Up to Snuff #112: A solemn vow, to become a good communicator

Up to Snuff #112:  A solemn vow, to become a good communicator

By, Afua Serwah Osei-Bonsu

Becoming a good communicator may take a combination of strong technical writing, mixed with graphic design, copy editing and rhetoric.  One may have a goal and make a vow to themselves to be strong or masterful within an area like “communication” or type of writing skills like “content” or “technical” or “editing.” Technical writing is very useful in the workplace in memos or emails.  It is also good at creating excitement in workplace exchanges and documents.  Technical writing is strongly used for making textbooks, manuals and a variety of professional documents and even editorial writing. Communication then becomes something like style, delivery, organization, understanding, value and service, clarity. It is what it is; it is what you want yours to be.  It’s always beneficial to create “value” in a document and go the extra mile in an email for example and provide a precise link. Also, one key to technical communication has consistently been problem-solving.

The below list makes up the beginning of a quest for mastership in communication:

Technical Communication, 11th edition 2014
Mike Markel
ISBN: 978-0312-485979
Bedford/St. Martin’s

Technical and Professional Writing, Solving Problems at Work, By Kennedy & Montgomery

Business Writing, By Wilma Davidson

Excellence in Business Communication, Twelth Edition 2017
John V. Thill and Courtland L. Bovee
ISBN: 9780134388144
Loose Leaf Edition: ISBN: 9780134388175

Successful Writing at Work, 4th Concise Edition 2014
Philip Kolin
ISBN: 978-1280-5052564

Technical Communication Today, 5th Edition 2014
Richard Johnson-Sheehan
ISBN 978-0321-907981

The Essentials of Technical Communication 3rd Edition 2014
Elizabeth Tebeaux and Sam Dragga
ISBN: 978-0195-5384222
Oxford University Press

Writing in the Health Professions 2005  Barbara A. Heifferon
ISBN: 978-0321-105271

Google Professional memos

Purdue Owl (search technical writing for examples of memo writing and workplace writing etc.)

Copy Editor’s Handbook:  A Guide to Book Publishing and Corporate Communication

Pay attention to stellar staff emails and memos in the workplace

Get a Technical Writing degree

Up to Snuff #44: Letters and Memos

Up to Snuff #44:  Letters and Memos

By, Afua Serwah Osei-Bonsu

According to Kennedy’s, “Technical and Professional Writing,” a memo records “an opinion, an action, a plan or a train of events.” (Kennedy, pg. 361) Memos are said to be for insiders and include in their basic initiation To, From, Date and Subject stacked up, skip two lines a purpose statement, then background information, then summary or answer, reference to another memo or correspondence, then develop pertinent details, conclusion, typists initials, enclosures.  (Kennedy, Pg. 365)

A letter, in contrast to a memo, generally “solves problems with or for outsiders.” (Kennedy, 361) When letters arrive to insider’s examples may include things like “congratulatory letters, recommendation letters, letters of promotion, disciplinary letters, and letters of resignation or dismissal.” (Kennedy, 361)

What should be included in a business letter are at top senders name and address centered with name bold, skip 3 lines, date, skip 3 lines, recipients name title & address, skip one line, salutation recipient and colon, skip one line, pertinent information ~3 paragraphs or more, complimentary close, skip 4 lines to printed name with senders signature above.  (Kennedy, Pg. 363, Figure 10.1)  The basic structure of letters and memo’s is absolute and includes an introduction, a body and a conclusion.  (Kennedy, Pg. 364)

I have held jobs were letter writing was a constant and regular event.  The most common things in this particular job with an art center that I worked on were emails or thank you letters to donors.  The letters usually contained about 3 paragraphs in which to cite the gift and give thanks while acknowledging how the gift would be applied.  Then in the second paragraph to warm the donor with a personal connection and in the final closing paragraph to invite the donor to enjoy the many offerings by highlighting current and upcoming events at the arts center. Then close the letter and sometimes add an ink or personal note to further warm the donor.  It was imperative to use things like templates connected to the database, csv files and mail merge plus professionally sealing letters with a plastic water and sponge gadget and thinking about the reader’s first glance. Even the choice of seasonal stamp mattered and often beautified or even revolutionized the letters.

The recipients of a memo may be internal “insiders” within a company or organization and the recipients of a letter tend to be external or “outsiders.”  An inside memo may have a more casual format than a letter which may be contractual or even of  legal quality, more formal and considerably more restrained.

Kennedy, George E. & Tracy T. Montgomery, Technical and Professional Writing:  Solving Problems at Work, Upper Saddle River, NJ Prentice Hall




Up to Snuff #39: What are the roles of policy statements, manuals and procedures?

Up to Snuff #39: What are the roles of policy statements, manuals and procedures?

By, Afua Serwah Osei-Bonsu

The roles of policy statements, manuals and procedures are specific.

Policy statements pertain to general rules.  (Kennedy, Pg. 324) Manuals are more descriptive than policy, with narrow topics about the duties of a position, a group or a piece of equipment.  (Kennedy, Pg. 325)

Manuals may refer to how to put something together or how to maintain it.  What manuals are not are procedural, not specific situations or details of specific employee actions.  (Kennedy, Pg.325)

Procedures differ from manuals and policy statements.  Procedures are “step by step instructions for performing a specific activity repeatedly.”  (Kennedy, Pg. 325)  According to Technical and Professional Writing, “if a procedure succeeds, activity proceeds uniformly.” Procedures are also described as absolute. (Pg.325)

Rhetorical process necessary to impact effective policy statements, manuals and procedures:

“When writing policy one should state policy simply, state only policy that can be enforced and maintain the identity of the policy statement by avoiding general descriptions and procedural details.”  (Kennedy, Pg. 329)

Manuals should be descriptive. Manuals should have formatting where headers and footers have a system that is consistent.  Manuals should have appropriate reader signals, readability and breaks.  The “breaks” in a manual may be things like bulleted lists, tables, charts, figures, technical illustration.  Manuals should be directive. (Kennedy, Pgs. 332-334)

“Procedures should include only procedural discourse and eliminate any policy and manual.”  (Kennedy, Pg. 338)  The procedure should be logically sound and “organized by process, not by participant.”  (Kennedy, Pg. 338) Procedures should be laid out in order of importance or chronologically or alphabetically and may describe procedures from the beginning to end of work day.  Procedures may also include indexes and chapters.  Five essential characteristics that Kennedy’s, “Technical and Professional Writing” includes are:  accuracy, feasibility, specificity, honesty, and thoroughness. (Kennedy, pg. 339)

Are policy statements, manuals or procedures persuasive?

Manuals are directive, not persuasive and not part of a rhetorical problem.  “Manuals and procedures are thought to be hard core technical writing concerned with usability, verification and logically sound reasoning.” (Kennedy, 327) Policy statements, however may be a little persuasive, but function as general rules.

Kennedy, George E. & Tracy T. Montgomery, Technical and Professional Writing:  Solving Problems at Work, Upper Saddle River, NJ Prentice Hall


Up to Snuff #38: Specific factors that should be present in Progress Reports, Trip Reports, Feasibility Reports and Scientific Reports

Up to Snuff #38: Specific factors that should be present in Progress Reports, Trip Reports, Feasibility Reports and Scientific Reports

By Afua Serwah Osei-Bonsu

Progress Reports:  Progress reports are generally written at specific intervals and are sometimes called “Periodic Reports.”  Progress reports are normally written to management in order for them to make decisions.  (Kennedy, pg. 209).  They are often written to grant funders to report on progress and can be used for funders to make decisions on future funding.  They should include options that are clear, and let management know if things are generally “on track.” (Kennedy, 209) Some have found it nice to incorporate “built in editors” within their work team as persons who regularly review their reports.  Progress Reports should have orienting information, evaluation and overview that includes a thesis and conclusive statement, current status with major actions taken and problems encountered and conclusions that summarizes significance.  (Kennedy, pg. 210)

Trip reports-Trip Reports include an introduction that specifies where was work done and with whom and when and for how long and why.  The introduction is followed by an overall assessment of work done which includes what was done and how and the goals.  A Trip Report also includes a problems and solutions section that details what problems were and were they solved, by whom and when.  The Trip Report closes with a conclusion and recommendations about what work has to be done and what to do in the future. (Kennedy, pgs. 276-279)

Feasibility Reports-Feasibility Reports state what the problem is and what alternatives are being considered.  What are the recommendations must always be included.  What evidence supports their recommendations?  What financial schedule.  What consequences result from recommendations?  What further work?  The general tone of a Feasibility Report is “exploratory,” and “whether the larger project is advisable.  Feasibility Reports can be designed according to special areas such as cost analysis, or physical feasibility or schedule.  One looks at the logic of the conclusion and performs tests. (Kennedy, Pg. 290)  Very often in a company engineers perform feasibility studies, where a manager may look at cost effectiveness. ( Alley, M., 2008, Proposals)

Scientific Reports- can include journal articles, or lab reports or proposals to funders or reports or any of the above.  Many different styles are included in Michael Alley’s, “The Craft of Science Writing.”

Kennedy, George E & Tracy T. Montgomery, Technical and Professional Writing:  Solving Problems at Work, Upper Saddle River, NJ Prentice Hall, Chapters 1-6




Up to Snuff #37: Value of a Short Report

Up to Snuff #37: Value of a Short Report

Value of a short report in addressing a problem in the work place.

A short report in the workplace can help track a problem from onset to completion and effectively guide it through to resolution.  When working with a team a short report could provide guidance, be informative or even persuasive in promoting an idea or product to support progress within a project.

It reminds me of a hard time in my life when I wrote goals to propel myself forward.  I used the regular writing of daily goals and annual to promote to myself progress and “inch” ahead as well as to manifest one step into reality.

Up to Snuff #36: Necessary Precautions of a Scientific Report

Up to Snuff #36: Necessary Precautions of a Scientific Report

By, Afua Serwah Osei-Bonsu

Form of the Scientific Report  is said to have become more rigidly conventional, not story like but instead using standard formats to convey work. (Kennedy, pg.309)  “Scientists must familiarize themselves with particular conventions  of expertise and journals they want to publish in.”  (Kennedy, pgs. 309)

Citing a problem to an expert audience is key.  What is also important is “passive construction” that uses more neutrality and objectivity, however one may be trying to persuade an audience to “accept a view of reality.” (Kennedy, pg. 310) “Proposals are persuasive.” (Kennedy, Pg. 310)

Scientific Reports are said to be “descriptive, not prescriptive.” They are also thorough and formal with formal citations and an abstract. (Kennedy, pg. 311)

In a Science Lab all things may be unified and based on specific training.  In research generally researchers will endeavor to achieve clean data free of subjectivity.  There are specific techniques and uniformity that one uses to make sure all interviews are equal and all data is true and accurate. I use this example to suggest that use of a template or conventionality achieves a certain cleanliness to the research or to data in general.  One may use the same set of questions for 40 years or more to make specific predictions.  Uniformity can also be a key to success for making comparisons or analyzing data.


Kennedy, George E & Tracy T. Montgomery, Technical and Professional Writing:  Solving Problems at Work, Upper Saddle River, NJ Prentice Hall






Up to Snuff #33: Book List, Writing Technical, Scientific and Content

Up to Snuff #33:   Book List, Writing Technical, Scientific and Content

By Afua Serwah Osei-Bonsu

Writing Well, Edition 9, Pearson, By Donald Hall

Writing Guidelines for Engineering and Science by Michael Alley

The Mayfield Handbook of Technical and Scientific Writing by Leslie Perelman, James Paradis, & Edward Barret, McGraw-Hill Companies, The, 1/17/1997

Article:  Scholarly Voice:  Avoiding Bias

The Gregg Reference Manual

The Why Factor

Statistical Techniques in Business and Economics By Douglas Lind

Formal Language Theory, Noam Chomsky

Practical Knowledge By Martin Heidegger