Chapter 2 Business Writing Trait 2: Organization

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Business Writing Trait 2: Organization

It’s no mistake that a business may also be called an organization. A business that is well organized will most likely be profitable, and a business that is poorly organized will most likely fail.

The same goes for communication. A well-organized message clearly and convincingly communicates its ideas, while a poorly organized message only confuses and frustrates the reader or listener.

Organization deals with the overall structure of a message, the order of its parts, and the transitions that tie it all together. This chapter focuses on organization, outlines specific problems with organization, and provides concrete solutions.

In this chapter

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Organization: An Overview

Organization deals with the overall structure of communication as well as the order of its parts. Effective communication has a three-part structure—an opening, a middle, and a closing.

Opening

Opening: Introduces the Message

  • Addresses the audience.

  • Provides background.

  • Introduces the subject.

  • States the main point (most messages).

Middle

Middle: Develops the Message

  • Provides details.

  • Offers information.

  • States the main point (bad news).

  • Answers the reader’s questions.

  • Orders the support appropriately.

Closing

Closing: Concludes the Message

  • Sums up the message.

  • Provides an important final thought.

  • Calls the reader to act.

  • States the main point (persuasive messages).

Three-part structure isn’t an academic invention. Everything that is experienced in a specific sequence has this structure: a phone call, a conversation, an email, a movie, a novel, a concert, a game—even a class or a date.

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Patterns of Organization

When arranging details within the middle of a message, you have many options. Choose the organizational pattern that best fits your content. Here are common patterns and transitions.

Pattern

Transitions

Time: Move from start to finish.

first, second, third, last

start by, continue with, be sure to, finish by

to begin, afterward, next, finally

Location: Move from near to far, left to right, or top to bottom.

in front, beyond that, next in line, at the back

on the left, next to it, in the middle, on the right

at the top, in the middle, below that, at the bottom

Classification: Split topic into categories and deal with one at a time.

one type, another type, the third type, the last type

group 1, group 2, group 3, group 4

a common variety, a second variety, a rare variety, the rarest variety

Importance: Move from most important to least or from least to most.

the biggest reason, another reason, in addition, a final reason

first of all, secondly, furthermore, most importantly

to begin, additionally, significantly, certainly

Deduction/ Induction: Move from specific to general or from general to specific.

generally, in some cases, an example, one specific

a case study, similar studies, studies agree, we can conclude

the rule states, we would expect, looking closer, the evidence shows

Compare/ Contrast: Examine the similarities of and the differences between two subjects.

as/like, similarly, in the same way, likewise, also

however, in contrast, nevertheless, though, but/yet/still

both, neither, on the one hand, on the other hand, by comparison

Cause/ Effect: Outline the causes and effects of a situation.

because, due to, the reason, the catalyst

as a result, consequently, the outcome, the conclusion

whenever, once, from then on, in consequence

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Organization: Problems and Solutions

Organization makes ideas accessible. Disorganization hides ideas. The following material helps you identify and solve problems with organization.

Problem:

Solution:

The opening is weak.

Listen for

  • “I read the first part but didn’t go on.”

  • “I wasn’t sure what it was about.”

Use effective opening strategies.

In the opening, establish the purpose of your writing and get the reader’s attention. Do one or more of the following.

  • Greet the reader/listener. Get the reader’s attention with a question, a quotation, or a surprising statement.

  • State your main point (for most messages).

  • Give background details and context.

  • Define key terms.

  • Preview the message contents: map out where you are going.

The middle is disorganized.

Listen for

  • “I couldn’t follow the message.”

Follow a pattern.

Organize details according to a logical pattern—time, location, classification, importance, deduction, induction, comparison/contrast, or cause/effect.

The details aren’t accessible.

Listen for

  • “It’s so dense.”

  • “I got lost.”

Use short paragraphs, lists, and graphics.

Organize the middle with these elements:

  • Write short paragraphs, each focused on one supporting point.

  • Use lists to make details accessible. If items are ranked, use a numbered list. Use bullets if items are equal in importance.

  • Include graphics such as charts, tables, illustrations, or photos to make information easy to access.

Creating Effective Lists

The closing is weak.

Listen for

  • “I didn’t know what to do next.”

  • “It just kind of ended.”

Use effective closing strategies.

Focus on outcomes, actions, and the future:

  • Explain how to use information.

  • State conclusions and recommendations.

  • Review next steps and call the reader to act.

  • Provide contact information.

  • Look forward to future contact.

I have trouble with overall organization.

Listen for

  • “I had to review the message a couple times to get it.”

  • “What’s the point of this message?”

Start with your main point and provide support.

When writing to inform, organize your message this way:

SEA
  • Opening: State your main point.

  • Middle: Explain your main point, supporting it with details.

  • Closing: Call the reader or listener to act: lay out next steps.

Remember SEASituation (main point), Explanation, Action.

Writing to Inform

I have a hard time delivering bad news.

Listen for

  • “You could’ve been nicer about it.”

  • “Your message made me furious.”

Place your main point in the middle.

To deliver bad news, don’t start with your main point (the bad news). Use the following structure:

BEBE
  • Opening: Start with a buffer, a neutral statement that focuses on the positive.

  • Middle: Provide an explanation leading up to the main point (the bad news).

  • Closing: Exit cleanly, looking toward future collaboration or ending the relationship politely.

Remember BEBEBuffer, Explanation, Bad news (main point), Exit.

MEMORANDUM

Date:

July 22, 2019

To:

All Staff

From:

Lawrence Durante, President LD

Subject:

Recent FDA Plant Inspection

As you know, this past Friday, July 16, the FDA came to our plant for a spot inspection. I’m writing to share the inspection results and our response.

The good news is that the FDA inspectors did not find problems warranting a shutdown of Premium Meats. The bad news is that the inspectors cited us for three major violations resulting in a fine of $90,000.

The FDA is sending us a clear message. We must take immediate steps to protect our customers, our jobs, and our company. To that end, I have taken the following steps:

  1. The Executive Committee met with me to review the FDA report and determine the problem areas in our production process.

  2. I have directed the Production Management Team to review quality-control procedures and conduct two retraining sessions immediately.

  3. I have appointed a Quality Task Force of both management and production staff to study the production process and make further recommendations.

If you have suggestions or questions, please speak to your immediate supervisor. Together, we can correct these problems.

Breaking Bad News

I have a hard time persuading people.

Listen for

  • “I don’t buy it.”

  • “Nice try, but I’m not interested.”

Lead up to your main point at the end.

To persuade, don’t start with your main point (your persuasive pitch). Build up to it. Use the following structure:

AIDA
  • Opening: Grab the reader’s attention, focusing on the person's needs.

  • Middle: Build interest and desire.

  • Closing: Call the reader to act, giving your main point (the persuasive pitch).

Remember AIDAAttention, Interest, Desire, Action (main point).

March 15, 2019

Ms. April Wadsworth

Belles Lettres Books

The Harbor Mall

Bar Harbor, ME 04609-3427

Dear Ms. Wadsworth:

Does your store or office have a bare wall or corner that needs a painting, photograph, or sculpture? We can help!

For 14 years, your Hancock County Arts Council has sponsored ArtBurst—a fair in which artists sell their work. Last year, ArtBurst attracted more than 90 artists and 15,000 visitors. This year, the fair will be in Central Park on Saturday, May 1.

The Purchase Awards Program, supported by local businesses, is key to ArtBurst’s success. Business people like you join the program by agreeing to purchase artwork. Your commitment helps us attract better artists and more visitors. And you personally win in two ways. First, you get a beautiful print, painting, drawing, photograph, or sculpture of your choice to decorate your business. Second, all ArtBurst publicity materials advertise your business.

So please join the Purchase Awards Program! Just complete the enclosed form and return it in the postage-paid envelope by April 15.

Yours sincerely,

Lawrence King

Lawrence King, Director

Enclosure: Purchase Awards Program form

Organizing to Persuade

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Checklist Organization

Your goal is to organize the overall structure of your message as well as the individual details in it.

  1. Does my message include an opening, a middle, and a closing?

  2. Does my message use the best formula? (SEA, BEBE, or AIDA)?

    • Most Messages: SEA—Situation, Explanation, Action

    • Bad News: BEBE—Buffer, Explanation, Bad News, Exit

    • Persuasion: AIDA—Attention, Interest and Desire, Action

  3. Does the opening grab attention and state my purpose?

    • Addressing the audience

    • Providing background

    • Introducing the subject

  4. Does the middle use a clear pattern of organization?

    • Developing the main point

    • Providing details

    • Answering questions the audience may have

    • Using an appropriate organization plan

  5. Do transitions help the reader follow my message?

  6. Have I included lists as appropriate?

  7. Does the closing focus on outcomes?

    • Revisiting the main point

    • Providing an important final thought

 

SEABEBEAIDA

 

 

 

“Don’t agonize. Organize.”

—Floryne Kennedy

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