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Module 6: Good and Bad News Messages

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University of Waterloo
Judah Oudshoorn

Module 6: Good and Bad News Messages June 7, 2012 Objectives: By the end of this module, you should be able to:  identify the parts of a letter,  explain when a direct or an indirect approach should be taken when communicating goodwill and bad news messages,  explain the "direct approach" writing style and its application to routine goodwill messages,  identify the components and style of various goodwill messages, and  explain the indirect approach to delivering bad news. Readings Chapter 6 and 7 Direct Writing for Bad News and Formats for “Bad News” Correspondence (see below) Part I: Negative Messages Two goals for delivering bad news:  Primary goals: o Deliver bad news clearly, concisely, and respectfully. o Help the reader accept bad news by showing fairness and logic. o Maintain and build goodwill. o Convey a one-time message, reducing the need for clarification or additional correspondence.  Secondary goals: o Balance business needs and sensitivity to the reader’s position. o Reduce impatience and hostility by being prompt, accountable, and considerate. Types of Bad News:  Refusals  Announcements  Assessments or appraisals Tips for Achieving the Right Tone  Don’t plead or name-call.  Avoid mixed messages.  Assume the reader will agree.  Use facts and jargon-free language.  Avoid opinions.  Remove timid or overly apologetic language.  Reduce the number of writer-centred phrases.  Avoid hinting with phrases such as: o “sorry”, or “I regret”, or “unfortunately”  Use a positive emphasis, sincerity, and politeness. Subject Lines and Complimentary Closing  The proper tone is: o Set in the subject line of the message. o Reinforced by the closing. o Subject lines can be omitted from letters. o The complimentary closing should match the overall tone. Direct Writing Plan for Bad News Messages  When? o You know the reader’s preference for directness. o The news is expected. o The information is critical. o The news isn’t serious, significant, or detrimental. o Your company’s practice is directness. o You’re terminating the relationship.  How? o Provide a simple statement of bad news. o Be brief and provide a clear explanation. o Offer an alternative. o Close with a statement of goodwill. Ineffective Direct Approach Strategy  Opening expression of sympathy also announces the bad news  Gives no reason for the cancellation and does not identify the cancelled course. o Dear Registrants, Unfortunately, the course you registered for has been cancelled.  Offers no alternative—another course or possible rescheduling o It looks like we may not be able to make this course available to employees for at least another few months.  Closing an afterthought that reminds readers, somewhat facetiously, of their disappointment o We hate to disappoint our registrants, but I am sure you understand our budgetary constraints. Ineffective Direct Approach Strategy  When? o You don’t know the reader well. o The news isn’t anticipated by the reader. o You expect a strong negative reaction.  How? o Provide a buffer that cushions the message and guides the reader to the explanation. o Offer explanations to establish the background and provide additional o Balance bad news with an alternative. o Close with goodwill and a consideration of the reader’s feelings. Bad news Buffers  Buffers are one to three sentences that: o Neutralize bad news, o Establish rapport, and o Reduce the reader’s shock. o Avoid using negative language such as: “no” or “unfortunately” and “regrettably” Types of Bad News Buffers:  Expression of appreciation  Good or neutral news  General principle or fact  Chronology of past communication  Statement of agreement or common ground  Apology or statement of understanding  Compliment Explaining Bad News:  A good explanation is the key to a successful negative message. It shows that the decision is based on valid reasons.  The explanation should be objective and give only the necessary information.  Stick to the facts.  Refer to, but don’t hide behind, company policy.  Use positive or neutral words. Revealing Bad News  Explain the situation and then reveal the bad news. How? o Put the bad news in a dependent clause. o Suggest a compromise or alternative. o Use the passive voice. o Use longer sentences. o Use positive language. o Don’t spotlight bad news. o Place it in the middle of a sentence or paragraph. o Imply a refusal of a request. Goodwill Closing  How? o Focus on the continued relationship with the reader. o Be “you”-focused. o Don’t repeat the bad news. o Offer good wishes. o Don’t invite further correspondence. o Don’t apologize for saying “no.” o Don’t take credit for work not provided. Apologies  Apologies show the reader that you care. o Note: this sort of message can be misinterpreted; it could invite further
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