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#FridayFact: Nobody Likes Receiving or Giving Bad News

#FridayFact: Nobody Likes Receiving or Giving Bad News published on
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Most people don’t want to receive bad news. Likewise, unless we’re talking about the Wicked Witch of the West, Voldemort, or Darth Vader, most people are uncomfortable when they have to give someone bad news. Continuing our focus on correspondence this week, today’s #FridayFact explains how to write a bad new message that gets the point across without alienating the reader.

Typically, bad news messages begin with some kind of “buffer” that cushions the negative information. This indirect approach allows you to break the news gently to your reader. There are times, however, when a more direct approach is appropriate, such as in an emergency situation or when the bad news is expected.

How to Organize a Paper: The Indirect Method (for Writing Bad News) includes a chart that outlines when to use an indirect approach to giving your readers bad news and when to use a more direct approach. The chart on the webpage tells you what to include in your message, whether it is direct or indirect. You’ll also find explanations of the information to provide in the different sections of your bad news message.


#InfographicInspiration: What Goes Into a Letter

#InfographicInspiration: What Goes Into a Letter published on

We’ve been spending time this week on correspondence, and I am continuing that trend with today’s #InfographicInspiration. From the website The Visual Communication Guy, our infographic provides an annotated explanation of what goes into a letter and how to format letters that you write. The information here reinforces and adds to the #TuesdayTutorial on formal letters.

Note that the image on this page is minimized. Click on it to see the enlarged (and more readable) version.

How To Format a Letter, from The Visual Communication Guy


#WednesdayWorkshop: Characteristics of Memos

#WednesdayWorkshop: Characteristics of Memos published on Login Help videos are free to Virginia Tech students with your VT.EDU login. Start at the VT.EDU login page to access these resources.

When you are not writing letters (the topic of yesterday’s post) or email messages, you will often find yourself writing memos. Today’s #WednesdayWorkshop reviews the characteristics of memos, which are typically internal messages sent to colleagues within your organization.

Like all correspondence, memos should be clear and well-organized with document design features that help readers find the information that is important to them. You can use headings, bulleted lists, and numbered lists to make details stand out.

In addition to general memos, you may find that you use specific memos in the workplace. For instance, you might use a memorandum of understanding (MoU) as a kind of contract, where you and other parties agree to specific terms. MoUs are often created by a lawyer or the organization’s legal department. If you write such a memo yourself, it will probably need to go through a legal review before it is sent to the recipient.

For details on the basic memos you are likely to write, watch the video Special Considerations for Memos (3m52s) to learn more:

Special Considerations for Memos, on


#TuesdayTutorial: Writing Formal Letters

#TuesdayTutorial: Writing Formal Letters published on

In the workplace, you will find that a lot of your daily writing is some kind of correspondence (letters, memos, or email messages). This week’s #TuesdayTutorial focuses on one of these kinds of correspondence: letters.

Most of the time, the letters you write will be formal letters. You will use letters for things such as job applications, official requests to someone inside or outside your organization, documentation of complaints and reprimands, and recognition of special achievements. Here are some more specific examples that you are likely to see early in your career:

  • cover letters that are part of a job application packet.
  • thank you letters to those who are part of your job search (e.g., interviewers, HR staff, those who write recommendations).
  • recommendation letters for those you work with.
  • cover letters (or transmittal letters) that accompany reports and proposals.

In all these cases, you will want a formal letter. You may occasionally write informal letters in the workplace, but it’s typical for informal correspondence to be handled in email messages.

To learn more about formal letters, watch this short video from Rasmussen College to find out “How to Write a Formal Letter” (3m49s):



Finishing the Genre Analysis Report

Finishing the Genre Analysis Report published on

This is the post for the week of July 31, 2017.

Corps of Engineers Takes Blue Roof Applications in Texas After Hurricane Ike by U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on Flickr, used under a CC-BY licenseThis week you will continue working on your Genre Analysis Report, which is due by 11:59PM on Tuesday, August 8, 2017. Your Progress Report is due by 11:59PM on Monday, July 31.

Readings for This Week

Since you have your big project to write this week, go back and review any readings that you need and whatever research you have found. You control your readings for this week.

If you have questions about readings, research, or writing, ask in our #general channel in Slack.

Tasks for This Week

Because I want you to have the whole week to work on your Genre Analysis Report, there are no extra tasks this week. Just the essential work.

  1. By 11:59 PM on Monday, July 31, submit your Progress Report in Canvas. The grace period ends at 11:59 PM on Thursday, August 3.
  2. Share a draft of your Genre Analysis Report in the Feedback on Genre Analysis Reports on Canvas by 11:59 PM on Friday, August 4.
    • In your message, ask your group to look at anything you are trying to improve. Let them know the kind of advice you need.
    • By noon on Monday, July 24, provide feedback to your group members, using the strategies in the Peer Review Commenting Strategies video.
    • Post your Genre Analysis Report in Canvas by 11:59PM on Tuesday, August 8. The grace period ends at 11:59PM on Friday, August 11.
  3. By 11:59PM on Friday, August 4, write your 08/04 Labor Log in Canvas. Specific questions for your log are included in Canvas. The grace period for your log entry ends at 11:59 PM on Monday, August 7.


Photo Credit: Corps of Engineers Takes Blue Roof Applications in Texas After Hurricane Ike by U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on Flickr, used under a CC-BY license


#WeekendWatch: Front and Back Matter

#WeekendWatch: Front and Back Matter published on

Last week’s #WednesdayWorkshop focused on What to Include in Your Proposal. For our #WeekendWatch, I’m returning to the discussion of sections of a report with this University of Minnesota video on Analytical Reports: Front and Back Matter.

The video explains in 4m35s the information you need to include in your Genre Analysis Report:


#FridayFact: The Workplace Hates Exclamation Points!!!

#FridayFact: The Workplace Hates Exclamation Points!!! published on

Admittedly, I am guilty of using too many exclamation points in my emails and texts, but I do try to avoid them in what I write in the workplace. It turns out that is the right choice, according to the Business Insider article Stop Using Exclamation Points At Work!

The article ends with the flowchart shown below, which suggests that most of the time, you should not use exclamation points. It’s a fun flowchart, so be sure to read it.

Should I Use an Exclamation Mark? from Hubspot


#InfographicInspiration: Writing Email That Gets Read

#InfographicInspiration: Writing Email That Gets Read published on

Earlier this term, I shared a #FridayFact about email in the workplace. For our #infographicInspiration this week, I’m returning to email by sharing a simple image that identifies key characteristics of effective email messages.

The website’s name is a little off-color, but the information clearly and concisely outlines specific ways to improve your email messages. Read more information about the infographic in the article 10 tips for effective email.

Email That Works Infographic


Due Dates and Canvas

Due Dates and Canvas published on

Due Date Key by GotCredit on Flickr, used under a CC-BY 2.0 licenseI want to share a short policy update. If you watch Canvas carefully, you may notice that some of the dates for Major Projects have (and will) change. If you don’t pay lots of attention to the minor details (which is fine), you can skip this info. Here’s what I’m doing to make the revision system work:

  • When we start a major assignment, it has a due date and it is open until the end of the grace period (3 days after the due date).
  • When I start grading a major assignment, I change the due date to the date that was the end of the grace period. I set the assignment as open until the end of the course (to allow you to submit revisions).

Why? By changing the dates, I have an easy way to know if someone who did not submit the project at all turns it in after the grace period ends.


Photo credit: Due Date Key by GotCredit on Flickr, used under a CC-BY 2.0 license


#WednesdayWorkshop: Citing Your Sources

#WednesdayWorkshop: Citing Your Sources published on

You will need to provide in-text citations and bibliographic citations in your Genre Analysis Report, so this week’s #WednesdayWorkshop focuses on How to identify and credit sources (6m 32s).

Screenshot of session, How to identify and credit sources

In your Genre Analysis Report, you can use whatever bibliographical format you are most familiar with. Here are some tools if you are unsure how to make correct citations:

You can also watch the information on Citing Sources in research papers for more specific examples of citations.


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