(A Mosaic Case-Study) Coaching Others on Writing Tasks
As the junior manager of the communications for the physical Mosaic?s stores, Demetri constantly receives emails from the accounting department. For example, he needs to know the furniture pieces that have the best selling status so he can create appropriate promotional sales materials marketing research. Read the exchange below and follow the instructions in the Task to practice and build skills in researching through surveys.
Unfortunately, there is a new accountant?Steve?who constantly uses bureaucratic jargon and awkward sentence construction in his emails.
Here is the latest e-mail Demetri received this morning:
Dear Mr. Demetri,
Pursuant to our conversation yesterday on the telephone, enclosed please find the needed sales figure for the past quarter of the current year. It should be noted that the figures presented herein include numbers on the most recent sales data for this quarter minus this past week prior to the official ending of the quarter.
At the request of the conversation that occurred with you, I have taken the liberty to commence prioritizing the furniture peaces that seemed to have the most impressive routine sales during the initial and final weeks? of the sales quarter.
Should you have any further questions on this important and high priority issue that I need to take into consideration, please don?t hesitate to contact me about your concerns at your earliest convenience so that we can discuss them at length until both parties can reach an agreed upon resolution.
All of the e-mails Demetri receives from Steve are similar to this one. Sometimes Demetri has to read the e-mails three or four times before he can even figure out what Steve is trying to say, a factor in productivity for Demetri and everyone else at Mosaic who has to read Steve?s emails.
After reading this latest email this morning, Demetri printed it out and showed his boss, Yvonne. ?Can I do something about this?? he asked.
?Sure. He should know better! Send him an email letting him know what he can do to improve his writing and how his level of formality is inappropriate for interoffice correspondences. You have my green light,? Yvonne said, while making her infamous imaginary quote marks in the air when she said green light.
Since the department hosts communication training for all new employees at Mosaic?s headquarters, Demetri believes that his email will be well-received. Specifically, during the training sessions, the communication team reviews pointers about how to make style less formal and easier to read to fit the organizational communication style of Mosaic.
Further guidance: Remember that email correspondences should be short and to the point. Effective student answers will use specific examples to support their claims.The email should focus on telling Steve to use words that are accurate, appropriate, and familiar and also avoid using business jargon. For example, instead of beginning the email with ?Pursuant to our conversation yesterday on the telephone, enclosed please find the needed sales figure for the past quarter of the current year,? Steve could write, ?Attached are the sales figures we talked about on the phone yesterday.? Responses should also address the wordiness and long sentence structure found in Steve?s email.
Consider using a Writing Review Checklist and standards for readability below that we have discussed earlier in the course in your advice to Steve.
Readability Standards are Important in all Workplaces
Whether you work in the government or civilian sector, it is useful to know about this legislation. Below are the basic standards:
Government Standards for Readability
Clear government Writing:
Writes to a specific audience
Is well organized
Uses the active voice
Uses personal pronouns
Omits unnecessary words
Writes in the positive
Uses short sentences
Is designed for ease of reading
From the Plain Language in Government Communications Act
Before the American Revolution, founding fathers such as John Adams and Thomas Jefferson complained about the ?useless words? of British laws, and hoped the new nation would see “common sense in common language” become fashionable. In 1918, William Strunk?s Elements of Style, the most popular book ever written on the subject, frequently referred to the Government Printing Office Manual as a standard for writers to follow.
Plain Language is also the Standard for Business Writing
In the 1940s, Bob Gunning, a former newspaper writer, founded the first writing consulting company, and brought the need for ?taking the fog out of writing? into the business world; in the next decade, organizations such as the Wall Street Journal adopted Gunning?s methods to improve readability, especially among busy readers. Today, businesses everywhere accept Gunning?s principles.
As we continue in the course, we will discuss and practice techniques for clear writing and plain language that will help you communicate more effectively.