Business Correspondence


In working with clients or colleagues, it’s imperative to strike the right balance in tone, arrangement and content. In some ways, short correspondence and communication (letters and emails) is the most important on-the-job writing you will do. The correspondence portfolio is your opportunity to demonstrate effective business writing through examples of everyday business communication.

For this project you will demonstrate your ability to apply a variety of writing strategies to specific situations by writing three messages (two internal messages and one e-mail to an external contact) in response to the situations provided below. You will also include a cover memo with these documents that outlines the challenges you faced and strategies you used in completing the messages.

Because these documents are so brief and address such specific situations, student examples are not provided. However, BCE Chapters 7, 8 and 9 will provide useful models for format and tone.


Follow the scenarios described below in composing your documents, but feel free to use your imagination to provide supporting details.

Scenario 1

You are the head of human resources at SimuTech, a company that produces software.

You have been assigned the unenviable task of informing employees of the company that expected holiday bonuses will not be distributed this year because of an unexpected downturn in company profits. This is the first time this has happened since the bonus program was created ten years ago.

This is a sensitive message because it will likely disappoint employees and may additionally cause them to lose confidence in the future of the company. Your challenge is to offset this initial reaction and reaffirm their commitment to SimuTech.

Scenario 2

You are still playing the role of the H.R. head at SimuTech, but this time you have been assigned to compose a memo describing a change in policy.

Last week one of SimuTech’s employees, Craig Wilson, was terminated after support personnel discovered illegally downloaded content on his computer during a systems upgrade. Wilson was a well-regarded worker of SimuTech who had just recently been commended by the company for his high achievement. However, administrators at SimuTech terminated Wilson because they feel the use of office equipment for these purposes leaves the company vulnerable to legal action.

Your challenge in composing this memo is three-fold. Employees are curious and concerned about Wilson’s dismissal, so part of the purpose of your memo is to calm fears and confusion about his termination.

Secondly, you have been instructed to remind employees that the use of office computers for personal and/or illegal purposes (such as illegally downloading copyrighted material) is against company policy and grounds for termination.

Finally, managers have decided to perform random searches on company computers to make sure this kind of activity is not taking place; you have to inform employees of these forthcoming searches and attempt to discourage negative reactions.

Scenario 3

You are a vice-president in charge of public relations for Warren Enterprises, a technical consulting firm.

You have recently been contacted via e-mail by an employee of the local Chamber of Commerce, Susan Monk, with a promotional opportunity. Ms. Monk would like Warren Enterprises to pay a one-time fee of $2,000 to have a metal sign with the company’s logo and contact information hung on the fence that encloses the local baseball stadium.

You would like to take advantage of this opportunity, but you had a previous bad experience with the Chamber of Commerce. A float Warren Enterprises paid $1,000 to sponsor in the town’s annual Patriot Days parade was poorly constructed and contained a misrepresentation of your company’s logo. Your previous attempts to receive a refund because of these circumstances have been unanswered.

In this e-mail response, your challenge is to restate your complaint about this original event to Ms. Monk and request either a refund or a reduction in the necessary contribution to sponsor a sign at the local ball field.

Evaluation Criteria

· Adaptation and Organization. The responses demonstrate an understanding and effective application of genre conventions for everyday business communication. Organizational strategies are clear, effective and appropriate. The writer understands organizational strategies and is able to adapt them to specific rhetorical situations.

· Content. The writer includes specific, focused requests, explanations, goodwill, and/or instructions with appropriate use of buffer or context, when needed. Evidence to support requests or claims is clear, accessible and written from the reader’s perspective.

· Style, Tone and Design. The messages are correct and concise. Tone is appropriate to the rhetorical situation but is in all ways professional, approachable, conversational and tailored to the specific audience. Design conventions are followed accurately.