General comments about letter reports

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Letters are still the primary means of delivering communication to the outside world for any business or organization. Letters can be used to do any task: to ask, to inform, to analyze, to argue, to recommend, and so much more.

Letter formats follow two basic styles: modified block (or semi-block) and full block. Modified block tends to be the preferred style for letters that come from the home (in other words, letters that do not have a letterhead). This does not mean that companies do not use this format. Many companies use this format to try to achieve a more personal tone or to try to make the page more visually appropriate to the arrangement of the company letterhead. What is altered is the placement of the date, the complimentary closing line and the typed name below the closing. These elements are placed to begin from the center mark, and to flow toward the right. They are not centered nor are they right-hand justified.

Full block in which everything is aligned on the left-hand margin was once reserved solely for use with "letterheaded" stationery but now there is a great variety. (See the models in the text.)

Follow the advice in the text regarding control of tone and word choice.

Note: the simplified letter format omits salutation and complimentary closing. This third form is useful, but less commonplace in the types of letters we are writing. This form has advantages and disadvantages as do the modified and full block. Often it is used in placing orders and in other letters that do not require speaking to a specific audience.


The format for a memorandum is quite simple. An informative memo is very straightforward and direct, but a justification memo has a few "tricks" in its content. The justification memo requires tact and persuasion to convince the receiving audience that what you are asking for is "justified" and reasonable.

Memoranda are used for communication INSIDE an organization. Memos never go outside to clients, etc., but they can be used to convey any type of information inside your organization. Justification memos are the most difficult type to write because they must persuade.

Special Considerations in a Justification Memorandum

The justification memo is more than an ordinary informational memo. These are akin to proposals, but usually require less persuasion than proposals. Typically the memo is unsolicited (unasked for). It contains information about a solution to a problem or a suggestion that will increase productivity, decrease costs, improve profit margin, enhance public image or improve morale, and so forth -- in short, it offers a suggestion that will benefit the company.

According to John Lannon (author of Technical Communication), a typical arrangement for a justification memo is:

1. Statement of purpose or problem: In one or two sentences, make your recommendation and state the possible benefits

2. Cost and savings (or advantages): Point out the savings or advantages here, but save your explanation for the discussion section.

3. Methods or procedures: Briefly explain how your suggestion can be implemented.

4. Conclusions: List the logical conclusions (outcome) of implementing the suggestion, but save the details for the discussion.

5. Discussion: Provide details and explanations, and describe how you arrived at your conclusions.

While many authors would agree that these content suggestions are good, this rigid format is not the only one that will work. And these five categories are not meant to be topic headings within the body of the memo. It is always advisable to begin with a statement of purpose, but arrange your memo report's body according to the needs of your audience, content and intent. The topic and scenario will dictate the subject matter for this memo. A justification memorandum tends to be much longer than other types because it must persuade the reader(s) to do something or to change something.


E-mail is an increasingly more important part of workplace communication but the rules of "netiquette" appropriate to professional e-mail have not yet been finalized. As these continue to evolve, it is your obligation to watch the practices you see developing in the work world and to adapt accordingly. One thing is certain, IM or text-messaging language will not be used in professional correspondence because that language is not as clear and accurate, especially for international audiences.

E-mail was originally designed as a vehicle for sharing information between scientists working on the same project, and that is why it looks more like a memo than a letter format. It is being used today for everything from confirmations of appointments to transmittal pieces for detailed formal reports. Rules for using e-mail have not been universalized; however, there are guidelines for best practices.

E-mail should look and sound professional. Do not use slang or abbreviations. Do not add smiley faces or other emoticons. Identify what program your attachments are in. Be brief but be careful not to "clip" the tone by being too terse. Note that it is possible to draft a message in Word and then paste it into an e-mail if you do not have a spelling or grammar check feature on your e-mail system. [Use Control + C to copy and Control + V to paste.]

E-mail is a hybrid from of correspondence. E-mails most closely parallel memoranda in physical format, but the content and tone should lean toward letter style. This is not a place for Text-messenging or IM language. E-mail has been ruled a legally binding "document" by the Supreme Court. Give it as much careful attention as you would any other report in the workplace.

As a courtesy to your reader, you should specify what type of word or data processing system (such as MS Word 2007 or Excel 2013) was used to create any attachments to the e-mail. To keep e-mail short, do not embed (copy and paste) documents into the e-mail; instead, clip it on as an attachment.


Reference no: EM131097041

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