areas that need more development in your outline, then script them out into five more minutes of speech. But if it takes a half hour to read the first version of the script, then you know that you need to pare it down, chopping about a third of its length. Outlining and scripting prior to building a PowerPoint for a 20-minute presentation that would take you a half hour to present would save you the time of making slides for material that would have to be cut out anyway. In this way, outlining keeps you on track to prevent wasted efforts.

2. Outline your next substantial email (i.e., more than a hundred words in length) using hierarchical notes following the structure given at the beginning of this section. Does doing so offer any advantages to approaching the writing process without a plan?

Section 4.3 Learning Objectives

Once you’ve put words on the screen with research material and outlined the shape of your content with point-form notes, building around that research and fleshing out those notes into correct English sentences should be quick and dirty composition—“quick” because speed-typing helps get your thoughts down almost as soon as they occur to you and “dirty” because it’s fine if those typed-out thoughts are garbage writing rife with errors. A talented few might be able to think and draft in perfectly correct sentences, but that’s not our goal at this stage.

As long as you clean it all up later, what’s important during the drafting stage is that you get your ideas down quickly to avoid losing any important points. If you’re still working on speeding up your typing (it can be a lifelong process!), however, consider using your smartphone’s voice recorder to capture what you want to say out loud, then transcribe it into somewhat proper sentences by playing it back sentence by sentence. Correcting that writing as you draft is a waste of time because, in the first substage of editing, you may find yourself deleting whole sentences and even paragraphs that you meticulously perfected at the drafting stage. As we shall see in Chapter 5, scrupulously proof-editing for spelling, grammar, and mechanical errors—as well as the finer points of style—should be one of your final tasks in the whole writing process. At this stage, however, you at least need some sentences to work with.

Fashioning effective sentences requires an understanding of sentence structure. Now, the eyes of many native English speakers glaze over as soon as English grammar terminology rears its head. But think of it this way: to survive as a human being, you must take care of your health, which means occasionally going to the doctor for help with the injuries and conditions that inevitably afflict you; to understand these, you listen to your doctor’s explanations of how they work in your body, and you add to your vocabulary anatomical terms and processes—words you didn’t need for those processes to function when you were healthy. Now that you need to work to improve your health, however, you need that technical understanding to know how exactly to improve. It’s likewise worth learning grammar terminology because writing mistakes undermine your professionalism, and you won’t know how to write correctly, such as where to put punctuation and where not to, if you don’t know basic sentence structure and the terminology we use to describe it. Trust me, we’ll be using it often throughout this chapter and the next. Many ESL speakers who say “I don’t know what the rule’s called, but I know what looks right” actually can improve their writing if they understand more about how it works. Pay close attention throughout the following introductory lesson on sentence structure and variety especially if you’re not entirely confident in your knowledge of grammar.

  • 4.3.1: Four Sentence Moods

4.3.2: Four Sentence Varieties

4.3.3: sentence length, 4.3.4: active- vs. passive-voice sentences, 4.3.1: sentence structure and the four moods.

Four basic sentence moods (or types) help you express whatever you want in English, as detailed in Table 4.3.1 below. The most common sentence mood, the declarative (a.k.a. indicative), must always have a subject and a predicate to be grammatically correct. The subject in the grammatical sense (not to be confused with the topic in terms of the content) is the doer (actor or performer) of the action. The core of the subject is a noun (person, place, or thing) that does something, but this may be surrounded by other words (modifiers) such as adjectives (words that describe the noun), articles ( a , an , the ), possessive determiners (e.g., our , my , your , their ), quantifiers (e.g., few , several ), etc. to make a noun phrase. The core of the predicate is a verb (action), but it may also be preceded by modifiers such as adverbs, which describe the action in more detail, and followed by an object , which is the thing (noun or noun phrase) acted upon by the verb. If you consider the sentence Our business offers discount rates , you can divide it into a subject and predicate, then further divide those into their component parts of speech (nouns, verbs, adjectives, etc.):

Breakdown of a simple declarative sentence into its component parts of speech

Our business offers discount rates

  • Possessive determiner = Our
  • Subject noun = business
  • verb = offers
  • adjective = discount
  • object noun = rates

Subjects and predicates can also grow with the addition of other types of phrases (e.g., prepositional, infinitive, participial, gerund phrases) to clarify meaning even further. As large as a sentence can get with the addition of all these parts, however, you should always be able to spot the core noun of the subject and main verb of the predicate. Sentences that omit either are called fragments and should be avoided because they confuse the reader, being unclear about who’s doing what.

Table 4.3.1: Four Sentence Moods

A declarative sentence with just a straightforward subject and predicate is a simple sentence expressing a complete thought. If all sentences were simple, such as you might see in a children’s reader (e.g., The dog’s name is Spot. Spot fetched the stick. He is a good boy sometimes. ), we would say that this is a choppy or wooden style of writing. We avoid this result by adding subject-predicate combinations together within a sentence to clarify the relationships between complete thoughts. Such combinations make what’s called compound, complex, and compound-complex sentences. Before we break down these sentence varieties, however, it’s important to know what a clause is.

We keep our readers interested in our writing by using a variety of sentence structures that combine simple units called clauses . These combinations of subjects and predicates come in two types:

  • An independent or main clause can stand on its own as a sentence like the simple declarative ones broken down in §4.3.1 above.
  • A dependent or subordinate clause begins with a subordinating conjunction like when , if , though , etc. and needs to either precede or follow a main clause to make sense. Like a domesticated dog that strays from their owner, a dependent clause can’t survive on its own; if it tries anyway, a subordinate clause posing as a sentence on its own is just a fragment that confuses the reader.

An independent clause on its own plus combinations of these two types of clauses make up the four varieties of sentences we use every day in our writing. Two or more independent clauses joined together with a comma and coordinating conjunction (see Table 4.3.2a below for the seven of them, represented by the mnemonic acronym fanboys ) or semicolon (;) make a compound sentence . When combined with a main clause by a subordinating conjunction, a subordinate clause makes a complex sentence . That subordinating conjunction (see a variety of them in Table 4.3.2a below) establishes the relationship between the subordinate and main clause as one of time, place, or cause and effect ( Simmons, 2012 ). When a subordinate clause precedes the main clause, a comma separates it from the main clause (as in this sentence to this point), but a comma is unnecessary if the subordinate clause follows the main clause (as in this sentence from but onward; notice that a comma doesn’t come between unnecessary and if ).

Table 4.3.2a: Coordinating and Subordinating Conjunctions

You can combine compound and complex sentences into compound-complex sentences, like the sentence that precedes this one, though you should keep these streamlined so your wordcount (29 words in the sentence just before Table 4.3.2a, not including the parenthetical asides) doesn’t make comprehension difficult. We’ll return to the question of length in the following subsection ( §4.3.3 ), but let’s focus now on how these four sentence varieties are structured.

Table 4.3.2b: Four Sentence Varieties

Combinations of sentence moods and varieties are all possible, so we have many hybrid sentence structures available to express our thoughts. For instance, an introductory subordinate clause can precede an interrogative main clause:

If you are available to update our computer systems on the 12th, can you please sign and return the attached contract at your earliest convenience?

Combining clauses to communicate your ideas is a skill like any other that requires practice, which you do whenever you draft a message. The more you do it, the better you get at it and the easier it becomes. It’s essential to your professional success that you become good at it, however, because your reading audiences will become frustrated with you if you cannot put sentences together effectively. Worse, disorganized sentences betray a scattered mind. Rather than stop to help you, your readers are more likely to avoid you because they have no time for the lack of professionalism signaled by poor writing and the miscommunication it leads to. Before we return to the subject of clauses when we examine how to correct sentence errors, we should stop to consider the issue of sentence length brought up in our discussion of compound-complex sentences above.

What is the appropriate length for a sentence? Ten words? Twenty? Thirty? The answer will always be: it depends on what you expect your audience to be able to handle and what you need to say to express a complete thought to them. A children’s primer sticks to simple sentences of 5 to 7 concise words because children learning how to read will be stymied by anything but the simplest possible sentences. A 30-page market analysis report aimed at business executives with advanced literacy skills, on the other hand, will have sentences of varying lengths, perhaps anywhere from 5 to 45 words. The longer sentences with plenty of subordination and compounding will hopefully be rare because too many sentences of 45 words will exhaust a reader’s patience and compromise comprehension with complexity. Too many five-word sentences will insult the reader’s intelligence, but they play well as punchy follow-ups that conclude paragraphs full of long sentences. Ultimately, you should treat your audience to a variety of sentence lengths (Nichol, 2016) .

Sentences in most business documents should average around 25 words, which you may consider your baseline goal for sentence length. There’s nothing wrong with sentences shorter than that if they don’t sacrifice clarity in achieving conciseness. There’s also nothing wrong with writing the odd 40-word sentence if it takes that many words to express a complete (and probably complex) thought when anything less would again sacrifice clarity. In all cases, however, you must consider your intended audience’s reading abilities.

If the goal of communication is to plant an idea hatched in your brain undistorted into someone else’s brain, don’t make length a distorting factor. Sentences can technically go on forever with compounding and subordination yet still be grammatically correct, because a long sentence is not the same as a run-on. But too many 40-word sentences in a row will betray a lack of skill in concision and respect for audience attention spans. Ultimately, no hard-and-fast rules for sentence length keep us from writing sentences that are as short or long as they need to be, but there is such a thing as too much if length becomes a barrier to understanding.

When your style goal is to write clear, concise sentences, most of them should be in the active voice rather than passive. Voice in this grammatical sense concerns the order of words around the main verb and whether the verb requires an additional auxiliary (helper) verb. We use two voice varieties:

  • Active-voice clauses are easy and straightforward because they begin by identifying the subject (the doer of the action), then say what the subject does (the verb or action) without an auxiliary verb, and end by identifying the object (the thing acted upon) if the verb is transitive (takes an object). The simple sentence we saw in Table 4.3.2b above follows this easy subject-verb-object order.
  • Passive-voice clauses , on the other hand, reverse this subject-verb-object order to place the object first, follow with a passive verb phrase (more on that below), and optionally end with the doer of the action in a prepositional phrase starting with by .

Consider the following example simple sentences that say the very same thing in both voices, one in the subject-verb-object active voice, and the other in the object-verb-subject passive voice:

Comparison of Active- and Passive-voice Sentences

Active Voice: The manager chose Sara

  • Subject = The manager
  • Verb = chose
  • Object = Sara

Passive Voice: Sara was chosen by the manager.

  • Auxiliary verb = was
  • Past participle verb = chosen
  • Preposition = by
  • Subject = the manager

We can further divide the passive voice into sentences that identify the doer of the action and those that don’t:

Table 4.3.4: Comparison of Active- and Passive-voice Sentences

From this you can see that the two necessary markers of a passive-voice construction are:

  • Sara was chosen. We were chosen.
  • Sara had been chosen.
  • Sara is chosen. You are chosen.
  • Sara will be chosen.
  • Sara will have been chosen by then.
  • Some verbs, like to choose , will have an n added to the past-tense form to make the past participle ( chosen ).
  • Other verbs’ past participle form is the same as their past-tense form, such as to promote , which forms promoted in both the simple past tense and past participle; e.g., the active-voice sentence The manager promoted Sara becomes the passive Sara was promoted.

Be careful, however: a sentence having a form of the verb to be in it doesn’t necessarily make it passive; if the form of the verb to be is the main verb and it isn’t accompanied by an auxiliary, such as in the sentence Sara is thrilled , then the form of the verb to be is what’s called a copular verb, which functions as an equals sign (“Sara = thrilled”). And though the prepositional phrase “by [the doer of the action]” may also signal a passive voice, the fact that identifying the doer is optional means that having the word by in the sentence doesn’t guarantee that it’s in the passive voice. For instance, the active-voice sentence Sara won the promotion by working hard all year is in the active voice and uses by in a manner unrelated to voice type.

Readers prefer active-voice (AV) verbs in most cases because AV sentences are more clear and concise—clear because they identify who does what (the manager chose someone in the Figure 4.3.4 and Table 4.3.4 example AV sentences) and concise because they use as few words as possible to state their point. Passive-voice (PV) verbs, on the other hand, say the same thing with more words because, in flipping the order, they must add an auxiliary verb ( was in the above case) to indicate the tense—as well as the preposition by to identify the doer of the action, totaling six words in the above example to say what the AV said in four. If the PV didn’t add these words, then simply flipping the order of words to say “Sara chose the manager” would turn the meaning of the sentence on its head.

You can make the PV sentence shorter than even the AV one while still being grammatically correct, however, by omitting the doer of the action, as in the second PV example given in Table 4.3.4. The catch is that doing this makes the sentence less clear than the AV version. AV clauses cannot just omit the subject because they would be grammatically incorrect fragments: Chose Sara , for instance, would make no sense on its own as a sentence, whereas Sara was chosen would, even though it begs the question, “By whom?” PV sentences are thus either vague or wordy compared with AV, which are qualities exactly opposite our stylistic ideal of being clear and concise.

Now, before you fall into the trap of thinking that this is some kind of advanced writing technique just because it takes considerable explanation to break it all down, it’s worth stopping to appreciate that you speak AV sentences all day every day, as well as naturally slip into the PV for strategic purposes probably about 5–10% of the time, even if you didn’t have the terminology to describe what you were doing until now. You just do it to suit your purposes. Sometimes those purposes are contrary to the ideals of good writing, such as when people lapse into the passive voice—even if they don’t realize it—because they think it makes their writing look more sophisticated and scientific sounding, or they just want to write complicated, word-count-extending sentences to make up for an embarrassing lack of things to say. In such cases, discerning readers aren’t fooled; they know what the writer is doing and are frustrated by having to hack and slash through vague and wordy verbiage to rescue what meager point the author meant to make. Please ( please! ) don’t use the PV in this way.

Appropriate uses of the PV, on the other hand, are few. You can use it to:

  • Emphasize the object of the verb (the person, place, or thing acted upon) for variety amid a majority of AV sentences that prioritize the subject. In the Table 4.3.4 example, saying “Sara was chosen” in the PV focuses the audience’s attention on the object, Sara, by putting her first, rather than on the manager as the doer of the action. Indeed, the manager’s role in the choosing might be so irrelevant that they can exit the sentence altogether, perhaps because the context of the conversation makes it so obvious that it goes without saying.
  • Hide the doer of the action. If Sara was chosen for a promotion over her colleagues, saying “Sara was chosen” in the PV focuses on her accomplishment while drawing attention entirely away from the manager. Perhaps you don’t want the people who were passed up for promotion to know who exactly they should direct their resentment at. Using the PV in this case makes the choice of Sara sound objective, like anyone would have chosen her for this promotion because she really deserved it. PV is often used in this way as a public relations strategy to control the message. This use of the PV can be quite problematic when used as a cover for the doer (see #3 below), however, as we see in the rhetoric surrounding gender violence. Rephrasing a sentence like John beat Mary as Mary was beaten shifts the focus of violence to the victim rather than the perpetrator by dropping the latter from the conversation altogether. We need to target the perpetrators of gender violence (mainly men and boys), however, as the root of the problem if we hope to reduce and eliminate the harm done to women and girls.
  • Avoid accepting responsibility . In answer to an irate parent’s question “Who broke this glass?” a fibbing two-year-old might say, “It was just broken when I got here.” We learn early—long before we even know how to read and write—how to cover up for our mistakes with this trick of language. Even dodging politicians will say, “Clearly, mistakes were made,” which makes it sound as if the blunders were made by unknown actors rather than the policy-makers themselves, as the more honest alternative in the AV, “Clearly, we made mistakes,” would make clear (Benen, 2015) .
  • Indicate that you don’t actually know who the doer is. Saying “A charitable donation was left in our mailbox” in the PV is stylistically appropriate if you want to focus on the donation and don’t know who left it, whereas “Someone left a charitable donation in our mailbox” is an AV equivalent that focuses more on the anonymity of the benefactor.
  • State a general rule or principle without singling anyone out. Declaring that “Returns must be accompanied with a receipt in order to receive a refund” in the PV is a more tactful, less authoritarian and negative way of saying “You can’t get a refund without a receipt” in the AV.
  • Follow a stylistic preference for PV sentences in some scientific writing . Saying “The titration was performed” or “a lean approach is recommended” sounds more objective—albeit a little unnatural, especially when nearly every sentence is in the PV rather than the 5–10% we are used to in conversation—compared with the more subjective-sounding AV statements “I performed the titration” or “I recommend a lean approach.” (See the following paragraph for a solution to this predicament.)

We’re focusing on AV and PV now at the drafting stage of the writing process because favoring the AV is a stylistic requirement in business and technical writing, where clarity and conciseness are especially valued, but it’s also possible to sound objective in the AV in technical writing. You can, for instance, identify the role of the doer rather than an individual person by name or first-person pronoun. Sentences like “The lab technician performed the titration” or “This report recommends a lean approach” still sound objective in the AV and therefore have an advantage over the PV.

We will return to the issue of AV vs. PV in Chapter 5 on editing for style, but if you train yourself to write in the AV rather than PV as a habit and only use PV when it’s justified by strategic advantage or necessity, you can save yourself time in both the drafting and editing stages of the writing process. For further explanation of the AV vs. PV and example sentences, see:

  • Active versus Passive Voice (Purdue OWL)
  • Passive Voice: When to Use It and When to Avoid It (Corson & Smollett, 2007)

2. Take the outline you drafted for the email if you did Exercise 2 at the end of §4.2 (or any other outlined message that you intend to write) and expand those points into a message that includes at least one example of each of the four sentence types and varieties covered in this section.

3. Identify whether the sentences in the following Guide to Grammar & Writing digital activity are in the active or passive voice: http://www.dactivity.com/activity/index.aspx?content=3BIFrLublu

4. Copy and paste at least five active- and five passive-voice main clauses from sentences in the paragraphs of this chapter section (besides those used as examples) into a document and break them down to identify their subject, main verb (or passive verb phrase, including the auxiliary verb), and object in the manner demonstrated in Table 4.3.4 . Under each, rewrite the five active-voice clauses as passive-voice sentences and each of the passive-voice clauses as active-voice sentences.

Benen, S. (2015, February 18). A passive-voice Bush Family tradition. MSNBC . Retrieved from http://www.msnbc.com/rachel-maddow-show/passive-voice-bush-family-tradition

Corson, T., & Smollett, R. (2007). Passive voice: When to use it and when to avoid it. University of Toronto . Retrieved from http://advice.writing.utoronto.ca/revising/passive-voice/

Nichol, M. (2016, May 9). How long should a sentence be? Daily Writing Tips . Retrieved from https://www.dailywritingtips.com/how-long-should-a-sentence-be/

Now Novel. (2014, January 21). Writer’s tip: Avoid passive voice. Retrieved from https://www.nownovel.com/blog/writers-tip-avoid-passive-voice/

Purdue Online Writing Lab. Active versus Passive Voice. Retrieved from https://owl.purdue.edu/owl/general_writing/academic_writing/active_and_passive_voice/active_versus_passive_voice.html

Simmons, R. L. (2012, December 20). The subordinate conjunction. Grammar Bytes! Retrieved from: http://www.chompchomp.com/terms/subordinateconjunction.htm

Section 4.4 Learning Objectives

As you expand your research material and outline notes into sentences, you will also begin to package those sentences into larger units—paragraphs—that follow a standard, familiar structure that enables readers to easily follow their content and locate key information at a glance. If a sentence communicates a complete thought, a paragraph communicates a topic comprised of a few thoughts coherently collected together in an organized sequence. (Paragraphs themselves assemble to form larger units of meaning such as sections in a report or chapters in a book, so paragraphs represent an intermediate level of organization in larger documents.) Whether your message is a long one made of many paragraphs or just one paragraph fired off in an email, organizing paragraphs helps you clarify your thoughts to both yourself and your reader.

4.4.1: Paragraph Size and Structure

4.4.2: paragraph coherence.

A well-organized paragraph follows the standard three-part message structure outlined in §4.1 above. In a paragraph, we call these three parts the:

  • Topic sentence
  • Body or development sentences
  • Transitional or concluding sentence

At minimum, then, a paragraph should have at least three sentences, but ideally 4–5 to allow the development of sentences in the body to explore the topic in detail. If a rule of thumb on sentence length is that sentences should vary in size but average about 25 words long (see §4.3.3 above), then a normal paragraph should be about ten lines on the page when the font is 12-pt. in a document with 1-inch margins. Like sentences, however, paragraphs should vary in length depending on audience needs and abilities as well as the topics being covered. An audience with advanced literacy skills can handle longer paragraphs that would lose an audience reading at a more basic level, which takes us back to our earlier points about adjusting the message to the audience profile. Some topics need more development than others and don’t easily divide in the middle, though a paragraph of ten sentences or more is really pushing it. “Wall-of-text” paragraphs longer than a page are out of the question in professional writing. No matter what the size, however, all paragraphs should follow the standard structure explained below so that readers at any level can easily find what they’re looking for.

1. Topic Sentence

The topic sentence states the main point or thesis of the paragraph and thus summarizes the small collection of sentences following it so the reader can take in the whole before examining the parts. As we saw in §4.1 above, this direct-approach organization caters to the primacy effect in our psychology whereby first impressions are the strongest and most memorable. Readers should thus be able to see how every sentence in any well-organized paragraph expands on something said in the topic sentence. In this particular paragraph, for example, you will see how the second sentence expands on the part in the topic sentence about accommodating the reader. The third sentence extends that idea to expand on the part in the topic sentence about how topic sentences summarize all paragraph parts as a whole. The sentences that follow (including this one) illustrate how that system works with examples. The final sentence wraps up the topic as broached in the first sentence while bridging to the next topic sentence, which in this case is about how to come up with a topic sentence.

For many writers, drafting a topic sentence is typically a search for one while writing the rest of the paragraph first and then discovering it as a concluding summary exercise. When you are just putting ideas down in the drafting stage of the writing process, you may not know yet what your point is at the outset of writing a paragraph. You likely have a general sense of your topic and some points to cover, probably based on information you collected in your research earlier (see Chapter 3 on Stage 2 of the writing process). As you connect that evidence and build sentences around those information points, you begin to see where you’re going with the topic, and the thesis suddenly comes into focus near the end. If you then say “In conclusion, …, ” summarize what you were getting at in a nutshell, and leave it there, however, you will do your reader a disservice by leaving your topic sentence buried under the pile of evidence that should be supporting it. In this case, delete “In conclusion,” highlight the final sentence, copy and cut it (Ctrl + c, Ctrl + x), and paste it (Ctrl + v) at the top of the paragraph so it does what a topic paragraph should do: preview what follows with an at-a-glance summary.

2. Body or Development Sentences

The development sentences expand on every component part of the topic sentence in a sequence of complete thoughts. The sentences that comprise this sequence explore the topic by following an organizing principle through detailed explanations, supporting evidence, illustrative examples, rhetorical counterpoints, and so on. The organizing principle could be any of those listed in Table 4.1.3 above, such as chronology or comparison and contrast. As parts of a logical sequence of sentences, each sentence connects to those around it with pronouns that use effective repetition (referring to nearby points without repeating them word for word; see Table 4.4.2a below) and transitional expressions (see Table 4.4.2b) to drive the topic exploration forward. In the paragraph under “1. Topic Sentence” above, for instance, the pronoun “this” in the first development sentence (the second sentence in the paragraph) represents the topic sentence position referred to in the topic sentence preceding it. In the sentence above this one, the transitional phrase “for instance” signals an illustrative example offered as supporting evidence of the topic sentence thesis on the sentences’ path toward the transitional or concluding sentence.

3. Transitional or Concluding Sentence

The final sentence of a well-organized sentence wraps up the topic exploration by completing the main point stated in the topic sentence, as well as establishing a thematic bridge to the topic sentence of the next paragraph if indeed there is one. As a bridge, the final sentence looks forward to the following topic sentence by previewing some of its terminology, just as the paragraph preceding this one does. As a wrap-up, the final sentence should in no way merely paraphrase the topic sentence, as you were probably taught to do in middle school or junior high, because the repetition of a point read 20 seconds earlier would waste the reader’s time. Any topic summary belongs at the top where it can summarily preview the paragraph’s subject, not buried at the bottom. Rather, the final sentence concludes the topic in the sense that it completes the expansion of topic-sentence points carried by the development sentences, leaving no loose ends to confuse the reader.

Especially in cases of stand-alone paragraphs or final paragraphs in a document, concluding sentences that tie up those loose ends with a clever and memorable turn of phrase cater to the recency principle in psychology. Recall how “recency” means that final impressions have impact similar to first impressions (see §4.1 above), making the concluding/transitional sentence an important one to the overall success of a paragraph in ensuring that the main point broached in the topic sentence is fully understood. With every part of a paragraph fulfilling a purpose toward communicating a larger point, the double duty that the concluding/transitional sentence performs makes it the glue that binds together paragraphs and the documents they comprise.

Coherence is achieved by paragraphs sticking to the topic summarized in the opening sentence as well as using pronouns and transitional expressions to link sentences together while developing that topic. Paragraphs that grow to the point where they exceed about a dozen lines on the page usually deserve to be broken up into a couple of topics as their internal transitions take them into territory far enough from the topic stated in the first sentence. Generally, a paragraph sticks to just one topic while the one following it covers a related but distinct topic.

Like the organizational principles we explored above, we have a repertoire of recognizable pronouns, transitional expressions, and particular words or phrases that connect ideas in our writing so readers can easily follow our trains of thought. Pronouns such as those in Table 4.4.2a below allow us to represent nouns, phrases, and even whole sentences that came before (called antecedents) without repeating them word for word—as long as the antecedents are clear ( Pronouns , Purdue OWL).

Table 4.4.2a: Pronoun Types and Examples

While pronouns often look back, transitional expressions drive a topic forward by establishing the relationships between the content of sentences. Table 4.4.2b below collects many such adverbs and conjunctive adverbs, prepositions and prepositional phrases, coordinating and subordinating conjunctions, infinitive phrases, interjections, and so on.

Effectively incorporating transitions often depends upon your ability to identify words or phrases that will indicate for the reader the kind of logical relationships or connections you want to convey. View the chart below or check out this website to see how to use different transitions and conjunctions:

Table 4.4.2b: Meaning and Usage of Commons Transitions

chart with examples of different kinds of transitional words and phrases

Transition Meaning Usage Chart by Confederation College Communications Department and Paterson Library Commons is licensed CC BY-NC-SA .

2. Write a coherent, well-organized paragraph on a topic you recently learned about in another course in your program. Don’t use the textbook or other text that you learned it from as a source to copy from; instead, write from memory and your understanding. Ensure that:

i. The topic sentence explains the whole thing in a nutshell ii. Each of the development sentences expand on ideas in the topic sentence and flow from one to another using pronouns from Table 4.4.2a and transitions from Table 4.4.2b. iii. The concluding sentence completes the reader’s understanding of the topic.

3. Write a paragraph on how to make coffee, tea, or another hot beverage. Begin the paragraph with a topic sentence, provide the details in the development sentences, and end with a concluding sentence. Include at least two transitional expressions from the table above.

Pronouns. (2016, March 25). Grammarly . Retrieved from https://www.grammarly.com/blog/pronouns/

Purdue Online Writing Lab. Pronouns. Retrieved from https://owl.purdue.edu/owl/english_as_a_second_language/esl_students/pronouns/index.html

Transitional expressions. (2003). Iowa State University. Retrieved from http://www.public.iastate.edu/~jeaune/Horticulture_LC_105/Web/Transitionalexpressions.htm

4.5: Standard Business Style

Section 4.5 learning objectives.

Among the most important skills in communication is to adjust your style according to the audience to meet their needs as well as your own. You would speak differently to a customer or manager compared with how you would to a long-time coworker who has also become a friend. In each case, these audiences have certain expectations about your style of communication, and you must meet those expectations to be an effective communicator. This section reviews those style choices and focuses especially on the six major characteristics of good writing common to both formal and casual writing.

4.5.1: The Formality Spectrum

4.5.2: removing biases in language, 4.5.3: the 6 cs of style.

We began looking at the general choice between a formal and informal style of writing based on how you’ve profiled your audience’s position in relation to you. There, we saw how certain situations call for formal writing and others for a more relaxed style and saw in that these styles involve word choices along a spectrum of synonyms from “slangy” to casual to fancy. Here we will review those considerations in the context of the writing process.

1. Formal Style in Writing

Because a formal style of writing shows respect for the reader, use standard business English, especially if your goal is to curry favor with your audience, such as anyone outside your organization, higher than you within your organization, and those on or around your level whom you have never communicated with before. These audiences include managers, customers, clients, B2B suppliers and vendors, regulators, and other interested stakeholders such as government agencies. A cover letter, for instance, will be read by a future potential manager probably unfamiliar to you, so it is a very real test of your ability to write formally—a test that is crucial to your career success. Many common professional document types also require formality, such as other letters, memos, reports, proposals, agreements, and contracts. In such cases, you are expected to follow grammatical rules more strictly and make slightly elevated word choices, but not so elevated that you force your reader to look up rarely used words.

Writing in such a style requires effort because your grammar must be tighter and the vocabulary advanced. Sometimes a more elevated word choice—one with more syllables than perhaps the word that comes to mind—will elude you, requiring you to use a thesaurus (such as that built into MS Word in the Proofing section under the Review menu tab, or the Synonyms option in the drop-down menu that appears when you highlight and right-click a word). At the drafting stage you should, in the interests of speed-writing to get your ideas down nearly as fast as they come, go with the word that comes to mind and leave the synonym-finding efforts for the editing stage. Strictly maintaining a formal style in all situations would also be your downfall, however, because flexibility is also expected depending on the situation.

2. Casual Style in Writing

Your ability to gear down to a more casual style is necessary in any situation where you’re communicating with familiar people generally on your level and when a personable, conversational tone is appreciated, such as when writing to someone with basic reading skills. In a routine email to a colleague, for instance, you would use informal vocabulary, including conversational expressions such as “a lot” instead of the more formal “plenty.” You would also use contractions, such as it’s for it is or it has , would’ve for would have , and you’re for you are.  Two paragraphs up from this one, the effort to model a more formal style included avoiding contractions such as you’ve in the first sentence, it’s in the third, and won’t and they’ll in the last, which requires a determined effort because you must fully spell out each word. While not a sign of disrespect, the more relaxed approach says to the reader, “Hey, we’re all friends here, so let’s not try so hard to impress each other.” When an upper-level manager wants to be liked rather than feared, they’ll permit a more casual style of communication in their employees’ interactions with them, assuming that doing so achieves collegiality rather than disrespect.

Incidentally, this textbook mostly sticks to a more casual style because it’s easy to follow for a readership that includes international ESL learners. Instead of using the slightly fancy, three-syllable word “comprehend” in the middle of the previous sentence, for instance, “follow” gets the point across with a familiar, two-syllable word. Likewise, “casual” is used to describe this type of writing because it’s a six-letter, three-syllable word that’s more accessible to a general audience than the ten-letter, four-syllable synonym “colloquial.” These word choices make for small savings in character and word counts in each individual case but, tallied up over the course of the whole book, make a big difference in size, tone, and general readability while remaining appropriate in many business contexts. Drafting in such a style is easy because it generally follows the diction and rhythms that come naturally in common conversation.

3. Slang Style in Writing

As the furthest extreme on the formality spectrum, slang and other informal means of communication such as emojis are generally unacceptable in business contexts for a variety of reasons. First, because slang is common in teen texting and social media, it appears immature, frivolous, out of place, confusing, and possibly even offensive in serious adult professional situations. Say someone emailed a car cleaning company with questions about their detailing service and received a reply that looks like it was texted out by a 14-year-old trying to sound “street,” such as:

Fo sho i set u up real good, well get yr car cleen smoove top 2 bottom – inside + out – be real lit when were done widdit, cost a buck fiddy for da hole d-lux package, so u down widdit erwat

The inquiring customer would have serious concerns about the quality and educational level of the personnel staffing the company and thus about the quality of work they’d do. The customer may even wonder if they’ll get their car back after giving them the keys. The customer will probably just give the company a pass and continue looking for one with a more formal or even casual style that suggests greater attention to detail and awareness of professional communication standards. A company rep that comes back with a response more like the following would likely assure the customer that their car is in good hands:

Absolutely, we can do that for you. Our White Glove service thoroughly vacuums and wet-vacs all upholstery, plus scrubs all hard surfaces with pro-grade cleaners, then does a thorough wash and wax outside. Your autobody will be like a mirror when you pick it up. Please let us know if you are interested in our $150 White Glove service.

Second, the whole point of slang is to be incomprehensible to most people, which is the opposite of the goal of communication discussed above, and especially in situations where you want to be understood by a general audience. As a deviation from accepted standards of “proper” vocabulary, grammar, punctuation, syntax, etc., slang is entirely appropriate in adolescent and subculture communication because it is meant to score points with an in-group that sets itself apart from the rest of polite society. Its set of codewords and nonstandard grammar is meant to confuse anyone not part of that in-group and would sound ridiculous if anyone else even tried to speak it, as when parents try to level with their teens in teen vernacular. Obviously, if slang is used in professional contexts where audiences just don’t know how to accurately translate the expressions, or they don’t even know about Urban Dictionary to help translate “a buck fiddy” in the above example as $150 rather than $1.50, the ensuing confusion results in all the expensive problems brought on by miscommunication.

In terms of the writing process, professionals should generally avoid slang style in almost all business situations, even if it’s what comes naturally, because it leaves the writer too much work in the editing stage. If slang is your style, it’s in your best interests to bring your writing habits up to the casual level with constant practice. Perhaps the only acceptable situation where a slang-heavy style would be appropriate is if you’re on a secure texting or IM channel with a trusted colleague whom you’ve developed a correspondence rapport with, in which case that style is appropriate for the audience because they understand it, expect it, and appreciate it. It can even be funny and lighten up someone’s day.

The danger of expressing yourself in such a colorful style in email exchanges with that trusted friend-colleague when using company channels, however, is that they may be seen by unintended audiences. Say you have a back-and-forth exchange about a report you’re collaborating on and you need to CC your manager at some point so that they are up to speed on your project (or someone else involved does this for you, leaving you no opportunity to clean up the thread of past emails). If your manager looks back at the atrocious language and sees offensive statements, your employment could be in jeopardy. You could just as easily imagine other situations where slang style might be advantageous, such as marketing to teens, but generally it’s avoidable because it tends to deviate from the typical characteristics of good writing.

Test Your Understanding

4. emojis in professional writing.

Though emojis’ typical appearance in social media and texting places them at the informal end of the formality spectrum, their advantages in certain situations require special consideration along with some clarity about their current place in professional communication. Besides being easy to access on mobile device keyboards and favored in social media communication, especially among millennials, emojis are useful for helping clarify the emotional state of the message sender in a way that plain text can’t. They offer a visual cue in lieu of in-person nonverbals. A simple “thumbs up” emoji even works well as an “Okay, got it” reply in lieu of any words at all, so they can help save time for the busy professional. Interestingly, 2,500 years after Egyptian hieroglyphics fell out of use, pictographs are making a comeback! Emojis also go partway toward providing something of a universal language that allows people who speak different languages to communicate in a way that wouldn’t have been possible otherwise.

writing process business communication

You can imagine plenty of other scenarios where emojis could backfire with dire consequences. A red heart emoji added to a business message sent by a male to a female colleague, though perhaps meant in the casual sense of the word “love” when we say, “I love what you did there,” might be taken as signaling unwanted romantic intentions. In the #metoo era, this is totally inappropriate and can potentially ruin professional partnerships and even careers. Be careful with emojis also in any situation involving buying or selling, since commercial messages can end up in court if meanings, intentions, and actions part ways. In one case, emojis were used in a text message signaling intent to rent an apartment by someone who reneged and was judged to be nonetheless on the hook for the $3,000 commitment (Pringle, 2017) . As with any new means of communication, some caution and good judgment, as well as attention to notable uses and abuses that show up in the news or company policy directives, can help you avoid making potentially disastrous mistakes.

Though emojis may be meaningfully and understandably added to text/instant messages or even emails between familiar colleagues who have developed a light-hearted rapport featuring their use, there are several situations where they should be avoided at all cost because of their juvenile or frivolous social media reputation. It’s a good idea to avoid using emojis in business contexts when communicating with:

  • Customers or clients
  • Managers who don’t use emojis themselves
  • Colleagues you don’t know very well
  • Anyone outside your organization
  • College instructors
  • Older people who tend to avoid the latest technology

However, in any of the above cases, you would probably be safe to mirror the use of emojis after your correspondent gives you the greenlight by using them first ( Caramela, 2018 ). Yes, emojis lighten the mood and help with bonding among workplace colleagues. If used excessively as part of a larger breakdown of decorum, they suggest a troubling lack of professionalism. Managers especially should refrain from emoji use to set an example of impeccable decorum in communications to the employees they supervise.

In professional writing, it is important to keep language free from biases based on gender, race, color, disability, ethnicity, and economic and educational backgrounds. Historically, business writing catered to the mainstream elite, which disregarded audience based on color, gender, ethnicity, and disability. In recent times, corporations and academia have become more sensitive in using language that marginalizes a group of people. In fact, younger companies—most especially companies related to Informational technology will reject an application for a job if the writer’s language reveals a bias toward any of these groups. Popularly labeled as being “politically correct,” it is prudent for all business and professional writers to adopt a writing style that is free of any kind of bias. Using bias-free language shows empathy and improves business.

Examples of bias-free writing would be as follows:

Gender Bias: A Chair or a Chairperson rather than a Chairman. A Chair can be either a man or a woman. Traditionally, the title was used for a male; however, the current use reflects merely the title rather than the gender. Similarly, a person could be referred to as a soldier or an engineer regardless of the person’s gender.

Race/Color Bias: An African American rather than a Black person.

Disability Bias: A visually challenged student rather than a blind one.

Ethnicity Bias: A Chinese rather than a generic Asian person.

Removing biases from business language is not only professional but humane. It reveals inclusion of and respect to groups of people who have been marginalized in history.

Whether you’re writing in a formal or casual style, all good writing is characterized by the “6 Cs”:

Six-C writing is good for business because it fulfills the author’s purpose and meets the needs of the audience by making communication understandable and impactful. Such audience-oriented writing is clearly understood by busy readers on the first pass; it doesn’t confuse them with ambiguities and require them to come back with questions for clarification. It gets the point across in as few words as possible so that it doesn’t waste readers’ time with word-count-extending filler. Good writing flows logically by being organized according to recognizable patterns with its sub-points connected by well-marked transitions. Six-C writing avoids confusing readers with grammar, punctuation, or spelling errors, as well as avoids embarrassing its author and the company they represent, because it is flawlessly correct. It leaves the reader with a good feeling because it is polite and positive and focuses on the reader’s needs. Six-C writing is persuasive because, with all the above going for it, it exudes confidence. The following sections explain these characteristics in greater detail with an emphasis on how to achieve six-C writing at the drafting stage.

Clarity in writing means that the words on the page are like a perfectly transparent window to the author’s meaning; they don’t confuse that meaning like the dirty, shattered window of bad writing or require fanciful interpretation like the stained-glass window of poetry. Business or technical writing has no time for anything that requires the reader to interpret the author’s meaning or ask for clarification. To the busy reader scanning quickly, bad writing opens the door for wrong guesses that, when acted upon, result in mistakes that must be corrected later; the later the miscommunication is discovered and the further the mistakes spread, the greater the damage control required. Vague writing draws out the communication exchange unnecessarily with back-and-forth requests for clarification and details that should have been clear the first time. Either way, a lack of clarity in writing costs businesses by hindering personal and organizational productivity. Every operation stands to gain if its personnel’s writing is clear in the first place.

So much confusion from vague expressions can be avoided if you use hard facts, precise values, and concrete, visualizable images. For example:

  • Instead of saying “a change in the budget,” “a 10% budget cut” makes clear to the reader that they’ll have to make do with nine of what they had ten of before.
  • Instead of saying that a home’s annual average basement radon level is a cause for concern, be specific in saying that it is 5.0 pCi/L (for picocuries per liter of air) so that the reader knows how far above public health guidelines it is and therefore the extent of remedial action required.
  • Instead of saying that you’re rescheduling it to Thursday, be clear on what’s being rescheduled, what the old and new calendar dates and times are, and if the location is changing, too. If you say that it’s the 3 p.m. Friday meeting on May 25th being moved to 9 a.m. Thursday, May 31st, in room B349, participants know exactly which meeting to move where in their email program’s calendar feature.
  • Always spell out months so that you don’t confuse your reader with dates in the “dd/mm/yy” or “mm/dd/yy” style; for instance, “4/5/18,” could be read as either April 5th or May 4th, 2018, depending on whether the author personally prefers one date form over the other or follows a company style in lieu of any universally accepted date style.
  • Instead of saying at the end of an email, “Let’s meet to discuss” and leaving the ball in your correspondent’s court to figure out a time and place, prevent the inevitable time-consuming back-and-forth by giving your available meeting time options (e.g., 9–10 a.m. Thursday, May 31st; 2–3 p.m. Friday, June 1st; etc.) in a bulleted list and suggesting a familiar place so that all your correspondent needs to do is reply once with their preferred meeting time from among those menu options and confirmation on the location.
  • Instead of saying “You’ve got a message,” being clear that Tia Sherman from the Internal Revenue Service left a voicemail message at 12:48 p.m. on Thursday, February 8th gives you the precise detail that you need to act on that information.

The same is true of vague pronouns such as its , this , that , these , they , their , there , etc. (see the demonstrative and indefinite pronouns, #6 and #9 in Table 4.4.2a above) when it’s unclear what they’re referring to earlier in a sentence or paragraph. Such pronoun-antecedent ambiguity, as it’s called (with antecedent meaning the noun that the pronoun represents), can be avoided if you can spot the ambiguity that the reader would be confused by and use other words to connect them to their antecedents. If you say, for instance,

The union reps criticized the employer council for putting their latest offer to a membership vote.

Whether the offer is coming from the union, the employer, or possibly (but unlikely) both is unclear because their could go either way. You can resolve the ambiguity by using words like the former , the latter , or a shortened version of one of the names:

The union reps criticized the employer council for putting the council’s latest offer to a membership vote.

When pronouns aren’t preceded by the noun to which they refer, the good writer must simply define them. Though these additions extend the word count a little, the gains in clarity justify the expense.

2. Conciseness

Because the goal of professional writing, especially when sharing expertise, is to make complex concepts sound simple without necessarily dumbing them down, such writing should communicate ideas in as few words as possible without compromising clarity. The worst writing predictably does the opposite, making simple things sound complicated. This is a rookie mistake among some students new to college or employees new to their profession. Perhaps because they think they must sound “smart,” they use expressions that are their attempt at imitating the kind of writing that goes over their head with fancy words and complex, word-count-extending sentence constructions, including the passive voice. Such attempts are usually smokescreens for a lack of quality ideas; if someone is embarrassed by how meager their ideas are, they tend to dress them up to seem more substantial. Of course, their college instructors or professional audiences are frustrated by this kind of writing rather than fooled by it because it doesn’t help them find the clear meaning that they expect and seek. It just gets in the way and wastes their time until they resent the person who wrote it.

If the temptation to overcomplicate a point is uncontrollable at the drafting stage, it’s probably better to vomit it all up at this point just so that you can get everything out while knowing that you’ll be mopping it up by paring down your writing later. By analogy, a film production will overshoot with perhaps 20 takes of (attempts at) a single shot just so that it has plenty of material “in the can” to choose from when assembling the sequence of shots needed to comprise a scene during post-production editing. However, as you become a better writer and hone your craft, you’ll be able to resist those filler words and overcomplicated expressions at the drafting stage from having been so aggressive in chopping them out at the editing stage of the writing process so many times before. Of course, if you make a habit of writing concisely even at the drafting stage, you’ll minimize the amount of chopping work you leave yourself at the editing stage.

3. Coherence and Completeness

Coherence means that your writing flows logically and makes sense because it says everything it needs to say to meet your audience’s needs. The organizational patterns discussed in §4.1, outlining structures in §4.2, and paragraph organization in §4.4 all help to achieve a sense of coherence. The pronouns and transitions listed in Table 4.4.2a and Table 4.4.2b above especially help to connect the distinct points that make up your bare-bones outline structure as you flesh them out into meaningful sentences and paragraphs just as ligaments and tendons connect bones and tissues throughout your body.

4. Correctness

Correct spelling, grammar, mechanics, etc. should not be a concern at the drafting stage of the writing process, though they certainly must be at the end of the editing stage (see Chapter 5). As explained above in the §4.3 introduction above, speed-writing to get ideas down requires being comfortable with the writing errors that inevitably pockmark your draft sentences. The perfectionists among us will find ignoring those errors difficult, but resisting the temptation to bog yourself down by on-the-go proof-editing will pay off at the revision stage when some of those awfully written sentences get chopped in the end anyway. Much of the careful grooming during the drafting stage will have been a waste of time.

5. Courtesy

No matter what kind of document you’re writing and what you can expect your audience’s reaction to it to be, writing courteously so that your reader feels respected is fundamental to reader-friendly messages. Whether you’re simply sharing information, making a sales pitch, explaining a procedure, or doing damage control, using polite language helps ensure your intended effects—that your reader will be receptive to that information, will buy what you’re selling, will want to perform that procedure, or will be onboard with helping to fix the error. The cornerstone of polite language is obviously saying “the P-word” that you learn gets what you want when you’re 18 months old—because saying please never gets old when asking someone to do something for you, nor does saying thanks when they’ve done so—but there’s more to it than that.

Much of courtesy in writing involves taking care to use words that focus on the positive, improvement, and what can be done rather than those that come off as being negative, critical, pushy, and hung up on what can’t be done. If you’re processing a contract and the client forgot to sign and date it, for instance, the first thought that occurs to you when emailing to inform them of the error may go something like the following:

You forgot to sign and date our contract, so you’ve got to do that and send it to me a.s.a.p. because I can’t process it till I receive it signed.

Now, if you were the client reading this slightly angry-sounding, accusatory order, you would likely feel a little embarrassed and maybe even a little upset by the edgy, pushy tone coming through in negative words like forgot , do that , a.s.a.p. , and can’t . That feeling wouldn’t sit well with you, and you will begin to build an aversion to that person and the organization they represent. (If this isn’t the first time you forgot to sign a contract for them, however, the demanding tone would be more justified or at least more understandable.) Now imagine you read instead a message that says, with reference to the very same situation, the following:

For your contract to be processed and services initiated, please sign, date, and return it as soon as possible.

You would probably feel much better about coming through with the signed contract in short order. You may think that this is a small, almost insignificant shift in meaning, but the difference in psychological impact can be quite substantial, even if it operates subconsciously. From this example you can pull out the following three characteristics of courteous writing.

a. Use the “You” View

Audience-oriented messages that address the reader directly using the pronouns you and your have a much greater impact when the message is positive or even neutral. Writing this way is a little counterintuitive, however, because when we begin to encode any message into words, we do so naturally from our own perspective. The sender-oriented messages that result from our perspective don’t register as well with readers because they use first-person personal and possessive pronouns (I, me, my, we, us, and our) that tend to come off as being self-involved. In the above case, the contract is shared by both parties, but saying “our contract” is a little ambiguous because it may be read as saying “the employer’s contract” rather than “your and my contract.” Saying “your contract,” however, entitles the reader with a sense of ownership over the contract, which sits much better with them.

The trick to achieving an audience-oriented message is to catch yourself whenever you begin writing from your perspective with first-person personal pronouns like I and my  and immediately flip the sentence around to say you and your instead. Simply changing the pronouns isn’t enough, though; in the above case, it involved changing the wording so that the contract is sent by you rather than received by me. Switching to the audience perspective takes constant vigilance and practice even from seasoned professionals but soon leads to an audience-oriented habit of writing that endears you more to your readers and leads to positive results. An added benefit to habitually considering your audience’s perspective is that it makes you more considerate, sympathetic, and even empathetic, improving your sense of humanity in general.

The flipside of this stylistic advice is to use the first-person pronouns (I, we, etc.) as seldom as possible, which is true, but obviously you can’t do without these entirely—not in all situations. When it’s necessary to say what you did, especially when it comes to negative situations where representing your perspective and accepting responsibility is the right thing to do, not using the first-person pronouns will result in awkward stylistic acrobatics. Simply use the audience-oriented “you” view and sender-oriented first-person personal pronouns when appropriate.

b. Prioritize Audience Benefits

man holding money in one hand (Dos) and a stick in the other hand (Don'ts) reading Carrot-and-Stick Management

Messages that don’t immediately answer that question and instead lead with the action, however, come from a sender-oriented perspective that initially turns off the reader because it comes off as being demanding in tone. Obviously, some situations require a demanding tone, as when being nice gets no results and necessity forces you to switch to the stick. Again, leading with the demand may be what occurs to you first because it addresses your immediate needs rather than your reader’s, but making a habit of flipping it around will give your writing greater impact whenever you give direction or issue instructions.

c. Focus on Future Positive Outcomes

Focusing on what can be done and improvement sits better with readers than focusing on what can’t be done and criticism. In the above case, the initial rendering of the problem focused on blaming the reader for what they did wrong and on the impasse of the situation with the contract. The improved version corrects this because it skips the fault-finding criticism and instead moves directly to what good things will happen if the reader does what needs to be done. The reader of the second sentence will associate you with the feeling of being pleased by the taste of the carrot rather than smarting from the whack of the stick.

The flipside of this stylistic preference involves replacing negative words with positive words unless you have an important reason for not being nice. Being vigilantly kind in this way takes some practice, not because you’re a bad person, but because your writing habits may not reflect your kindness in writing. Vigilance here means being on the lookout whenever you’re tempted to use the following words or their like in situations that aren’t too dire:

  • can’t/cannot
  • disappointing
  • fail/failure
  • fault/faulty
  • poor/poorly
  • substandard
  • unfortunate/unfortunately

Rather than shaming the author of a report by saying that their document is terrible, for instance, calling it “improvable” and pointing out what exactly they can do to fix it respects the author’s feelings and motivates them to improve the report better than what you really want to say in a passing moment of disappointment. Of course, taking this advice to its extreme by considering it a hard-and-fast rule will obviously destroy good writing by hindering your range of expression. You’ll notice that this textbook uses many of the above words when necessary. In any case, make it a habit to use positive words instead of negative ones if it’s clear that doing so will result in a more positive outcome.

On its own, translating a single sentence like the one exemplified above will likely not have a lasting effect; over time, however, a habitual focus on negative outcomes and use of negative language will result in people developing a dislike for dealing with you and, by association, the company you represent. If you make a habit of writing in positive words most of the time and use negative words only in situations where they’re necessary, on the other hand, you stand a good chance of being well liked. People will enjoy working with or for you, which ensures continued positive relations as well as opens the door to other opportunities.

6. Convincing and Confident

When all the other aspects of style described above are working in concert, and when the information your writing presents comes from sound sources, it naturally acquires an air of confidence that is highly convincing to readers. That confidence is contagious if you are rightfully confident in your information or argument, decisive in your diction, and avoid lapsing into wishy-washy, noncommittal indecision by overusing weak words and expressions like:

  • approximately
  • could (have)
  • kind of / kinda
  • sort of / sorta
  • should (have)
  • thereabouts
  • -y (e.g., orange-y)

These timid, vapid words are death to any sales message especially. This is not to say that your writing can’t err toward overconfidence through lapses in judgment or haughtiness. If you apply the same rigor in argument and persuasion that you do in selecting for quality research sources that are themselves well reasoned, however, by considering a topic holistically rather than simplistically for the sake of advancing a narrowminded position, it’s easy to get readers to comprehend your information share, follow your instruction, buy what you’re selling, and so on.

2. Find examples of past emails or other documents you’ve written that make you cringe, perhaps even high school essays or reports. Identify instances where they are unclear, unnecessarily longwinded, incoherent (lacking both a clear organizational pattern and transitions that drive the argument along), rife with writing errors, rude, and/or unconvincing. Assess and score those specimens using your six-Cs rubric from Exercise 1 above. Begin to think of how you would improve them.

3. Find a professionally written document, perhaps from a case study in another class. Assess it using the same six-Cs scoring rubric.

4. Speed-write a written assignment that you’ve been recently assigned in one of the other courses in your program. If you’re not fast at typing (or even if you are and want to try something new), you may start by recording your message into your smartphone’s or computer’s voice recorder app or program and then transcribe it. Ensure that your style hits five of the six style Cs (clarity, conciseness, coherence, courtesy, and conviction) as you write and most definitely do not correct as you go.

Caramela, S. (2018, February 5). Put a smiley on it: Should you use emojis in business communication? Business.com . Retrieved from https://www.business.com/articles/put-an-emoji-on-it-should-you-use-emojis-in-business-communication/

Goodman, S. (2016, November 23). And the most enchanting emoji on Instagram is… Curalate . Retrieved from https://www.curalate.com/blog/the-top-100-most-popular-instagram-emojis/

Gray, D. (2011, November 27). Carrot-and-stick management. Retrieved from https://www.flickr.com/photos/davegray/6416285269/

Me.me. (n.d.). Sometimes I use big words I don’t fully understand in an effort to make my self sound more photosynthesis. Retrieved from https://me.me/i/11273424

Pringle, R. (2017, May 26). Using the wrong emoji can cost you—literally. CBC News . Retrieved from http://www.cbc.ca/news/opinion/emoji-lawsuit-1.4131697

Pringle, R. (2018, March 18). Emojis are everywhere and they’re changing how we communicate. CBC News . Retrieved from http://www.cbc.ca/news/technology/emojis-forever-pringle-1.4577456

Section 4.6 Learning Objectives

4. Apply the principles of reader-friendly document design to various written formats.

The responsibility of a writer to produce reader-friendly documents extends to layout, design, and organizational elements surrounding the words themselves. If an email or report were simply a wall of undifferentiated text running for several screens or pages, any reader would be daunted by the prospect of having to scale that wall. Fortunately, writers can use document templates that make those design choices for them with established styles so that writing a document becomes a matter of just filling in the blanks; if you work for a company that uses templates for certain documents, of course you will use them also for consistency and your own convenience. Even without templates, however, you can use several techniques to help guide your readers’ eyes across the page or screen to easily find what they’re looking for. Rather than being optional nice-to-haves, such techniques are crucially important to how well your document is received.

4.6.1: Titles

4.6.2: headings and subheadings, 4.6.3: font, 4.6.4: line spacing, 4.6.5: lists, 4.6.6: visual aids, 4.6.7: interactive elements, 4.6.8: balancing text and whitespace.

  • 4.6.9: Making Accessible, ADA-Compliant Documents

Almost every document that exists as a standalone unit must have a title that accurately represents its contents in a nutshell. It’s the first thing a reader looks for to understand what a document is all about and should thus be easily found centered at the top of the first page of any small document and prominently placed on the cover of larger documents. Though some documents represent exceptions to this rule (e.g., business letters lack titles, and many lack subject lines), any document that brings with it the expectation of a title but omits it confuses the reader. Even emails and memos have titles in the form of subject lines. In whatever document you find it, a title’s following characteristics make it essential to your reader’s understanding of the whole:

  • Topic summary: A title is the most concise summary possible of a topic while still making sense. If you glance at a news website or newspaper, for instance, you can get a reasonably good sense of what’s going on in the world just by reading the headlines because they are titles that, in as few words as possible, summarize the narratives told in the articles that follow.
  • Conciseness: Aim for a length in the 2- to 7-word range—something that can be said repeatedly in one short breath. One-word titles are appropriate only for art (e.g., for books, films, songs, albums, etc.), but most other professional documents use a reasonable number of words to give a sense of the topic, albeit streamlined to the point of having no words that don’t absolutely need to be there. In scientific papers, titles can be quite long and carry plenty of detail, though you can expect that their audiences will rarely pronounce the full title.
  • Don’t capitalize prepositions (e.g., on , to , from , in , out , of ), conjunctions ( and , but , or , for , nor , so , yet ), or articles ( the , a , an ) unless they’re the first word of the main title or subtitle (Darling, 2014a, 2014b, 2014c).
  • When including a hyphenated word (i.e., with a compound-modifier hyphen), leave the second word, the one immediately following the hyphen, lowercase (see the first two examples in the titles listed at the end of this subsection).
  • Main title: If your title comes in two parts with a main title and subtitle, the main title establishes the general context of the topic, perhaps with catchy or clever phrasing, and ends with a colon ( : ) with a single space after it but none before.
  • Subtitle: The subtitle follows the main title with a more specific and detailed summary of the document topic.
  • Position: Center the title at the top of the page and include 1–2 empty lines below it to separate it from the opening text.
  • Typeface: Use bold typeface to help draw the eye toward the title, as well as color if appropriate.

For examples of titles that are near at hand, see the References sections at the end of most chapter sections throughout this textbook. The following collects a small selection of them:

  • “Consensus on Consensus: A Synthesis of Consensus Estimates on Human-caused Global Warming” (Cook et al., 2016)
  • “Instagram Ranked Worst for Young People’s Mental Health” (RSPH, 2017)
  • “Gray Matters: Too Much Screen Time Damages the Brain” (Dunckley, 2014)
  • “Ottawa Severs Ties with Plasco as Company Files for Creditor Protection” (Chianello & Pearson, 2015)
  • “Problematic Technology Use: The Impact of Capital Enhancing Activity” (Phillips, 2015)
  • The Process and Effects of Mass Communication (Schramm, 1954)
  • “Understand How Consumers Use Messaging: Global Mobile Messaging Consumer Report 2016” (Twilio, 2016)
  • “Who Multi-tasks and Why? Multi-tasking Ability, Perceived Multi-tasking Ability, Impulsivity, and Sensation Seeking” (Sanbonmatsu et al., 2013)

For more example titles, go to Wikipedia.org and search for articles on any business or technology topic, scroll down to the References section at the bottom, and see an abundance of legitimate titles.

After the main title of a document, using headings and subheadings as titles for sections and subsections helps guide the reader around a document’s breakdown of topics. Especially in reports, headings and subheadings that stand out in bold typeface flush (or close) to the left margin and follow a consistent numbering system, exactly as you see in this textbook, help a busy reader quickly locate any specific content they seek. Even a routine email that covers a topic in so much detail that it could be internally divided—without being so big that its content should just go into a document attachment—would benefit from bolded headings.

If your drafting process follows the guide in this chapter, then you would have already drafted your headings and subheadings (and possibly numbering if necessitated by the size of the document) in your outline (see §4.2 above). The drafting process of fleshing out that outline may suggest tweaks to those heading and subheading titles. As titles, headings must be properly phrased and capitalized like main titles (see §4.6.1 above).

When using a word processor such as Microsoft Word, you can achieve additional functionality by using “true headings.” From the Home menu tool ribbon, heading styles are available as options in the Styles section. If you prefer to design your own styles of headings, you can click on the downward triangle at the bottom right of the style examples field and select “Create a Style.” Doing this allows you to see your entire document at a glance on the left and quickly jump to any section you wish by clicking on the Navigation Pane checkbox in the Show section of the View menu tool ribbon (or Alt + w, k), then clicking on the heading for the section you want. This is especially useful in larger documents like reports. Additionally, using such headings makes your document accessible to audiences with assistive technologies such as screen readers (see §4.6.9 below on ADA compliance). Manipulating font sizes in headings and sub-headings indicates the relative hierarchy of information conveyed in a document.

Font selection is an important consideration because it determines how the audience will receive a document. Font involves decisions concerning the style of type, size, and even color. Consider the following:

1. Font Type

A list of font styles including: Arial, Garamond, Times New Roman, Verdana and Comic Sans

Anticipate that audiences might care about font choices, especially if the font clashes with the content like the example above. To anyone who considers the effects that fonts have on an audience, even going with the Microsoft Word default font of Calibri has its dangers because it comes off looking lazy, being the non-choice of those who never consider the importance of font. At the other extreme, digging around for and using exotic fonts for a document is risky because they can look flakey, such as Papyrus or Copperplate (Butterick, 2013) . Even if they look nice, however, the receiver opening the document on the other end may not have that font in their word processor program, requiring that program to substitute it with another font, which may look worse or mangle layouts arranged around that font. The safe bet, then, is always to go with familiar, respectable-looking serif or sans serif fonts like those identified at the top of this subsection.

2. Font Size

Size is another important consideration because readers depend on text being an ideal “Goldilocks” size for readability and are frustrated by font sizes that are bigger or smaller than that. In a standard written document, for instance, a 12-point Arial or Times New Roman is the Goldilocks size. If the MS Word default size when you open a blank document is 11-point, it’s worth increasing it for the sake of those who have slight visual impairment. Increasing the size much past 12-point has a similar effect as using the Comic Sans font type: it makes your document appear to be targeting an audience of children. Of course, situations where you want to increase the font size abound, such as for titles on title pages so that the eye is drawn immediately to them and any time readers are required to read at a distance, such as posters on a notice board or presentation slides.

Occasions for going smaller with your font size include footnotes in a report or source credits under images in a document or PowerPoint presentation. Decreasing font size to 8-point merely to get all your text to fit into a one-page résumé, however, would undermine the document’s purpose because, by frustrating the hiring manager trying to read it, it runs the risk of prompting them to just dump it in the shredder and move on to the next (hopefully reader-friendly) résumé. In such cases, choosing the right font size becomes a major life decision. Whatever the situation, strike a balance between meeting the needs of the reader to see the text and design considerations.

3. Font Color

A choice of color may also enter into document design considerations, in which case, again, the needs of the reader must be accommodated. Used appropriately, a touch of color can draw the eye to important text. Coloring your name red at the top of your résumé is effective if few or no other elements in the document are so colored because your name is essentially the title of your document. Likewise, coloring the title of other documents is effective if there are no expectations of doing otherwise (some style guidelines forbid color).

Any use of color for text must be high-contrast enough to be readable. The gold standard for high-contrast readability is black text on a white background. Gray-on-white, on the other hand, sacrifices readability for stylishness depending on how light the shade of gray is. A light-yellow text on a white background is nearly impossible to read. In all cases, the readability of the text should be considered not just for those with perfect vision but especially for those who find themselves anywhere on the spectrum of visual impairment. For this reason, color should always be used to enhance a document that is already perfectly organized without it; never use color coding alone as an organizing principle in a document read by anyone other than you because you can never be sure if some readers will be color blind or have other visual impairments that render that color coding useless as a cause for confusion.

4. Boldface, Italics, and Underlining

Boldface , italics , and underlining serve various purposes in focusing audience attention on certain words. Boldface type is especially helpful in directing audience eyes toward titles, headings, and keywords as you can see at the beginning of this paragraph and throughout this textbook. Highlighting in this way is especially helpful to anyone who is visually impaired in any degree. Of course, overusing boldface undermines its impact, so it should be used sparingly and strategically. Likewise, italics and underlining have very specific purposes that we will look at under the banner of mechanics in Chapter 5.

Single-spaced lines are common to most documents because they accommodate the reader’s need to dart quickly to the next line to continue reading a sentence. The gap between 1.0-spaced lines is just enough to clearly separate one line from another so the hanging elements at the bottom of letters like j and g don’t interfere with the tops of uppercase letters on the line below. Some documents such as academic manuscripts are double-spaced to give readers, who are usually the instructors or teaching assistants grading them, enough space to write comments and editorial marks between the lines. Because doubling the line spacing also doubles the number of pages in a print version, avoid double-spacing documents for audiences who don’t explicitly require it.

Frustratingly, some word processors such as Microsoft Word open blank pages with line spacing values other than single (1.0) spacing as their default setting, such as 1.08 or 1.15. In such cases, a couple of adjustments are necessary if you want to single-space a document you’re writing from scratch. Make these adjustments as soon as you open a blank page or by highlighting all (Ctrl + a) if you’ve already started. In MS Word’s Home menu:

Screen shot of Microsoft Office Toolbar showing where line spacing can be found

  • Select 1.0 from the drop-down menu or Line Spacing Options from the same to open the Paragraph control panel and select Single from the Line Spacing drop-down menu in the Spacing section.
  • Perform the same two steps as above to get the Line and Paragraph Spacing drop-down menu and select Remove Space After Paragraph or, from the Paragraph control panel, click on the “Don’t add space between paragraphs of the same style” checkbox and the Okay button at the bottom to apply the style.

The third action above prevents MS Word from adding a full line of space every time you hit Enter at the end of a line. When typing address lines for a letter without the “Don’t add space” checkbox ticked, for instance, the default line spacing will continue to look like double spacing even if you set the line spacing to single.

Justification should ideally be left as the default left-aligned or “Left-justified / ragged right.” This means that all lines are flush to the left margin and the lines end wherever the last full word fits before the right margin sends (or “wraps”) the next word down to the next line, making each line vary in length so the right margin looks “ragged,” as you can see throughout this textbook. This is usually preferable to “justifying” both the left and right edges of the text so that they align perfectly along both the left and right margins, as in the paragraph below. While this may look clean like newspapers often do with their columns, it does so by adding space between the words within each line, and since every line varies in length without justification, every line with it will vary in the amount of space added between words. Some lines that would be short without justification look awkward with it because the space between some words is greater than the span of small words.

To fix the “hockey teeth” gaps resulting from justification, such as what you see in parts of this paragraph, turn on hyphenation in MS Word via the Layout tool ribbon: select Automatic in the Hyphenation drop-down menu in the Page Setup section. This automatically adds hyphens between syllables of long words whose size and position at the end of a line would otherwise send them entirely to the beginning of the next line, decreasing the number of words in the line above and increasing the gap between each. If working in a company document template with justification, keep the justification throughout to be stylistically consistent with other documents produced in that template and ensure that the hyphenation is turned on (unlike this paragraph). Otherwise, left-aligned text is perfectly fine and may even help readers find their place if they lose it momentarily compared with the uniform brick-wall effect of justified text seen here.

Screenshot of Microsoft Word tool bar showing justification icons

Figure 4.6.4b: Where to click to select text justification or left-aligned (“ragged right”) text in the MS Word Home menu tool ribbon

Another technique that helps the reader skim and easily find sought-after content is numbered or bulleted lists for a series of discreet but related items. Whether you use numbered or bulleted lists depends on your organizing principle:

You’ve seen numbered and bulleted lists used throughout this textbook (e.g., the two bulleted lists immediately above and a numbered one in the section prior to this). Whichever list type you use, ensure each has the following:

  • A sentence or phrase introducing and explaining the list and ending with a colon (see Colon Rule 1 in Chapter 5) before delivering the list immediately below it as you can see in the sentence that introduces this list
  • Capitalization of the first letter in each point
  • Periods ending each point only if it is a complete sentence on its own, whether it be in the declarative, imperative, or any other mood; a list of nouns or noun phrases, on the other hand, doesn’t end in periods
  • Parallelism in the sense that each point in a list follows the same grammatical pattern, such as only full sentences, only noun phrases, or only verb phrases (or imperative sentences); for instance, each point in the three bulleted lists in this section (including the present one) is a noun phrase (i.e., it begins with a noun) and the numbered list in §4.6.4 above, as a step-by-step procedure, is a sequence of imperative sentences (i.e., each begins with a verb: “Click,” “Select,” “Perform”)

The need for parallelism extends also to lists within a sentence.

The cliché that a picture is worth a thousand words holds true because images are excellent aids to understanding when placed near the messages they illustrate. Just as the visual elements in this textbook support and reinforce the content, so photos, graphics, charts, and graphs provide readers something that can be understood and remembered at a glance—as long as those visuals are used appropriately. Of course, the main criterion for usability is if the image helps the reader understand the text better. If the image is complementary, it can only help. If it is unnecessary, confusing, or contradicts the text, however, the image isn’t worth the time and effort it takes to add it to your document. When considering using an image, ask yourself:

  • Does the image look good?
  • Are the colors complementary?
  • Is the image resolution of sufficiently high quality?
  • Or is it too pixelated to use?
  • Does the image’s copyright license permit or forbid use by others?
  • Am I using the image for educational or commercial purposes?
  • Is it big enough to see?
  • Is it placed appropriately?

The ideal size depends on the resolution, detail of the content, relative importance, and the use to which the document will be put. The following guidelines help ensure that the images you use will meet aesthetic, design, technical, and legal expectations:

  • Choose images that look like they were produced by professional photographers, illustrators, or graphic designers—the sort you would see in a magazine or professional industry website.
  • Professionals usually produce images with a limited palette of colors that work well together.
  • Use images that are in focus and well-framed with the central image clearly visible rather than too far in the background or so close that important aspects are cropped out.
  • An image or graphic that is crucial to the reader’s understanding and is highly detailed really deserves to stretch across the text block from margin to margin.
  • An image that is more ornamental and relatively simple can be inset within the text either on the left or right margin or centered on the page without text on either side.
  • Important images, especially those labeled as figures, must be placed as near as possible to the text they support and even referred to in the text (“See Figure 2 for an illustration of . . .”)
  • Ensure that the text and corresponding image aren’t separated by a page break if the text is close to the top or bottom of the page. The reader’s eye must be able to move between the image and corresponding text in the same field of view to seal their understanding.
  • Screen resolution must be at least 72 dpi (dots per inch), the internet standard; anything less than 72 may appear pixelated even on the screen, especially if maximized in size across the page.
  • Images in documents that will be printed should be 300 dpi to avoid appearing pixelated on paper.
  • Preferred image file types include JPEG (.jpg) and PNG (.png). The latter includes the possibility of contouring so that the image doesn’t necessarily have to be a square or rectangle. You can make a PNG image file of your handwritten and scanned signature, for instance, by erasing the white background around the pen strokes in Photoshop and saving the image as a PNG. That way, you can drag and drop your signature onto a signature line in an electronic document and it won’t block out the line underneath if your signature typically sprawls out over lines.
  • Click on the Settings spring-up menu at the bottom right.
  • Select Advanced Search.
  • Scroll down and click on the “usage rights” drop-down menu at the bottom.
  • Select “free to use or share” or whatever licensing status suits your purposes.
  • Otherwise, you can acquire the right to use images for commercial purposes by purchasing them from stock photo vendors such as Getty Images , Adobe Stock , or Shutterstock .

With modern word processors, placing an image is as easy as dragging and dropping the image file from a folder into a document (or copying and pasting). Sometimes you will need to be a little craftier with capturing images, however. For instance, if you need to capture a still image of a YouTube video to use as an image such as you see near the end of §4.3.4 above, you can pause the video at the moment you would like to capture and use your computer’s screen-capturing program to get the image.

  • Open the included Snipping Tool (Microsoft Support, 2017) to turn the cursor into crosshairs.
  • Click and drag the crosshairs to select the desired portion of the screen for capturing; when you release the cursor, the captured image will open immediately in the clipboard. Ensure that you’ve included only the elements necessary, rather than the whole screen, plus a short span of margin on each side.
  • Save the image in a folder from the clipboard or add it directly to the document by switching immediately to the document window (Alt + tab) and pasting it (Ctrl + v) wherever you’ve placed your cursor.
  • On a Mac, use Shift + Command + 4 and use the crosshairs to select the desired portion of the screen (Apple Support, 2017) .

Once your image is in your document, use the layout options to place it where appropriate. Clicking on it may produce a layout icon near the top right that you can click on to open the drop-down menu (alternatively, you can right-click on the image and select the Wrap Text option from the drop-down menu). The default setting left-justifies the image and displaces the text around where you put it, but other layout options allow you to place it elsewhere on the page so that your text wraps around it (“Square,” “Tight,” or “Through”) or so that text doesn’t move around it at all (“Behind” or “In front of text”), which gives you the freedom to move the image anywhere.

Another aid to understanding that can benefit readers of an online or electronic document is a weblink that provides them with the option of accessing other online media. Hyperlinking is easy in modern word processors and online applications such as websites and email simply by highlighting text or clicking on an image and activating the hyperlinking feature. Press the control and k keys simultaneously (Ctrl + k), paste the web address into the URL field (copy it by clicking on the web address bar or keying Alt + d, then Ctrl + c), and hit the Okay button (Microsoft Office Support, 2016) . Users prefer links that open new tabs in their browser rather than take them away entirely, so seek out that option when hyperlinking. By doing this for an image of a YouTube video screenshot, for instance, you enable readers of a document (including a PowerPoint presentation) to link directly to that video in YouTube (as you can with the YouTube image near the end of §4.3.4 above) rather than embed a large video file in your document. You can additionally link to other areas within a document, as the document version of this textbook does with links to various sections like the one in the previous sentence.

Another consideration that helps a reader find their way around a page is the balance of text and whitespace, which is simply a gap unoccupied by text or graphic elements. The enemy of readability is a wall of text that squeezes out any whitespace, whereas a well-designed document uses whitespace to usher the reader’s eyes toward units of text. Whitespace margins frame the text in a document, for instance, as well as give readers something to hold on to so that they don’t cover up any text with their thumbs. Margins should be 3 cm or 1″ (2.54 cm), which are the default margin sizes in most word processors’ (e.g., Microsoft Word’s) blank 8.5″×11″ document. Margins also focus attention on the text itself, which makes any crowding of the margins an offense to good design. An attempt to cram more information into a one-page résumé by edging further and further into the margins, for instance, follows the law of diminishing returns: the hiring manager might take your sacrifice of the document’s readability as a sign of selfishness—that you place your own needs above that of your audience, which suggests you would do the same to the customers and management if it suited you.

4.6.9: Making Accessible, ADA-compliant Documents

The Americans with Disabili ties Act  sets out guidelines for how workplaces can help people with disabilities, including accommodations that extend to document design. Many of the recommendations covered in the sections throughout §4.6 above, such as font size and color, are justified as accommodations to people with even mild visual impairment. Someone with color blindness, for instance, may be confused if you use colored text alone as an organizing principle, which is why you should use color only to enhance text readability while using other means of organization such as boldface type. Not only must you accommodate such individuals, but also those whose severity of impairment requires that they use assistive technologies such as screen readers that convert text to automated voice. The more straightforward your text is presented, as well as formatted with “true headings” that a screen reader can identify as headings, the easier a person with a disability can hear and understand your message when it’s read out by a screen reader.

Once you are done drafting your document, you can begin to check for any accessibility issues and act on them right away. In MS Word, just go to File and, in the Info tab, select the “Check for Issues” button in the Inspect Document section. It will identify accessibility problems in your document as well as suggest fixes (watch the video below for a demonstration). For instance, if you have a photo without alt text, it will prompt you to write a caption by right-clicking on the image, selecting “Edit Alt Text…” from the drop-down menu, and writing a one- or two-sentence description of the image so that users with screen readers will be able to hear a description of the image they can’t see very well or at all. See Create Accessible Documents for more on how to make your documents ADA compliant.

2. Take any multi-page assignment you’ve done in MS Word that also includes non-text elements like photos. Run an accessibility check on it using the procedure described in §4.6.9 above and fix the issues identified.

3. Produce a dummy document that follows guidelines in each of the §4.6 subsections above. The content doesn’t matter as much as the inclusion of features. Ensure that it has:

  • A proper title
  • Some headings and subheadings
  • A well-chosen font
  • Single-spacing (1.0 with the “Don’t add space” checkbox checked)
  • A numbered and a bulleted list
  • A properly labeled image
  • A hyperlink
  • Nicely balanced text
  • An accessibility check that you act upon by following the recommended fixes for ADA-compliant whitespace and text

Academic Algonquin. (2013, July 29). Using the accessibility checker [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=62&v=mSY2EyA0rH4

Apple Support. (2017, November 20). How to take a screenshot on your Mac. Retrieved from https://support.apple.com/en-ca/HT201361

Butterick, M. (2013). Bad fonts. Practical Typography . Retrieved from https://practicaltypography.com/bad-fonts.html

Microsoft Office Support. (2016, September 7). Create or edit a hyperlink. Retrieved from https://support.office.com/en-us/article/create-or-edit-a-hyperlink-5d8c0804-f998-4143-86b1-1199735e07bf

Microsoft Support. (2017, April 26). Use Snipping Tool to capture screenshots. Retrieved from https://support.microsoft.com/en-ca/help/13776/windows-use-snipping-tool-to-capture-screenshots

Section508.gov. Create Accessible Documents. Retrieved from https://www.section508.gov/create/documents/

Chapter 4: The Writing Process—Drafting Copyright © 2022 by Sumita Roy is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License , except where otherwise noted.

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2.4: Introduction to the Three-Part Writing Process

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What you’ll learn to do: Identify the three parts of the writing process

Writing a message that is consistently well received can become a habit, but it can be hard for new writers to achieve. The three part writing process ensures the best outcome each time.

writing process business communication

Good writers plan their messages, often using an outline or notes made before writing the message. Lack of a plan before writing may seem  to save a writer time, but it can confuse the writer once she begins, and it slows the receiver. The communication will not be at its best that way. This module discusses how to improve speed and clarity in communication. With a solid outline, the actual writing focuses on phrasing and word choice. This module discusses how to word the message with a you-view. Finally, the message is reviewed and revised. This module provides the final clean-up tools to help you proofread during the revising step.

Contributors and Attributions

  • Introduction to the Three-Part Writing Process. Authored by : Susan Kendall. Provided by : Lumen Learning. License : CC BY: Attribution

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Chapter 1: Effective Business Communication

Venecia Williams

Learning Objectives

  • Examine the importance of being a good communicator
  • Define the communication process
  • Explain 8 essential components of communication
  • Discuss the role of ethics in communication

Communication is an activity, skill, and art that incorporates lessons learned across a wide spectrum of human knowledge. Perhaps the most time-honoured form of communication is storytelling. We’ve told each other stories for ages to help make sense of our world, anticipate the future, and certainly to entertain ourselves. The art of storytelling draws on your understanding of yourself, your message, and how you communicate it to an audience that is simultaneously communicating back to you. Your anticipation, reaction, and adaptation to the process will determine how successfully you are able to communicate. You were not born knowing how to write or even how to talk—but in the process of growing up, you have undoubtedly learned how to tell, and how not tell, a story out loud and in writing.

Effective communication takes preparation, practice, and persistence. There are many ways to learn communication skills; the school of experience, or “hard knocks,” is one of them. But in the business environment, a “knock” (or lesson learned) may come at the expense of your credibility through a blown presentation to a client. The classroom environment, with a compilation of information and resources such as a text, can offer you a trial run where you get to try out new ideas and skills before you have to use them to communicate effectively to make a sale or form a new partnership. Listening to yourself, or perhaps the comments of others may help you reflect on new ways to present or perceive, thoughts, ideas and concepts. The net result is your growth; ultimately your ability to communicate in business will improve, opening more doors than you might anticipate.

Importance of Good Communication Skills

Communication is key to your success—in relationships, in the workplace, as a citizen of your country, and across your lifetime. Your ability to communicate comes from experience, and experience can be an effective teacher, but this text and the related business communication course will offer you a wealth of experiences gathered from professional speakers across their lifetimes. You can learn from the lessons they’ve learned and be a more effective communicator right out of the gate.

Business communication can be thought of as a problem-solving activity in which individuals may address the following questions:

  • What is the situation?
  • What are some possible communication strategies?
  • What is the best course of action?
  • What is the best way to design the chosen message?
  • What is the best way to deliver the message?

In this book, we will examine this problem-solving process and help you learn to apply it in the kinds of situations you are likely to encounter over the course of your career.

Communication Influences Your Thinking about Yourself and Others

We all share a fundamental drive to communicate. Communication can be defined as the process of understanding and sharing meaning (Pearson & Nelson, 2000). You share meaning in what you say and how you say it, both in oral and written forms. If you could not communicate, what would life be like? A series of never-ending frustrations? Not being able to ask for what you need or even to understand the needs of others?

Being unable to communicate might even mean losing a part of yourself, for you communicate your  self-concept —your sense of self and awareness of who you are—in many ways. Do you like to write? Do you find it easy to make a phone call to a stranger or to speak to a room full of people? Perhaps someone told you that you don’t speak clearly or your grammar needs improvement. Does that make you more or less likely to want to communicate? For some, it may be a positive challenge, while for others it may be discouraging. But in all cases, your ability to communicate is central to your self-concept.

Take a look at your clothes. What are the brands you are wearing? What do you think they say about you? Do you feel that certain styles of shoes, jewelry, tattoos, music, or even automobiles express who you are? Part of your self-concept may be that you express yourself through texting, or through writing longer documents like essays and research papers, or through the way you speak.

On the other side of the coin, your communications skills help you to understand others—not just their words, but also their tone of voice, their nonverbal gestures, or the format of their written documents provide you with clues about who they are and what their values and priorities may be. Active listening and reading are also part of being a successful communicator.

Communication Influences How You Learn

When you were an infant, you learned to talk over a period of many months. When you got older, you didn’t learn to ride a bike, drive a car, or even text a message on your cell phone in one brief moment. You need to begin the process of improving your speaking and writing with the frame of mind that it will require effort, persistence, and self-correction.

You learn to speak in public by first having conversations, then by answering questions and expressing your opinions in class, and finally by preparing and delivering a “stand-up” speech. Similarly, you learn to write by first learning to read, then by writing and learning to think critically. Your speaking and writing are reflections of your thoughts, experience, and education. Part of that combination is your level of experience listening to other speakers, reading documents and styles of writing, and studying formats similar to what you aim to produce.

As you study business communication, you may receive suggestions for improvement and clarification from speakers and writers more experienced than yourself. Take their suggestions as challenges to improve; don’t give up when your first speech or first draft does not communicate the message you intend. Stick with it until you get it right. Your success in communicating is a skill that applies to almost every field of work, and it makes a difference in your relationships with others.

Remember, luck is simply a combination of preparation and timing. You want to be prepared to communicate well when given the opportunity. Each time you do a good job, your success will bring more success.

Communication Represents You and Your Employer

You want to make a good first impression on your friends and family, instructors, and employer. They all want you to convey a positive image, as it reflects on them. In your career, you will represent your business or company in spoken and written form. Your professionalism and attention to detail will reflect positively on you and set you up for success.

In both oral and written situations, you will benefit from having the ability to communicate clearly. These are skills you will use for the rest of your life. Positive improvements in these skills will have a positive impact on your relationships, your prospects for employment, and your ability to make a difference in the world.

Communication Skills Are Desired by Business and Industry

Oral and written communication proficiencies are consistently ranked in the top ten desirable skills by employer surveys year after year. In fact, high-powered business executives sometimes hire consultants to coach them in sharpening their communication skills. According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers (2018), the following are the top five personal qualities or skills potential employers seek:

  • Communication skills (verbal and written)
  • Strong work ethic
  • Teamwork skills (works well with others, group communication)
  • Analytical skills

Knowing this, you can see that one way for you to be successful and increase your promotion potential is to increase your abilities to speak and write effectively. An individual with excellent communication skills is an asset to every organization. No matter what career you plan to pursue, learning to express yourself professionally in speech and in writing will help you get there.

What is Communication?

Many theories have been proposed to describe, predict, and understand the behaviours and phenomena of which communication consists. When it comes to communicating in business, we are often less interested in theory than in making sure our communications generate the desired results. But in order to achieve results, it can be valuable to understand what communication is and how it works. All communication is composed of three parts that make a whole: sharing, understanding, and meaning.

Sharing  means doing something together with one or more person(s). In communication, sharing occurs when you convey thoughts, feelings, ideas, or insights to others. You also share with yourself (a process called intrapersonal communication) when you bring ideas to consciousness, ponder how you feel about something, figure out the solution to a problem, or have a classic “Aha!” moment when something becomes clear.

The second keyword is understanding . “To understand is to perceive, to interpret, and to relate our perception and interpretation to what we already know.” (McLean, 2003) Understanding the words and the concepts or objects they refer to is an important part of the communication process.

Finally,  meaning  is what you share through communication. For example, by looking at the context of a word, and by asking questions, you can discover the shared meaning of the word and better understand the message.

Watch the following video reviewing Types of Communication

  • Interpersonal communication is any message exchanged between two or more people.
  • Written communication is any message using the written word.
  • Verbal, or oral, communication is any message conveyed through speech.
  • Nonverbal communication is any message inferred through observation of another person.

Communications Process: Encoding and Decoding

In basic terms, humans communicate through a process of  encoding  and  decoding . The encoder is the person who develops and sends the message. As represented in Figure 1.1 below, the encoder must determine how the message will be received by the audience, and make adjustments so the message is received the way they want it to be received.

Encoding is the process of turning thoughts into communication. The encoder uses a ‘medium’ to send the message — a phone call, email, text message, face-to-face meeting, or other communication tools. The level of conscious thought that goes into encoding messages may vary. The encoder should also take into account any ‘noise’ that might interfere with their message, such as other messages, distractions, or influences.

The audience then ‘decodes’, or interprets, the message for themselves.  Decoding  is the process of turning communication into thoughts. For example, you may realize you’re hungry and encode the following message to send to your roommate: “I’m hungry. Do you want to get pizza tonight?” As your roommate receives the message, they decode your communication and turn it back into thoughts to make meaning.

writing process business communication

Of course, you don’t just communicate verbally—you have various options, or channels, for communication. Encoded messages are sent through a channel, or a sensory route, on which a message travels to the receiver for decoding. While communication can be sent and received using any sensory route (sight, smell, touch, taste, or sound), most communication occurs through visual (sight) and/or auditory (sound) channels. If your roommate has headphones on and is engrossed in a video game, you may need to get their attention by waving your hands before you can ask them about dinner.

The  transmission model of communication describes communication as a linear, one-way process in which a sender intentionally transmits a message to a receiver (Ellis & McClintock, 1990). This model focuses on the sender and message within a communication encounter. Although the receiver is included in the model, this role is viewed as more of a target or endpoint rather than part of an ongoing process. You are left to presume that the receiver either successfully receives and understands the message or does not. Think of how a radio message is sent from a person in the radio studio to you listening in your car. The sender is the radio announcer who encodes a verbal message that is transmitted by a radio tower through electromagnetic waves (the channel) and eventually reaches your (the receiver’s) ears via an antenna and speakers in order to be decoded. The radio announcer doesn’t really know if you receive their message or not, but if the equipment is working and the channel is free of static, then there is a good chance that the message was successfully received.

The  interaction model  of communication describes communication as a process in which participants alternate positions as sender and receiver and generate meaning by sending messages and receiving feedback within physical and psychological contexts (Schramm, 1997). Rather than illustrating communication as a linear, one-way process, the interaction model incorporates feedback, which makes communication a more interactive, two-way process. Feedback includes messages sent in response to other messages. For example, your instructor may respond to a point you raise during class discussion or you may point to the sofa when your roommate asks you where the remote control is. The inclusion of a feedback loop also leads to a more complex understanding of the roles of participants in a communication encounter. Rather than having one sender, one message, and one receiver, this model has two sender-receivers who exchange messages. Each participant alternates roles as sender and receiver in order to keep a communication encounter going. Although this seems like a perceptible and deliberate process, you alternate between the roles of sender and receiver very quickly and often without conscious thought.

The  transaction model  of communication describes communication as a process in which communicators generate social realities within social, relational, and cultural contexts. In this model, you don’t just communicate to exchange messages; you communicate to create relationships, form intercultural alliances, shape your self-concepts, and engage with others in dialogue to create communities. In short, you don’t communicate about your realities; communication helps to construct your realities (and the realities of others).

The roles of sender and receiver in the transaction model of communication differ significantly from the other models. Instead of labelling participants as senders and receivers, the people in a communication encounter are referred to as communicators. Unlike the interaction model, which suggests that participants alternate positions as sender and receiver, the transaction model suggests that you are simultaneously a sender and a receiver. For example, when meeting a new friend, you send verbal messages about your interests and background, your companion reacts nonverbally. You don’t wait until you are done sending your verbal message to start receiving and decoding the nonverbal messages of your new friend. Instead, you are simultaneously sending your verbal message and receiving your friend’s nonverbal messages. This is an important addition to the model because it allows you to understand how you are able to adapt your communication—for example, adapting a verbal message—in the middle of sending it based on the communication you are simultaneously receiving from your communication partner.

Eight Essential Components of Communication

The communication process can be broken down into a series of eight essential components, each of which serves an integral function in the overall process:



The source imagines, creates, and sends the message. The source encodes the message by choosing just the right order or the best words to convey the intended meaning and presents or sends the information to the audience (receiver). By watching for the audience’s reaction, the source perceives how well they received the message and responds with clarification or supporting information.

“The message is the stimulus or meaning produced by the source for the receiver or audience” (McLean, 2005). The message brings together words to convey meaning but is also about how it’s conveyed — through nonverbal cues, organization, grammar, style, and other elements.

“The channel is the way in which a message or messages travel between source and receiver.” (McLean, 2005). Spoken channels include face-to-face conversations, speeches, phone conversations and voicemail messages, radio, public address systems, and Skype. Written channels include letters, memorandums, purchase orders, invoices, newspaper and magazine articles, blogs, email, text messages, tweets, and so forth.

“The receiver receives the message from the source, analyzing and interpreting the message in ways both intended and unintended by the source” (McLean, 2005).

When you respond to the source, intentionally or unintentionally, you are giving feedback. Feedback is composed of messages the receiver sends back to the source. Verbal or nonverbal, all these feedback signals allow the source to see how well, how accurately (or how poorly and inaccurately) the message was received (Leavitt & Mueller, 1951).

“The environment is the atmosphere, physical and psychological, where you send and receive messages” (McLean, 2005). Surroundings, people, animals, technology, can all influence your communication.

“The context of the communication interaction involves the setting, scene, and expectations of the individuals involved” (McLean, 2005). A professional communication context may involve business suits (environmental cues) that directly or indirectly influence expectations of language and behaviour among the participants.

Interference, also called noise, can come from any source. “Interference is anything that blocks or changes the source’s intended meaning of the message” (McLean, 2005). This can be external or internal/psychological. Noise interferes with normal encoding and decoding of the message carried by the channel between source and receiver.

Your Responsibilities as a Communicator – 4 tips

Whenever you speak or write in a business environment, you have certain responsibilities to your audience, your employer, and your profession. Your audience comes to you with an inherent set of expectations that is your responsibility to fulfill. The specific expectations may change given the context or environment, but two central ideas will remain: be prepared, and be ethical.


Being prepared means that you have selected a topic appropriate to your audience, gathered enough information to cover the topic well, put your information into a logical sequence, and considered how best to present it.


Being organized involves the steps or points that lead your communication to a conclusion. Once you’ve invested time in researching your topic, you will want to narrow your focus to a few key points and consider how you’ll present them. You also need to consider how to link your main points together for your audience so they can follow your message from point to point.

You need to have a clear idea in your mind of what you want to say before you can say it clearly to someone else. It involves considering your audience, as you will want to choose words and phrases they understand and avoid jargon or slang that may be unfamiliar to them. Clarity also involves presentation and appropriate use of technology.


Concise means to be brief and to the point. In most business communications you are expected to ‘get down to business’ right away. Being prepared includes being able to state your points clearly and support them with trustworthy evidence in a relatively straightforward, linear way. Be concise in your choice of words, organization, and even visual aids. Being concise also involves being sensitive to time constraints. Be prepared to be punctual and adhere to deadlines or time limits. Some cultures also have a less strict interpretation of time schedules and punctuality. While it is important to recognize that different cultures have different expectations, the general rule holds true that good business communication does not waste words or time.

Ethics in Communication

Communicating ethically involves being egalitarian, respectful, and trustworthy—overall, practising the “golden rule” of treating your audience the way you would want to be treated. Communication can move communities, influence cultures, and change history. It can motivate people to take a stand, consider an argument, or purchase a product. The degree to which you consider both the common good and fundamental principles you hold to be true when crafting your message directly relates to how your message will affect others.

The Ethical Communicator Is Egalitarian

The word “egalitarian” comes from the root “equal.” To be egalitarian is to believe in basic equality: that all people should share equally in the benefits and burdens of a society. It means that everyone is entitled to the same respect, expectations, access to information, and rewards of participation in a group. To communicate in an egalitarian manner, speak and write in a way that is comprehensible and relevant to all your listeners or readers, not just those who are ‘like you’ in terms of age, gender, race or ethnicity, or other characteristics. In business, an effective communicator seeks to unify the audience by using ideas and language that are appropriate for all the message’s readers or listeners.

The Ethical Communicator Is Respectful

People are influenced by emotions as well as logic. The ethical communicator will be passionate and enthusiastic without being disrespectful. Losing one’s temper and being abusive are generally regarded as showing a lack of professionalism (and could even involve legal consequences for you or your employer). When you disagree strongly with a coworker, feel deeply annoyed with a difficult customer, or find serious fault with a competitor’s product, it is important to express such sentiments respectfully.

The Ethical Communicator Is Trustworthy

Trust is a key component in communication, and this is especially true in business. Your goal as a communicator is to build a healthy relationship with your audience and to do that you must show them how they can trust you and why the information you are about to share with them is believable. Your audience will expect that what you say is the truth as you understand it. This means that you have not intentionally omitted, deleted, or taken information out of context simply to prove your points. They will listen to what you say and how you say it, but also to what you don’t say or do. Being worthy of trust is something you earn with an audience. Many wise people have observed that trust is hard to build but easy to lose.

The “Golden Rule”

When in doubt, remember the “golden rule,” which is to treat others the way you would like to be treated. In all its many forms, the golden rule incorporates human kindness, cooperation, and reciprocity across cultures, languages, backgrounds, ad interests. Regardless of where you travel, with whom you communicate or what your audience is like, remember how you would feel if you were on the receiving end of your communication and act accordingly.

Being a good communicator is essential to becoming a successful business person. Therefore, it is important to learn how to communicate well. The first step in that process is understanding what effective communication means. This will help you to evaluate and improve your communication skills.

End of Chapter Activities

1a. thinking about the content.

What are your key takeaways from this chapter? What is something you have learned or something you would like to add from your experience?

1b. Review Questions

Discussion Questions

  • Recall one time you felt offended or insulted in a conversation. What contributed to your perception?
  • When someone lost your trust, were they able to earn it back?
  • Does the communicator have a responsibility to the audience? Does the audience have a responsibility to the speaker? Why or why not?

1c. Applying chapter concepts to a situation

Communicating with a supervisor

Mako is an international student enrolled in a post-degree program in Vancouver. She has been working at a grocery store for the past three months on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays when she doesn’t have class. Mako enjoys working at the grocery store and gets along well with her colleagues and supervisor. Customers often comment on her professionalism and friendliness and she has noticed that her communication skills have improved.

When she applied for the job and filled out her available hours, she made sure to state that she could only work a maximum of 20 hours per week as an international student. She mentioned it once more during the interview and was told it would not be a problem.

Since then her supervisor has asked her to work overtime in a few instances to accommodate a colleague who was running late. That was not a problem. However, recently her supervisor asked if she could pick up an extra shift for two weeks because one colleague was out sick. Mako is not comfortable working so many hours over her maximum, but she is worried her supervisor might be upset and think she is not a team player.

What should Mako do? How should she communicate her decision to her supervisor?

1d. Summary Writing

Read this article from Salesforce.com on the 10 Must-Have Communication Skills for Business Success . Summarize the article and identify which of these skills you would like to improve.

Content Attribution

This chapter contains content from Communication for Business Professionals – Canadian Edition which was adapted from Business Communication for Success in 2013 by  University of Minnesota Libraries Publishing  through the  eLearning Support Initiative . The 2018 revision continues to be licensed with a Creative Commons license (CC BY-NC-SA) following the precedent of a publisher who has requested that they and the original author not receive attribution.

Ellis, R. and Ann McClintock,  You Take My Meaning: Theory into Practice in Human Communication  (London: Edward Arnold, 1990), 71.

Leavitt, H., & Mueller, R. (1951). Some effects of feedback on communication.  Human Relations, 4 , 401–410.

McLean, S. (2003).  The basics of speech communication . Boston, MA: Allyn & Bacon.

McLean, S. (2005).  The basics of interpersonal communication  (p. 10). Boston, MA: Allyn & Bacon.

NACE. (2018). Employers Want to See These Attributes on Students’ Resumes. Retrieved August 26, 2020, from https://www.naceweb.org/talent-acquisition/candidate-selection/employers-want-to-see-these-attributes-on-students-resumes/

Pearson, J. C., & Nelson, P. E. (2000).  An introduction to human communication: understanding and sharing . Boston: McGraw Hill.

Schramm, W.,  The Beginnings of Communication Study in America  (Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 1997).

Video Attribution

This chapter contains the video Types of Communication Interpersonal, Non Verbal, Written Oral Video Lesson Transcript Stud by Zaharul Hafiq from YouTube.com.

Chapter 1: Effective Business Communication by Venecia Williams is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License , except where otherwise noted.

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Business Communication for Success

(39 reviews)

writing process business communication

Copyright Year: 2015

ISBN 13: 9781946135056

Publisher: University of Minnesota Libraries Publishing

Language: English

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writing process business communication

Reviewed by April Schofield, Senior Lecturer and Director, Metropolitan State University of Denver on 7/15/22

This is a very comprehensive textbook and includes over 600 pages of content. It includes the necessary components to help students communicate effectively in business environments. read more

Comprehensiveness rating: 5 see less

This is a very comprehensive textbook and includes over 600 pages of content. It includes the necessary components to help students communicate effectively in business environments.

Content Accuracy rating: 4

The included content is very accurate. There are some areas that need updating to reflect the current business environment.

Relevance/Longevity rating: 3

Since the book was published in 2015, newer concepts are not addressed. For example, how to communicate effectively in virtual meetings or via social channels. The nature of how we communicate has significantly changed since 2015 so any business communication textbook that is older will have similar shortfalls. I do believe this content could be added in standalone sections or chapters.

Clarity rating: 5

The book is conversational and engaging. It is appropriate for an introductory level class and for students from various majors. I think all students could benefit from the communication concepts outlined in this book, not strictly business students.

Consistency rating: 5

The format and writing style are consistent throughout the entire book.

Modularity rating: 5

The book is easily broken up into smaller reading sections. I appreciated the questions to start each chapter, the reviews of important concepts, and the exercises at the end of each chapter. These could be used as classroom conversations, homework assignments, etc.

Organization/Structure/Flow rating: 5

The early chapters are foundational (why communication is important, the science of language and communication), followed by "how to" chapters. The table of contents provides a robust overview of topics, beyond chapter titles.

Interface rating: 5

There are multiple formats available, including PDF, ebook, online, XML, and ODF. I reviewed both the PDF and ebook versions. The various sections in the table of contents are hyperlinked. I found both formats easy to navigate and did not experience any issues.

Grammatical Errors rating: 5

The book is well-written and I did not notice grammatical errors. This is very important for a book focused on communication!

Cultural Relevance rating: 5

Intercultural and international communication is addressed throughout the book and an entire chapter is devoted to the topic.

Reviewed by Heather Leigh Maher, Adjunct Professor, City Colleges of Chicago on 5/31/22

While the book covers many essential topics in detail, others are less updated than is optimal and yet others are intermingled with other chapter headings, making them harder to find than I am used to in this type of textbook (such as more basic... read more

Comprehensiveness rating: 4 see less

While the book covers many essential topics in detail, others are less updated than is optimal and yet others are intermingled with other chapter headings, making them harder to find than I am used to in this type of textbook (such as more basic but important principles, such as audience analysis, which is scattered throughout several other chapters beyond the one titled as containing such information). Some ideas are basic, which is great to cover survey and more advanced courses, but I have a feeling I'd be having students read selections from several chapters for several topics I'm used to having more consolidated. While the table of contents is hyperlinked in the online and PDF versions, there is no index, which makes it tedious to identify every location relevant to a topic without extreme front-loading in course planning. Despite this, if it had more information on electronic elements that have changed the business landscape in the past 10 years or so, it might be worth doing the work--and maybe even supplementing missing items.

Content Accuracy rating: 5

It is accurate, but missing definitions for some jargon that may be hard for brand new business students, while including others when they probably aren't necessary. It seems to be biased only in that it seems to have a very specific student audience in mind, but I cannot for the life of me imagine actually meeting a student with that exact blend of needed and unneeded knowledge in one of my classes. Again, good if you like to customize your reading selections a great deal, but not as great if you're looking for a single text to fill the majority of your course content with only a smaller percentage of supplements from other sources.

Relevance/Longevity rating: 2

The book is already missing any significant content on how technology has massively changed business communication in the past 10 years, and while it mentions it indirectly (basically saying "it's affecting things") in several places, without at least one chapter dedicated to those changes, it seems both incomplete and very hard to update and revise.

Clarity rating: 4

Some jargon isn't given enough context to be clear for the range of learning levels the book attempts to cover (by my assessment), but the prose, while very heavy (minimal application of actual business writing principles in terms of white space and using visuals), is clear and well-edited.

Consistency rating: 2

The writing is consistent, but the level of assumed pre-existing knowledge is not consistent from chapter section to chapter section, or across chapters (some are much more consistent than others). The organizational structure is the weakest element of the book, as I mentioned with overlapping concepts discussed in multiple chapters that are not labeled in ways that would lead a reader--much less a student--to expect to find certain pieces of information in them.

Modularity rating: 2

As mentioned, there's overlap across chapters on topics, but not information, so you really need the whole thing. It's loosely organized into "Business Communication", "Business Writing", "Business Presentations", a bit on rhetoric, and then what feels like the author felt was "left over" in that they are important topics that didn't fit into the original outline? Maybe in a revision? I can only speculate. It also is quite prose-heavy without bread for illustrative graphics, which are always better received at the undergraduate level.

Organization/Structure/Flow rating: 1

One of my comments on "Modularity" is really the core commentary for me on this category, as the structure and organization looked excellent in the chapter titles, but the content proved they were a bit unfocused and, in some cases, misleading as relevant ideas were discussed in completely different sections: "...there's overlap across chapters on topics, but not information, so you really need the whole thing. It's loosely organized into "Business Communication", "Business Writing", "Business Presentations", a bit on rhetoric, and then what feels like the author felt was "left over" in that they are important topics that didn't fit into the original outline? Maybe in a revision? I can only speculate."

Interface rating: 4

The table of contents for the electronic PDF and the online version is all hyperlinked, which is great. The drop-down menus listing sub-sections in the chapters in the online version, is a bit clunky and unintuitive.


Cultural Relevance rating: 2

All inter- and intra-cultural information in smushed into one of the chapters that feels like an afterthought or revision chapter added later. There is no integration of global business communication in any regular manner throughout the text, and exercises (which are weak in general) are very monocultural. It reads like a textbook for upper-middle class white students, written by one just a generation older. This is definitely an area where you'd need to go find another, *much* more detailed and specific source, especially for examples and possible homework exercises or group activities to put into action.

In general, I feel that this book is dated--not as much in content (but technology and non-American business knowledge and potential issues absolutely need a major addition with details and specific information), but in what it appears to emphasize. Perhaps the author was teaching several levels of skill across various classes and wanted one book that they could pick appropriate sections for all of them, or even just to save students even more money, but it reads as poorly organized and needing a major editorial structural overhaul (although I don't think modern editors even do that much work with authors any more). If you are willing to read the entire book, pretty much make your own index for how you want to organize your class, and don't mind supplementing close to half of your readings with outside sources, it could be extremely useful. However, you will definitely need to find the cultural and technological information elsewhere. I have survey-level students who have offered more specific and detailed information on both areas, but I do teach at an extremely diverse college system with many 1st, 1.5, and 2nd generation immigrants, as well as international students, which are excellent resources themselves in these areas.

Reviewed by Jessica Rick, Assistant Professor of Communication Studies, University of Southern Indiana on 5/20/22

This book is a comprehensive look at business and professional communication. It covers almost everything I would cover in my business and professional communication class. I really like the chapter on intercultural and international business... read more

This book is a comprehensive look at business and professional communication. It covers almost everything I would cover in my business and professional communication class. I really like the chapter on intercultural and international business practices as those are two areas often not included in other books.

This book is accurate.

Relevance/Longevity rating: 4

I didn't find many errors, but the definitions and models of communication are outdated. I believe the author could have found more recent definitions, models, and conceptions of communication. I also would have liked to see more of a discussion of organizational communication concepts in business communication.

Students were able to read and understand the book and its contents.

The book uses consistent terms and structure throughout. Previous chapters provide a good scaffolding for later chapters.

Modularity rating: 4

This book is almost too comprehensive that it is hard to navigate. But I do like that I can mix and match different parts of the book to fit my schedule and class content.

Students were able to follow the organization of the book. The numbering system makes it easy for students to find what to read for each class period.

No issues with the interface of the textbook.

No issues with the grammar.

Cultural Relevance rating: 4

Some of the examples could be updated to reflect a more nuanced understanding of a variety of perspectives. But overall, I was pleased with the cultural contexts discussed.

Reviewed by Susan Lantz, Teaching Associate Professor, West Virginia University on 4/25/22

The book is comprehensive. It definitely covers the basics. It covers areas of writing that I might not use for more advanced college writers, but would be absolutely vital for beginning college writers. read more

The book is comprehensive. It definitely covers the basics. It covers areas of writing that I might not use for more advanced college writers, but would be absolutely vital for beginning college writers.

The content was accurate. (Except for the page about web-search engines. . . which was outdated.)

For the most part, the authors/editors did a good job of avoiding language or references that were dated. They might want to revisit the page that lists "Some Examples of Internet Search Sites." They listed "Alta Vista" for example. . . which has since been taken over by Yahoo. They also list sites like dogpile, webcrawler, and The Encyclopedia Britannica. This information was pretty cutting edge in 2002, but times have changed.

The material was well-written, clear, and concise.

The text was internally consistent and easy to navigate. (This might change, though, according to formatting. I found the PDF easy to use, though.)

I was pleasantly pleased at how easy to the text was to read, divide, and excerpt.

The text was organized quite nicely. It was easy for me to find what I was looking for, and it followed a logical progression.

Navigation was no problem.

Grammar was fine. It was not (thankfully) overwritten.

I was very pleased to note that the text chose to discuss sensitive cultural issues in a very elegant manner.

Here's the thing about communication: The rules don't change much. Business Communication is all about getting the right information to the right person at the right time. What does change, is the technology we use to make it happen. It is nearly impossible to publish anything current that covers everything one needs to to about current methods of communicating using technology. The information is too "bleeding edge" and changes so quickly, that it would be out-dated almost immediately. The thing that this book does (and does very well) is stick to the basic rules of communication that don't change (with the exception of the search engine page.) Nearly every other section of the book sticks very firmly to the information that students need to know that does not change on a regular basis. The information about social media/videos/tiktok/instagram/facebook/YouTube/thenextbigthing is easily imporable from the web. This division makes it almost the perfect open educational resource.

Reviewed by Christina Wooten, Business Technology Faculty, Rogue Community College on 1/3/22

The material covered in the text is comprehensive as expected from a Business Communications text. Basics of Communication, Message, Audience, Writing, Types of Delivery, as well as three sections on different styles of presentation are included.... read more

Comprehensiveness rating: 3 see less

The material covered in the text is comprehensive as expected from a Business Communications text. Basics of Communication, Message, Audience, Writing, Types of Delivery, as well as three sections on different styles of presentation are included. This text does not have an index or glossary. The table of contents is thorough with chapter and section headings linked for easy navigation.

The text accurately portrays the topics covered. It appears to be overall an unbiased text. The content is, overall, error-free.

Overall, the text is up-to-date with technical information. There are some cultural points that may become outdated quickly (or could feel alienating to some students). For example, in "Demographic Traits" on page 86, there is a heavy focus on male/female as an example of a demographic trait. However, later in the same chapter, a lengthy discussion on "mutuality and non-judgmental-ism" ensues. Chapter 9 covers "up-to-date" communication methods used in the business arena very well. These include text, email, netiquette, memos, letters, proposals, reports, resume, and sales messages. Chapter 18 covers Intercultural Communication. My concern with this section is the references used are from 1958 and 2005. I feel strongly that there are more recent examples of references that could be used.

Clarity rating: 3

The text is written clearly with many bold faced words. There is no glossary or side-bar definitions, so the student would need to be informed to look the words up in a different dictionary.

The book is consistent in terminology, ideology, and framework throughout. The flow would be easy for a student to follow through a course.

The text is laid out in such a way that reading assignments could easily be created. Also, the text is broken up with exercises and images (most of which are relevant, clear, and correctly cited.) While some sections of the text do not have images, the blocks of text are broken up into nice sized sections with headings.

One change I would make if I were to use this text would be as follows: Chapter 18: Intercultural and International Business Communication is the next to last chapter in the book. I would place this far earlier (around the section where Sender/Receiver and Audience are discussed). This was the only place in the text where the material appeared (or felt) "out of order" for overall flow.

The links provided in the chapters and in the additional resources all work accurately. Images are clear and mostly related to text. There are two images that could be changed to a better image (one is the iceberg in Figure 3.4 the second is a clip art type image in Figure 9.6 which looks strangely out of place.

I did not notice any glaring grammar issues or errors.

I did not notice any examples that could be exclusive other than the gender example previously mentioned. There are several images which appear culturally inclusive.

The exercises though out the book (questions) are excellent starter questions for online discussion forums. The "Additional Resources" links at the conclusion of each chapter are excellent and offer the student (and instructor) many additional resources for class. There is no glossary or index for this text.

Reviewed by Steven Bookman, Adjunct Assistant Professor, Pace University on 6/23/21

The text covers all areas in addition to topics (e.g., ) not always covered. However, I wish some topics have more coverage (i.e., business modalities) while others have less. Overall, the this text is good for an introductory business writing... read more

The text covers all areas in addition to topics (e.g., ) not always covered. However, I wish some topics have more coverage (i.e., business modalities) while others have less. Overall, the this text is good for an introductory business writing course.

Content is accurate, error-free and unbiased.

The content is up-to-date. However, I wish the book was updated, so that it includes social media. Having said this, necessary updates would relatively easy and straightforward to implement. I had to bring in my own examples and case studies from other sources to supplement the text.

The author writes this text in a lucid, accessible prose, and provides adequate context for any jargon/technical terminology used.

The text is internally consistent in terms of terminology and framework.

The text is easily and readily divisible into smaller reading sections that can be assigned at different points within the course (i.e., enormous blocks of text without subheadings should be avoided).

The topics in the text are presented in a logical, clear fashion.

The text is free of significant interface issues, including navigation problems, distortion of images/charts, and any other display features that may distract or confuse the reader. There are a few options to read the book as well.

The text contains no grammatical errors.

The text is not culturally insensitive or offensive in any way although there could be some text with diversity, as this is a big issue these days. In the book's defense, it can easily be updated since it was written in 2015.

Reviewed by Karen Gaines, Associate Professor, Kansas City Kansas Community College on 5/7/21

The book is pretty thorough with the topics that are covered. In fact, there are topics in the presentation sections that are not normally covered in the business communications textbooks that I currently use. The order in which the subjects are... read more

The book is pretty thorough with the topics that are covered. In fact, there are topics in the presentation sections that are not normally covered in the business communications textbooks that I currently use. The order in which the subjects are presented is different than what I have been used to, and wanted to know if there was a particular reason for some of the ordering of subject matter.

Information is accurate and free of errors and bias.

Relevance/Longevity rating: 5

The information is relevant and timely. However, there should be more focus on virtual meetings, etiquette, how to productively run them, etc. and how to better engage others as there is less in-person interaction.

It was written in a clear and concise manner. The narrative was conversational and engaging.

Found the writing to be consistent throughout the book.

This book was easy to get to the specific information within each chapter with the use of subsections. Though there were some sections where they were text heavy, the use of the headings helped to break up the information into more visually appealing and practical hunks of information.

Organization/Structure/Flow rating: 4

It is easy to follow, but I am more used to having examples of writing styles (routine, persuasive, negative) grouped together earlier in the book.

This was an easy to navigate the book.

I did not see any grammatical errors.

The text is inclusive in its depiction of different groups of people.

Are there instructor resources available such as PowerPoints, more in-depth assignments, videos, and tests?

Reviewed by Terianne Brown, Lecturer, Hawaii Community College on 4/20/21

This is a thorough book but could benefit from certain chapters being expanded and others being condensed. read more

This is a thorough book but could benefit from certain chapters being expanded and others being condensed.

There are no issues with bias and no errors are evident.

There are a few references to outdated social media platforms, however, the text can be easily updated without taking away from the message of the contents.

The book uses appropriate language suitable for all readers.

The book has a consistent format. Headings and subheadings are standardized, as well as key terms being bolded.

The book can benefit by expanding the sections in Chapter 9 into individual chapters.

The book is well-organized and is easily followed.

Multiple interfaces are available and no immediate issues are evident. It was easy to Zoom into images in the online and digital pdf versions of the book.

There are no evident grammatical errors.

There are no direct references to specific races. The text does refer to race as something to consider in business communication but contains nothing culturally insensitive or offensive.

This is a well-written text that is well-suited for an Introductory to Business Communication course. The book could be improved by including more images and/or infographics to make it more interesting and less text-heavy.

Reviewed by Sharon McDermot, Business Adjunct, Northern Essex Community College on 3/18/21

The book is very comprehensive but I wish there were more coverage of business writing in different modalities. They do touch on texting and email but I think there needs to be more information on those subjects. The book does discuss business... read more

The book is very comprehensive but I wish there were more coverage of business writing in different modalities. They do touch on texting and email but I think there needs to be more information on those subjects. The book does discuss business presentations and audiences which is great. I would also like to see more real life exercises to use with students.

I did not see any inaccuracy.

This book was written in 2015. Many things have changed in business communication. I would like to see it updated to include the use of social media in business and how important that can be to the success of a business.

The book had good clarity.

The text was consistent with terminology and framework.

The text is easily broken up into smaller assignments and chapters.

The book can easily be arranged to prepare for a class using progression.

I did not see any interface issues nor did I have any problems with it.

The book does have chapters on intercultural communication which is great. I have been looking for that in an OER textbook.

If this book were revised to a more current date and included the social media aspect of business communication, I think it would be very useful. It does contain a lot of good information.

Reviewed by Dee Fretwell, Associate Professor, Southern Oregon University on 1/5/21

The subject is well covered for the introduction to Business Communication, with a gap in addressing very specific etiquette around professional communication via digital formats, such as emails, project management software, etc. until mid-way... read more

The subject is well covered for the introduction to Business Communication, with a gap in addressing very specific etiquette around professional communication via digital formats, such as emails, project management software, etc. until mid-way through the book.

Quite on point! I was impressed with the direct nature of the content and the broad audience types the curriculum was trying to reach.

Nicely written for readers of all ages from many backgrounds.

Clean, concise and grammatically on point.

Consistency rating: 4

I noted no inconsistencies.

Chapters were broken up nicely with graphics and such, allowing the reader to not fatigue as quickly as they might otherwise.

Pretty well done, with a request to begin examples of proper business writings earlier in the chapters.

Easy, clean and totally relevant.

Seemed appropriate to me!

Well done! Will likely use next term!!

Reviewed by Katherine Hatzis, Senior Lecturer II, University of Massachusetts Boston on 6/27/20

The book covers everything that one would want to teach in a business communication course. read more

The book covers everything that one would want to teach in a business communication course.

As far as I could tell the book is accurate and free of error and biases.

The book is up to date and it can be easily updated in the future.

The writing is clear and it does not use difficult language so this text would be appropriate for ESL or International business students as well.

I enjoyed the fact that the book used the same format throughout. It started with learning objectives and ended with takeaways and exercises.

The text was well divided into smaller sections which can help when assigning reading homework.

The book was well organized and straightforward. I like that it has a table of contents which helps with reading through the material.

The book's interface was fine. I just wished it was linked at the bottom of the page rather than having to constantly to go back to the main menu to go be able to move and read the next section or chapter. I had to keep going back to the main menu when I wanted to go to the next section of the same chapter. I think it would have been easier if it had a link at the end of the section that connected the next section.

I did not notice any grammar errors.

The book appears to be culturally neutral.

Overall it is a good general Business Communication textbook and it has a lot to offer. This is a textbook that I am going to incorporate into my courses. The only thing that I didn't like was navigating through the textbook.

Reviewed by Kathleen Berry, Adjunct Professor, Massasoit Community College on 6/23/20

The text covers all areas of the subject appropriately. read more

The text covers all areas of the subject appropriately.

I found very few typos. The information was clearly unbiased.

Although the book was updated last year, I think it could use a little updating in both photos and information.

Any jargon that may have been used was explained thoroughly.

The information is consistent. However, it is duplicated in many chapters.

Most of the book is strictly text with limited images.

The book is organized in a clear fashion. However, when I used it, I did teach out of order.

The text does not indicate any interface issues.

I did not find any grammatical errors.

I did not find any culturally offensive material.

I would have liked to see more information about diversity and inclusion in the textbook. The pre- and post- exercises in each chapter were beneficial. Students would have preferred a way to annotate the textbook when reading it.

Reviewed by Alison Schirone, Adjunct Faculty, Roxbury Community College on 6/4/20

I used this book for a recently business communications course. Generally speaking, the book had all the requisite basics of business communications. I added a few modules to address today's social mediums in more detail. A great free text,... read more

I used this book for a recently business communications course. Generally speaking, the book had all the requisite basics of business communications. I added a few modules to address today's social mediums in more detail. A great free text, would have loved to have some supporting materials; test modules, ppt slides.

Highly accurate, may be due for an update soon, just to bring things more current to how today's business communicators operate.

I studied business communications many moons ago. Some aspects of it have not changed since then; but we do have more social business communications mediums. The book can easily adapt to incorporation of more social communications mediums.

Appropriate for first year and beyond college students and community college students and/or management trainees.

Loved the questions prior to the start of the chapters; I often used them for class discussions and prompts. Good review of important aspects of each chapter. Good homework assignment ideas.

I mostly covered the chapters in order. Some I put more emphasis on; others I slid through speedily. For example, I did not spend as much time on International Business Communications.

Foundation chapters first; easy to apply those concepts to all other chapters that follow. I integrated some of the more current business communications tools like Linked In, resume building, and more in the writing sections. I had students who were preparing for the workplace so it was a practical diversion from the text.

Interface rating: 3

There were some useful bits that I wanted to use as handouts but the copying of those items were a bit fussy. Perhaps consider a collection of handouts/electronic worksheets?

I did not notice grammatical errors.

Ethnicity/race neutral. We had a great collection of people from diverse backgrounds in my course when I used this book, so we were able to apply some of the cultural communications ideas into discussion and assignment. I do think that perhaps some of the aspects of diversity could be updated to better reflect today's issues and people.

I did enjoy using it. I would have liked to see more updated business communications methods in use today, especially social mediums. I would have liked to see a workbook or case to be worked throughout the term. Slides would have been a plus! Overall, I enjoyed using it and it was my first OER text.

Reviewed by Adam Falik, Assistant Professor, SUNO on 4/27/20

The greatest asset of this book (and occasionally its weakness) is its attempt to be all encompassing. It definitely seeks comprehensiveness, to introduce a complete spectrum of business communication methodology. This is often effective. The... read more

The greatest asset of this book (and occasionally its weakness) is its attempt to be all encompassing. It definitely seeks comprehensiveness, to introduce a complete spectrum of business communication methodology. This is often effective. The book begins linguistically, introducing concepts of language and communication, shifts to audience and tone before touching upon actual writing. The move to presentation and group dynamics is in keeping with the wide-spectrum the book covers. Sometimes, though, this attempt at comprehensiveness results in the book being dilettantish. I am interested in this book as a textbook for a class in Professional and Technical Writing. My review should be seen through that lens.

Content is accurate enough, though sometimes thin. In Chapter 9: Business Writing in Action, for instance: What is provided is accurate, just somewhat inadequate. 9.2 covers Memos and Letters, but there are many types of business memos/letters. A more thorough exploration per section (instead of, for example, Section 6.3 Making an Argument then much later Section 17.2 Delivering a Negative News Message) would have been welcome. Again, the content is accurate, but it is necessary to hop, skip and jump around to make use of this book. Also, there is a serious lack of examples in this book. Show us some actual business letters, reports, etc. This is a serious deficiency.

This book needs updating to more thoroughly address evolutions in technologies. Business communications are (obviously) more digital than ever. It would be a service for this book to reflect more current communications, including how social media plays in the contemporary cultural and business landscape. As I write this review from the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic, Zoom and Skype meetings reign. Let’s see an exploration of these types of presentation environments.

The writing of this book is clear and accessible. There are, in fact, gems of writing to be found throughout. Section 4.4 Style in Written Communication, for instance. Here concepts of communication are clearly articulated enough to additionally demonstrate how writing inaccuracies leads to business miscommunications.

The book is consistent in its style, framework, and the rhythms of its language. It does, occasionally, repeat itself. Section 6.3 Making an Argument repeats itself (not just in ideas, but in complete pages) in Chapter 14.

There is a dependable structural modularity. A student can expect not only a clear, steady framework of Objectives, Takeaways and Exercises, but, most valuably, thorough chapter Reference sections.

Organization/Structure/Flow rating: 3

This is one of my chief issues with this book (besides the lack of practical workplace examples). The book is big and exploratory, but will require (for my purposes) a great deal of jumping around to make use of. I do not love its organization. Though it does build logically, many of its integral concepts are scattered throughout the book’s many chapters. The lack of index also weighs heavily.

Because this book requires a great deal of jumping around, I wish the interface was a little friendlier, more convenient. Internal, conceptual links would have been welcome. As certain ideas are linked (to inform, to persuade), internal links would have been appreciated. I often find myself having to scroll back to Contents.

This is a well-written and clear book without major grammatical issues.

Much like its technological relevancy, our culture shifts too quickly to give this book the highest marks. Though Chapter 18: Intercultural and International Business Communications is welcome, it does not address the truly identity-charged workplace atmosphere.

I will give this book a try for a Professional Writing class. I am curious to see what students make of it. I find it too expansive, its attempt to be all-encompassing creating qualitative and theoretical deficiencies, and its lack of actual workplace examples a serious deficit, but it does make easy access to core principles in accessible language. A final (negative) comment: The Exercises are often laughable. Their vagueness is connected to the book’s overall lack of practical workplace examples. If the student cannot see an example of how an actual business letter (for instance) is written, how can the book offer practical exercises that can be visualized? Though the book covers a great deal, an instructor had better be prepared to provide their own examples.

Reviewed by Megan Fitzmaurice, Adjunct Assistant Professor, University of Texas at Arlington on 4/22/20

This textbook address written, oral, nonverbal and interpersonal communication at large. Many business communication textbooks focus solely on written and oral communication, so including these other dimensions brings an important nuance to this... read more

This textbook address written, oral, nonverbal and interpersonal communication at large. Many business communication textbooks focus solely on written and oral communication, so including these other dimensions brings an important nuance to this subject. It also includes the foundational chapters for some of the most common business communication assignments: writing preparation, composition, and revision, business, delivering negative news, team communication, business presentations, etc.

Note: no index or glossary is provided.

Overall, I found no major inaccuracies in the book’s content. Chapter 2’s discussion about the parts of a message though is quite confusing – it is hard to discern what type of messages it is referring to. At some points in the section it seems like they are discussing formal written communication and speeches, while at other times any general kind of message. It isn’t well connected to the rest of the chapter and the explanation is not thorough enough. In general, I think this chapter could better connect fundamental theories about language to the business sphere specifically.

Like any textbook, incorporating technological advancements is a double-edged sword. Ignoring it is foolish, but discussion surrounding specific technologies is often obsolete by the time the book is published. I thought they did a great job not making and part of the text centered on specific technologies, but focused on timeless business communication principles. This should keep the book up to date for sometime.

Some of the included discussion questions are a little outdated. While the content in this textbook is really strong, the included learning exercises and discussion prompts are less helpful. For example, chapter 2 begins with a vocab-matching exercise that includes words such as “phat,” “ player,” “hooptie,” etc.

The language used in this textbook is very accessible for undergraduate students from a wide range of academic backgrounds. It does not assume a student has taken a communication course before, so I think it would work for a general education course. It also ties in theories and vocabulary from many subsets of communication (rhetoric, organizational communication, interpersonal communication, etc.) so it could also be a good choice for classes directed at communication majors.

The chapters are all organized in parallel structure and engage the same terminology. Specifically, chapters 4-7 build on each other and provide a consistent vocabulary and framework through which to teach writing as a process, not a product.

Chapters 1-15 could easily be grouped into three modules: Introduction to Communication, Writing in Business Settings, and Speaking in Business Settings. Chapters 16-19 are a little bit of a grab-bag with regard to their topics. I would think Chapter 17: Negative News and Crisis Communication would be better placed after Chapter 14: Presentations to Persuade. I think having overarching modules would help learners better understand the skills and objectives to be learned through the textbook. Within each chapter though are very distinct sub-sections that do help with modularity, allowing you to easily break up a chapter's reading over the course of a week.

Chapters are well structured. Each one begins with a brief introduction, and then is followed by several subsections. Each subsection starts with clear learning objectives, followed by the main content, key takeaways, and then learning exercises. While acquiring images is a challenge for all open-source textbooks, this one seems particularly text heavy. More charts and diagrams would help with readability.

I read through the book using both a PDF on a computer screen. The text was clear and easy to read. One thing that would be helpful would be including page numbers with the internal hyperlinks – the PDF did not allow me to just click on the blue links that would take the reader to other parts of the textbook (i.e., “Note 2.1 “Introductory Exercises”).

Some charts and graphs are fuzzy, while others could be adjusted for better formatting. For example, the chart on pg. 60 has the last 1-2 letters of the word listed on the subsequent line for several entries. This same issue was not apparent when I looked through the chapter on UMN’s website, so it may be an issue limited to the PDF version of the book.

I was impressed that the hyperlinks to additional resources at the end of each chapter were still active. The book does provide a good number of articles and websites at the end of each chapter for review.

Very small issue, but the references at the end of the chapters need to be reformatted with a hanging indent and consistent margins. Otherwise, I found no glaring grammatical errors or typos.

The book does do a really good job of incorporating a diverse range of experiences and perspectives. The authors have successfully worked to provide a global perspective on business communication. Rather than just incorporating snippets or vignettes in a couple chapters, they actually have a whole chapter dedicated to intercultural and international communication. Moreover, diversity is not just conceived of in racial or ethnic terms, but the authors make sure to incorporate identity topics related to gender, sexuality, age, and disability as well.

Overall, I would definitely consider using this textbook in my Professional and Technical Communication course. The textbook covers all major aspects of business communication – writing, speaking, and team communication, in addition to other important elements like interpersonal communication and nonverbal communication. The book is accessible for an undergraduate audience and uses engaging and relatable examples throughout the text. Each chapter is well organized with distinct subsections which would give the instructor flexibility in how they wanted to assign the text. The drawbacks to using this text include a lack of supplemental teaching resources, minimal graphics in the text, and lackluster chapter exercises. Given students’ preference to learn through group interaction and discussion anyways, these are drawbacks easily made up for in the classroom.

Reviewed by Amanda Carpenter, Associate Professor, John Tyler Community College on 3/30/20

This text was exceptionally well written and very comprehensive. The author was very eloquent in the way that they explained the content. The text covered critical topics for business communication. The book includes learning resources and... read more

This text was exceptionally well written and very comprehensive. The author was very eloquent in the way that they explained the content. The text covered critical topics for business communication. The book includes learning resources and activities included. An index or glossary would have been beneficial to the reader.

The text was timely and accurately overviewed of jobs in communication as well as an overview of business norms.

The content of the text is still relevant today. The text could benefit from a section related to social media usage for businesses. The digital age requires this for those in business communications.

The book was well-written and concise. I was unable to get the search option to work on my Kindle.

I found no inconsistencies in the textbook.

This text is easy to sort into modules for course instruction. I could use the groupings of this text in my course.

Overall, the text was well organized and flowed well.

I had issues using the search option within Kindle with this text. It would be great if that function could be enabled.

Grammatical Errors rating: 4

The text was well written, and I found no grammatical errors.

The text is culturally relevant and would be very useful in business communication courses.

This text is an excellent resource for communications instructors.

Reviewed by Miriam Gershow, Senior Instructor II, University of Oregon on 6/6/19

Covers a broad array of business communication topics, from foundations of language, audience and rhetoric to common types of written and verbal business communications. read more

Covers a broad array of business communication topics, from foundations of language, audience and rhetoric to common types of written and verbal business communications.

Does an accurate job describing norms and responsibilities for different types of business communication tasks.

The real challenge is to stay up to date with technology. References to MySpace and parenthetical explanations of terms such as LOL date the information.

The prose is accessible and clear. Many of the Learning Objectives and Key Takeaways suggest an introductory-level rather than upper-level course.

The framework is clear and consistent throughout.

In considering this text for a Business Writing course, there are clearly chapters and sections that can be parted out for that purpose alone.

As with the consistency, the organization of material is intuitive, clear, and a strength of this text.

I read this book on two different devices, and the interface was clear on both.

No notable errors.

I was glad to see that inter- and intra-cultural communication was addressed throughout the book, not relegated only to the second-to-last chapter.

Reviewed by Shawn Gilmore, Senior Lecturer, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign on 5/14/19

The text descriptively covers nearly all the requisite topics and subtopics under the banner "business communication," as well as a number of related rhetorical and conceptual approaches that are fairly typical in the field. The text is divided... read more

The text descriptively covers nearly all the requisite topics and subtopics under the banner "business communication," as well as a number of related rhetorical and conceptual approaches that are fairly typical in the field. The text is divided into fairly compartmentalized chapters, which could be selectively assigned, but this leads to some issues of repetition across the full book, as well as some difficulty finding specific material. The text does not contain an index, though the table of contents is good, and the full text is searchable.

Most of the descriptive material is quite good, succinct, and explanatory, making it pretty easy to follow. The prose is fairly conversational, which makes some of it dated (slang from the mid-2000s, for example), but allows for the conceptual and practical material to shine. Most of the content appears clear and accurate, if sometimes selective.

Some aspects of the text are dated by their cultural and technological references--this is a perennial issue for texts that describe how to use specific software, document types and methods, etc. None of these passages seemed debilitating, and could likely be avoided by assigning chapters or sections selectively across the text.

The text is clearly written throughout, relying on a few pages of prose per section, which are well-segmented, and followed by "key takeaway" boxes and exercises. Jargon is used selectively and well-explained.

The text is presented in a consistent fashion, but varies in terms of depth and type. The sections on business communication and approaches are clearest and most consistent. Those on rhetorical approaches and issues vary from rhetorical theory to interpersonal analysis and considerations, which makes them feel a bit more scattered.

The text is quite modular, and selections or chapters could easily be grouped for different teaching purposes/approaches.

The text takes nearly a hundred pages to really get to writing and communication specifics, and it is not entirely clear why some (of the 19) chapters appear where they do. This might be to allow individual instructors a good deal of flexibility, but it also might leave some a bit at sea.

This might be the text's weakest point. The text is well-formatted and presented, but it is a lot of repetitive-looking material, with little breaking up the few formatting and interface choices that have been made. This is alleviated in other texts by the inclusion of example documents--which are very rare here--or by varying page layouts. Students and instructors alike might find it hard to parse some of the more visually-similar passages, though there are some tables and images periodically that help.

There were no significant or glaring grammatical issues.

Efforts seem to have been made to include a variety of cultural inclusion as appropriate. However, this text might need more framing for students for whom English is not their primary language, or who have been educated in other systems/backgrounds.

This is an easy text to recommend for more experienced instructors, as they may have assignments, exercises, and example documents already at hand. However, glaringly, this textbook doesn't quite have enough material to be as comprehensive as I would have liked, though it does include exercises after each section. This may depend on the other course materials already in play, and the text would serve very well in most business writing courses, given the right conditions.

Reviewed by Bonnie Buchanan, Associate Professor, OhioLink on 3/28/19

From A to Z, the main communication topics and concepts are covered in this text. From the basics of the communications model to group work effectiveness, this book has the components to teach students important skills they will need in the... read more

From A to Z, the main communication topics and concepts are covered in this text. From the basics of the communications model to group work effectiveness, this book has the components to teach students important skills they will need in the business environment.

I was not able to find inaccurate information, based upon my background and ares of expertise. Information was accurate, supported and relevant to the subject.

Business communications, different speeches with different areas of focus and team work skills will always be relevant. Didn't see enough information on distance/telecommuting and communicating via video.

The text was written in a very straight-forward fashion and should be easily understood by most college students.

The activities and assignments found in each chapter are great and easy for students to quickly find. They are consistent among each chapter and offer relevant activities to reinforce learning. The text chapters were consistent in their layout, form and function.

Well-organized, easy to navigate and aligned with chapter objectives in a consistent fashion.

Topics are well-presented and done so in a logical format/layout. The topics/chapters flow nicely from one to the next.

I found all links working properly and all images used supported the subject and topics in the text.

Well-written, concise and succinct text. Free of major grammatical errors.

I did not find the text offensive or insensitive and found it to include a variety of examples so that no one group might feel excluded or offended.

I really enjoyed reviewing this text and think that countless students can benefit from the information and concepts it contains. From the basics, to targeted speech formats, all areas vital to good business communication skills are covered. I would have liked to have seen a formal proposal chapter, but overall, I would recommend this book for business programs and courses that want to engage students and teach them important skills vital to their success.

Reviewed by Cara Chang, Instructor, Leeward Community College on 2/10/19

This textbook was comprehensive in the sense that it covers broad concepts in communication and then narrows down specifically to business writing and oral communication. This semester, when I used part of this textbook for my business writing... read more

This textbook was comprehensive in the sense that it covers broad concepts in communication and then narrows down specifically to business writing and oral communication. This semester, when I used part of this textbook for my business writing class, I had to find and create more examples for my students to view and analyze. Though the content in this text is good, I wish more examples were given in this textbook.

Furthermore, though this textbook does explain how to write a resume, memo, letter, business proposal, and report, it does not include any information on how to improve writing style or mechanics. If my students needed help with grammar, they would need to consult other resources for this.

There wasn’t an index or glossary, but there was a Table of Contents, which made it easy to navigate.

This text was unbiased and free from error. It covered a range of topics in a consistent manner.

I do think the information in this text is relevant. However, I did wish there were sections on other types of business writing. In my classes, I had my students create a website and blog, which to me, are important parts of business writing. Chapter 9, which shows Business Writing in Action covers other parts of business writing, which I taught and assigned to my students, but I also told students that blogging and creating a website are also important parts of maintaining a business. In this digital age, more topics related to online writing is necessary. It would be an easy addition.

The text is written in lucid, accessible prose. It would be appropriate for many different audiences: a business writing class, an oral communication class, etc.

This text was consistent in terminology and framework.

When teaching with this text, I had an easy time breaking up information and chunking it into sections that made it easy for my students to digest. I was also able to breakup information and organize in a way that best fit the flow and schedule of my teaching. The Table of Contents/headings made it easy to see how the text is organized, so anyone who wants to jump around and customize their teaching is able to.

The structure of the text is presented in a logical and clear fashion. It begins by explaining what effective business communication is and then moves to identifying what effective business writing looks like. Next, the text explains how to write different forms of business writing, clarifies different presentation strategies, and explores group communication.

This book is easy to navigate with clear headings. There was no problems accessing the text and viewing the images.

I did not notice any grammatical errors.

Cultural Relevance rating: 3

The book is not insensitive or offensive to any cultures, but it does not have many references to various races, cultures, etc. Incorporating different examples could be especially important in the International and Intercultural Business Communication chapter.

The main page states that the textbook is available in multiple formats, but I was only able to access it as a Pressbook and as a PDF. I do feel that more images and media can be added.

Reviewed by Kara Wicklund, Instructor, Lead Instructional Designer, Bethel University on 11/13/18

This book covers almost of all the topics I need to cover in my Business Communication course. The index is clear and easy to navigate, and the chapters are clearly labeled. read more

This book covers almost of all the topics I need to cover in my Business Communication course. The index is clear and easy to navigate, and the chapters are clearly labeled.

This textbook is error-free and accurate. It handles informative text with clarity and analyzes communication problems by applying concepts, without leaning too much on a specific bias.

The content in this text is specific and clear, and it it up-to-date. It is general enough, however, that it should remain generally relevant for several years. Some sections discuss the use of written and/or electronic communication, noting the prevalence (in percentages) of these communication forms in certain settings. These details may change or become outdated over time, but the general topic will likely remain relevant.

The clarity of this text is one of its strongest features. New vocabulary works are typed in bold and defined as well as supported with examples and/or cases to illustrate their context. Paragraphs are well-structured and easy to read, and sentence flow is easy for readers.

The text adheres to the same structure throughout each chapter. Concepts are referred to and applied in consistent ways throughout the text.

Modularity is another great strength of this text. It is easy to assign chapters and sections out of order, avoid a section, or substitute a section for another resource due to the self-sufficiency of the sections. Sections generally begin, develop, and wrap up concepts clearly within each section so students don't need to rely on other chapters/sections in the text to further explain the topic.

While I did not utilize the sections in this book the way the chapters are organized, they do seem organized overall in a logical fashion. Within the chapters, the information is laid out in a clear manner. Typically the chapters begin with basic concepts and vocabulary and then proceed to application. In some chapters, there are cases for students to read about, as well. This progression seems very effective for readers.

This book is very easy to navigate. The chapters are easy to locate and the images and text display well on screens.

There were no grammatical errors in this text.

This text has a strong focus toward the end of the book on culture and communication. In addition to handing interpersonal communication dynamics, the book includes a chapter regarding Intercultural and International Business Communication. This chapter explores cultural characteristics of communication and how these characteristics impact communication, both personally and in the workplace.

Reviewed by George Boone, Visiting Assistant Professor, Augustana College on 11/13/18

Overall, the book covers a wide range of topics. However, it offers breadth over depth, which is fine for an introductory business communication course. It lacks an index section, however, so unless your students know how to search a PDF for... read more

Overall, the book covers a wide range of topics. However, it offers breadth over depth, which is fine for an introductory business communication course. It lacks an index section, however, so unless your students know how to search a PDF for information, they might run into trouble searching for specific information.

The book provided very accurate overviews of different theories and positions on communication.

The book had multiple examples, although some of the references might feel a bit dated for our students (ie. the Bush examples, for instance). However, the author could easily update the examples with more recent events.

The book was very clear and easy to understand.

The book has the strong ability to present multiple ideas relevant to business communication (and its underlying communication research) without getting lost in the theoretical differences that might go along with these different perspectives. Ultimately, those looking for a deeper theoretical look at the book will need to look elsewhere. More pragmatically oriented classes, however, will benefit from this instructional approach.

The book has nice chapter and section breakdowns with clear headings and effective demarcations.

The book needs a bit more explicit logic to chapter order. As a reader, I do not have a clear sense as to why chapters appear in a particular order. Perhaps overall chapter groups or headings might help resolve this issue.

The interface for the book has no issues that I noticed.

I did not notice any grammar issues.

I did not notice any particularly offensive texts or ideas.

Overall, the book provides a strong and pragmatic approach to communication in business and workplace contexts. I would gladly adopt it as a general text for a low-level 100 or 200 level course. Teachers looking for more in depth analysis of studies or more theory-driven analysis, however, might find the book lacking.

Reviewed by Jason Harper, Senior Lecturer and International Coordinator, Fort Hays State University on 11/12/18

The contents do offer instructors a comprehensive list of key writing areas that should be covered in a college writing class. For example, it includes topics like writing styles, active reading, writing a summary, and assessing writing situations... read more

The contents do offer instructors a comprehensive list of key writing areas that should be covered in a college writing class. For example, it includes topics like writing styles, active reading, writing a summary, and assessing writing situations to more practical areas like conventions, revision, and checklists. It also includes discussions on common challenges for multilingual and ESL writers from diverse backgrounds. Perhaps an instructor might see these as good guideposts, yet this reviewer believes that supplemental materials will be needed for a more in-depth and detailed coverage of these areas. Overall, the text is useful as a starting point for teaching to her/his strengths and contexts.

One of the outstanding strengths that this textbook offers is its lack of bias. The coverage given to the writing process and its practices is also particularly good -- something not often included in business communication-related texts.

Coverage of text messages, E-mail, and how social customs influence the ways we interact with each other in the online environment will not be difficult to update, as these norms and mores are changing by the minute. As these change, this textbook can still apply as strong beginning points for discussion in class.

Overall, a detailed process of business communication is shown in readable and clear style. Vocabulary and terminology is covered and there are avenues for instructors to add on.

Business Communication for Success is a consistent collection of significant skill sets accented by "Key Takeaways" that correlate well with the topic at hand. The book’s use of multiple sub-chapters helps to make the textbook much more detailed. While at times the bland blocks of content may render the page a bore, the instructor can breathe life into what is considered by many to be a dull subject. The creators' knowledge of the topic is obvious throughout the book. The credibility of the content is strengthened by the consistency.

The orderliness of the book conforms to an academic curriculum. While the chapters create neat packages, some skills to be taught can be better covered by the instructor creating additions to the chapter or by adding additional sections. Overall, the textbook provides well-organized material and content, which is held well by clear chapter numbers.

The organization of the book lends itself well to the study of business communication. Each chapter is broken down into sections, which typically fit logically into the topic of the chapter. All chapters are composed of several defining parts that maintain a sense of continuity throughout the volume. The Key Takeaways" sections leads refers well back to the introduction and the chapter goals.

With so few graphics in the book overall, display features are subsequently not so much of an issue. Within the text of the chapter, there are at times photo boxes that assist the learner in understanding particular points. Unfortunately, the open-sourced photos may also confuse readers when they are not as well-paired as a paid photo might have been. Navigation is not at all difficult, as the chapters are clearly segmented and there is a drop-down "Contents" bar for finding other sections fast. However, the textbook's overall appearance is quite bland.

It's refreshing to see a textbook so carefully edited. Once a textbook is provided to students, a certain expectation of correctness and clarity is expected, and cleanly edited chapters must be in place when teaching the units and individual lessons. This does not mean that the opportunity for learning about errors is lost -- even the cleanest of texts might still contain a hiccup here or there. Yet, with the goal being teaching toward the learning needs of the students in our classrooms, we educators need to set good examples for those educational needs and show, not tell, good grammar, without losing sight of the end goal.

Chapter 18 is pretty in-depth about the intercultural/international aspect. While certainly not comprehensive, variety of races, ethnicity, and backgrounds is addressed in general terms in Chapter 18 as strong beginning points for discussion in class. As stated as a Key Takeaway in 18.3, "All cultures have characteristics such as initiations, traditions, history, values and principles, purpose, symbols, and boundaries," and the instructor could certainly work with the class to develop how this applies or cold apply in different contexts.

Reviewed by Margarette Connor, Adjunct Assistant Professor, Lehman College/CUNY on 6/19/18

This text covers all the areas I would want to cover in my 300-level business writing class, including non-verbal communications and international communications, two topics I find are often underrepresented in many texts. Very clear and... read more

This text covers all the areas I would want to cover in my 300-level business writing class, including non-verbal communications and international communications, two topics I find are often underrepresented in many texts. Very clear and comprehensive table of contents facilitates use.

I've read a good portion of the book and find it accurate and error-free. Excellent quality.

I have been teaching business writing for over 20 years, and while the methods of communication have changed, how we write hasn't really. This book is certainly up to date, but not so much so that it will be obsolete within the next few years.

I would have liked to have seen a little more on online writing--blogs, websites, digital white papers--because while we can always upload a PDF of a traditional report to a website, many Millenials read differently and have different expectations of what they will read on the internet. This might be my personal soapbox, though, and the materials here can be easily adapted.

I very much like the writing in this book as I find it clear and to the point, much more so than the text I had been previously using. I think my students will find this more accessible. My students are mostly junior or senior business majors, and while there is jargon in the text, by this point, this is part of my students' professional vocabulary, so nothing that I find alienating for students.

Many of my students like pared down yet comprehensive texts, and I think they'd like this. They don't like to "waste" time with "unnecessary" material.

Very good job with consistency.

The modularity of the text is very well done. As I was reading it, I had the feeling that my students would find this easier to access than our current text. I can already see the course syllabus falling into place. Although I see myself changing the order of the text, I think jumping through the book will be quite easy.

The flow of the chapters is clear and logical, and while I'd change things, isn't that what we do as professors? I've never used a text book as if it were a novel.

Clear, easy to use. I've used other online texts, and I found this one to be very user friendly.

I am a stickler for grammar, and I found no errors in my reading. That's sadly rare!

There was nothing culturally insensitive or offensive in the parts of the text I read, which was much.

I am definitely adopting this book for my business writing course next term. It has everything my students need from a text at a price they can afford. That has been a problem for many. I actually like this text better as I think it's clearer and easier to follow. Excellent choice for an upper level business writing course.

Reviewed by Shannon Breske, Assistant Teaching Professor, University of Missouri on 6/19/18

Business Communication for Success provides an overview of the main areas of communication and highlights additional resources at the end of each chapter. When reviewing other texts, this text is consistent with topic areas covered. The text is... read more

Business Communication for Success provides an overview of the main areas of communication and highlights additional resources at the end of each chapter. When reviewing other texts, this text is consistent with topic areas covered. The text is organized well and can be navigated seamlessly with how each section is labeled. Students found this text easy to use, comprehend, and then able to apply knowledge to their assignments and in-class work.

Content is accurate. Consistent topics covered in Business Communication in Success text compared to other Business Communication texts. Some references, activities, and examples could be updated to provide a more inclusive tone.

The text is up to date but could include more details on how to communicate using social media platforms as well as customer relationship management (CRM) software. Could add the importance of how to successfully develop a communication plan using CRM.

Easy to read, understand, and apply. Students found it easy to read the chapters and comprehend.

The text is consistent with other texts and current literature. Liked how the earlier concepts are built upon in later chapters.

The text covers a lot of information however it is easily divided into subsections and does a nice job highlighting the important pieces in each area. Organized extremely well and easy to navigate through the online text.

Great job on the organization of the text. Found it clear and logical.

The interface is basic but functional and meets the needs of the user.

Well written. I did not find any grammatical errors.

Some references, activities, and examples could be updated to provide a more inclusive tone.

Great text! I use for 400+ students in an introductory course, and it is a great option. I supplemented additional information for class materials but overall extremely satisfied with text.

Reviewed by Alicia Edwards, Adjunct Professor, Business Management, Marketing and Communications, Northern Virginia Community College, Annadale Campus on 6/20/17

I was definitely impressed with the comprehensiveness Business Communication for Success. For every concept of the author introduced, he gave context, the why and if needed consequences if the conventions are not heeded. While there is not a... read more

I was definitely impressed with the comprehensiveness Business Communication for Success. For every concept of the author introduced, he gave context, the why and if needed consequences if the conventions are not heeded. While there is not a glossary or an index, he does provide additional resources after each chapter.

Each chapter is effectively mapped out with subheadings so you could easily find the topic that you need. Because of this attention to detail, I can envision this book being an excellent resource for an entry level junior manager or a refresher for a seasoned professional as their communication needs evolve throughout their career.

In general, I felt that the author did pretty balanced job of avoiding stereotypes and clichés. He used a variety of quotes from people with origins in all parts of the world and historical periods.

I was disappointed with the slang used in Chapter 2's introductory exercises. The words used were outdated at the least and mildly offensive. All 10 examples of page 35, appeared to be derived from African American slang...certainly not inclusive. The population that attends NOVACC are very diverse culturally and linguistically so this would not go over well.

This book was written in 2010 and focused more on written and verbal communication. Social media is not addressed but text, email, and netiquette were briefly touched upon. The information is still current and accurate but clearly lends itself to frequent updates. Since the bulk of business communication is online now, I would like to see at least full chapter dedicated to texting, email and internet communication. The way the book is laid out, this could be can easy addition.

Social Media is now an integral part of business communication internally and externally but it is STILL treated as an afterthought or footnote in academia. While not every platform is mainstream, the ones that are increasingly used in professional settings certainly need to be taught at the collegiate level in a comprehensive manner. LinkedIN, Twitter, Instagram and to some extent Pinterest have proven their marketing prowess and are structured enough to teach the business applications.

The concepts that text introduces are consistent within each chapter and throughout the book as a whole. Other than expanding on email/text and internet communications and including social media, I did not see any gaps in knowledge.

Since I did read the book on Apple device, Apple has built in technology that is helpful. For example, the book reference Aristotle and his concept of "ethos". While I knew he was from ancient Greece, I used the lookup feature on his name to fill in the historical timeframe that helped me fully understand what may have shaped his views. The look-up feature took me to several books, wesbites and a Wikipedia page.

Each chapter is effectively mapped out with subheadings so you could easily find the topic that you need. Because of this attention to detail, I can envision this book being an excellent resource for an entry level junior manager or a refresher for a seasoned professional as their communications needs evolve throughout their career.

While the book flows well from start to finish, the chapters and subheading are very specific and are quickly referencable. I read the book on my Ipad and I easily bookmarked pages when and highlight notes as needed. Each section can be understood independently, I didn't find myself having to reference previous chapters to make sense to the current one.

I downloaded the entire book as a PDF. It would be nice to have the option to download sections as needed.

The interface is very basic but effective. I read the book on my Ipad within the iBooks platform. I quickly find the section I wanted and go straight to whatever page I wanted. There are a lot of links to internet sites, I referenced quite a few and they seemed to load up quickly.

The charts and pictures that are included are without distortions. However, I would like to see more videos and visuals. Since readers will most likely reference this book from a laptop/phone or tablet, the assumption is that they would be able to seamlessly go from reading the material to answering the discussions via BlackBoard or whatever learning software their school adopts.

The author took the time to edit very well. I didn't see any glaring errors of any kind.

In general, I felt that the author did pretty balanced job of avoiding stereotypes and clichés. He used a variety of quotes from people with origins in all parts of the world and historical periods. I was disappointed with the slang used in Chapter 2's introductory exercises. The words used were outdated at the least and mildly offensive. All 10 examples of page 35, appeared to be derived from African American slang...certainly not inclusive. The population that attends NOVACC are very diverse culturally and linguistically so this would not go over well. Since slang and pop culture are moving targets, I would have eliminated that exercise completely and let the students self-direct this exercise by sharing slang words in their own language with the class. I would further reinforce the exercise by letting students that speak the same language but are from different countries share words that differ within their culture. I would also have them give examples of how they would speak around their peers, parents, and elders to drill down appropriateness and context.

The concepts that text introduces are consistent within each chapter and throughout the book as a whole. Other than expanding on email/text and internet communications and including social media, I did not see any gaps in knowledge. This book was written in 2010 and focused more on written and verbal communication. Social media is not addressed but text, email, and netiquette were briefly touched upon. The information is still current and accurate but clearly lends itself to frequent updates. Since the bulk of business communication is online now, I would like to see at least full chapter dedicated to texting, email and internet communication. The way the book is laid out, this could be can easy addition.

Social Media is now an integral part of business communication internally and externally but it is STILL treated as an afterthought or footnote in academia. While not every platform is mainstream, the ones that are increasingly used in professional settings certainly need to be taught at the collegiate level in a comprehensive manner. LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram and to some extent Pinterest have proven their marketing prowess and are structured enough to teach the basic business applications.

Since readers will most likely reference this book from a laptop/phone or tablet, the assumption is that they would be able to seamlessly go from reading the material to answering the discussions via BlackBoard or whatever learning software their school adopts.

In general, I felt that the author did a pretty balanced job of avoiding stereotypes and clichés. He used a variety of quotes from people with origins in all parts of the world and historical periods.

I was disappointed with the slang used in Chapter 2's introductory exercises. The words used were outdated at the least and mildly offensive. All 10 examples of page 35, appeared to be derived from African American slang...certainly not inclusive. The population that attends NOVACC are very diverse culturally and linguistically so this would not go over well. Since slang and pop culture are moving targets, I would have eliminated that exercise completely and let the students self-direct this exercise by sharing slang words in their own language with the class. I would further reinforce the exercise by letting students that speak the same language but are from different countries share words that differ within their culture. I would also have them give examples of how they would speak around their peers, parents, and elders to drill down appropriateness and context.

Reviewed by Brandi Quesenberry, Advanced Instructor, Virginia Tech on 6/20/17

Solid overview of foundations of business communication. I would prefer a more advanced textbook but this text works well for a lower level or introductory course. Broad overview of both written and oral communication considerations and best... read more

Solid overview of foundations of business communication. I would prefer a more advanced textbook but this text works well for a lower level or introductory course. Broad overview of both written and oral communication considerations and best practices.

Content is correct and consistent with other texts.

Due to nature of subject matter, some references will become outdated. Overall examples are current and helpful. Technology references can be easily updated due to formatting and section headings.

Clear language, easy to read, relevant examples.

Accurate use of terminology and framework.

Divided well. Only complaint is the redundancy of information across multiple chapters.

I would prefer oral communication chapters to come before written communication. Overall, flowed well.

Well written.

Relevant and diverse examples. Good discussion of cultural differences in business setting.

Good choice for an introductory business communication class.

Reviewed by Catherine Wright, Associate Professor, George Mason University on 6/20/17

It covers too many areas, would need to be "chunked" into smaller clusters. It tries to do too much for one text. read more

It covers too many areas, would need to be "chunked" into smaller clusters. It tries to do too much for one text.

I found it to be accurate.

I found it to be relevant. Since the format of Open Textbooks allows for things to be quickly updated, anything the authors found in need could be easily changed.

The overall writing in the text is great. Easy to read, easy to digest, easy to follow. It’s not taxing and presents information in a way that will engage the reader. The style is casual and informative. I found it inviting and I believe that students will want to read the chapters assigned.

I found it to be consistent with current literature and other texts.

It tries to cover too much in one text and would absolutely need to be made into modules.

Overall the organization is fine. The structure of the book in its entirety is too grand. It could/should be no less than three books.

I was easily able to gather information. I found no issues with this book.

so far, so good ;o)

This appeared to be fine too. I had no complaints.

The scope of the book, however is too broad. I would not use it for any Business Communication class that I personally taught.

The reason for this is that it focuses on several areas, which could not be adequately covered, or covered well, in one semester. I believe you would be able to do all of it at a very cursory level and none of it well in order to produce informed and prepared students. It really doesn’t cover “business.”

My recommendations for application follow: Chapters 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, and 9 could easily be one full semester, as they focus on writing. Chapters 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, and 15 are another semester, as they focus on public speaking. Chapters 16, 17, 18, and 19 are individually entire courses and almost seem extraneous here.

Part of what appeals to me about Open Textbook Library is the opportunity to take a text offered and to adjust it to make it something you could use in you class. This book has the potential to do so if the teacher reduces the number of chapters assigned during a semester. Rather than trying to do everything adequately, teachers would need to focus on only a few chapters to use this book well.

Reviewed by Rathin Basu, Professor, Ferrum College on 2/8/17

The text is quite comprehensive in its coverage of the key (and standard) topics and compares favorably with the very well known and widely used conventional text that I have been using in my Business Communications class, as well as others that I... read more

The text is quite comprehensive in its coverage of the key (and standard) topics and compares favorably with the very well known and widely used conventional text that I have been using in my Business Communications class, as well as others that I have used or reviewed in instructing the subject over the past 20 years. The sequence of the topics is somewhat different from some of the conventional texts but, over all, the content covers all aspects expected in this subject area. However, some of the important and fast developing and changing areas of communication which have developed in recent times (e.g. social media) and their models, challenges and impacts might have been included. They would also need to be discussed in the context of ethical communication as well. Another topic of importance that needed discussion is communication relating to applying for a job and preparing for interviews. A third aspect that I cover in my Business Communication class is formal business report writing, and this would need more coverage and even a chapter devoted to it. Despite these gaps, which are common to most current texts though, it generally covers the standard and essential areas of the subject well. It would have been useful, especially in an introductory text such as this, to have had a comprehensive index.

The content, in terms of the concepts and theories of communication, and the explanations and examples presented, is accurate and supported by citation of relevant and relatively recent sources. In addition, some of the seminal publications which may not be as recent but are essential sources are also referenced. There is no suggestion of any bias in the discussion and presentation of ideas and perspectives. It would have been helpful to have used colors or fonts in such a way that embedded active links could be clearly distinguished from highlighted terms. Also, if what might be more completely addressed is considered under this item, then inclusion of some of the most current, dynamic and important aspects of developments in communication especially relating to technology and society might be included.

Since the concepts and theories discussed are, in general fundamental ones, these aspects are not likely to require short-term changes. The examples used are also ones that are not limited in time or context and hence less susceptible to change. However, this does mean that some of the more dynamic areas of communication such as technology, social media, virtual teams might have been covered in greater depth given their increasingly important roles in communication. This is possibly the most important area that has been most dynamic in recent years and would need updating, when included. In addition, recent case studies of specific firms and incidents are one aspect that would be found in publisher based texts that open texts, by their nature, must sacrifice.

I found the very accessible prose and the personal and informal tone to be a particular strength of the book. Terms and jargon are explained with appropriate examples which students are generally likely to be able to relate to. In addition, not making this a reference text and overwhelming the undergraduate student with too many examples and too much detail has added to the clarity and relevance for the intended audience. The inclusion of pithy quotes, short exercises after each section, and sections and chapters which are not too long have also enhanced clarity and readability.

The text is internally consistent in terms of its tone, explanations, audience, and structure. In addition, the exercises have a consistency in framework and resulting time required to do them. The approach of starting sections with some questions which are then addressed with examples and explanations makes for an engaging, more Socratic and less pedantic method.

I found the breakdown of the topics into chapters and the chapters into sections, both of which are in sizes manageable for students, to be a strength of the text. This is contrast to many available texts which have long chapters which are dense with content, much of which is too much detail for an undergraduate course. The relatively short modules also suggested several possible ways in which I could smoothly reorganize them and use them in a class without making the sequence seem disjointed. The text draws in outside sources rather than being self-referential.

The organization of the text is something that I usually find to be one that I do not stick to, even with private market texts. The organization of the current text is also one that I would change to suit the particular circumstances of my students and institutional facilities (such as availability of the career center for mock interviews as part of course). However, with digital texts, I have had no difficulty in making the changes and even rearranging the chapters as needed.

In general, the book has no interface issues that I encountered, except the one that I found the use of the brown font for both terms (which were not live links) as well as live links was confusing. It would be helpful to have the standard blue font for the live links to distinguish them.

The book shows an appreciation of diversity and inclusion of various perspectives. Given the nature of the subject matter, which calls for discussion of various cultural perspectives, this is done in an interesting way that encourages exploration. It is particularly interesting that the cultural aspects are not confined to the standard understanding of the scope of such differences (such as races, ethnicities and nationalities) but also includes artifacts and examples which students can relate to and demonstrate that cultural differences can also be local, inter-generational, etc.

I found the text to be very readable, engaging and interesting and one that I am considering adopting. I would need to draw in some current case studies that involve relevant aspects of communication as well as introduce the topics of career related planning and communication (resume, cover-letter, job-related interviews and interviewing, follow-up), as well as formal business report writing.

Reviewed by Carrie Gay, Adjunct Professor, J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College, Richmond, VA on 2/8/17

This book is very comprehensive. Contains an vast array of business communication principles applicable to today's business environment. However, there is no index or glossary which makes the book somewhat ineffective for quick reference points. read more

This book is very comprehensive. Contains an vast array of business communication principles applicable to today's business environment. However, there is no index or glossary which makes the book somewhat ineffective for quick reference points.

I found the content of the chapters accurate and up-to-date. No grammatical errors were found. Material appears unbiased with prejudice.

Once again, the material is up-to-date. I enjoyed the introductory exercises and the learning objectives presented in each section. Students know exactly what to expect in each chapter. Easy to read and comprehend.

The text is well written, easy to understand. Technical terminology was comprehendable and use of jargon was acceptable. No errors detected.

The book is consistent in its chapter presentations. I appreciated the resources presented after each chapter. Great sources of additional information if the student is interested in searching for it.

The sections were easy to read and were divided adequately. Subunits could be reorganized and realigned if need be without too much effort. Readers should still be able to follow printed material even if it has been rearranged.

This appeared to be the weakest part of the book...the chapter arrangements. I believed the last chapter of the book, Chapter 19, could have appeared somewhat earlier in the book. I compared this book to a couple of others I have seen in recent years and the flow was "off." I still say good material presented throughout, however.

Very few graphics presented in the book overall. I clicked on several Web sites and had no interface/nor navigation issues.

I found no grammatical errors during my first reading of the material which speaks well of the book and the authors/proofreaders. Well written sentences and paragraph structure.

I did not find the book culturally insensitive in any way. I asked three students of Asian, Hispanic, and African-American descent to read Chapter 18, Intercultural Communication--none were offended.

Again, I believe the book requires an index or glossary. These would make word or phrase searches less time-consuming. Perhaps review the table of contents for chapter rearrangements too.

Reviewed by Bonnie Yarbrough, Lecturer, University of North Carolina at Greensboro on 12/5/16

This text covers all areas of the subject appropriately and provides a good Table of Contents. At roughly 600 pages, coverage of the subject matter is extensive. There is no glossary, however, and the index is less comprehensive than I would have... read more

This text covers all areas of the subject appropriately and provides a good Table of Contents. At roughly 600 pages, coverage of the subject matter is extensive. There is no glossary, however, and the index is less comprehensive than I would have liked.

The text has been updated (2015) from the first edition. In subject matter, the text is accurate, although there are occasional mechanical errors and typos that should have been caught.

The content is up to date, but will need to keep pace with evolving technology over each year. For example, the chapter containing a long discussion of mobile communication messages will need revision next year to accommodate changes in the marketplace and in the workplace. Some of the information here is basic, almost elementary, when measured against other more specialized texts. Still, it should be easy to update; discussions could be accommodated for individual audiences.

The text is extremely clear and compelling in its discussions of the material. Each area of the field is covered substantively and with effective examples.

Consistent in its terminology and organization. Concepts introduced early in the text and followed up in later sections of the book and built upon.

This text is already divided into small reading sections and each is numbered in a clear way, manageable online. The headings are descriptive and each section has numerous graphics, video links, and "key takeaways" that provide an ongoing summary of the material covered.

The organization raised some questions. There are several chapters that could be re-arranged or collapsed and presented in a different order. "Organization and Outlines," for example, is presented long after "Revising" and "Presenting" writing.

I ran across a couple of problems with connectivity or dead links.

This is a text about business communication; the grammar is accurate and contains no errors.

The text makes a point of being culturally inclusive, particularly since that is so important in business today. The examples are relevant and illustrative--compelling.

I would recommend this text for a course particularly in oral business communication--although it also covers writing. It has numerous helpful exercises in each chapter and ideas for further exploration of the subject matter. I didn't see any options for text banks, however; I would have liked to have additional resources for quizzes.

Reviewed by Joy Koesten, Lecturer, University of Kansas on 8/21/16

This textbook is very comprehensive, both in breath and depth. I would have like more information regarding how to facilitate a meeting, ethical communication, and organizational culture. The topics were well selected, though formal speaking... read more

This textbook is very comprehensive, both in breath and depth. I would have like more information regarding how to facilitate a meeting, ethical communication, and organizational culture. The topics were well selected, though formal speaking always seems out of place in a business communication text. While some may need to make formal presentations, the majority of workers do not. It's more likely they will need to hone their interpersonal skills and how to speak up in a group.

I did not find an index or glossary, which would have been nice.

I think some might find the use of an egalitarian approach to be biased, but not me. Otherwise, I thought the book was well written, error free and unbiased.

I think the content is relevant and up to date. I'm seems updates would be easy and straightforward.

Very clearly written. I liked that key terms were highlighted. I thought the highlighted terms were linked to a glossary, but that wasn't the case. I downloaded it in KIndle, so maybe that was the problem.

I didn't find any inconsistencies in the text.

It seems this text could easily be divided into units or sections as needed. That is what I plan to do, so I hope that this is the case.

The presentations n section seemed out of place to me. But, otherwise the organization worked fine.

the only navigation issue I ran into was when I went back and forth to the table of contents. I always had to start at the top of the table for f contents and scroll all the way to the most recent chapter. Otherwise, I was not distracted by anything else.

Well written. No grammatical errors were found.

I didn't encounter anything in the text offensive, though I don't recall an emphasis on multiculturalism or a variety of races dipicted in the visuals. There weren't a lot of photos in the book.

I am very likely to use a good portion of this text in an upcoming course.

Reviewed by Sally Stanton, Senior Lecturer, UW-Milwaukee on 8/21/16

Comparable to most business communication texts available commercially. Coverage seems to be missing of social media as business communication (mentioned as a communication channel but not otherwise addressed specifically) and of how to... read more

Comparable to most business communication texts available commercially.

Coverage seems to be missing of social media as business communication (mentioned as a communication channel but not otherwise addressed specifically) and of how to cite/attribute sources in writing and speaking (styles and methods)

No index or glossary that I could locate in the e-pub version reviewed.

Appears to be accurate, error-free, and unbiased.

Some of the communication theories seem rather outdated, given the undeniable role of social media in the digital marketplace and the instant, global nature of communication in 2016. Thus, the text does not seem to reflect the significant need for theories and approaches that address the ability of today's customers, shareholders, competitors, etc. to immediately influence businesses through immediate and very public forms of communication. A bad review on Yelp! or Trip Advisor requires thoughtful handling; organizational communications strategies for dealing with such scenarios should be presented, along with relevant theory or/or research from the professional literature on online business communication. It's no longer enough to just "understand" your audience - business communicators now have a very much two-way, real-time relationship with them.

The topics of social media and managing interactive stakeholder communication could perhaps be added in Chapter 3 or Chapter 16.

Coverage of organizational communications theory and strategies is woven into much of the text but not in an explicit way - the focus is more on developing the individual's own strategy. When that conflicts with organizational strategy, what then?

Detailed coverage of ethics/ethical communication is limited and somewhat difficult to locate (especially since there is no index or glossary) - the chapter devoted to it is very short and lacks sufficient grounding in the professional literature.

Clear and conversational, easy to read.

Consistency rating: 3

It is definitely a broad, general overview of the subject matter. In the first three chapters it covers terms and theories common to both writing and speaking, and then devotes six chapters specifically to each. I would prefer to have chapters 16-19 at the beginning of the text along with chapters 1-3, as these topics equally relate to both writing and speaking, and are very timely - specifically intercultural communication and crisis communication. (Unfortunately topics presented at the end of the text/semester often get short shrift from students, or are cut because they don't fit easily in a 15-week semester. The framework would then proceed more logically from the general to the specific.

Modularity is very good; subheadings are used frequently to break up text, especially for online readers. I was surprised not to find hypertext links other than those in the citations - but I suppose that would make it difficult to publish in multiple formats, and managing broken links would be a nightmare.

An index/glossary would be a very strong addition.

As mentioned previously, I would prefer to have chapters 16-19 at the beginning of the text along with chapters 1-3, as these topics equally relate to both writing and speaking, and are very timely - specifically intercultural communication and crisis communication.

Serviceable interface, but it didn't particularly wow me. Use of grayed lines on charts makes it hard to see, especially on a smaller digital device (let's face it, students read books on their phones and iPads). Still it seems like it would be easily customized, which is a plus.

I understand that copyright issues prevent the use of the many photographic images found in commercial texts, but I find the lack of images is one downfall of using this kind of digital text. Students seem to read increasingly less, or if they do, don't comprehend well information presented only in lengthy textual form. Meaningful images can enhance understanding.

No problems found. Conversational tone makes it accessible.

Good specific coverage of intercultural communication, although as I mentioned before, this should come earlier in the text given how critical this topic has become in a globalized economy. Examples used seem to be quite diverse and appear throughout the text, not just in the specific chapter on intercultural communication. More examples of intercultural business writing would be helpful, though.

Overall, it seems to be a useful secondary text, or one used to provide additional coverage of specific topics, rather than as a primary text. However, it is difficult to find a textbook that provides both sufficient breadth and depth of coverage whether open-source or not. So, if you are interested in "slicing and dicing" content to fit your curriculum, this text would be a good place to start.

Reviewed by Eric Dodson, Instructor of ESOL, Portland State University on 1/7/16

This book includes a review of sentence grammar, paragraph structure, process writing, rhetorical styles, principles of judging sources, and business genre forms. The grammar sections provide a backbone; generally good examples provided. The... read more

This book includes a review of sentence grammar, paragraph structure, process writing, rhetorical styles, principles of judging sources, and business genre forms. The grammar sections provide a backbone; generally good examples provided. The individual grammar points require supplementary material for review of more examples and grammar-focused exercises. However, there are some exercises that marry both grammar and business writing functions.

The grammar points and exercises that I browsed were accurate. Rare typos.

Business norms may change, but the main focus is on underlying writing and rhetorical competency, and any updates will be relatively easy and straightforward to implement.

Some of the grammar for native speakers seems to be targeted for students who know some grammar terms, but do not know others. For example, the term “clause” is given a rough definition, but later the term “phrase” is used without a clear definition, in the context of “prepositional phrase.”

When discussing the specific genre of business writing (Ch. 10), the text often focuses on academic writing demands. Some sections are really focused on overall rhetorical styles and classical rhetoric, with a bit of business window dressing.

\The text is organized and composed in a perfect way for picking-and-choosing chapters or sections. Important concepts that are shared by several chapters (sentence fragments, for example) are generally introduced and explained in each chapter they appear in (though with different levels of detail, depending on the chapter).

No table of contents in the document, and correspondingly, no hyperlinks between sections. The first chapter’s grammar review and the second, punctuation, offer the chance to review a wide range of sentence grammar topics, but the topics are not ordered in a sequentially logical way. For example, adjectives and adverbs are tackled after sentence fragments and other sentence-level errors (which are unanalyzable if readers do not understand basic word-level grammar). The third chapter on word choices has a similar issue.

Some editing exercises are single-spaced, which makes them very difficult to correct via pen-and-paper. Example writing often is not clearly labeled or differentiated from the main text.

Rare omitted words or punctuation (e.g., p. 141). Otherwise clear and accurate.

Occasional glimpses of a multi-cultural reality via examples or use of names from different backgrounds. However, the focus is on (presumably) North American business English demands. The only issue with this is that this is not explicitly explained, and learners would need supplemental materials in order to raise awareness of the existence of different genre expectations internationally.

This work would offer a good set of resources for introductory university student writing courses or business English for speakers of other languages. For example, Chapter 3 has a welcome list of commonly confused words. However, this work would likely be most useful as a teacher planning supplement or to provide readings/exercises on specific topics. Much of the grammatical information, including the chapter for ESL students, does not offer much application to business contexts. For example, there is a review of the concept of idioms, and some example idioms, but not commentary on how students should use them in writing, or if they should use them at all. For the presentation of grammar and mechanics, I would supplement with more genre-specific projects, but the succinct and broad overview of grammar makes a good basic resource.

Reviewed by Judy Boozer, Business Faculty/AOP Program Lead, Lane Communicty College on 1/7/16

The book is comprehensive in regards to business communication, but it lacks a table of contents, index, or glossary for ease in finding the concepts presented in it. read more

The book is comprehensive in regards to business communication, but it lacks a table of contents, index, or glossary for ease in finding the concepts presented in it.

Content Accuracy rating: 3

This book has a few errors throughout--spaces missing between words, inconsistent formatting, lack of first line indents for paragraphs, etc. The content does appear for the most part to be unbiased and often gives both sides of concepts/views of proper communication.

Because paragraphs are not indented, it makes it extremely hard to see where paragraphs begin and end.

Content is relevant to today's world, but it lacks some of the more current digital communication options available to us. This would be easy to add.

The clarity of the book is quite good. The author has done a good job of explaining all content, especially if new or unusual terminology is used.

Each chapter in this text has been organized the same way. Although it is nice to be consistent, it almost makes it boring. A list of terms used in each chapter would be helpful.

As mentioned before, there is also inconcistency with the formatting of the contents of this book.

Modularity rating: 3

The book is clearly organized by chapter content and then by objectives within each chapter's topic(s). There are times, however, when few side headings are used, which makes it difficult to comprehend the material presented.

The topics are presented in a logical manner, and they often refer to previous topics as the reader progresses through the book.

There are no interface issues, except that there is not much to excite the reader into reading. There are very few graphics, tables, charts, used. A text only book is difficult to read and comprehend.

I find almost no grammatical errors. (necessary for a book on business communication)

The book is not insensitive or offense to any cultures, but it does lack too many references to various races, cultures, etc.

This book has a wealth of information with resources provided, but it lacks those elements that appeal to those learners that require more than just reading text in order to learn a topic. There are a wealth of exercises at the end of each lesson that students can complete to gain competency in the chapter's concept(s).

Reviewed by Carolina Selva, Adjunct Faculty, BA and MSD, Portland Community College on 1/7/16

Extremely comprehensive. Covers all critical areas of business communication including electronic messages, team communication, presentation skills, and even "language." Learning resources such as exercises and activities are included - many of... read more

Extremely comprehensive. Covers all critical areas of business communication including electronic messages, team communication, presentation skills, and even "language." Learning resources such as exercises and activities are included - many of them quite useful and very relevant to the material.

Accurate and timely as of the date of publishing (2010). Good blend of theoretical and practical applications bolsters credibility. I found no errors or hints of bias.

Relevant in today's dynamic business environment. Many of the principles are (almost) timeless, but the book also includes chapters on newer dynamics of communication in the current climate. These chapters (specifically the last two - on intercultural communication and teamwork) may require more review/updating in coming years than much of the other material.

Clear and to the point - as business writing should be.

Very consistent tone and voice throughout.

Absolutely divisable into specific modules in order to assign at different points. I envisioned using this text in my current Business Communication course and thus assigning chapters out of order and it would work with no problems whatsoever.

Organization/structure is logical. If I were to assign chapters in sequential order, flow would be no problem here. As mentioned in the section on modularity, however, the chapters could stand on their own provided context was present.

Good interface and easy navigation. Some of the graphical elements were not as sharp as others, and some were a bit small. Overall, the book seemed text-heavy and could use visual elements (such as white space and/or more graphics/images) throughout.

No grammatical errors - good modeling of grammar usage.

No cultural insensitivities were perceived. I was impressed with the section on intercultural communication.

Reviewed by Gail Emily Fey, Ph.D., Lecturer, Eller College of Management, University of Arizona on 6/10/15

At nearly 800 pages, the text is immensely comprehensive. It includes both pre- and post-lesson exercises. Some of the exercises seem a bit “silly”; and the author seems to prefer “fives and sixes” for just about every exercise. Still, because... read more

At nearly 800 pages, the text is immensely comprehensive. It includes both pre- and post-lesson exercises. Some of the exercises seem a bit “silly”; and the author seems to prefer “fives and sixes” for just about every exercise. Still, because many options are offered, the instructor or learner would be free to find something appropropriate.

One especially interesting section was LANGUAGE. It was thorough enough to get the main points across but not SO deep as to be offputting to those not into linguistics. Language seems to be a topic that is often eliminated or minimized in other business communication texts.

The author includes references at the end of each chapter. Moreover, the author’s brief bio makes it clear that he has expertise in the subject of Speech and Communication. That ethos lends credibility to the text.

The overarching principles of business writing (clarity, knowing audience, understanding context, bottom line on top, concision) are not likely to change any time soon. The last 2 chapters (intercultural and teamwork) are especially relevant for the near future. According to the SHRM (Society for Human Resource Management) “Changing demographics, relocation patterns and the globalization of business will be among the key trends influencing the workplace in the next five to 10 years.”

Fine job of clear writing. The author does a good job of modeling clear writing... necessary for business writers.

Since one individual authored the entire text, it has a consistent voice and tone.

Yes, the chapters can be individual modules for study.

However, as indicated below under my structural comments, really the modules are “Writing”, “Presentations”, and “Context”.

The structure can be thought of as comprising 3 parts: Background, Writing, Context. The author might consider 3 overarching headers under which to place the current chapter titles (e.g., “Writing” is the high-level category; then “Revising your Writing” would go under it. Similarly, “Context” would be the high-level category with “Intercultural and International” under it.).

The inclusion of “key takeaway” would be re-enforcing to students… especially those who read words but are not so good at making meaning of those words.

As much as I appreciated the Language section, its title of “Delivering your message” seems misleading. That title implies presentation/writing techniques. Why not entitle it simply “Using Language”?

No grammatical errors that this reviewer noticed.

Yes, absolutely. For the 21st century worker (in ANY discipline, but especially in business), communication is crucial. Warren Buffet stated that he thinks “The most valuable investment that you can make in yourself is to improve your ability to communicate. ‘Communication is enormously important; oral and written,’ said Buffett.” (Lukas Partners, posting on 3-2014, http://www.lukaspartners.com/communication-important-says-warren-buffett/).

One area that could be improved is that of visual design. The version I reviewed had next-to-no graphics. Quite possibly the no-graphics approach was an effort to prevent the book from becoming even longer.

Another formatting item that this reviewer found annoying was the omission of extra line space between paragraphs. I would vote for single line spacing within paragraphs and double line spacing between para’s to signal the reader a new paragraph was beginning.

Reviewed by Brandy A. Brown, Assistant Professor, University of Arizona on 6/10/15

I integrated this book as a supplement in a Psychology of Leadership course. Communication is such an essential leadership skill and myself and a fellow Associate Professor teaching this course found that student's skills in that area were... read more

I integrated this book as a supplement in a Psychology of Leadership course. Communication is such an essential leadership skill and myself and a fellow Associate Professor teaching this course found that student's skills in that area were deficient.

One of my criticisms of the majority of open texts is that they do tend to fall out of date. This text uses a very simple communication model and doesn't provide additional information or models which would apply better to virtual teams and their communication.

This text is comprehensive enough to actually be used for a full business or professional communication course - several of my students chose to explore the entire book despite only being assigned specific chapters because they found it relevant and helpful to their lives, not just to their coursework.

For the majority of my students this was appropriate for their current level of knowledge. Nothing struck me as inaccurate, there were research bases for the material, however, my criticism of a lack of additional models and examples which would better apply to current prevalent business communications is appropriate for this as well (e.g. virtual distributed teams). Those would be expected in a publisher supported text.

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, this text does feel slightly limited (only one model of communication) and behind the current communication trends (virtual teams). Previous reviewer, Dr. Emery, said it perfectly, '....I'd like to see a deeper grounding in persausion, organizational communication, and business discourse."

Students found the text very clear, including my Japanese native student who struggles with English quite a bit. Another student remarked that it was an enjoyable read and that they at times found it funny. Those are quite the complement for a textbook.

The book felt like it was almost two separate books put together - which is part of why it can be considered so comprehensive. There were chapters focused on descriptions and definitions and lists, but then some which were very applied and focused on specific communications. I was able to assign these together (something I will address under modularity), but the book could have a better flow and be more narrow, given the focus of the title.

As noted under consistency the text can easily be mixed together, which is very important given the differences in certain types of chapters (list/definition chapters vs. actual applied writing chapters). I chose to assign only the chapters I felt were most relevant to the topics of leadership communication, but allowed students to do the others and provided quizzes they could complete for bonus points. They loved that approach, and how well it worked speaks to the appeal and flexibility of the text.

I did not follow the organization or structure of the text as it was in any way, that was the only challenge I found with using this text. While it was 'modular' based on the definition provided here and I did like the structure and flow of individual chapters, remixing the text was difficult and required students to find their own places in a Word document or PDF version which displayed differently than mine usually. If it were to be posted on a platform that made that easier to do that would be a large improvement.

Students registered no complaints, and overall I have no major issues with it. Nothing is distracting or confusing, but I also wouldn't rate it high on engagement (visuals are different in different formats and sometimes have issues with clarity). Students (and I) appreciated the chapter structure and outlines, but again the format to interact with the text (Word or PDF unless I find my own method to host or remix it) was limiting and not necessarily ADA compliant in the current formats.

Students commented on the accessibility of the tone, and I have found no errors.

Students in my program are often multicultural, they and I had no issues with the text. However, I am always looking for more examples to help them see the differences in cultures and how to handle communication in those instances.

This textbook saved my students and I from two large issues: 1) needing to deal with a difficult enrollment and grading interface process on another website, and 2) paying for the additional materials needed in this course on top of our current required items (which I am not able to break free from currently). It reduced both friction with our course materials and my need to be technical support, while increasing engagement through allowing students choices and the ability to pursue additional knowledge on their own. That is why texts like this one matter so very much. Many of my students struggle financially, and the option to enable them to learn more without adding any financial burden is invaluable.

Reviewed by Daniel Emery, Associate Professor of Business Communication, University of Oklahoma on 1/12/15

The book is exceptionally comprehensive, comparable to other large omnibus collections for business communication. The book would be suitable for business communication courses or business and professional speaking. It's arrangement and scope of... read more

The book is exceptionally comprehensive, comparable to other large omnibus collections for business communication. The book would be suitable for business communication courses or business and professional speaking. It's arrangement and scope of coverage are comparable to the largest for profit books used in the field.

I would describe the content as accurate and a good portion of the material presented had a clear basis in writing research. I find the author's sender/message/receiver model for communication somewhat dated theoretically, but that is also my critique of most textbooks in the area. In later chapters, the book could stand more examples from professional contexts and would benefit from thorough research in the business communication literature. I wouldn't call it inaccurate, but I find it underdeveloped.

Several of the examples and allusions are recent and relevant, but the development of the content is not what I would hope for developing a state of the art introduction to the field. It's no worse than the majority of books in the area, but I wish it were better. Specifically, I think the communication generalist approach of the text makes it somewhat accessible for a wide variety of instructors, but I'd like to see a deeper grounding in persuasion, organizational communication, and business discourse.

Very clear and often clever.

I would describe the book as somewhat over broad in its lexicon. Part of the issue may be with arrangement, but the opening chapters were rife with lists and redefinition of common terms. One of the challenges of working in Communication as a field is that much of our content is taken for granted or treated as common sense. A narrower focus and an emphasis on key ideas would be very helpful. An adopter of the book might do well to adopt the elements on communication or language, but probably not both to keep the content clear.

It looks very good to me. One of the things I appreciated most was that the elements of the book I think were strongest could be realigned and revised with relative ease. The volume tries to be an "everything book" in many ways, so the opportunity to cut and remix is its most useful property. Facutly who use the giant comprehensive industry standard books end up excising a ton of content anyway.

The weakest chapters of the book were those that discussed research in business writing. I'd recommend that the aothor consult with a buisiness librarian who migh offer a more comprehensive and effective review of sources of business information. Those modules should be much stronger.

The organizational strategy makes sense, but it isn't how I might prefer the book to be laid out. The opportunity to cut material would be an advantage here.

Textually, the book is solid. I appreciate the typographic choices and the chapter outlines are very clear and straightforward. The visuals are less effective, as the are occasionally too small and somewhat unfocused. The choice to use gray text boxes or filters over sample documents was a poor one.

Unsurprisingly, it's very good. I appreciated the converstional tone.

The book makes frequent mention of inrercultural issues in business communication, which is absolutely relevant to the globalized marketplace of today's graduates. Additional examples of itnernational correspondence would be potentially invaluable, even amid the chapters on genres.

I deeply appreciate McLean's Business Communication for Success as the first truly effective and customizable open source text in our area. The coverage of the book equals or exceeds that of the majority of the books available from publishers, and the exercises and activities are appropriate to a wide variety of teaching circumstances and environments. For an instructor or program looking for a low cost option for students, the content and customizability of this book is a welcome starting point regardless of the disciplinary or curricular home of a business communication course.

Table of Contents

  • Chapter 1: Effective Business Communication
  • Chapter 2: Delivering Your Message
  • Chapter 3: Understanding Your Audience
  • Chapter 4: Effective Business Writing
  • Chapter 5: Writing Preparation
  • Chapter 6: Writing
  • Chapter 7: Revising and Presenting Your Writing
  • Chapter 8: Feedback in the Writing Process
  • Chapter 9: Business Writing in Action
  • Chapter 10: Developing Business Presentations
  • Chapter 11: Nonverbal Delivery
  • Chapter 12: Organization and Outlines
  • Chapter 13: Presentations to Inform
  • Chapter 14: Presentations to Persuade
  • Chapter 15: Business Presentations in Action
  • Chapter 16: Intrapersonal and Interpersonal Business Communication
  • Chapter 17: Negative News and Crisis Communication
  • Chapter 18: Intercultural and International Business Communication
  • Chapter 19: Group Communication, Teamwork, and Leadership

Ancillary Material

About the book.

Business Communication for Success (BCS) provides a comprehensive, integrated approach to the study and application of written and oral business communication to serve both student and professor.

This series features chapters with the following elements:

  • Learning Objectives
  • Introductory Exercises
  • Clear expectations, relevant background, and important theories
  • Practical, real-world examples
  • Key Takeaways or quick internal summaries
  • Key terms that are easily identified
  • In-chapter assignments
  • Postchapter assessments linked to objectives and skills acquisition

Each chapter is self-contained, allowing for mix-and-match flexibility and custom or course-specific design. Each chapter focuses on clear objectives and skill demonstrations that can be easily linked to your syllabus and state or federal requirements. Supported by internal and external assessments, each chapter features time-saving and learning-enhancement support for instructors and students.

BCS is designed to help students identify important information, reinforce for retention, and demonstrate mastery with a clear outcome product.

The text has three content categories:

  • Foundations
  • Process and products

The first three chapters form the core foundation for the study of oral and written business communication. The next sequence of chapters focus on the process of writing, then oral performance with an emphasis on results. The final sequence focuses on contexts where business communication occurs, from interpersonal to intercultural, from groups to leadership.

In each of the process and product chapter sequences, the chapters follow a natural flow, from prewriting to revision, from preparation for a presentation to performance. Each sequence comes together in a concluding chapter that focuses on action—where we apply the skills and techniques of written or oral communication in business, from writing a letter to presenting a sales speech. These performances not only serve to reinforce real-world applications but also may serve as course assessments.

This text has been used in classes at: Ohio University, Miami University – Oxford, Kent State University – Salem Campus, Cuyahoga Community College – West, University of Toledo, Cuyahoga Community College – District, Northern Arizona University, Gateway Community College, University of Arizona, Arizona Western College, Boise State University,Western Governors University, Doane College, Mcpherson College, University of Nebraska Med Center, Suny Fredonia, State University of New York Institute of Technology at Utica/Rome, Trinidad State Junior College, University of Delaware, Brenau University, Brewton-Parker College, Loras College, Kapiolani Community College, Muscatine Community College, Greenville College, University of Illinois – Chicago, Millikin University, Rockland Community College, Cornell University, National-Louis University – Lisle, St. Gregory's University, University of Southern Indiana, Missouri State University – W Plains, Bucks County Community College – Newton, Clarion University of Pennsylvania, Pulaski Technical College, Temple University, Dixie State College of Utah, Averett University, Virginia Polytech Institute, Fond Du Lac Tribal Community College, Lipscomb University, Edgewood College, University of Wisconsin – Stout, Wisconsin Lutheran College, Virginia State University, North Georgia Technical College – Blairsville, Paradise Valley Community College, Fordham University – Lincoln Center, New England College of Business/Finance, Eastern New Mexico University, University of Alabama, Albertus Magnus College, Pepperdine University, Fullerton College, Santa Ana College, Miracosta College – Oceanside, San Jose State University, De Anza College, University of The Southwest, Florida Institute of Technology, Forida State University, Dean College, California State University, University of Massachusetts, Suffolk University, Stevenson University, Worcester State College, University of Maryland, Clover Park Technical College, Minnesota State University – Moorhead, College of St. Scholastica, Ferris State University, Concordia University, Southern New Hampshire University, Lower Columbia College, University of North Carolina – Greensboro, Rockingham Community College, Stanly Community College, Wayland Baptist University, Bunker Hill Community College, Salve Regina University, University of The Incarnate Word, St. Mary's University, University of Rhode Island, Texarkana College, Renton Technical College, Tarleton State University, Wayland Baptist University – Plainview, University of Houston, Stephen F. Austin State University, Bates Technical College, Chabot College, Bakersfield College, Azusa Pacific University, University of Houston – Downtown, California Southern University, Miracosta College, American Public University, American Public University System, Huntington Junior College, Flat World Knowledge University, Jackson Senior High School, Holmes High School, Dlielc, Clintondale High School, American University in Kosovo in Conjunction with Rochester Institute of Technology, Southeast Lauderdale High School, Benedict Business Hotel Management School, University of the People, Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, New Brunswick College of Craft and Design, New England School of English, Comsats Institute of Information Technology, Wayland Baptist University – Anchorage, Volcano Vista High School, Wayland Baptist University – San Antonio, Morrill High School, North Island College – B Campus, Seneca College, APOU, University of North Carolina – Greensboro, Southern New Hampshire University, University of Maryland University College, Harrisburg High School

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The Communication Process

When communication scholars first started studying communication, they saw it as a straightforward process: a sender sends a message to a receiver. The receiver receives it. This model makes the receiver very passive. If this model was true, miscommunications would rarely occur. Today, communication scholars know that what’s happening is more complicated.

In 1948, C.E. Shannon proposed a more complicated theory, which I’ve simplified below. [1] . The main point, however, is that a lot of factors influence and interfere with communication.

Fig. 3.1: Context of Use and Context of Production

The Context of Product/ Context of Use Model. Image description available.

3) Use:  The audience (in red) doesn’t just passively receive the message. Instead, they decode the message based on their own Context of Use . They draw on their own beliefs, attitudes, experiences, feelings, background, etc. to understand the message. The more these two circles overlap, the more meaning is created.

But not everyone within a culture has the same beliefs and experiences, and many of us go between cultures. For example, an international student from India might behave one way with friends in India, another way when socializing with other international students from India while in Canada, and a third way when interacting with domestic students who have South Asian heritage.

To understand this model better, let’s take a look at this vintage ad for ketchup:

A vintage ad for ketchup that shows a woman saying "you mean a WOMAN can open it?"

Sometimes it’s easiest to see the Context of Production when we look at a context that’s very different from our own. This ad was created in the 1950s, almost 70 years ago. It was created in a very different context. What kind of values, beliefs and assumptions led to the creation of this ad? Who do you think created it? Who was it marketed to?

When you look at the ad, think about what’s in it and what’s not in it. Judging by the caption, we can probably make some assumptions about how North American society in the 1950s viewed women. To put this ad in perspective, women in Canada weren’t allowed to own a credit card until the 1970s; the first woman officially ran a marathon in the late 1960s. We can assume that this message was produced at a time when the dominant cultural view was that women are weak. In fact, this ad is actually marketed to women (who did the majority of the grocery shopping), so many women saw themselves this way too.

We can also think about what’s not in it. The woman in the ad looks very stereotypically feminine (red fingers and nails, dress, etc.) and we can assume that she’s maybe middle class or upper class by her jewelry. She’s also white; it’s likely that this ad was created by white people with the intended audience of white people. That’s not surprising. Around the time this ad was created, Canada had just allowed people of Japanese, Chinese and South Asian descent to vote and when these groups were depicted in advertisements, they were racist caricatures. (In fact, Indigenous people were not allowed to vote in Canada until 1960). That ad is encoded with a Context of Production that saw women as weak, that valued a particular type of femininity, and that ignored or discriminated against BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Colour), and the ad reflects that.

This ad was probably circulated in magazines at the time. Imagine seeing this ad in a magazine. The bright yellow would likely stand out in contrast to the red ketchup bottle, fingernails and lips and catch your attention. Sometimes, ads like this one were accompanied by recipes that used ketchup. People (mostly women) could cut out the recipes and add them to their recipe box. This ad is therefore designed to be circulated in a particular way.

Today, however, the Context of Use is very different. How do you think a modern North American audience would react to this ad? They might be insulted. That’s because they’re decoding the ad in a society where women do Crossfit and lift weights, and would not see themselves as being too weak to open a ketchup bottle. You’re also seeing this ad in a textbook or on a computer screen or mobile phone, which is something that the creators of this ad couldn’t have even dreamed of. Maybe you’re new to Canada and you don’t know much about Canadian politics or history. Still, your individual Context of Use (what people in your family and culture think about women, your own experiences, etc.) will determine how you reacted to the ad.

When this ad was created, the creators hoped that it would make people go out and buy ketchup. They obviously weren’t thinking that their ad would be  reproduced in this textbook. By including this ad as an example, I’m using it for my own purposes: to teach you about a communication model. You might further reproduce it by remixing it for a project or showing it to a friend.

Because the Context of Use is so different from the Context of Production , there’s not a lot of overlap between the two circles. We can read the message, but it probably doesn’t make us want to buy ketchup. In the 1950s, there would have been much more overlap.

The benefit of studying this communication model is that it helps us to see how our own worldview influences how we communicate. Often, communicators do a lot of work analyzing their audience, but they forget to think about how their own assumptions and values influence how they communicate. A lack of self-reflection can lead to miscommunication and even cause harm to your audience. This is especially important when you are communicating with people of other cultures. As intercultural communication scholar E.T. Hall said, “Years of study have convinced me that the real job is not to understand other cultures, but to understand our own.” (Hall, 1973) This model helps us understand how our own culture influences how we judge other people.

To test your understanding of the model, explore it by clicking on hotspots on the image.

Image Description

Figure 3.1 image description: This model describes the context of use and context of production. There are two overlapping circles: one yellow and one red. The first circle represents the speaker’s context of production. The second represents the context of use that the audience decodes the message in. Because there’s overlap, there’s understanding. [Return to Figure 3.1]

  • http://math.harvard.edu/~ctm/home/text/others/shannon/entropy/entropy.pdf ↵
  • Agboka, G. (2012). Liberating Intercultural Technical Communication from “Large Culture” Ideologies: Constructing Culture Discursively. Journal of Technical Writing and Communication, 42(2), 159–181. https://doi.org/10.2190/TW.42.2.e ↵

Business Writing For Everyone Copyright © 2021 by Arley Cruthers is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License , except where otherwise noted.

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Writing Process for Business Communications

Guest posts

For many people, writing is difficult. But writing can become faster and more efficient with practice. When writing effectively for business communications, keep the reader in mind. For the audience to understand, you must be imaginative and communicate your point.

Do not drag out unnecessary details, and try to remain focused on your main goal. Read and explore various sources to enhance your knowledge and improve your vocabulary. To write for effective corporate communication, there are three main steps to follow:

3-Step Writing Process for Business Communications

The 3-step writing process for business communications includes:

1. Make a Plan of What You Are Going to Write

Making a plan for the content of your message is the first stage. Make the purpose or goal of writing clear first. Once a goal has been established, gather data while keeping the audience’s needs in mind. After that, devise a plan or choose a platform to deliver your message.

For the delivery of your desired message, use the appropriate communication channel. It’s time to organize the thought and decide whether to use a direct or indirect technique to convey a message. Wonders happen when writers’ motivation is practiced. The ideal strategy is to create an outline so you won’t forget to include key details. Thus, the process involves:

●  Investigate the Situation

You establish the purpose of your writing in this step and create a profile of your audience. Without knowing your writing purpose, you risk having a limited comprehension of your target audience and creating a message that is ignored or receives no reaction.

●  Collect Data

This step involves identifying the audience’s needs and gathering the data necessary to meet those needs. What information must your audience have? This process aids in helping you concentrate on the key components of your message.

●  Select the Correct Delivery Vehicle

Now you must pick the most efficient means of communication delivery (medium). Does your intended audience read textual correspondence such as emails and letters? To effectively communicate your message, you must choose the appropriate media. If you don’t, your intended audience won’t hear you.

●  Put the Data in the Proper Order

Once you’ve completed the fundamental tasks of obtaining, analyzing, and selecting how to present your information, it’s time to organize it all. In this section of the planning step, we will establish the key communication concept and decide whether to deliver the message directly or indirectly. In accordance with best practices, the communication’s substance should be outlined at this point.

2. Get Started with Writing Phase

Compose the message after careful planning. You will concentrate on the “You” mindset strategy during this phase. This approach seeks to engage the audience and effectively deliver the message.

This technique will help you learn more about your audience’s preferences in terms of fashion, age, education, and professional issues. It’s time to write a strong, concise, and meaningful statement. It would be beneficial if you used terms that impacted the readers.

●  Awareness About Audience’s Requirements

The objective is to discover as much as you can about your audience. Find out about their prejudices, education, age, status, sense of style, and personal and professional issues. Convey the message in clear English with a conversational tone using the right voice.

After figuring out how to tailor our business communication to our target, you must write the message. Write the message with our audience in mind, in other words. You can communicate with them to meet their needs using this knowledge. Additionally, in this step, you should aim to develop credibility to forge a close bond with the audience.

●  Write the Message

The final phase in the writing process is to select powerful words that result in phrases and paragraphs that make sense. If you are writing for a general audience, make sure you distinguish between abstract and concrete words in your writing and eliminate any jargon.

When writing to a technical audience, jargon is allowed since they will comprehend your message better than a general audience. Choose terms when writing your message that will affect both the reader and the message.

3. Final Phase

In this final phase, you will evaluate your message. Check whether it is effective or in presentable form. Now you need to revise and review the message. See whether the information is accurate and relevant to the target audience or not.

Ensure the message format is fine such as fonts, digital, analog, etc. After this, proofread the message to fix the grammatical mistakes and errors. Now it’s time to distribute the message to your audience. Use a reliable and authentic channel.

●  Proofread Your Work

Check the communication component for layout mistakes. Verify your grammar and spelling as well. Read your message numerous times, paying attention to various areas with each reading. By reading your work backward, you can check for spelling mistakes.

After your initial examination, put the document aside and return to it a few hours or a day later. You will be able to find any errors you might have missed during the initial review with the aid of fresh eyes. Ensure that all the materials and documents you intend to distribute relate to your message.

Regular practice and use of the three-step writing process for business communication will help you become a better writer. Adhere to the above instructions to accomplish your goal.

For more information, check out these links:

1.     https://sugermint.com/the-importance-of-business-education-for-creating-better-quality-of-life/

2.     https://slocumstudio.com/a-10-step-guide-for-effective-business-writing-to-win-clients/

writing process business communication

Pearl Holland writes well-researched articles for Perfect Essay Writing . She holds a good grip over the composition and structure of the English language. Her diversified abilities in crafting informative pieces in a unique style are a source of inspiration.

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A Rose By Any Other Name (Authenticating Details)

Silence: two worlds collide.

I teach journaling workshops to help people process tough emotions and communicate better. Try these prompts to get started.

  • Journaling is an amazing skill that can help you process your emotions.
  • Through journaling, you can also learn how to better express how you feel.
  • I have taught people how to journal effectively in workshops for years. Here are my tips. 

Insider Today

"What are you feeling right now?"

I asked this of attendees as I scanned the room at the first journaling workshop I taught in New York City in 2019. I, for one, was feeling nervous. I was nervous for a few reasons; I was wondering if people would want to share from their worksheets and if I'd succeeded in creating a space where people felt safe sharing.

Then, the first person spoke up. And then the second. Soon, a room full of people who'd never met opened up to one another, sharing what they'd written from a series of reflective prompts. Talking about feeling unseen, lacking stimulation at work , and needing a break from the world that raced outside.

People told me that learning to journal helped them better express their feelings

One participant from that day later told me how encouraging them to share "led to a passionate and honest conversation between a bunch of strangers that left us all feeling inspired and renewed." Similar expressive experiences continued at each workshop.

Then the pandemic came. I changed my format as my workshops turned virtual, and I felt nervous again, wondering if people would still be willing to journal and share with strangers through a screen. And again, I was met with people — now from all over the world — being openly vulnerable , unabashedly vocal about their fears, their worries, their dreams.

I realized that in a world where we continue to answer with "fine" and "good" when someone asks, "How are you?" we crave not only a space where we can answer that question honestly but also the space to figure out what that answer is.

And I've found that journaling can provide that space — on a page.

How you can journal to get more in touch with — and better express — how you feel

Journaling offers a pathway for making sense of what feels messy in our minds and gives us the words to express it clearly. (Or at least, clearer.) Along the way, I've harnessed some of my favorite methods to make figuring out your feelings a little easier.

The first step is processing how you feel

Make a list. Take a blank sheet of paper, set a timer for 2-3 minutes, and jot down every emotion you feel. Write the big ones and even the tiny nudges on paper to take note of your immense capacity for feeling and how you are so much more than just one (even if one feels heavier than the others). If you're having trouble getting started, try this prompt: What is every emotion you've felt since you woke up today?

Go back in time. Sometimes, the best way of understanding how you feel right now is to understand how you felt in the past. Going back in time to write to a previous version of yourself can be highly cathartic and enlightening, giving you the insights you need to move forward.

Research also backs this up, showing that noticing personal growth and gaining a new perspective can be helpful for mental health. To get yourself thinking, try this prompt: Write a letter to yourself one year ago today. What do you wish you could've told yourself then?

Externalize your emotions. Personifying your feelings could be highly effective in helping you understand and empathize with them. An author and journaling mentor I admire, Amber Rae, put it well when she explained to Bullet Journal in an interview how she builds characters around her challenging emotions and then writes with them to understand their unmet needs and deepest fears. Try this prompt: Pick an emotion and write a letter to them as if they were a real person. Give them a name, and tell them how they make you feel.

Then, try to figure out how you want to express it

Get it out in a letter. Letter writing is consistently one of my go-to methods, especially when handwritten. New research shows how writing by hand can help brain connectivity and improve memory. It's also a great way to express your feelings, strengthen bonds, and put feelings on paper that might be hard to say verbally.

From apology letters to thank you letters, there are many options to practice expressing yourself to people in your life while making sense of what they mean to you. To get started, try this prompt: Think of someone you want to reconnect with. Write them a letter looking back on a favorite memory together and then invite them to make a new memory.

Write love notes. Leaving yourself love notes can be a small, sweet way to help you feel grounded again. You could journal a powerful affirmation, a kind reminder, or even one word you want to embody. You could write it on a notecard, a mirror, a whiteboard, etc. But my favorite is this prompt: Write yourself an encouraging note in your email and then schedule it for weeks away to get a pleasant surprise in your inbox.

Free-write and release. Catch yourself in the heat of a feeling? Pause before sending that text, that email, or making that phone call (or several). Write down what you want to tell the receiver. Get it all out. Sit with it. (Maybe even sleep on it.) Then, toss it and craft a fresh response with more clarity (and less intensity).

A final tip? If you ever get stuck (it happens), ask yourself, "Why am I having trouble with this specific prompt? " See what comes up when you dig into the question.

And above all else, be kind to what you find on the page.

writing process business communication

Watch: A psychologist reveals how to get rid of negative thoughts

writing process business communication

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