October 2008
Writing eTips UpWrite Press
Real-Time Etiquette

The Process of Correspondence

Correspondence is a form of communication, and in order to communicate successfully, you need to follow a process. Here are the steps to take to correspond effectively.

  • As the sender, consider carefully the best way to convey your message. To do that, you must know and understand your receiver—the person or persons for whom the message is intended. For example, if you are corresponding with a potential client, you ought to present your message in a fairly formal way, probably in a business letter. However, if you are messaging a relative or close friend, you may use a more casual medium, such as a phone call, an email, or even a text message.
  • When composing the message, employ all the basic traits of writing—clear ideas and organization, an appropriate voice and word choice, smooth sentences, and impeccable mechanics. This is a given: the traits work together to help you convey the clearest message possible.
  • Also keep the receiver in mind as you prepare your message. He or she must be able to understand your intent in order to respond appropriately. The communication process is reciprocal.
  • Next, choose the medium, the way your message is sent. Choices include the letter, email, text messaging, or a printed memo. Again, a casual message calls for a casual medium, while a professional contact calls for a carefully worded letter.
  • Finally, your receiver’s response will complete the process. You may get verbal or written feedback, or find that the message has elicited an appropriate action. When you, the sender, receive that response, the communication circuit is complete.

You can find more about the correspondence process on pages 4–8 of Business and Sales Correspondence, part of the EZ Series of business writing materials from UpWrite Press.


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Revisiting the “Find and Replace” Function

Last month, we talked about using the “Find and Replace” function in your word processor to make global changes to a document. In response, Nancy Gray wrote this cautionary statement:

“Find and Replace” is indeed a wonderful little time saver. But you seem to have forgotten that the button choices at the bottom are “Find,” “Find Next,” “Replace,” and “Replace All.” You make such a good point about taking care to replace only the text examples that you wish to replace. But the most efficient way to accomplish this is to click on “Find Next” and decide with each new example whether you want to replace the old text with the new text.

“Replace All” is good only when you know for a fact that you can replace all examples of the undesired text. If there is the slightest chance that this slash-and-burn method of editing might get you in trouble (and your example of “doe” is a good one—what about “does” and “doesn’t”?), using “Find Next” to sort through the many examples is the wise choice.

Nancy’s point is valid. We’ve certainly heard a few “Replace All” horror stories to emphasize it. Consider, for example, a global change of the abbreviation “DA” to the words “District Attorney,” without using search constraints or checking the results. It caused serious “District Attorneymage” to one document we know of.

For shorter documents, “Find Next” is certainly the safest approach. However, for long documents, this can be tedious. (And that itself can create errors.) Advanced search options such as “whole word only” or “case sensitive” could have prevented the “DA” error above. Other clever approaches, such as including a space before and/or after a search term, are sometimes appropriate. And of course, even an automated spell-check afterward would catch a mistake like “Attorneymage.”

As Nancy indicates, the critical point is to take care with the “Find and Replace” function. It’s a powerful tool, and power tools can be dangerous.

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October Writers’ Forum Topic

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Coming in November

When to Write a Formal Business Letter

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