Lesson 1, Topic 1
In Progress

1.3. Select the text-type, style and register

ryanrori January 24, 2021

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When creating texts, you need to select the appropriate text-type, style and register for each type of document that you are creating.

Text types

The E-mail

E-mail is the most commonly-used (and abused) form of office communication today. When I quickly want to ask a colleague something, I drop him/her a line, especially if it’s something difficult or embarrassing, or perhaps I don’t have time to have a polite telephone conversation. I don’t have to pay too much attention to what and how I say things, as it’s like having a conversation, right? Wrong! We forget that an e-mail is a legal document that can be used as evidence against us and, just like any other piece of writing, conveys a particular image of who we are. 

How should I format my e-mail?

You are probably familiar with the general rules about formatting e-mail, but here are some tips to keep in mind:

  • Try to keep the e-mail brief (preferably to one page), so that readers do not have to scroll 
  • Return e-mails on the same day that you would a phone call 
  • Use capitalisation and punctuation in the same way that you would in any other document
  • Format your e-mail to be sent in plain text rather than HTML because some e-mail clients may not read HTML
  • Write a salutation or greeting for each new subject e-mail. However, if you exchange several e-mails over the same topic (for example, a meeting day and time), it is not necessary to include a greeting, because it is as though you are carrying on a conversation. When we carry on conversations, we do not say hello each time we speak. 
  • Be sure to write an appropriate and specific subject in the subject line so that the recipient knows what to expect. For example: “April 22 production team meeting agenda” instead of “meeting.” 

To whom am I sending my e-mail?

It is always important to know who will receive your e-mail, including the number of people you have on the mailing list. 

This helps you in two ways:

  • Firstly, it helps you think about the tone of your writing. For example, while you still want to follow the traditional rules of writing, e-mails that you send to your manager may be more formal than to a colleague or team member. You will need to decide whether you need to use a person’s title, or if writing the first name is appropriate.
  • Secondly, if you send an e-mail to more than four people regularly, you should create mailing groups, so that the recipients do not need to scroll through names before they can get to the content of the e-mail. 

It also helps to keep some email addresses anonymous, as some perceive it as rude for their names and e-mail addresses to be posted for strangers to see. You will need to talk with the technical support in your office, or use the “help” option on your computer, if you do not know how to create a mailing group. A mailing group is a list of e-mail addresses assigned to one name (like, newmember@abd.co.za). Remember to use names that make sense to you so that you can remember them. This is especially helpful when you are managing several mailing group lists.

E-mails are public documents, despite the fact that you may send an e-mail to someone privately. Therefore, only include those statements in e-mail that you can openly defend should your message be circulated or shown to other parties. 

Using emoticons (smiley faces, winks, etc.), and other virtual gestures may be appropriate in some cases, but not in all cases! It is always essential to consider the type of relationship you have with the receiver of your message before including virtual non-verbals. If your relationship is more casual, then using the symbols is fine. If your relationship is more formal, then it is best to refrain from using them. 

The Memo

When you think of a memo, what do you think of? Is it a little piece of paper with a letterhead that says something like:

“From the desk of …” or “Don’t forget …” or “Reminders …”

The message itself may be very simple–something like:

“Buy more paper clips” or “Meet with President at 2:30” or “Mom, we’re out of milk.” 

While these memos are informative or persuasive, and may serve their simple purposes, more complex memos are often needed in an office setting. 

But don’t let that worry you. Even though business memos may be more formal and complicated the intention in writing one is still the same. You want to achieve your purpose with your reader effectively. 

Parts of a Memo:

Standard memos are divided into segments to organise the information and to help achieve the writer’s purpose:

Heading Segment

The heading segment follows this general format:

TO: (readers’ names and job titles)

FROM: (your name and job title)

DATE: (complete and current date)SUBJECT: (what the memo is about, highlighted in some way)