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Should business communication students be taught how to say “no”? A comparison of Flemish and US rejection letters in English. Teun De Rycker Lessius Hogeschool | University of Ghent ABLA Conference | Leuven | 23-24 March 2007. Writing negative news messages.

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Should business communication students be taught how to say “no”?A comparison of Flemish and US rejection letters in English

Teun De Rycker

Lessius Hogeschool | University of Ghent

ABLA Conference | Leuven | 23-24 March 2007

writing negative news messages
Writing negative news messages
  • a skill critical to interpersonal success and effectiveness in many people’s professional lives
  • “one of the most difficult tasks facing business communicators”

(Salerno 1985)

most research
Most research
  • the content and arrangement of face-threatening acts and their impact on readers
  • rejections of job applications
  • within the same language community
  • within the same culture
research gap
Research gap
  • rejections of business-to-business proposals
  • involving native and non-native speakers
  • across different cultures
hypotheses
Hypotheses
  • H1a Flemish writers will make more language errors, will have a smaller range of vocabulary, will use more Latinate words, … than the US writers.
  • H1b Flemish will transfer L1 writing strategies to L2 writing.
  • H2a Both Flemish and US writers will use an indirect approach.
  • H2b The Flemish writers will use an even more indirect approach than the US writers.
corpus 1
Corpus1
  • 21 rejection letters written in response to business-to-business proposals
  • produced as part of an international business game between students at IUPUI (Indianapolis, IN) and Lessius Hogeschool (Antwerp, Belgium), 2000-2004
  • no explicit writing or other instruction was provided
corpus 2
Corpus2
  • 12 rejection letters written by advanced non-native Flemish students (NNSE) and 9 rejection letters written by native US students (NSE)
  • 1 ideal Dutch rejection letter (Knispel 2006)
  • 1 ideal US rejection letter (Locker 1999)
analysis
Analysis

independent variable

  • Flemish NNSE versus US NSE

dependent variables

  • textual variables
  • language proficiency
  • meaning and organizational structure
  • metadiscursivity
results
Results
  • For all variables Flemish and US rejection letters show a nearly perfect positive relationship (r = 0.996, p < 0.01)
  • For all variables both Flemish and US rejection letters show a strong positive relationship with Locker’s ideal rejection letter (rF = 0.771 and rUS = 0.751, p < 0.01) and with Knispel’s ideal rejection letter (rF = 0.703 and rUS = 0.691, p < 0.01).
discussion 1
Discussion1

H1a

  • Rejected.
  • Interesting differences (e.g. K1, K2, AWL) but none are significant.

H1b

  • Unlikely.
  • There are very strong positive correlations between all letters including the ideal ones.
discussion 2
Discussion2

H2a

  • More or less confirmed.
  • Both Flemish and US writers use an indirect approach (buffer, positive ending and procedural information) though not exclusively (33.3%).
discussion 3
Discussion3

H2b

  • Rejected.
  • Flemish writers especially use a combination

of both the indirect approach and the direct approach (45.4%).

  • US writers especially use the indirect approach (44.4%).
concluding questions
Concluding questions
  • How linguistically and culturally dissimilar are Flemish and US college/university student writers?
  • What has been the effect of the interactive nature of the business game on Flemish students’ writing?
  • To what extent is European business writing influenced by US standards and how does this affect the need for transfer of L1 writing strategies?
  • What is the role of instructive writing interventions given that no explicit instruction took place?