A directory of resources inthe field of technical communication.


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Is Your Email Businesslike — or Brusque?

Anyone whose ever been part of an online "flame war" has had the experience of a tiny "e-mole" becoming a mountain. Studies have shown that readers add (or invent) emotional bias that is often counter to your intent as the sender. In this case, all of the niceties you thought you were writing ended up sounding very different in the mind of your employee.

Silverman, David. Harvard University (2009). Articles>Business Communication>Correspondence>Email


Keeping In Touch--Staying Online   (PDF)

As technical communicators, we need to reach out and 'keep in touch' with customers if we want to provide truly user-friendly documentation. If we include our customers in the document development process, and convince them that they are an integral part of that process, we increase customer satisfaction. In this panel, writers will discuss practical, step-by-step approaches they use to gather customer comments.

Jacobowitz, Barbara E. and Peggy A. Yates. STC Proceedings (1994). Articles>Collaboration>Correspondence


Letters and the Social Grounding of Differentiated Genres   (peer-reviewed)

Several times in my research over the years, I have noticed letters playing a role in the emergence of distinctive genres: the early scientific article emerging from the correspondence of Hans Oldenburg, the first editor of the Philosophic Transactions of the Royal Society; the patent, originally known as letters patent; stockholders' reports evolving from letters to stockholders; and internal corporate reporting and record forms regularizing internal corporate correspondence. was not the first to notice any of these; however, in putting the four cases together, it struck me that these may be part of a more general pattern. As I pursued the thought that letters might have a special role in genre formation, many other examples of genres with strong connections to correspondence came to my attention, including newspapers and other periodicals, financial instruments such as bills of exchange and letters of credit, books of the New Testament, papal encyclicals, and novels. The letter, in its directness of communication between two parties within a specific relationship in specific circumstances (all of which could be commented on directly), seemed to provide a flexible medium out of which many functions, relationships, and institutional practices might develop--making new uses socially intelligible at the same time as allowing the form of the communication to develop in new directions.

Bazerman, Charles. UCSB. Articles>Rhetoric>Correspondence>Genre


Looking Toward the Electronic Future in the Classroom: Using Electronic Mail   (PDF)

In the last decade, electronic mail (email) has continued to gain popularity and use, especially in the business community. Growing email use has transformed business communication, making it necessary for business executives, scientists, and engineers to acquire knowledge and competence in electronic communication. Such changes make it necessary to teach skills for effective email communication in technical and business writing classes. Preparing students to meet unique communication challenges that they will face in today’s business world is valuable.

Kim, H. Young. STC Proceedings (1995). Articles>Education>Correspondence>Email


Managing Email Overload

One of the most fundamental tools used in any form of e-business is email, but most of us don't really think about it - we just use it out of habit, not with any real plan. And as business becomes ever busier it's easy to become inundated with email and fall so far behind that it becomes useless and customers get frustrated with lack of responsiveness.

Oxer, Jonathan. Internet Vision Technologies (2008). Articles>Business Communication>Correspondence>Email


A Marketplace for Attention: Responses to a Synthetic Currency Used to Signal Information Importance in E-Mail   (peer-reviewed)

The productivity of information workers is jeopardized by too much e–mail. A proposed solution to e–mail overload is the creation of an economy that uses a scarce synthetic currency that senders can use to signal the importance of information and receivers can use to prioritize messages. A test of the virtual economy with corporate information workers showed that people in a large company used different amounts of the currency when sending e–mail messages, and that the amount of currency attached to messages produced statistically significant differences in how quickly receivers opened the messages. An analysis of the network of virtual currency trades between workers showed the different roles that participants played in the communication network, and showed that relationships defined by currency exchanges uncovered social networks that are not apparent in analyses that only examine the frequency, as opposed to the value of interactions.

Reeves, Byron, Simon Roy, Brian Gorman and Teresa Morley. First Monday (2008). Articles>Communication>Correspondence>Email


Memo Writing

This handout will help you solve your memo-writing problems by discussing what a memo is, describing the parts of memos, and providing examples and explanations that will make your memos more effective.

Purdue University (2007). Articles>Business Communication>Correspondence>Genre


Nine Ways to Optimize Business Email

Ranking right up there with the business letter and the corporate memo, email has taken a giant step to the forefront of today's business communications options. Whether you use the electronic medium for most of your business correspondence, or reserve email for an occasional message to colleagues, you'll want to be assured that you're communicating clearly and professionally.

Klariti (2010). Articles>Business Communication>Correspondence>Email


The Number One Mistake People I Interview Are Making These Days

Whether we spent thirty minutes meeting in the offices; we Skyped because you're abroad for your Junior spring semester; or we did a quick first-round phone interview, too many people are forgetting to follow up later that day or the next day with a quick email.

Liebman, Jessica. Business Insider, The (2012). Careers>Business Communication>Correspondence>Interviewing


Pay Attention to The Closing Lines of Your Emails

When it comes to writing emails to our customers and prospects, we pay a great deal of attention to the subject lines and the opening lines of the inside text. You also need to pay attention to your closings.

Usborne, Nick. Excess Voice (2002). Articles>Writing>Correspondence>Email


Persuasive Techniques Used in Fundraising Messages   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

Based on an analysis of 63 fundraising packages representing 46 nonprofit organizations, as well as research in trade journals and other secondary sources, this study discusses a variety of persuasive techniques used in fundraising messages to accomplish their missions. The fundraising package consists of the carrier envelope, the fundraising letter, the reply form, the reply envelope, and optional enclosures such as brochures, small gifts for the reader, and surveys to complete. These parts work together to perform the following tasks: 1) persuade recipients to open the envelope and read the letter; 2) convince readers a serious but not unsolvable problem exists; 3) make readers want to help solve the problem; 4) convince readers they can help by giving to the appealing organization; 5) tell readers what the organization needs them to do; and 6) make it easy to comply.

Spears, Lee A. Journal of Technical Writing and Communication (2002). Articles>Business Communication>Correspondence>Rhetoric


Power Emails: How to Write Them

Most emails have lousy subject lines, are too wordy, and probably are deleted unread, read but not responded to, or filtered out as spam. Learn how to avoid these fates by composing Power Emails that are legal, ethical, and effective.

Streight, Steven. Blogger.com (2004). Articles>Business Communication>Correspondence>Rhetoric


Practitioners' Views About the Use of Business Email Within Organizational Settings: Implications for Developing Student Generic Competence   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

Although extensive research has been done on teaching emails and on the use of emails in organisations, little research exists about how to incorporate organizational practitioners' views as the voices of the community of social practice. To remedy this pedagogical gap, this article uses a genre approach to discuss organizational practitioners' views on the use of email in organizational settings. It also develops seven teaching and learning stages for situated learning and teaching in business communication based upon the presented study findings.

Zhu, Yunxia and Catherine White. Business Communication Quarterly (2009). Articles>Business Communication>Correspondence>Email


Protecting the User's Mailbox

Email is a powerful way to reach customers, but overdoing it is risky. Let users know up front that you'll respect their mailboxes. Otherwise, they won't give their email addresses, and you'll lose a unique channel for marketing and customer service.

Nielsen, Jakob. Alertbox (2002). Articles>Business Communication>Correspondence>Email


Query Letters: A Foot in the Editor's Door

The writer sends the editor a punchy, irresistible one-page letter proposing an idea for a feature piece.

Coe, Charles D. Editorial Freelancers Association (1993). Articles>Writing>Correspondence


Sample Thank You Letters

The thank you letter is one of the most commonly overlooked aspects of job hunting. Don’t fall in to the trap of thinking it isn’t important. A handwritten note is best but a thoughtful email will suffice. And like your resume, your thank you letter should be customized to reflect the mood and content of the interview.

Monster.com (2001). Careers>Interviewing>Correspondence>Business Communication


Seven Steps to Persuasive Cover Letters

Almost all technical writing benefits from the technique of persuasion. Grants and proposals must have persuasive elements to be effective; operating instructions should convince customers that they have bought the best product for the job; hospital literature should assure patients that they have chosen the most well-equipped place to recover from surgery; cover letters (and all correspondence with a prospective employer or client) should leave no doubt in the employer's mind about your excellent qualifications for the job or assignment under discussion.

Evans Fryer, Elizabeth and Judith Harper. Between the Lines (2007). Careers>Resumes>Correspondence


Some Reflections on Explanation in Negative Messages   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

Scant research exists about explanation in negative messages. An important cause of this is the lack in extant literature of theory or conceptualization of explanation. This commentary provides two conceptual frameworks for thinking about explanation in negative messages: opportunity cost, from economic theory, and attribution, from marketing theory. Both frameworks help define the situations in which explanations for rejection should be provided to the targets of bad news. When applications are solicited, for instance, opportunity costs incurred by targets of bad news should be offset by senders with an offer to provide explanation. The construct of attribution is adapted here to suggest that senders of negative messages can benefit by supplying reasons for their denial of requests because, in the absence of the reasons, the rejectees will attribute motives and create reasons, thus depriving the senders of their control over the explanation portion of the messages.

Limaye, Mohan R. Journal of Business and Technical Communication (2001). Articles>Rhetoric>Correspondence


Steps to a Successful Interview: Follow-Up

Send a thank-you note for every interview. It can be an email, a handwritten note on good-quality (neutral color) stationery, or a standard business letter.

O'Keefe, Karen, Rebecca Forrest and Jean Fudge. Between the Lines (2007). Careers>Interviewing>Correspondence>Business Communication


Strengthening the Ethics and Visual Rhetoric of Sales Letters   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

This article provides details about a comprehensive assignment for teaching sales letters in a business communication course. During the past 5 years, this assignment has evolved, moving beyond one that focused almost exclusively on strategies for making the letter persuasive, and therefore effective, to an expanded form that devotes time and attention to the ethics and visual rhetoric of the letter. In addition to composing a sales letter, each student is required to write a detailed, thoughtful analysis of the ethics and visual appeal of his or her letter.

Williams, Linda Stallworth. Business Communication Quarterly (2008). Articles>Education>Correspondence>Ethics


A Theoretical Approach to Using Electronic Mail or Why Doesn't Anyone Respond to My E-Mail   (PDF)

The features of time, place, speaker, and audience define the situational context of any communication--face-to-face, paper-based, or electronic. However, they are significantly altered in electronic communication. If participants in electronic communications do not recognize how these features are altered they may not be able to use their electronic mail effectively.

Goubil-Gambrell, Patricia and Rockie Beaman. STC Proceedings (1993). Articles>Business Communication>Correspondence>Email


Time-Consuming Email Communications

Our documentation and advertising bureau mails five emails with attachments on the average per day to different customers, partners and other service organisations. The sizes of the attachments vary roughly from 50 KB up to 2 MB. About 60% of our emails with attachments don't create any problems with the addressee. However, 40% need additional attention. This fraction causes communication problems.

Thiele, Ulrich. TC-FORUM (2000). Articles>Collaboration>Correspondence>Email


The Usability of Email Subject Lines

Email is very important to a lot of people and companies. However, very little usability research has been done on email, specifically email subject lines. This article is a summary of a research report written by WebWord on the topic and contains several results. The basic finding from the research is that effective email subject lines are very short, very meaningful, and personal.

Rhodes, John S. WebWord (2001). Articles>Usability>Correspondence>Email


The Use of Pathos in Charity Letters: Some Notes Toward a Theory and Analysis   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

Americans contribute $240 billion dollars to charities each year, raised in part by writing letters to potential donors. While it is debatable what the reasons are for donors to give so much money, most donors seem to be moved to contribute by pathos, particularly pity. The concept of pathos as a rhetorical appeal has become more complex over the years, growing from a simple strategy to a complicated set of parameters requiring careful delineation. Beginning with the Greeks, particularly Aristotle, pathos was defined with greater clarity (especially the concept of enargia), with Aristotle's formal definitions of the emotions, and with the use of an image upon which to direct the audience's pity. Cicero adds to the theory by calling for the use of pathos in the peroration and reinforcing Aristotle's emphasis on careful audience analysis. St. Augustine and those who follow, including Renaissance, 18thcentury rhetoricians, and 20th-century scholars like Kenneth Burke, argue that style can also be an effective persuasive strategy for a pathetic appeal. Accordingly, the charity letters examined illustrate not only Aristotle's and Cicero's tenets but also show that elements of style, particularly rhetorical figures and schemes, are common rhetorical strategies used in these charity letters. While at first the rhetoric of charity letters seems simple and straightforward, to raise billions of dollars every year charity letters use sophisticated appeals to pity that have a long and interesting history.

Myers, Marshall. Journal of Technical Writing and Communication (2007). Articles>Business Communication>Correspondence>Rhetoric


Using E-mail To Make Your Pitch

Gone are the days when you called a reporter, mailed a letter or sent a fax and expected to get a callback. These days, more reporters than ever are relying on e-mail to review news pitches or story ideas. Pitching by e-mail is sometimes more difficult than sending a pitch letter by standard mail or calling a reporter on the telephone, because with more and more e-mail being sent these days, yours needs to stand out from the rest. Here are tips on how to make your pitch stand out in the maze of e-mail communications that reporters, and other media contacts, receive each day.

Lee, Terry and Rich Brant. Communication World Bulletin (2003). Articles>Business Communication>Correspondence>Email



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