Chapter 3 Using Words:Verbal Communication Chapter 8 Letters, e-mails and text messages
Chapter 3 Using Words:Verbal Communication • Plain English • Active voice vs. Passive voice • Metaphors • Idioms • Cliches & empty language • Euphemism • Jargon & specialist terminology
Using plain English Plain English is a term used to describe clear and concise use of the English language that avoids unnecessary jargon or complication. To make your English clearer, aim to • use shorter words • use fewer words • use ‘pictures’ if possible • ensure grammatical accuracy
Using the Right Voice Active Voice Passive Voice Object + Verb + Subject The letter was written by Jane. Subject + Verb + Object Jane wrote the letter. Which one is preferable in business writing, active voice or passive voice?
Active voice vs. Passive voice (1) Avoid passive voice in order to make your writing lively and direct The new procedure was developed by the operations team. The operations team developed the new procedure. Legal problems are created by this contract. This contract creates legal problems.
Active voice vs. Passive voice (2) However, use passive voice when you need to be diplomatic or want to avoid personal pronouns to create an objective tone. You lost the shipment. The shipment was lost. I recruited seven programmers last month. Seven programmers were recruited last month.
Words that challenge communication • Metaphors • Idioms • Cliches & empty language • Euphemism • Jargon & specialist terminology
Metaphor a word or phrase used to describe sb/sth else, in a way that is different from its normal use, in order to show that the two things have the same qualities and to make the description more powerful
Idiom A group of words whose meaning is different from the meanings of the individual words. Let the cat out of the bag To tell a secret by mistake A high flyer A person who is very ambitious A cold fish A person who seems unfriendly and without strong emotions
Cliches & empty language • Words and expressions that have become so over-used that they lose their original meaning. • Empower • 1. to give official authority or legal power to • 2. to promote the self-actualization or to strengthen • Hot spot • A place of political danger. • A lively nightclub. • An area on the screen which can be clicked on to start an operation such as loading a file. • An area where you can get connected to the Internet through a wireless network.
Euphemism • innocuous word(s) used to disguise or reduce the impact of an unpleasant reality, e.g. ‘passed away’ rather than ‘died’. Instead of This Write This • Used cars • Cheap merchandise • Elderly person • Pimples and zits • Pre-owned vehicles • Economy merchandise • Senior citizen • Complexion problems
Jargon & specialist terminology Distinctive vocabulary or specialist terminology that is used by specialist groups, but which may be unfamiliar to wider audiences. Bond • Strong connection between people or groups • The ropes or chains keeping prisoner; anything that stops you from being free to do what you want • (Finance) an agreement by a government or a company to pay you interest on the money you have lent; a document containing this agreement • (Chemistry) the way in which atoms are held together in a chemical compound • (Law) a legal written agreement or promise • (Law) (especially NAmE) a sum of money that is paid as bail • (SAfrE) a legal agreement by which a bank lends you money to buy a house, etc. which you pay back over many years
Chapter 8 Letters, e-mails and text messages • Types of business letters • Style and content of a letter • Format of an internal memo • Format of an email • Text messaging and Instant messaging
Structure of a business letter Figure 8.2 Structure of a business letter
A letter in fully blocked layout with ‘open’ punctuation Figure 8.1 A letter in fully blocked layout with ‘open’ punctuation
Prompt questions when deciding on the style and content of a letter • What is your relationship to this person or organisation? • Are there related factors you should take into account? • Does it include everything that is essential? • Are the sentences clear and concise? • Does the tone of the letter appear appropriate? • What is the letter trying to achieve? • Could the wording of the letter be misinterpreted? • If the roles were reversed, how would you react to the letter?
Typical format for an internal memorandum Figure 8.4 Typical format for an internal memorandum
E-mail: channel characteristics, formats and applications • Non-interruptible (i.e. the receiver cannot ask for clarification mid-way through the message, as in a conversation). • Leaves a permanent record of what has been said. • Almost synchronous (i.e. happens in real time, without any time delay, so that the sender sends the message and the receiver instantaneously receives it).
Format of a typical e-mail Figure 8.5 Format of a typical e-mail
Text messaging and instant messaging • Advantage? – synchronous communication, happens in real time, without any time delay, without the kind of time delay that occurs with an exchange of letters. • The future – the Gartner Group predicts that ‘by 2011, instant messaging will be the de facto tool for voice, video and text communications in business’ replacing the relatively inaccessible e-mail (Cane 2007). • Misuse? – e.g. staff at Accident Group, a personal injury specialist, informed by text message that they had lost their jobs.
Summary of Chapter 3 • In general, organisational communication is improved through the consistent use of plain and unambiguous language. • The basic principles of plain English are: use fewer words, use shorter words and use pictures in place of words, where appropriate. (the use of pictures will be discussed further in Week 39).
Summary of Chapter 3 (continued) • Careful consideration should be given in using metaphors, idioms, clichés, euphemisms and jargons. • Correct use of grammar, spelling and punctuation is also an important discipline that can reduce the scope for misunderstanding and increase the speed of communication (to be discussed further in Week 41).
Summary of Chapter 8 • Letters remain an important communication channel for a variety of organisational purposes. • Today, letters are normally prepared in a ‘fully blocked’ page layout with ‘open’ punctuation. • Style and content of letters should reflect the receiver and the purpose of the message.
Summary of Chapter 8 (continued) • The internal memorandum (or ‘memo’) has been largely superseded by e-mail, which has adopted aspects of its original format. • Text messaging and instant messaging are the new hybrids which combine characteristics of text-based and conversational communication. However, a lack of consensus over communication practices remain problematic.
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