This examination will give you practical experience in writing
a business letter and doing prewriting for an informal report.
Review the instruction on business letters in Writing Effective
Communications, particularly the content for an informationgathering letter (“Neutral letter”). Also carefully review
pages 1–17 in this study unit. You’ll be building on the
prewriting you prepared for the exam in Writing Effective
Communications, so make sure you’ve completed that exam.
Review your work for that exam, as well as the scenario
information provided below.
Phoenix Advertising, with its main headquarters in Charlotte,
North Carolina, serves clients that include banks, insurance
companies, and retail chains.
You’re the vice president of human resources management at
Phoenix. You report directly to Gregory S. Forest, the company president. Mr. Forest advises you that in the last month,
four clients have complained about the advertising work
produced by the Roanoke, Virginia branch of the agency. He
reminds you that the clients served from the Roanoke branch
are vital to the overall success of Phoenix Advertising.
Mr. Forest also explains the little he has been able to learn
about the situation at the branch: In the last three months,
two of the top management people—an art director and an
account executive—have left the agency. Three of the graphic
designers and four of the copywriters are threatening to quit
because they feel their creative efforts are being rejected or
revised without consultation. They want to be part of a collaborative team, not to simply produce work that the art directors
and account executives can alter arbitrarily.
In an attempt to increase revenues, the branch is accepting
new clients without evaluating the effects of the new accounts
on the current project workload. As a result, without notice
or compensation for the additional hours, all salaried employees
are required to work long hours several days each week.
Employee morale and productivity are declining day by day.
Mr. Forest directs you to conduct a field investigation at the
branch itself to explore the nature of the problems that have
arisen there. Your investigative goals are to
• Identify and describe specifically the causes (root issues)
underlying each problem
• Show the impact of each problem on the business and on
• Provide specific recommendations for resolving the
problems in order to restore the Roanoke branch to
Step 1: Prewriting
Prepare yourself for your visit by creating personnel information
for the employees at the Roanoke branch. Brainstorm and
freewrite about the number of people working in each department and the names and experience of each key executive
(including the two who left). Also review the information
provided by the staff person and the executive team members
regarding agency and branch policies. Use the following
questions to jumpstart your prewriting, but expand on them
with your own questions and ideas.
• Why wouldn’t employees be paid or compensated for
extensive overtime? Is the branch following employee
contractual agreements and agency/branch policies?
Is the Roanoke branch operating under different salary
scales/schedules than others Phoenix offices?Examination 69
• Is the business experiencing financial problems?
• Who at Roanoke oversees the account review process?
What are the procedures for accepting a new client
account and for closing completed accounts? Are
these procedures being followed?
• Why are some, but not all, of the graphic designers and
writers complaining? Are their complaints legitimate?
Have they always complained or is this a recent development? If recent, what has changed to cause the
complaints? What have the art directors already tried to
do to handle their concerns? How does their negative
attitude affect productivity?
• Why did one of the top executives leave recently?
In what ways has the absence affected the branch
productivity and employees?
• Has the loss of some management people caused the
regular procedure of collaborative review to be overlooked or are the complainers not doing their jobs
• What’s the nature of the complaints filed by the four
clients with Mr. Forest? What does each request to
resolve the situation?
Once you’ve created answers to these and other questions
you’ve asked yourself, determine how you’ll approach the
investigation to accomplish your goals and find the facts
underlying each situation. These methods might include
one-to-one interviews with employees, observation of the
work environment, surveys of the clients, and a review of
various business reports, policies, and procedures. Use a
variety of methods—don’t rely on only one, such as employee
interviews, because what people feel or say may not represent the reality of the situation.
Create further details as necessary to craft a clear picture of
• The branch, the employees, and the clients (both
satisfied and dissatisfied)
• Particular cause or source of each problem (usually
more than one cause)
• The impact of each cause on business and morale 70 Examination
In a Word document, type the heading “Step 1.” Below it
type a list of your methods and summarize what you want
to accomplish with each. For example, if your method is to
interview each department as a group, what kind of information related to the problems should you be able to uncover
through that method?
Step 2: Gathering Information
Set aside your prewriting for a few days until you can
revisit it with fresh eyes. Reread the scenario information
and add ideas to your prewriting as you review it.
Suppose you decide to create two questionnaires, one for all
the employees at Roanoke and one for all the clients Roanoke
has serviced in the last 12 months. Your purpose is to determine when the problems began, how they’re defined by those
involved, what caused them, and how the employees think
they could be solved. Write several possible questions and
jot down any facts you hope to establish with each question.
Assignment A: Employee and Client Surveys
Continue with the Word document begun for Step 1. Type
the heading “Step 2A: Surveys.” Below it type “Employees”
and list in correct sentence form the top three employee
questions from your brainstorming. Choose words and phrases
appropriate for the intended purpose and audience. Under each
question, write one or two sentences describing the information
you hope to establish through the use of that question.
Type “Clients” and list the top three client questions from your
brainstorming. Under each one, write one or two sentences
describing the information you hope to establish through the
use of that question. Use language appropriate for the
intended purpose and audience.
Assignment B: Letter to CEO of Roanoke Branch
Continue from Step 2A in the same Word document, but
begin a new page. Write a full-block style, neutral letter to the
CEO of the Roanoke branch in which you explain the reason
you’re coming and the preparations he or she must complete
before your visit. Use the ABC approach to developing
each paragraph. Use correct sentence structure and word
choice appropriate for the intended purpose and audience. Examination 71
Based on your prewriting, detail what reports and client
accounts you’ll review during that visit, the meetings and
interviews you want to conduct, any branch policies on
which you need further information, employee performance
reviews, procedural manuals, and so on. Be sure to end in a
positive tone showing appreciation for the CEO’s assistance.
Include a representation of your signature above your typed
name (such as typing it in italics or script font).
Step 3: Organizing
Now imagine that you’ve visited Roanoke, met with the people,
conducted the interviews, and reviewed the surveys and
other information. You’ve returned to Charlotte and are
sorting the information gathered from your investigation
according to the primary problem.
Review all your prewriting and freewrite on any problem not
yet clearly defined in terms of causes, the impact on employee
morale and/or productivity, and possible solutions.
Assignment: Problems and Illustration
Start a new page in the same Word document after the Step 2B
assignment for this section. For the “Problems” portion, you
may use words and phrases in bulleted or numbered form to
represent your thoughts instead of complete sentences. For
the “Illustrations” portion, you must use complete sentences.
Begin with the following labels for the Problems section.
Facts and Causes:
Impact and Effects:
Under “Problems,” list four or five of the primary problems
you discovered in your investigation. Although President
Forest categorized the problems into three areas, you will
have found that one or two need to be broken down further, and/or you will have discovered other problems
unknown to Forest.
Choose one of the problems you listed. Under “Facts and
Causes,” list those you identified—not only what people
said or felt, but also the proof or facts you’ve uncovered that
identify the causes and underlying issues of the problem.
Remember, a major problem is the result of several factors
working together.72 Examination
For the chosen problem, describe under “Impact and Effects”
the impact on the business and on the employees for each of
the underlying issues you identified in “Facts and Causes.”
In your discussion, include numbers such as percentages to
show changes in productivity, employee work time, and so on.
For issues involving employee morale, be sure to explain the
impact on the business as well.
Finally, under “Solutions,” list ideas for each cause that will
end the negative impact as well as improve the situation,
making sure the solutions actually address the issue. For
example, suggesting an award for employee of the month may
be a morale booster in some situations, but probably not at
Roanoke, since the low morale is the result of serious problems.
If you create a solution you want to use but haven’t laid the
foundation for it in the causes and impact sections, then
return to those sections and create the necessary information
to support your solution.
After providing the above information, type “Illustration” and
below it identify a specific type of illustration (table, bar graph,
pie chart, etc.) you might use to represent numbers related
to causes or impacts. Then write two or three sentences
explaining why your choice is the best way to convey the
information to the executive team of Phoenix Advertising.
Referring to the above instructions and the evaluation criteria
for the exam, revise your work carefully. For the survey
questions and letter (Step 2A and B), revise for directness,
emphasis, sentence variety, coherence, and appropriate
word choice for the audience and purpose. Carefully edit
grammar, spelling, and punctuation. Read through your
work backwards, first word by word, then sentence by
sentence, and then paragraph by paragraph.
Word by word. In this way you can locate spelling errors. Be
alert—you may see the word here in your essay, a correctly
spelled word. But also check the words on either side. Did
you mean here in terms of location or did you mean the
sense of hearing?
Sentence by sentence. By looking at each group of words
separately from the context, you can more easily locate run-onExamination 73
sentences or fragments. Compare the length and structure of
each sentence for variety. Also check the connections
between sentences—are they coherent?
Paragraph by paragraph. Locate the controlling idea of each
paragraph and compare them with your primary focus for the
memo and e-mail. Does the paragraph help to develop that
focus in some specific way? Compare it with the controlling
ideas of the paragraphs before and after it. Do they follow
in logical order?