Chapter 10 Outline

Chapter 10: Writing

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Introduction

Although most people prefer face-to-face communication, in certain situations, written communication is the only option. Verbal communication can be easily forgotten, while written words will endure. In today’s world of text messaging and instant messaging, we have lost our skills for well-crafted writing.

I. Using Written Communication for Personal Purposes

We use written communication everyday through e-mails, thank you notes and personal business letters. In this section, consider the types of written communication you use daily and look for ways to improve it.

a. Casual Email. E-mail is the new method for keeping in touch. It is convenient and gratifying, but it does not come without challenges. There is certain etiquette, also called “netiquette,” that apply to e-mail writing since the person is not there to interpret your tone.

i. Remember not to use all caps. This is the equivalent of shouting.

ii. Use emoticons to get your expression across. They are fun and enliven your e-mail.

iii. Use the BCC tag to send your forwards, like jokes, chain letters, etc. This keeps from exposing everyone in your address book to potential spammers.

iv. Don’t believe everything people forward to you. About 95% of e-mails promising a free giveaway or advice are bogus. Snopes.com is a good site to check out the veracity of an e-mail.

v. Practice the 24-hour rule when you’re upset. Give yourself time to cool off before you send permanent words.

b. Business Letters. While most of your written communication will be casual, at times you will need to send a formally written business letter. Using the appropriate format will let the recipient know you mean business. The following should be included.

i. Date. The date line is used to indicate the date the letter was written.

ii. Sender’s address. This is optional.

iii. Inside address. The inside address is the recipient’s address.

iv. Salutation. Use the same name as the inside address including the personal title.

v. Body. Single space and left justify each paragraph.

vi. Closing salutation. Being at the same horizontal point as your date and one line after the last body paragraph.

c. Using Certified Mail. Use certified mail when you need proof that you sent a certain letter regarding serious financial matters or a dispute. This U.S. Post Office service costs very little. It’s a good practice to use certified mail when sending a business letter.

II. Writing Your Way to Success in College

College will give you more opportunities than you want to flex your writing skills.

a. The Essay. Essays are used to evaluate your understanding of material you have learned. A well-crafted essay is thought out, organized and uses words sparingly. Although there are many models for essay writing, the best for beginners is the five-paragraph essay.

i. Choose a topic. Choose a topic that has plenty of information available.

ii. Determine your purpose. Are you writing to persuade, instruct, explore or inform?

iii. Develop a thesis statement. This is a statement of purpose.

iv. Organize your thoughts. Organize the direction or your paper.

v. Write your introductory paragraph. Think of your introduction as an upside down triangle. Begin broad and narrow down to the specific.

vi. Write your body paragraphs. Use transitions to make the pieces connect. Paragraphs should correlate to points.

vii. Write your conclusion. Your conclusion is a right side up triangle. Start specific and end with the general.

viii. Edit your rough draft. Read your draft the next day.

ix. Cut out the dead wood. Cut out unnecessary words.

x. Avoid repetition. State your point and move on.

xi. Make sure you know word meaning and parts of speech. Big words used incorrectly do not make you sound smarter.

xii. Avoid using clue words. Assume your reader is educated and can see where your points lead.

xiii. Use a spelling and grammar checker, but don’t depend on these functions. Read the paper over yourself to check.

b. Research Papers. The most important thing to avoid when writing a research paper is plagiarism. Anytime you use information that is not originally yours, you must credit the source. Here are tips to giving attribution to your source.

i. Use quotation marks around anything you copy directly

ii. When you paraphrase, do more than just cut out a few words

iii. Check paraphrases against your source to make sure you used your own words

c. Writing Lab Reports. You will probably be required to write lab reports in your technical classes. These reports stick to only observable facts so don’t include your feelings or narrative description. A report should include the following.

i. Name, lab section and date

ii. Introduction

iii. Materials and hazards

iv. Procedure

v. Data

vi. Discussion

vii. Conclusion

d. Technical Writing. Technical writing bridges the gap between a research paper and a lab report. A technical report uses a similar reporting style as the lab report but incorporates the sources and discovery methods of a research paper. It can also include graphs and illustrations. Here are suggestions to improve your technical writing.

i. Use active voice

ii. Be specific

iii. Eliminate jargon

A technical research paper should be one of the following four types:

1. Algorithm

2. A system construct

3. A performance evaluation

4. A theory

III. Writing On the Job

Don’t leave college thinking you will never write again because you most definitely will. Being able to communicate your ideas on paper can help you get a better job, a promotion, enjoy publication or write a business plan to secure a loan.

a. Writing Your Way to Your Dream Job. Cover letters and resumes, because they create the first impression, might be the most important writing of your career. There are tips to draw positive attention to you through a cover letter.

i. Follow the standard business format

ii. Writing the opening

iii. Demonstrate your knowledge of the company

iv. Explain your current situation

v. Explain why this job interests you

vi. Briefly elaborate on one or two key points in your resume

vii. Don’t rehash your resume

viii. Have someone read it over to check spelling, grammar, etc

ix. Closing the letter

After you’ve grabbed your employer’s attention through your cover letter, you need to follow up by showing you can do the job. Your resume should highlight your experiences and abilities. The following general guidelines can create an effective resume.

1. Positive personal characteristics

2. Technical and computer skills

3. Coursework relevant to your desired position

4. Educational accomplishments

5. Skills and experience gained during internships or summer jobs

6. Other related accomplishments

7. Work history

Your first resume should be only a page. Your potential employer wants to scan the information.

b. Constructing a Business Plan. At some time in your career, you might decide to start your own business, and the first step is writing a business plan. It is important to write down some kind of plan to keep you focused on your goals and plans. Here are five things to think about when writing your plan.

i. What kind of company are you starting?

ii. What is the purpose of your new business?

iii. How will your business make money?

iv. Who will be your customers?

v. Ho will you get your customers?

c. Employee Evaluation. If you are in a management position, you will have to write annual employee evaluations. It is important to use clear and concise writing to help your employees understand your perspective. Use the following suggestions.

i. Be specific

ii. Make your criticism constructive

iii. Use positive feedback wherever possible

iv. Focus on the job description

v. Keep your comments succinct

vi. Make a copy of all evaluations

Making it Work for You

Having a strong communication skill set in writing will prove effective in your personal, academic and professional success.