Welcome to this course! We shall see, one step at a time, with clear examples, how to prepare, draft and proofread your professional writing.
The goal of this chapter is to see, in a practical way, how to prepare your professional written documents, starting by defining your goal.
Define your goal
In effect, you need to ask yourself about your goal: what is the message that you want to get across to the person you are writing to?
The following will depend on your goal:
The medium used: e.g., we don’t send a letter asking a colleague for the time of a meeting.
Drafting choices: e.g., we don’t express ourselves in the same way to ask for information, as we do to respond to a claim.
Identify what is entailed by your goals
What is entailed in terms of medium
You can frequently match a medium to a particular goal:
If your goal is to give instructions, opt for a procedure note or a memo; this will encourage retention of the information and lead to its possible reuse.
For example, an accounting procedure note can be reused each year with slight updates.
If your goal is to report facts, opt for a report.
For example, minutes of a meeting enable easy retrieval of the content and keeps track of the decisions and discussions.
If your goal is to make a claim, opt for a letter. This will make your communication more formal and provide proof of your claim or request.
For example, for a claim regarding tax, a registered letter with acknowledgement of receipt is required.
If your goal is to inform, opt for an email; it will be more flexible and won't clutter up files or the IT server with information that might rapidly become outdated.
Consequences in terms of drafting choices
Defining the goal is crucial, because it creates the “roadmap” for your drafting choices too, from start to finish of your text. This relates in particular to the choice of the closing formula, i.e., the standard formula used to end a written document politely.
If the recipient has given you information and you would like more, start by politely thanking them for the initial information already given. This will encourage their continued cooperation.
If the recipient has sent you a claim, begin your reply with “We understand your disappointment.” Taking their disappointment into account will placate them.
If you want your reader to take some action, opt for the following closing formula: “Thanking you in advance.” We shall return later to the choice of salutation and closing formula.
You now know how to define the goal of your document. Next, let’s look at the target of your written document.