English 202D: Business Writing

Sara Luttfring/Spring 2020

Correspondence Portfolio

Peer Review: Thursday, February 6

Due Date: Tuesday, February 11 (Please submit your documents in a folder with your name on it. Your folder can be new or used. It can be a pocket folder or a file folder; please do not use ring binders. You will get your folder back when I return your graded assignment.)

For this assignment, you will use the attached scenarios to prepare three separate pieces of correspondence. In each piece of correspondence, you will be graded on your ability to demonstrate the following business writing techniques effectively, thoroughly, and consistently. You must use these techniques throughout your documents—not just a few times. This assignment is worth 150 points towards your final grade.

You Viewpoint

* Focus on the reader’s benefits, choices, and points of interest, not on yourself

* Don’t make assumptions about a reader’s beliefs or feelings

* Don’t talk about your own feelings

* Use you more often than in positive situations

* Avoid you in negative situations

* Emphasize what the reader wants to know through organization and content

Positive Emphasis

* Emphasize positive information through detail and placement

* Avoid negative words

* Focus on what the reader can do, not on limitations

* Justify negative information (give a reason or link it to a benefit)

* Omit unimportant negatives

* When appropriate, de-emphasize negative information and present it compactly

Audience Analysis

* Brainstorm all of your potential audiences, but focus on your primary audience

* Gather and analyze relevant information about your audience

* Use your analysis to plan strategy, organization, content, and tone

Reader Benefits

* Identify the feelings, fears, and needs that may motivate your readers

* Identify the features of your product/service/plan/information that could benefit your audience

* Use strong, vivid details to develop reader benefits

* Use intrinsic benefits

* Use benefits you can develop fully

* Use you viewpoint when presenting benefits

You will also be graded on your ability to use proper memo and letter formats as described in the Business Writer’s Handbook and to effectively implement techniques pertaining to positive/informative, negative, and persuasive messages.

For each piece of correspondence, make sure all necessary information is included and unnecessary information is excluded. (Not every piece of information in the scenarios needs to go in the message. Pick what’s most important to your audience!) You must also be meticulous in proofreading for grammar and spelling errors.

Remember, although these assignments contain “real world” scenarios, I will be grading you on your ability to demonstrate your knowledge and mastery of course concepts. That might mean writing more, or going into more depth, than you would if you were actually in these scenarios. You may add information to your documents that is not contained in the scenario, but you cannot change any of the information in the scenario.

I will grade this assignment based on 1) your mastery of the course techniques and message types outlined above, 2) your adherence to proper memo and letter formatting, 3) the clarity and correctness of your writing.

Make sure you fully understand the scenarios before you start writing—read them carefully more than once and let me know if you have any questions. Use the Writer’s Checklist on pg. 117 of the Business Writer’s Handbook to organize your writing process.

Your portfolio must be an original piece of work. At the least, plagiarism will result in failure of the assignment. Egregious cases will result in automatic failure of the course.

Scenario 1: Announcing a Tuition Reimbursement Program (Positive/Informative Message)

Your organization has decided to encourage employees to take courses by reimbursing each eligible employee a maximum of $3,500 in tuition and fees during any one calendar year. Anyone who wants to participate in the program must apply before the first class meeting; the application must be signed by the employee’s immediate supervisor. The Office of Human Resources will evaluate applications. That office has application forms.

The only courses eligible are those related to the employee’s current position or to a position in the company that the employee might hold someday, or that are part of a job-related degree program. Again, the degree may be one that would help the employee’s current position or that would qualify him or her for a promotion or transfer in the organization.

Only tuition and fees are covered, not books or supplies. People whose applications are approved will be reimbursed when they have completed the course with a grade of or better. An employee cannot be reimbursed until he or she submits a copy of the approved application, an official grade report, and a statement of the tuition paid. If someone is eligible for other financial aid (scholarship, veterans’ benefits), the company will pay tuition costs not covered by that aid up to $3,500, as long as the total tuition reimbursement does not exceed the actual cost of tuition and fees.

Part-time employees are not eligible; full-time employees must work at the company three months before they can apply to participate in the program. Courses may be at any appropriate level (high school, college, or graduate). The IRS currently requires workers to pay tax on any reimbursement for graduate programs. Undergraduate and basic education reimbursements of up to $5,250 a year are not taxed.

As Director of Human Resources, write a memo to all employees explaining this new benefit.


· It is up to you to decide what organization you work for. Ideally you should pick an organization you know something about. When writing your memo, consider the following questions about your audience: What do your organization’s employees do? What courses or degrees might help them do their jobs better? How much education do employees already have? How do they feel about formal schooling?

· The information in the scenario is presented in a confusing order. Make sure your memo is organized in a reader-friendly way.

· The scenario stresses the limits of the policy. Without changing the provisions, present them using more positive emphasis.

· How will having a better-educated workforce help the organization and its employees? In other words, what are the reader benefits? Think about the challenges the organization faces, its competitive environment, and so forth.

Scenario 2: Telling Retirees They Must Switch to HMOs (Negative Message)

Your company has traditionally provided health insurance not only to employees but also to retirees who have worked for the company for at least 20 years at the time of retirement.

Seven years ago, your company cut costs by switching current employees from open-ended health insurance to health maintenance organizations (HMOs). At that time, the company kept open-ended insurance for retirees because research indicated that retirees wanted to keep their current doctors, which they might not be able to do with HMOs. But the high cost of the open-ended insurance program gives the company no choice: to continue to insure retirees, your company must hold down costs, and HMOs offer the best way of doing that.

Under the open-ended plan, the retiree pays 20% of all costs (up to a yearly ceiling of $10,000 and a lifetime ceiling of $100,000) and the company pays 80%. In an HMO, more costs will be covered for the patient. Routine doctors’ visits, for example, charge only a $10 co-payment. Most tests, such as mammograms, X-rays, and blood work, are covered 100%. Hospitalization is covered completely, and there’s much less paperwork. By presenting their insurance card when filling a prescription, patients pay only the co-payment, rather than having to pay the entire amount and then filing for a partial reimbursement later.

The bad news for retirees is that they have to go to a physician listed with the HMO. If their current physician is not on the list, retirees will have to switch doctors to retain benefits. Furthermore, the primary care physician must refer the patient to any other health care providers. That is, someone who wants to see a specialist or go to the emergency room must call the primary care physician first. Primary care physicians always approve such referrals whenever they seem medically advisable, but the requirement does limit the patient’s freedom. Further, since HMO physicians are paid a flat fee, some people fear that they will be reluctant to prescribe expensive treatments (which might cost more than the fee), even when those treatments are essential.

Your company offers a choice of HMOs. Informational meetings will be held next month for retirees (and anyone else who wishes to attend) to explain the various options.

As Vice President for Human Resources, you must write a form letter to all retirees, explaining the change and telling them how to indicate which HMO they prefer. Enclosed with each letter will be a postcard listing the plan options. Retirees must return the postcard within two months, indicating which plan they have chosen. Anyone who does not return a postcard will be assigned to an HMO by the company.

You should make up a name and address for a sample recipient. You can either make up a return address for your organization or provide an actual address.


· It is up to you to decide what organization you work for. Ideally you should pick an organization you know something about. When writing your letter, consider the following questions about your audience: About how many retirees do you have? What percentage are under 80, in reasonably good health? What percentage are 80 and over, sometimes with more serious health problems? How well educated are your retirees? How easy will it be for them to understand the HMO options? What times would be convenient for the retirees to come to meetings?

· Make sure your information is presented clearly and organized in a reader-friendly way.

· When possible, use reader benefits and positive emphasis without being misleading about negatives.

Scenario 3: Persuading Employees that a Security Camera Is Necessary (Persuasive Message)

You are a department head at a large company. To save money, your company orders office supplies in bulk. Each department then gets its allotment of supplies, which are kept in a supply room for employees to access when needed. The room is locked at night, and only you and the security guards have the key.

Large amounts of office supplies have been disappearing from your department’s supply room for several months. It started with small items, such as pens, tape, and sticky notes. Now, staplers, calculators, and expensive poster and certificate frames are missing. You have no idea who is responsible, but the thefts appear to be happening during regular business hours. The total loss from the thefts is now more than $1,000.

You tried having employees sign materials out on the honor system, but the thefts continued. Security recommends a hidden camera for the room, but the idea of “spying” on employees troubles you. You have agreed to a compromise: a security camera placed in plain view.

You believe the thefts are the work of one person and that the other 90 employees in your department are innocent. Therefore, the camera may offend people and harm employee morale.

Morale already has been down because the company has experienced profit losses the past two quarters due to increased competition. Rumors are spreading that some jobs will be transferred overseas and layoffs are imminent, though you have no solid information on management’s plans. Your employees—many of whom have been with the company for more than 10 years—are apprehensive about their future with the company.

However, the alternative is to allow the increasingly costly thefts to continue. You also want to avoid having to search employees and their belongings, which according to security is the next step if the camera fails to discourage the thief.

Write a memo to the employees in your department explaining the need for the camera.


· Consider the needs and concerns of your audience. Avoid making your readers feel angry, defensive, anxious, or frightened. Remember that you viewpoint sometimes means avoiding the word “you,” especially in negative contexts.

· Present the situation as a problem that you and your audience have a mutual interest in solving.

· When possible, use reader benefits and positive emphasis without being misleading about negatives.

** Scenarios in this assignment are based on material from Kitty O. Locker and Stephen Kyo Kaczmarek’s Business Communication: Building Critical Skills, 5th edition (New York: McGraw-Hill/Irwin, 2011).