Writing Indirect Messages This chapter presents writing approaches for two different message categories, when transmitting strong negative information and persuading someone to act, both of which usually use an indirect organization. There is no resistance to overcome in direct messages but in the above two types of messages we are likely to encounter resistance. The difficulty of writing a negative message stems from its bipolar objectives: (1) to transmit the bad news clearly and (2) to maintain the reader’s goodwill.
To accomplish either objective by itself is fairly easy; to accomplish both takes skill.
Writing indirect messages entails understanding the rationale behind the indirect approach. NEGATIVE MESSAGES The pattern for transmitting negative messages has four steps: (1) a delaying opening, (2) the reasons for the upcoming bad news, (3) the bad news itself, and (4) a positive ending. Opening sentences and paragraph carry high impact, and so does the ending of a message. Using the principle of place emphasis, bad news most often appears in the middle of the message to diminish its impact.
While the reader will not be happy hearing the bad news, the reader may at least understand the writer’s position if the information appears in such a way that the recipient reads all the message and if the reasons are believable, realistic and logical. THE DELAYING OPENING The purpose of delaying the opening is to present the general topic without hinting about the upcoming negative news. If you have ever read an opening that you recognized as a delaying tactic, then you have read an ineffective opening. For example, this opening is weak because it leaks the upcoming bad news: “Over the last year you’ve met most of the essential deadlines. Other characteristics of the weak opening are those that start too far from the general subject and those that have too positive tone. You might find the personal references a positive way to get in to the mood of the topic. At least the opening does not give away the upcoming bad news or start too far from the subject. An opening that is too positive forces an awkward transition to the rapidly approaching bad news. Writing an effective delaying opening is often the most difficult of the four steps in the negative message formula.
A major reason for delaying openings to be so difficult to write is that they often appear manipulative. However, if the reader does not recognize your manipulation, you probably will achieve your goal. THE REASONS Probably the most crucial step in the negative formula is the second, which establishes the reasons for the upcoming bad news. In preparing your reasons, empathize with your reader- the reasons should be logical to the reader and not just to you. If possible and appropriate, each reason should build on preceding reasons. This step also should not leak bad news, even though that news is the next step. THE BAD NEWS
While the delaying opening and the development of the reasons may take from several sentences to a paragraph each, this third step can be quite short, sometimes taking only a part of a sentence. Avoid putting bad news in a separate paragraph. A stand-alone paragraph is undesirable because it receives too much emphasis. Too blunt a negative message can destroy effectively prepared earlier steps. Sometimes you can leave the interpretation of the bad news to the reader by establishing what you are doing as opposed to not doing. For example, stating that you are awarding a bid to another firm tells the reader that he or she did not receive it.
Here in the third step of a negative message the active voice may be too forceful, the passive voice may be softer. Seek an impersonal style by avoiding people’s names and personal pronouns. Be especially cautious of first names, I, and you. Once you deliver the negative message, leave it. Do not dwell on it. Change the subject to something more positive, such as the topic of the positive ending. THE POSITIVE ENDING The last step seeks to change the tone from negative to positive. The reason for this step is to maintain goodwill.
At a minimum, the ending can extend thanks for the offer, the bid, the suggestion, the application, the idea, the message, or whatever you have decided to reject. Look for stronger endings than just thank you. Perhaps you can alter the declined inquiry so that you can give an affirmative answer. A third technique for stronger positive endings is suggesting that in the future you might be able to extend a yes. Resist the desire to toss in a final reference to the bad news. Once you deliver the negative in the third step, do not resurrect it. The four steps in the negative message should follow from idea to idea.
Transitions are important in all writing. A smooth transition is especially crucial between steps one and two. The transitions from step two to step three is usually an easy one. Although there is a major tone change from step three to step four, the transition is not as important because the tone is now positive. PERSUASIVE MESSAGES The second major category of messages that relies on the indirect organization is persuasive messages. Those who are successful at altering the behaviour of others make their want to take the proposed action. You are guaranteed a rejection if you start with a request when resistance is present.
Therefore, build your message following the indirect organization, which saves the request for the desired action until the last. Writing persuasively usually follows a series of steps; these steps parallel the behaviour we follow each time we take an overt action. They are: attention, interest, desire, conviction, and action. Just as these steps we follow to action, they, too, are the steps of a persuasive message. THE ATTENTION STEP When writing strong attention getters, several techniques may be applied. Questions are good openers because they involve the reader.
Attention getting devices include making a startling statement, using mechanical or printed grabbers, focusing on a single word, giving something away, stressing low cost, describing some enticing mood or situation, or personalizing with the reader’s name or address. The goals of an attention step are (1) to get the reader’s attention and (2) to develop enough attention to carry the reader into the next step. THE INTEREST STEP The interest step starts to give some direction to the message (if the opening did not do so). Interest develops through blending the strengths of the opening and the enticements of the upcoming desire step.
The interest step often is relatively short. THE DESIRE STEP The desire grows solely from positive attributes. The goal is for the reader to feel that he or she would like the service or product. At this step, there is no concern with the counterarguments or hesitancies against what will be proposed. These are handled in the next step. THE CONVICTION STEP Before the reader has a chance to organize arguments against the upcoming action, the conviction step lays out the counterarguments. The desire and the conviction step are closely related and should flow together. Central to all the persuasion is the concept of need.
Need is developed across several of the steps of the persuasive message but is primarily in the desire and conviction steps. THE ACTION STEP Only after you are sure that the reader is convinced of the need to take the action that you plan to propose should you propose it. An action statement that occurs too early will meet the defeat. This last step reemphasizes the reader’s benefit from taking the proposed action, makes it easy for the reader to do as suggested, and asks for the action. Ways to Stimulate Action Two main categories or techniques to stimulate action are (1) punishment and reward and (2) emotional and rational approach.
While these approaches may both be successful, the positive tone of the reward approach is preferable in business settings. Long-term business relationships especially benefit from the reward approach. Emotional appeals seek a quick action based on limited thought and perhaps incomplete logic. Rational appeals on the other hand, seek a stronger commitment and one the reader is likely to feel comfortable with for a longer time. Hard Sell Versus Soft Sell Not all persuasive messages can be characterized as the hard-sell type that push magazine or record club subscriptions. Some persuasive messages are soft sell.
As a manager, you are more likely to write these more subtle, softer persuasive messages. The hard-sell message, such as magazine subscription letter, will have all five steps. An extremely soft sell letter might have only the action step:”You’re invited to the office holiday party next Tuesday at 3 P. M. Hope you can be there. ” The harder the hard-sell message, the more emphasis (and probably the more space)is needed for attention One of the major problems in writing an indirect persuasive message is deciding where on the spectrum between hard and soft sell your reader and the message fall.
If in doubt, it is better to include an earlier step rather than assume that it has already been met. Hints for Writing Persuasive Messages Following hints may ease the task of writing persuasive messages or make the message more effective. Be careful not to let your steps overlap too much. While each step has its own content, use transition from step to step. Consider writing your action step first. Finally, in general, try not to let your desired action leak out until the action step. Often you will find that they spell out the word dollar and the numbers so that we will have to endure the entire persuasive spiel to learn its cost.
Second, these experts at persuasion recognize that the more time and effort we expend, the more likely we are to keep working our way through the message. Third, these advertisers know that usually they have but one moment of your time to persuade you. Finally, personalization of form letters can enhance positive responses. As a reader, you like to see your name and comments about yourself. The efforts are especially likely to appear at places where the reader may lose interest: the very beginning, at the bottom of pages, and at the request for action.
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Writing Indirect Messages. (2018, Jan 31). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/writing-indirect-messages/