Business Essays - Business Correspondence Communication

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Business Correspondence Communication

Business Correspondence Etiquettes

Communication – “the transfer of thought from one person to another” (Ruch, 1984, p.3) is the backbone of thriving businesses today. Whether internal or external, written or verbal, good, direct and concise communication can ensure that the business runs smoothly, earns a professional reputation among associates and builds a loyal client base.

Communication, of the positive kind, helps boost business productivity – a fact widely acknowledged by successful entrepreneurs all over the world. Even before the advent and common usage of emails and facsimile, George Plotzke, market manager of AT&T's technology group, claimed that American executives devoted 94% of their time in communication-related activities (Ruch, 1984, p.101).

With the passage of time, business communications and naturally, business correspondence have becoming increasingly instrumental in not just allowing the smooth running of business operations but also in finding and retaining more clients.

The two chief kinds of communication within any organization are “Downward Communication and “Upward Communication”. Downward communication, as the name suggests, moves from superior to subordinate – whether it is from the CEO to all employees of the company or from one superior to a subordinate.

Most of the communication taking place internally is downward in nature, explaining, instructing, directing while they pass around policies, new regulations or announce plans (Ruch, 1984, p.127). Upward communication, on the other hand, is the transmission of information from subordinate to superior (Ruch, 1984, p.165).

As with all aspects of life, business communication and correspondence too have a handful of etiquette rules that must be followed to ensure positive public perceptions about oneself and one’s business. Dennis Lindsay, a career counselor at Spelman College, comments, “Displaying proper etiquette speaks volumes about your level of professional development and preparedness far beyond the specific and technical skills” (Calvin, 2007).

Observing proper business etiquette during correspondence helps in building courteous and cordial relationships that lessen chances of confrontation and misunderstandings. A well-written business letter or email projects the impression that the writer is a serious professional committed to perfection, articulate, dedicated and someone devoted to the business he is a part of.

A well-written piece of business correspondence, even though it might be a four-line email of acknowledgement, proves that the enterprise the writer is associated with is a credible venture where professional and dedicated, clear-thinking, helpful individuals work. It lends the organization, as well as the individual, an air of competent professionalism – an image both the organization and the individual stand to benefit from.

A poorly-written piece of correspondence, replete with typing errors, grammatical mistakes and stylistic slips, projects an equally opposite impression. It proves that the writer is either incompetent or not sufficiently educated to conduct a decent correspondence with business associates or clients. If a poorly-written letter is mailed to current or prospective clients, it simply proves the carelessness of the writer, which in turn reflects badly on the company itself.

As Robert Barrass (2002) observed, “every business letter is also an exercise in public relations” (28). Any organization that wants the business world to take it seriously must always communicate, externally especially, with as much care and attention to details as possible.

When sending emails and letters to prospective customers or buyers, letters are the only means of establishing a first impression. Sloppy typing, improperly worded text, lax formatting or grammatical errors all tend to leave a bad impression thereby ruining the business’ chance to secure new clients and subsequently, higher profits. Not just that, but a poorly-written business letter ruins chances of ever receiving any serious attention from that individual or organization again as “one never has a second chance to make a first impression” (Barrass, 2002, p.28).

Barrass (2002, p.29) created a list of characteristics, favorable and unfavorable, displaying which might lead the addressee to make certain assumptions about the writer:

Characteristics of your writing

Impression created

(A) Desirable

(A)Favourable

Clearly expressed

Clear thinking

Spelling correct

Well educated

Punctuation and grammar good

Competent

Well presented

Well organised

Helpful

Considerate

(B) Undesirable

(B)Unfavourable

Badly expressed

Inconsiderate

Spelling poor

Lazy

Punctuation and grammar poor

Careless

Badly presented

Incompetent

Unhelpful

Unfriendly

The power of written correspondence can not be discounted for job-hunting graduates, as their cover letter is instrumental in gaining the attention of their prospective employees. An uninteresting or unprofessional cover letter might discourage the employer from even pursuing the individual’s curriculum vitae. As Dennis Lindsay points out, “it demonstrates to a potential employer your abilities to positively represent their company in business scenarios should you be hired” (Calvin 2007).

In addition, care must be taken to send cover letters along with checks, legal documents, proposals and other written material as it is improper to send the material without an accompanying note explaining the reasons behind the transaction. This serves as a brief reminder of why the packages or documents were sent in the first place and adds warmth and personality to what may seem an impersonal transaction (Sabath, p.53).

Correct grammar is of immense importance and no carelessness must be observed in this direction while composing a business correspondence. Ann Marie Sabath, in her book Business Etiquette (1997) writes,

Not only does proper grammar and English increase the likelihood of a positive response to the message contained in any piece of writing, it also demonstrates your own care and attention to detail.

If you send a letter rife with misspellings and grammatical errors, you will present yourself as someone who doesn’t care to proofread – or simply doesn’t care about the basics of good writing. (p.46).

Spellings should be checked thoroughly and the writer must not wholly depend on the powers of his word processor as the word processor sometime fails to identify simple mistakes (for e.g. to, too, two). Active voice must be employed while constructing sentences. Care must be taken to properly capitalize names and titles. The writer must also ensure that a uniform formatting style is employed throughout the letter and the font type remains the same.

High quality, plain white paper with dimensions of 8.5x11 must be used. Care must be taken to use an envelope that has an identical letterhead as the one printed on top of the letter. The letter must also be folded correctly as a crookedly folded letter proves that the writer is either disinterested or sloppy – qualities that are unacceptable in a professional environment.

A standard 8.5x11 sheet of paper must be folded in thirds as this is the standard style and the neatest way of folding letter. When responding to a previously received letter, it is important to do so in a timely manner as it shows the customer/associate that his correspondence is valued (Sabath, 1997, p.59).

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