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Homework answers / question archive / Bad News About Your Report For this discussion, please refer to "Writing a Bad News Message," which was one of the reading materials for week 7

Bad News About Your Report For this discussion, please refer to "Writing a Bad News Message," which was one of the reading materials for week 7


Bad News About Your Report

For this discussion, please refer to "Writing a Bad News Message," which was one of the reading materials for week 7.  You should also review the link from Purdue University on "Examples of Bad News Memos," which is one of the reading resources for week 8.

Then do the following:

Step 1: Post your research report as a Word or rtf attachment (this is so a classmate can read it);

Step 2: Choose a classmate's research report and post a response telling him/her that you are reading his/her report - only 1 reader for each report, please;

Step 3: Write a memo to tell the person whose report you have read that the company/community/etc. WILL NOT be implementing the recommended solution to the problem he/she has proposed. You will have to be creative in offering reasons why the solution cannot be implemented (money, opposition from stock holders, higher command or management, etc., are typical reasons for such decisions).

Here is a helpful explanation of how to handle such a memo:

Bad News Memos

Post your research report draft as your first response to this discussion post. Post your memo as your second response to the person you have chosen.

This exercise gives you practice in one of business/professional writing's toughest tasks - saying no. 

Remember, try to follow the advice from "Writing a Bad News Message."  Saying no to a request is difficult, but with the strategies you'll learn in the readings mentioned above, you'll be able to convey the message effectively.

Doing this should give you all the knowledge you need to give your classmate bad news. :-)




Final Reflections on Your WRTG 394 Experience

It's Week 8! You have reached the finish line in your WRTG 394 course.

For this discussion topic you need to do the following:

In a five-sentence  paragraph (50 words minimum) share what you found to be most challenging in WRTG 394. You might also discuss what you liked/disliked about the course and any suggestions you have to help us improve WRTG 394.



Learning Resource


Evaluating the Work of Others

As an experienced business writer, you may be called upon to review others' work. Having a clear understanding of the process will help you be efficient, producing constructive advice that would benefit the essay while resisting change for change's sake.

Five Steps in Evaluation

By following a sequence of orderly steps, you can increase the likelihood that your evaluation of someone else's writing will be fair, constructive, and useful. Below are the five steps in evaluation:

1. Understand the assignment.

2. Evaluate how well the writing carries out the assignment.

3. Evaluate assertions.

4. Check facts.

5. Look for errors.

First, review the instructions that were given to the writer. Make sure you understand the assignment and the target audience. What resources did the writer have access to, and how much time was allotted for completing the assignment? What purpose did the document need to fulfill, and what role will this document have in future business activities or decisions?

Second, evaluate how well the document fulfills its stated goals. As a reader, do you see the goals carried out in the document? If you didn't know the writer and you were to find the document next year in a file where you were searching for information, would it provide the information it aims to convey? For example, suppose the document refers to the sales history of the past five years. Does the writer provide the sales history for the reader's reference, or indicate where the reader can get this information?

Evaluate the assertions made in the document. An assertion is a declaration, statement, or claim of fact. Suppose the writer indicates that the sales history for the past five years is a significant factor. Does the writer explain why this history is significant? Is the explanation logical and sufficient?

Evaluate the facts cited in the document. Does the writer credit the sources of facts, statistics, and numbers? For example, suppose the writer mentions that the population of the United States is about 300 million. Obviously, the writer did not count all US residents to arrive at this number. Where did it come from? If you have access to sources where you can independently verify the accuracy of these details, look them up and note any discrepancies.

Finally, check the document for proper format and for errors in spelling, punctuation, and grammar. Word processing spell checkers do not catch all errors.

Delivering the Evaluation

If you are asked to evaluate someone else's written work, keep in mind that not everyone can separate process from product, or product from personality. Many authors, particularly those new to the writing process, see the written word as an extension of self. To help the recipient receive your evaluation as professional advice, rather than as personal criticism, use strategies to be tactful and diplomatic.

Until you know the author and have an established relationship, it is best to use "I" statements, as in "I find this sentence difficult to understand." The sentence places the emphasis on the speaker rather than the sentence, and further distances the author from the sentence. If you were to say, "This sentence is awful," all the author may hear is, "I am an awful writer" and fail to pay attention to your message, the sentence under examination, or ways to improve it. Business writing produces products, and all products can be improved, but not all authors can separate messenger from message.

Avoid the use of the word "you" in your evaluation, oral or written, as it can put the recipient on the defensive. This will inhibit listening and decrease the probability of effective communication (McLean, 2005). If you phrase an evaluation point as, "Why did you include this word here?" it can be interpreted as a personal attack. Just as speakers are often self-conscious about their public speaking abilities, writers are often attached to the works they have produced. Anticipating and respecting this relationship and the anxiety it sometimes carries can help you serve as a better evaluator.

Phrasing disagreement as a question is often an effective response strategy. Let's rephrase that previous question to, "What is this sentence intended to communicate?" This places the emphasis on the sentence, not the author, and allows for dialogue. Phrasing your evaluation as a question emphasizes your need to understand, and provides the author with space to respond in a collaborative fashion.

Focus on the document as a product, an "it," and avoid associating the author or authors with it. There may be times when the social rank or status of the individual involved with work requires respectful consideration, and choosing to focus on the document as a work in progress, distinct from authors themselves, can serve you well. This also means that at times you may notice a glaring error but be reluctant to challenge the author directly as you anticipate a less than collaborative response. By treating the document as a product, and focusing on ways to strengthen it, keeping in mind our goals of clear and concise as reference points, you can approach issues without involving personalities.

Key Points

When evaluating the work of others, make sure you understand the assignment, evaluate how well the writing carries out the assignment, evaluate assertions, check facts, and watch for errors. Deliver your evaluation with tact and diplomacy.


McLean, S. (2005). The basics of interpersonal communication. Boston, MA: Allyn & Bacon.

Licenses and Attributions

7.4: Evaluating the Work of Others from Business Communication for Success was adapted by Saylor Academy and is available under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported license without attribution as requested by the work's original creator or licensee. UMGC has modified this work and it is available under the original license.

Learning Resource


Feedback as an Opportunity

Writing is a communicative act. It is a reflection of the communication process and represents    each of the process’s components in many ways. Yet, because many people tend to think ofwriting as one-way communication, feedback can be particularly challenging for a writer toassess. The best praise for your work may be the sound of silence, of the document havingfulfilled its purpose without error, misinterpretation, or complaint. Your praise may come in the form of increased referrals, or sales leads, or outright sales, but you may not learn of the feedback unless you seek it out. And that is what this section is about: seeking out feedback because it is an opportunity—an opportunity to engage with your audience, stimulate your thinking, and ultimately improve your writing.

You ask a colleague, “How was your weekend?” and he glances at the floor. Did he hear you? Was his nonverbal response to your question one of resignation that the weekend didn’t go well, or is he just checking to make sure his shoes are tied? Feedback, like all parts of the communication model, can be complex and puzzling. Do you ask again? Do you leave him alone? It is hard to know what an action means independent of context, and even harder to determine without more information. Feedback often serves the role of additional information, allowing the source to adapt, adjust, modify, delete, omit, or introduce new messages across diverse channels to facilitate communication. One point of reference within the information or response we define as feedback may, in itself, be almost meaningless, but taken together with related information can indicate a highly complex response, and even be used to predict future responses.

Carl Rogers, the famous humanistic psychologist, divides feedback into five categories:

1. Evaluative

2. Interpretive

3. Supportive

4. Probing

5. Understanding

These five types of feedback vary in their frequency and effectiveness (Rogers, 1961, 1970). This framework highlights aspects of feedback that serve as opportunities for the business writer, as he or she recognizes feedback as an essential part of writing and the communication process. Let’s examine the five types of feedback, as presented by Rogers (1961, 1970) in their order of frequency.

Evaluative Feedback

This type of feedback is the most common. Evaluative feedback often involves judgment of the writer and his or her ethos (or credibility). We look for credibility clues when we examine the letterhead; feel the stationery; or read the message and note the professional language, correct grammar, and lack of spelling errors. Conversely, if the writer’s credibility is undermined by errors, is perceived to be inappropriately informal, or presents questionable claims, the reader’s view of the writer will be negative. The reader is less likely to read or respond to the message communicated by a source judged to lack credibility.

In an interpersonal context, evaluative feedback may be communicated as a lack of eye contact, a frequent glance at a cell phone, or an overt act to avoid communication, such as walking away from the speaker. In written communication, we don’t have the opportunity to watch the reader “walk away.” As a business writer, your ethos is an important part of the message.

In aspects of interpersonal interaction, behavioral evaluations are one type of evaluative feedback. A behavioral evaluation assesses the action and not the actor, but the business writer lacks this context. You don’t always know when or where your content will be read and evaluated, so it is in your best interest to be consistently professional. Fact checking, elimination of errors, and a professional image should be habits, not efforts of will. They should be an automatic part of the writing process for any business writer.

Interpretive Feedback

In the course of a conversation, you may not be completely sure you heard correctly, so it is often a good idea to paraphrase or restate what you heard as a way of requesting confirmation or clarification. You may also understand what was said, but restate the main point as a way of communicating attention. Listening is hard to assess in any conversation, and interpretive feedback allows the speaker to hear a clear demonstration of feedback that confirms that the message was understood or needs correction. Interpretive feedback requests confirmation or clarification of a message and is often expressed in the form of a question.

In hard copy documents, we normally lack this feedback loop, but online documents increasingly allow for this form of exchange, by means of the “Comments” section. Authors can receive readers’ opinions, interpretations, and questions sparked by the article. Blogs incorporated this feature early in the development of web content, but you can see variations of this feedback style all over the web. This form of feedback is increasingly common on Facebook timelines and online newspaper articles.

Supportive Feedback

You come in second in a marathon to which you have dedicated the better part of a year in training. It was a challenging race, and you are full of mixed emotions. The hug from your partner communicates support and meets your need in ways that transcend language and the exchange of symbolic meaning. In an interpersonal context, it is easy to identify, describe, and even predict many representations of supportive feedback, but in other communication contexts, it can prove a significant challenge.

You may give yourself encouragement as you mentally prepare for the race and may receive pats on the back and hugs after the race, but when you write about your experience, how do you experience supportive feedback? In the same way you receive evaluative or interpretive feedback via article or blog comments or on your Facebook timeline, you may receive supportive feedback. Supportive feedback communicates encouragement in response to a message.

Probing Feedback

As you’ve read an article, have you ever wanted to learn more? Increasingly, embedded links allow a reader to explore related themes and content that give depth and breadth to content, but require the reader to be self-directed. Probing feedback communicates targeted requests for specific information. As an author, you’ve crafted the message and defined what information is included and what is beyond the scope of your document, but not every reader may agree with your framework. Some may perceive that a related idea is essential to the article and may request additional information as a way of indicating that it should be included. Rather than responding defensively to requests for specific information and interpreting them as challenges to your authority as the author, see them for what they are: probing feedback. They are opportunities that you should respond to positively with the view that each is an opportunity to interact, clarify, and promote your position, product, or service.

Keeping a positive attitude is an important part of writing in general and feedback in particular. Not everyone is as skilled with words as you are, so their probing feedback may appear on the surface to be less than diplomatic; it may even come across as rude, ignorant, or unprofessional. But it will be to your advantage to see through the poor packaging of their feedback for the essential request, and respond in a positive, professional fashion.

Understanding Feedback

Rogers (1961, 1970) discussed the innate tendency for humans to desire to be understood. We, at times, may express frustration associated with a project at work. As we express ourselves to those we choose to share with, we seek not only information or solutions but also acceptance and respect. We may not even want a solution, or need any information, but may simply want to be heard. Understanding feedback communicates sympathy and empathy for the source of the message.

As a business writer, you want your writing to be understood. When you receive feedback, it may not always be supportive or encouraging. Feedback is not always constructive, but it is always productive. Even if the feedback fails to demonstrate understanding or support for your cause or point, it demonstrates interest in the topic.

As a skilled communicator, you can recognize the types of feedback you are likely to receive from readers and can recognize that your readers may also desire feedback. Sometimes an author may communicate respect and understanding in a follow-up message. By providing a clarification, the writer can develop the relationship with the reader. Being professional involves keeping your goals in mind, and in order for your writing to be successful, you will need a positive relationship with your readers.

Key Points

Feedback may be evaluative, interpretive, supportive, probing, or understanding and it is always an opportunity for growth.


Rogers, C. R. (1961). On becoming a person: A therapist’s view of psychotherapy. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin.

Rogers, C. R. (1970). On encounter groups. New York, NY: Harper & Row.

Licenses and Attributions

8.3 Feedback as an Opportunity from Business Communication for Success was adapted by Saylor Academy and is available under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported license without attribution as requested by the work's original creator or licensor. UMGC has modified this work and it is available under the original license.





1)   The following example is problematic for several reasons. First, the bad news is mentioned right away, in the subject line and in the first sentence. Upon reading this news, the reader might be shocked, will probably be angry, and may not read the rest of the memo. To prepare the reader and to try to get the reader to understand the reasoning, the writer should place a buffer and the reasons before the news. Second, this memo lacks you-attitude and is written from the writer's own viewpoint. Notice that the word "I" is used 8 times. This tone may cause the reader to conclude that the writer doesn't care about him or her. Throughout the memo, the writer needs to be more concerned about the reader's reactions and opinions.


To: From: Subject: Travel Request Denial Date: 6 June 1990

I regret to inform you that your request for travel funds to travel to the Syllabus Conference in Santa Clara, California, has been denied. The university has limited funds available for travel this year and although I know you really want to go, I can't afford to give you the $1500 you requested (which by the way is a lot to request at this late date at the current time of this request.

I hope you understand our position because we really want our faculty to be happy. Even though I can't pay for this trip, I encourage you to apply again for future travel money because I hope to receive more money budgeted for travel the next fiscal year of 2000/2001.

Thank you again for your request. I always strive to help faculty fund their travels.



2) The following example  is much more effective. The writer does a good job of using a common ground statement and placing the reasons before the bad news. In addition, the memo is written with you-attitude. By providing alternatives and offering to help, the writer shows concern for the reader, who consequently will probably react more favorably towards the news and the writer.


To: From: Subject: Travel Request Date: 6 June 1990

Thank you for your interest in new, emerging online technologies. The travel committee reviewed your request to attend the Syllabus Conference in Santa Clara, California in July.

The university increased its travel budget this year by $5,000. However, with the increase in requests we’ve received and because we are close to the end of a fiscal year, we have used all our travel funds for the year. As much as we would like to fund your request, we just do not have the money to do so. Remember, though, that if you have departmental funds available, you may use those. You may also want to check to see if any divisional monies are still available.

I do hope you will be able to attend the conference. Please contact me if you need help finding another source of funding.



 SET 2


1) The following example is problematic for several reasons. First, the memo lacks important information, such as how much the assistantship will be, when the deadline for accepting is, and who to contact for further information. Second, and probably most important, although the memo is informing the reader of good news, it lacks you-attitude and positive emphasis. The writer uses first person (I, we, our, etc.) more than second person (you, your), and when second person is used in this context, it is often in a negative context. After reading the first part of the introductory paragraph, for example, the reader is probably expecting rejection. Even within the memo, the writer focuses on the negative, as evident by such statements as "If you don't do well..." and " probably don't have enough information..." Further, the final paragraph lacks a goodwill ending.




To: Jane Doe




We have finally reviewed your application for graduate study at Colorado State University. Due to the large number of applicants this year, competition was very tough, but luckily, we have recommended you for acceptance.

Also, to keep our students happy, we were fortunate enough to be able to offer a teaching assistantship, whereby you would work 20 hours a week. This assistantship also comes with a non-resident tuition waiver for the first year. If you don't do well, though, we cannot give you another assistantship.

It occurred to us that you probably don't have enough information to make a sound decision. The enclosed flyer provides a detailed description of our Cognitive Psychology Program, including the program of study, degree requirements, mentorship program, faculty research interests, and laboratory facilities.

Since other qualified students are on a waiting list for admissions, please notify me in writing of your decision to accept or reject admission as soon as possible.




2) The following is much more effective. The writer maintains positive emphasis throughout the memo, starting with the good news and concluding with a goodwill ending. Further, the memo contains the important information the student needs. In case the reader needs further information, though, the writer also includes the phone number to call. The reader will most likely react more favorably towards the news and the writer of this memo, as compared to the previous one.



To: Jane Doe





Thank you for your interest in graduate study at Colorado State University. You have been admitted to our Cognitive Psychology Program beginning with the fall semester of 2000.

The Psychology Department will provide full financial support, including 20 hours a week as a teaching assistant. This assistantship carries a stipend of $1045 per month, as well as a non-resident tuition waiver. As long as satisfactory academic progress is made, this assistantship will continue throughout your graduate career at CSU. The enclosed brochure provides a detailed description of the Cognitive Psychology Program, including the program of study, degree requirements, mentorship program, faculty research interests, and laboratory facilities.

We hope you will join us this Fall. Your undergraduate record, interests, and experience indicate that you will gain much new and exciting knowledge at CSU. Please notify me in writing of your decision to accept or reject this offer, prior to April 15. If you have any questions, feel free to contact me at 555.555.5555.

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