(15%) Business Correspondence

description | instructions | tips | scenarios | submission instructions | grading criteria

Assignment Description

Correspondence such as emails, letters, and memos are the foundation of business communication, and, for most professionals, make up the majority of the documents they will produce during their careers. In class, we will discuss genres of business correspondence, organizational strategies, and in general, strategies for effective communication. Ultimately, you will compose a positive/neutral, negative, and persuasive piece of correspondence, each worth 5% of your semester grade. Before turning in your correspondence for grading, you will receive feedback from peer review and written feedback from the instructor, and you will be required to engage in substantial revision of your correspondence.


Read through all of the scenarios before you begin. Select one scenario from each category: positive/neutral, negative, and persuasive, compose document plans, and write correspondence in response to the scenarios you have selected.

Bring printed copies (and/or upload copies) for peer review / instructor feedback / grading on the dates listed on the course schedule.


Plan first. The purpose and audience of a scenario might give you some insight about possible genres, what information to include, and what organizational pattern to use.

Be selective about what information you include in your correspondence, but also be sure to include enough information to achieve your purpose. 

You may make up information/details (such as an end date for action) to add to your correspondence if you feel it is necessary. However, any additional information/details must not significantly change the context/scenario and must be noted in your document plan(s).

If you are writing as the representative of a company, you may create very simple letterhead, but it is not required and will not effect your grade.

For emails, type the document in a word processing file —just remember to include all of the necessary fields (To Address, From Address, CC, BCC, Attachments, Subject)

Make conscious decisions about what genre you choose to write in.  Be sure to indicate why you think this genre is best on your document plan. 


Scenarios to Choose From

(select one positive/neutral, one negative, and one persuasive)

Positive/Neutral: Drive Less and Breathe Easier

Over the years, the air in your city has been getting progressively worse. Your company, Mercer Enterprises, a large financial firm in Boca Raton, just received an announcement from the Air Quality Management District (AQMD, a division of the EPA) about this important issue. To reduce air pollution, the AQMD is requiring all big employers to offer incentives that encourage employees to participate in the AQMD’s Trip Reduction Plan. If your company can’t get a significant number of employees to share rides, take the bus, or ride a bicycle to work, it faces huge fines.  


After studying what other large companies were doing, Mercer developed a number of incentives to entice employees to leave their cars at home. One incentive offers employees who maintain a 75 percent rate of participation in ride-share/trip reduction programs for a period of six months one full work-day off with pay. The start date for this incentive is December 1.  Other incentives include preferential parking near building entrances. These special parking spaces are for car pools only, and a parking pass is required. Another incentive involves bus passes. Employees who use public transportation will receive a subsidy of $25 per month. Employees will also get a free round-trip transit pass for the first month. This pass applies only to workplace commuting, of course.  


Employees receiving this memo might want more information about the program. They may also want to sign up for the incentives mentioned here. If so, they should contact Jennifer O’Toole (Jennifer.Otoole@mercer.com) before November 1.  Another incentive is the provision of a subsidy for van pools. The company will help obtain a van and will provide a $150 per month subsidy to the van pool. What’s even more terrific is that the van-pool driver will have unlimited personal use of the vehicle off company time. A final subsidy involves bicycles. Employees who bicycle to work will receive $25 per month as a subsidy. Mercer Enterprises will provide bicycle racks, locks, and chains.  

Your Task: As the Employee Transportation Coordinator for Mercer, compose a correspondence to all employees that persuades them to enroll in the AQMD Trip Reduction Plan. 


Positive/Neutral (Request):

As a member of the staff for FAU Campus Recreation, you are leading FAU students on an adventure trip to New Mexico over spring break. You are responsible for ordering all the freeze-dried food the group will eat while hiking, camping, and enjoying other outdoor activities. It’s a pretty picky group, with nine of the fifteen students claiming to have special dietary considerations. 

To get more information about their specific requirements, you sent a request to all members that asked them to describe their needs.  The responses include requests to "limit" fats, carbohydrates, and/or salt. Others express “concern” about the amount of preservatives, sugar, and additives in the food. Two members resquest for "low cholesterol" meals, and one asks for vegan meals. Their responses aren’t as helpful as you’d like, but you don't have much time and you’ll have to work with the information you have.   

Based on the freeze-dried food you have tried in the past, you’re also concerned about the taste, selection, and quality of the food. You want to know how the food is produced, how you will prepare the food while on the trek, what their shelf life is, how much they cost, and if the selection will meet the needs of your group. You’d also like to try some items before you make a large purchase.

Your Task: To get all the information you need and your group needs, write a letter to Robin Chambers at Mountain High Outfitters, 13242 Terra Ct., Atlanta, GA 32567.  You leave for your trip in exactly one month!


Negative: Bad News to Employees: Company Games Are Not Date Nights  

As director of Human Resources at Weyerman Paper Company, you recently received unusual request from several employees. Several of your coworkers have asked that their spouses or friends be allowed to participate in Weyerman intramural sports teams. Although the teams play only once a week during the season, these employees claim that they can’t afford more time away from friends and family. Over 100 employees currently participate in the eight coed volleyball, softball, and tennis teams, which are open to company employees only. The teams were designed to improve employee friendships and to give employees a regular occasion to have fun together.  

If nonemployees were to participate, you’re afraid that employee interaction would be limited. And while some team members might have fun if spouses or friends were included, you’re not so sure all employees would enjoy it. You’re not interested in turning intramural sports into “date night” or "kids night." Furthermore, the company would have to create additional teams if many nonemployees joined, and you don’t want the administrative or equipment costs of more teams. Adding teams also would require changes to team rosters and game schedules. This could create a problem for some employees. You do understand the need for social time with friends and families, but guests are welcome as spectators at all intramural games. Besides, the company already sponsors a family holiday party and an annual company picnic--so why are they asking for this anyway?  

Your Task: Write an e-mail or memo to the staff denying the request of several employees to include nonemployees on Weyerman’s intramural sports teams.    


Negative: Damage Control for Disappointed Customers: McDonald’s Squirms Over McAfrika Protests  

The McAfrika Burger sounded like a terrific new sandwich to fast-food giant McDonald’s. Made from an authentic African recipe, the pita bread sandwich combined beef, cheese, tomatoes, and salad. But when launched in Norway, it triggered an avalanche of criticism and bad publicity. McDonald’s was accused of “extreme insensitivity” in releasing the new sandwich when 12 million people are facing starvation in southern Africa.

Aid agencies trying to raise funds to avert famine in southern Africa were particularly vociferous in their complaints. They said the McAfrika marketing campaign was “insensitive, crass, and ill considered.” Linn Aas-Hansen, of Norwegian Church Aid, complained that it was “inappropriate and distasteful to launch a hamburger called McAfrika when large portions of southern Africa are on the verge of starvation.” To punctuate their protest, members of the aid group distributed “catastrophe crackers” outside McDonald’s restaurants in Oslo. These crackers are protein-rich biscuits given to starving Africans.  

Facing a public relations debacle, McDonald’s Norway immediately began a damage-control strategy. Spokeswoman Margaret Brusletto apologized, saying that the name of the product and the timing of its launch were unfortunate. She said the company would consider sharing the proceeds from its sales with aid agencies. McDonald’s also offered to allow aid agencies to leave collection boxes and fund-raising posters in its Norwegian restaurants that sold the McAfrika sandwich during its promotional sale.   McDonald’s head office issued a statement saying, “All of the involved parties are happy with the solution. We hope this will put a wider focus on the important job that these organizations are doing, and McDonald’s in Norway is pleased to be able to support this.” Although the McAfrika was launched only in Norway, the protest made headlines in the United States and other countries.  

Your Task: As a member of the McDonald’s corporate communication staff, you are given the task of drafting a letter to be sent to U.S. customers who have written to protest the McAfrika sandwich in Norway and in the United States. Most of the letters have asked McDonald’s to withdraw the offending product, a request you must refuse. Address the letter to Mrs. Janice M. Clark, 35 South Washington, Carthage, IL 62325, one of the thousands of people who wrote in protest. 


Persuasive: Dictionary Definition of McJobs Angers McDonald’s

The folks at McDonald’s fumed when they heard about the latest edition of a highly regarded dictionary. Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary defined the word “McJob” as “a low-paying job that requires little skill and provides little opportunity for advancement.” Naturally, McDonald’s was outraged. One executive said, “It’s a slap in the face to the 12 million men and women who work hard every day in America’s 900,000 restaurants.”  


The term McJob was coined by Canadian novelist Douglas Coupland in his 1991 novel Generation X. In this novel the term described a low-prestige, low-dignity, low-benefit, no-future job in the service sector. McDonald’s strongly objects to this corruption of its name. For one thing, the company rejects the notion that its jobs are dead ends. Significant members of top management—including the president, chief operating officer, and CEO—began their McDonald’s careers behind the counter. Moreover, when it comes to training, McDonald’s trains more young people than the U.S. armed forces.  What’s more, McDonald’s is especially proud of its “MCJOBS” program for mentally and physically challenged people. Some officers even wonder if the dictionary term McJob doesn’t come dangerously close to the trademarked name for its special program.


Another point that rankles McDonald’s is that, according to its records, over 1,000 people who now own McDonald’s restaurants received their training while serving customers. Who says that its jobs have no future?   The CEO is burned up about Merriam-Webster’s dictionary definition, and he wants to send a complaint letter. But he is busy and asks you, a member of the communication staff, to draft a first version. He’s so steamed that he’s thinking of sending a copy of the letter to news agencies.  Your Task: Before writing this letter, decide what action, if any, to request. Think about an appropriate tone and also about the two possible audiences. Then write a persuasive letter (from Charlie Bell) to Frederick C. Mish, editor in chief, Merriam-Webster. Look for a street address on the Web.


Persuasive: Kodak Ruins His Round-the-World Trip

Pictures of himself in front of the Great Pyramids of Giza, shots of the famous Blue Mosque in Istanbul, and photographs of himself dancing with children around a fire in a Thailand village—all lost because of a faulty shutter mechanism on his camera. Brian P. Coyle, a 27-year-old resident of Orlando, Florida, made a once-in-a-lifetime trip around the world last fall. To record the sights and adventures, he invested in a Kodak Advantix camera. This is the camera featured by Eastman Kodak Company in television ads showing an American tourist snapping a shot of his gorgeous Italian date in Venice. When she is gone, he discovers that he mis-loaded the film, and he shouts, “I should have had a Kodak Advantix camera!”  


In fact, Coyle selected the Advantix because of this easy-load feature, which worked well. But when he returned, he discovered that 12 of the 15 rolls of film he shot were ruined. He learned later that the camera shutter had malfunctioned. Needless to say, Coyle is very unhappy. After all, half of the fun of a trip lies in the memories summoned forth by photographs that can be enjoyed years after one returns. The emotional value of his pictures is far greater than the film on which they are recorded. He decides that he won’t settle for 12 rolls of new film and perhaps replacement of the camera. He wants Kodak to send him around the world to repeat his trip. He figures that it is the only way he can recapture and record his lost adventure. He thinks it would cost him about $20,000 to repeat his 27-day trip.  


Coyle asks you, who he knows is studying business communication, to help him write a convincing letter to Kodak. You respond that it’s highly unlikely that Kodak will grant this claim, and Coyle says, “Hey, what have I got to lose? Kodak ruined my trip, and I think a lot of travelers would be interested in hearing about my troubles with Kodak’s Advantix camera.”  


Your Task: Write a persuasive claim to Mr. Charles Smith, Customer Relations, Eastman Kodak Company, 258 West Main Street, Rochester, NY 14605 that explains the situation and requests a repeat trip.  With your letter, enclose the defective camera, copies of the purchase papers, and 12 rolls of ruined film.



Submission Instructions

Print Business Correspondence Portfolio Submission: At the beginning of class on the due date, please turn in a "portfolio" of the documents that you worked on for this assignment. Please submit all printed documents in a paper pocket folder in class on the due date. (no cover sheet, slippery binders, hole punched folders, etc). Make sure your folder is clearly marked with your name.

At the least, for each of the three pieces of correspondence (positive, negative, and persuasive), you must include a document plan, peer review draft/documents, draft with instructor comments (if any), and a final draft. You must also include your error log.

If you have any other materials (scribbled notes, an extra draft you took to the Writing Center, a draft you annotated and scribbled on), I'd LOVE to see them! (After all, a document that's went through multiple drafts is much more likely to succeed than one that didn't).

Please clearly label and logically order all documents (for example, you may hand write "peer review draft," or "my own annotated copy after peer review," etc.).

Electronic Final Draft Submission: Before class time on the due date, please create one .doc file with your final draft of the positive, negative, and persuasive correspondence, and error log -- each piece should be on a different page (and I imagine, your file will be four pages long). Upload that single file to the UPLOAD area of our class Blackboard site.