course pack professional writing
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course pack professional writing

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27 pages
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course pack professional writing

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COURSE PACKAGE GEB 5214 Dr. Dorothy McCawley Center for Management Communication Florida MBA Programs BRY 125F P.O. Box 117150 Gainesville, FL 32611-7150 Office Phone: (352) 273-3213 e-mail: dorothy.mccawley@cba.ufl.edu This course package is designed to supplement some of the principles and strategies we are discussing in class this semester. If you read the relevant sections that follow, along with our lecture slides and the chapters in our textbook, you should get a picture of the most influential writing principles for business. Of course, if you are still confused or not completely clear about anything, please contact me directly and I will be happy to work with you. 1 Part 1: The Writing Process th (Source: The Business Writer’s Handbook (7 edition) by Gerald Alred, Charles Brusaw, and Walter Oliu. Bedford/St. Martin’s Press. 2003.) Preparation Revision Establish your purpose Check for completeness and accuracy Identify your audience Check for unity and coherence Select the medium (letter, memo, email, phone) Concision  Eliminate redundancy (if removing a word does not change the meaning of the sentence, then leave it out) Research  Eliminate modifiers (very, extremely, Brainstorm definitely). Replace with concrete wording. Research (Internet & library, interviews)  Simplify wording to avoid overuse of cliché Take notes phrases and jargon Avoid plagiarism  No expletive constructions (This is… It is…. There are….)  Watch for nominalizations (use ―consider‖ not Organization ―take under consideration‖) Outline Check for sentence variety, pace, and transitions Determine visuals  Emphasis (audience memory curve) Decide on layout and design  Parallel structure  Subordinate minor ideas Check for clarity DRAFT  Ambiguity  Logic errors Choose style and tone  Write positively Effective sentence construction Check for ethics in writing  Conscious use of passive voice  Biased language  Try to have an active subject for all  Copyright sentences; think subject-verb-object.  Plagiarism Effective paragraph construction Check for appropriate word choice  Issue-details-resolution  Concrete words  What’s your point?  Straightforward words (minimize jargon and  Not just numbers, but an argument tying cliché phrases) them together  Define unclear terms  A bullet list is not a paragraph Check for grammar problems (use ―edit‖  ―find‖ Choose a descriptive title for your particular problem area) Introduction – Body – Conclusion  Agreement  Case  Modifiers  Pronoun references  Run-on sentences (comma splices) Review mechanics and punctuation  Abbreviations & capitalizations  Contractions & voice (can you use ―I‖?)  Numbers & symbols  spelling 2 “Be Your Own Editor” Checklist The questions below reflect easy-to-overlook aspects of editing. Content Purpose: Stated clearly? Specific requests for action or information? Information: Accurate and complete? Right amount of detail? Sequence Bottom Line: At the top? Strategically placed? Organization: Ideas flow logically? Design Format: Enough headlines, sidelines, and lists? Deadlines and action items highlighted? White space to frame ideas? Presentation: Would a chart, table, or graph be more effective for certain information? Structure Paragraphs: Begin with a topic sentence? Transitions within and between? Focused on one topic? Limited to 5 to 6 lines? Sentences: Varied in structure and length? Streamlined to 15 to 20 words? Tone/Style Words: Simple, specific, and straightforward? Terminology familiar to readers? Free of affectation and stuffy outdated language? Headlines designed for impact? Acronyms explained? Style: Personable, upbeat, and direct? Active voice? Appropriate for the audience? Positive approach? Proofread Grammar, spelling, and punctuation accurate? Should someone else review this? Typographical errors corrected? If this mailing is a repeat, is new data highlighted? Other Enter your own editorial “trouble spots” to double-check and prevent. 3 Part 2: Principles of Good Business Writing Principle 1: Business Writing Should Be Reader-Friendly Three basics of reader-friendly writing: 1. active and energetic sentences 2. frontloaded purpose 3. sufficient information Active and Energetic Sentences – Minimize Passive Voice and Nominalizations Rx: Handling nominalizations 1. When the nominalization follows a verb with little specific meaning, change the nominalization to a verb that can replace the empty verb. Compare: The committee has no expectation that it will meet the deadline. The committee does not expect to meet the deadline. 2. When the nominalization follows there is or there are, change the nominalization to a verb and find a subject: Compare: There is a need for further study of this program. The marketing department must study this program further. 3. When the nominalization is the subject of an empty verb, change the nominalization to a verb and find a new subject: Compare: Our discussion concerned a new marketing policy We discussed a new marketing policy. 4. When you find consecutive nominalizations, turn the first one into a verb. Then either leave the second or turn it into a verb in a clause beginning with how or why: Compare: There was first a review of the transformation of the market for one-step immunoassays. First, the department reviewed the transformation of the market for one-step immunoassays. First, the department reviewed how the market for one-step immunoassays had changed dramatically. Yes, Virginia: There Are Such Things as Good Nominalizations 1. The nominalization names what would be the object of its verb: ◊ The team does not understand the implications of the most recent data. ◊ Better than ―The team does not understand what is implied by the most recent data.‖ 2. A succinct nominalization can replace an awkward ―The fact that‖: ◊ The fact that we managed to change the product’s brand identity in a matter of months impressed our client. ◊ Our transformation of the product’s brand identity in a matter of months impressed our client. 3. Some nominalizations refer to frequently repeated concepts, so that abstractions like ―representation,‖ ―election,‖ and ―advertisement‖ become virtual actors. Principle 2: Business Writing Should Be Coherent You can create cohesion between sentences packed with even the densest information when you place already introduced information at the beginning of sentences and new, unfamiliar material at the end. To connect a sentence to the preceding one, we typically use transitional phrases like and, but, therefore, as a result, etc. To help readers evaluate what follows, we also rely on expressions that flag how they should process the information: 4 ….perhaps, fortunately, allegedly, it is important to note, for the most part, under these circumstances, from a practical standpoint, etc. By beginning with the topic first, your writing will seem more focused, as your readers are better able to process information once they understand the context. Principle 3: Business Writing Should be Logically Organized 3.1 Making Points Readers will feel a paragraph is coherent if you include a ―point sentence‖ or a ―so what?‖ sentence. 3.2 Using Headings as Signposts – think “Headlines” for your paragraphs Headings can help writers as much as readers because writers can use them to diagnose potential problems in the structure of a document. Headings help readers by giving them a general preview of the content of each section. 3.3 Using Bullets and Vertical Lists Effectively Why Use Bullets and Vertical Lists? When used effectively, bullets improve your concision and specificity, and guide your reader through your logic (see example 1). However, don’t overuse them, or your writing will become disjointed and the bullets will lose their emphasis. What is the Difference between Bullets and Vertical Lists? If all your items are equally important, then use bullets to highlight your information. Use numbered lists when your items are organized in some kind of priority or chronological order (example 2). How do I Introduce Bullets and Lists? The colon can only be used after a complete sentence. Consequently, if your introductory statement before the list/bullets is a complete sentence, you may choose either a colon or a period to introduce the list. If the introductory statement is not a complete statement, however, use no punctuation (example 2). Example 1 Example 2 When writing a lengthy document, use lists You can gain access to Personal Banking for the following items: online by o Topic previews 1. clicking on the Personal Banking logo on our o Procedu ral steps website, o Summaries of key points 2. logging on with your social security number, o Recommendations and o Conclusions 3. entering your password and zip code. How do I Punctuate Bullets and Lists? Usually, place periods at the end of bullets that are complete sentences. However, it's just as correct (and perhaps not as confusing for some folks) not to punctuate at the end of each bullet (see example 1). As for whether or not to capitalize the first letter of each bullet, you should capitalize the first word except for when the listed items complete the thought begun in the introductory sentence (as in example 2 above). Watch out, though, as that ―helpful‖ Word software will make you capitalize, no matter what. What do you mean by “Keep bullets grammatically parallel”? You need to keep list and bulleted items consistent in form and specificity (see example3). Example 3a (WRONG!) Example 3b (CORRECT) The NSG foundation gives a variety of grants to The NSG foundation gives a variety of grants to o Support university foundations o Support university foundations o Aid scientific programs o Aid scientific program o Biotechnology centers o Promote biotechnology centers 5 PRINCIPLE 4: Business Writing should be Concise Tips for concision 1) Compress what you mean into the fewest words. 2) Skip what your reader can easily infer. 3) Eliminate ―padding.‖ the reason for, for the reason that as regards, in reference to due to the fact that, owing to the fact that with regard to, concerning the matter of in light of the fact that INSTEAD, use about considering the fact that, this is why it is crucial that , it is necessary that INSTEAD, use because, since, why it is important that despite the fact that it is incumbent upon, cannot be avoided regardless of the fact that INSTEAD, use must, should INSTEAD, use although, even though it is possible that, there is a chance that in the event that it could happen that if it should transpire/happen that the possibility exists for under circumstances in which INSTEAD, use may, might, can could INSTEAD, use if prior to, in anticipation of on the occasion of, in a situation in which subsequent to, following on under circumstances in which at the same time as INSTEAD, use when simultaneously with INSTEAD, use before, after, as 4) Replace or omit ―It…that‖ sentence constructions. Replace With It would thus appear that Apparently It is considered that We think It is possible that the cause is The cause may be It is often the case that Often 4.1 Metadiscourse or Writing about Writing. Metadiscourse is language we use when we refer to our thinking and writing as we write: to summarize, on the contrary, I believe. It also includes references to structure (first, second, most importantly), as well as to the act of reading (note that, consider now, in order to understand). Finally, the purpose of this memo is to… style is wordy and unnecessary. The task is to recognize when metadiscourse is useful and to restrict its use. Types of Metadiscourse: Hedges and Emphatics Hedges let us backpedal, soften our stances, and to make exceptions. Common hedges include: usually, often, sometimes, almost, virtually, possibly, perhaps, apparently, seemingly, in some ways, to a certain extent, sort of, somewhat, more or less, for the most part, to all intents and purposes, in some respects, in my opinion, at least, may, might, can, could, seem, tend, try, attempt, seek, hope. Emphatics add emphasis to statement, but tend not to mean much more than ―believe me.‖ When used to excess, they can make writers seem arrogant, defensive, or unclear. Common emphatics include: as everyone knows, it is generally agreed that, it is quite true that, as we can plainly see, literally, clearly, obviously, undoubtedly, certainly, of course, indeed, inevitably, very, invariably, always, key, central, crucial, basic, fundamental, major, cardinal, primary, principal, essential. Types of Metadiscourse: Negatives To understand negatives, readers must mentally translate them into affirmatives, because negatives may only imply what we should do by telling us what we shouldn’t do. not many = few did not stay = left did not accept = rejected not the same = different not old enough = too young not clearly = unclearly not different - alike/similar did not remember = forgot not possible = impossible did not = failed to did not consider = ignored not able = unable does not have = lacks did not allow = prevented not certain = uncertain 4.2 Each word must count (balance content and concision) This course pack was originally developed by Dr. Fiona Barnes and Dr. Jane Douglas. 6 Watch out for choppiness. Think of each word as being worth money, and try to be as economical in your writing as you can. However, if your text starts to sound choppy, you may have tightened it up too much. Omit the filler phrases "it is," "there is," and Use a colon to leave out the beginning of the "there are" at the beginning of sentences. next sentence Wordy Wordy It is expensive to upgrade computer systems. The theater has three main technical areas. These areas are costumes, scenery, and lighting. Concise Concise Upgrading computer systems is expensive. The theater has three main technical areas: costumes, scenery, and lighting. Omit "this" from the beginning of a sentence by joining sentences with a comma. Omit "which" or "that.” Wordy Wordy Chlorofluorocarbons have been banned from aerosols. Because the fluid, which was brown and poisonous, was This has lessened the ozone layer's depletion. dumped into the river, the company that was negligent Concise had to shut down. Chlorofluorocarbons have been banned from aerosols, Concise lessening the ozone layer's depletion. Because the brown, poisonous fluid was dumped into the river, the negligent company had to shut down. Combine two closely related short sentences by omitting part of one. Replace prepositional phrases with one-word Wordy modifiers when possible. The director is concerned about problems. Typical Wordy problems may occur with lighting, sound, and props. The President of the Student Senate was in charge Concise of the lobbying against the merger at the The director is concerned about typical problems with Minnesota Congress. lighting, sound, and props. Concise The Student Senate President oversaw lobbying the Minnesota Congress against the merger. Eliminate jargon: Writers striving to sound important will often use inflated terms or technical jargon; rather substitute the more concrete, everyday versions: ameliorate improve fabricate make proceed go commence start facilitate help procure get compel force finalize end rendezvous meet comprises is initiate begin terminate end employ use optimal best utilize use endeavor try prioritize rank visitation visit A Note on Emphasis: All’s Well That Ends Well When we speak, as we near the end of a sentence, your voice ordinarily rises in pitch on the last few words to stress the ending of the sentence more strongly than its beginning or middle. Not surprisingly, we call this part of the sentence its stress. We can manage information in the stressed part of the sentence by trimming the end. Lop off the final unnecessary words to get the information you want to emphasize in the final, stressed position. This course pack was originally developed by Dr. Fiona Barnes and Dr. Jane Douglas. 7 SUMMARY OF WRITING STRATEGIES 5. Continuity Principle #2: Use 11. Coherence Principle #3: Clarity transitions to tie sentences Documents need heads and bodies Write to convey actions and reactions. together. – apply paragraph head and body 6. Continuity Principle #3: organization to your entire paper. 1. Clarity Principle #1: Prefer active Sequence information in sentences 12. Coherence Principle #4: Place to passive construction in a familiar-unfamiliar, familiar- your thesis at the end of the head Corollary: Beginning a unfamiliar pattern. paragraph(s). sentence with there is or there 7. Continuity Principle #4: Try to are is ALWAYS a bad idea. keep grammatical subjects Concision 2. Clarity Principle #2: Make your consistent from sentence to verbs portray action whenever Say what you need to say in the fewest sentence. possible words possible. 8. Continuity Principle #5: Corollary: Avoid Continuity is more important than nominalizations! 13. Concision Principle #1: Avoid clarity – if you can maintain a Note: Making passive redundant pairs. strong sequence or a consistent sentences active involves 14. Concision Principle #2: Avoid subject only by using passive choosing the right subject. redundant modifiers. construction, then use it. 3. Clarity Principle #3: Use actors 15. Concision Principle #3: Avoid or concrete objects as your negatives. Coherence grammatical subjects and place 16. Concision Principle #4: Avoid them as close as possible to the Provide readers with the context they throat-clearing. beginning of the sentence. need to understand (1) what they’re reading and (2) what Using the principles together comes next. Continuity Make your sentences fit together tightly 17. Cadence Principle #1: Vary the 9. Coherence Principle #1: Begin and logically structure of your sentences. each paragraph with a set of 18. Cadence Principle #2: Vary the comprehensive overview sentences 4. Continuity Principle #1: Place lengths of your sentences. or paragraph head. the most important information at 19. Cadence Principle #3: In a list or 10. Coherence Principle #2: Support the ends of things – sentences, sentence, place the item with the each paragraph’s head with a body. paragraphs and entire papers. least number of words attached to it first, the longest item, last Steps to follow: 1. Begin with at least one head paragraph. 2. Ensure all paragraphs contain a paragraph head, which provides a survey of the paragraph content. 3. Follow your paragraph head with a body that expands on and provides evidence for the claims in your paragraph head. 4. Place important information at the ends of sentences. 5. Use transitions at the beginnings of at least every third sentence. 6. Use sequencing – a pattern of familiar-new, familiar-new information – to tie your sentences together tightly. 7. Or use common subjects to make your sentences continuous. 8. If you need to use passive construction to maintain a strong sequence between sentences, go for the passive. Otherwise, prefer active to passive construction – it’s more efficient. 9. Use actors or concrete objects as your grammatical subjects. Be sure to place your subject as close to the beginning of most sentences as you can. 10. Avoid redundant pairs and redundant modifiers. 11. Avoid negatives. 12. Avoid throat-clearing (metadiscourse). This course pack was originally developed by Dr. Fiona Barnes and Dr. Jane Douglas. 8 Part 3: Style Guide 1. Numbers from one to nine should be spelled out. Numbers above nine should be in numerical form (10, 100, and 2,345). If a number starts a sentence, however, it should be spelled out. 2. Plural of initials and dates do not require an apostrophe: 1990s, HMOs, unless possessive: the CEO’s new Lexus. 3. Correct use of commas a. USE a comma after introductory information b. USE a comma to set off nonessential elements c. USE a comma between coordinate adjectives (if you can put and between the adjectives and not change the meaning they are coordinate). Today is a hot, muggy day. d. USE a comma to separate items in a series (unless the items include commas, then separate with semicolon) e. USE a comma in a compound sentence (i.e. two independent clauses connected by a coordinating conjunction) f. AVOID comma splices – which is joining two complete sentences (or independent clauses) by only a comma – remove comma, read both sides; complete sentence on both sides? Add semi-colon or connective or make two sentences. REMINDER: a complete sentence includes a subject and verb without any subordinating clauses preceding the subject and verb. 4. Do not fully justify (keep a ragged right margin). Do not indent paragraphs (use a block format with a line between paragraphs) 5. Headings should be used, even in short, one-page documents. Bold your first level headings. If you have several levels of headings, your first level should be bold, centered, and all caps. Second level should be bold and on the left margin. Third level headings should be italicized and end with a period followed by the text (the heading is embedded in the paragraph). 6. Commas and periods go inside quotation marks 7. Follow guidelines under Part 2. This course pack was originally developed by Dr. Fiona Barnes and Dr. Jane Douglas. 9 th123 NW 38 Street Gainesville, Florida 32606 March 15, 2007 Ms. Jane Smith President Smith, Jones & Harrison 456 Investment Road Boston, Massachusetts 01234 Dear Ms. Smith: Business letter writers can choose between a number of accepted formats: block formats, indented formats, and modified block formats. To simplify matters, we recommend the block format as laid out on this page. For authoritative advice about all the variations, we highly recommend The Gregg thReference Manual, 10 ed. (New York: McGraw-Hill, 2005), a great reference tool for business communication. Business writing authorities debate such fine points as whether to skip a line after your return address and before the date. We recommend leaving lines to facilitate quick reading and to “chunk” material into related segments, which is also the reason we recommend the block format over others. When you use the block form to write a business letter, type all the information flush left, with one-inch margins all around. First provide your own address, then skip a line and provide the date, then skip one more line and provide the address of the party to whom the letter is addressed. If you are using letterhead that already provides your address, do not retype that information; just begin with the date. For formal letters, avoid abbreviations where possible. Skip another line before the salutation, which should be followed by a colon. Try to find the name of the recipient whenever possible. Addressing a letter to “To Whom it May Concern” does not create a personal connection. Then write the body of your letter as illustrated here, with no indentation at the beginnings of paragraphs. Skip lines between paragraphs. After writing the body of the letter, type the closing, followed by a comma, leave 3 blank lines, then type your name and title (if applicable), all flush left. Sign the letter in the blank space above your typed name. Sincerely, John Doe Vice President This course pack was originally developed by Dr. Fiona Barnes and Dr. Jane Douglas. 10
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