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Document Series Exercises

Document Series Exercise

Exercise 1

“Email Tone Exercise.”

Objective: Practice addressing purpose and audience with a focus on style and tone.

[Instructor steps] Create an email that reflects one side of a hypothetical workplace conflict (e.g., scheduling, vacation time, deadlines, employee policies, etc.). Share the email with students. Put them in small groups. Task them with writing a response email. To do so student will:

    • Do a PAD analysis of the rhetorical situation for the response
    • Collaboratively draft a response

In the same or the following class period, have the students exchange response emails and peer review the response from the standpoint of the target audience, the original email author. How would they respond to the email they have received and why? What specific aspects of the email’s style and tone are effective or less effective in accomplishing the email’s goals?

Exercise 2

“Customer Service Scenario Roleplay”

Objective: Practice addressing purpose and audience; practice developing tone; practice developing students’ own writing style, paying particular attention to concision.

[Instructor steps] Instructor presents scenario a customer service scenario to the class in which a customer is is complaining to a customer service representative about a problem (e.g., phone service, insurance bill, computer malfunction, etc.). Split the class into four groups and assign two groups the role of the customer (audience: customer service rep), and the other two groups the role of the customer service rep (audience: customer). Students collaboratively compose an appropriate response for their target audience, and then present their responses to the appropriate group. Each group (or spokesperson) role plays an interaction with the goal of resolution of the conflict.

Instructor notes: Students can use index cards to prepare their roleplay. Try to give enough information in the scenario that they don’t have to make up rules of resolving the issue, and emphasize that the goal is for the customer to feel  satisfied the issue will be resolved, not to specifically resolve the issue.

Exercise 3

“Style and Tone: Letters”

Objective: Develop ability to adapt style and tone to purpose in emails and letters

[Instructor steps] In small groups, have students search the internet for examples of letters and emails. Identify the different purposes of each example they find and note the way the email/letter opens and closes. Then, ask students to develop a list of 10 different ways to open/close correspondence. For each opening/closing, have students identify the context/purpose for which that opening/closing would be appropriate and why. Follow up with class discussion in which students share some of the openings/closings and purposes from their list.

Exercise 4

“Practice Adapting for Audience”

Objective: Analyze and write in a specific context defined by purpose and audience.

[Instructor steps] Develop a brief scenario in which something happens that people in the student’s life would need to know about (e.g., car breaking down). Select three different audiences who would need the information (e.g., instructor, parent, friend). Ask students to compose correspondence for the different audiences. Have students exchange correspondence with peers and comment on the correspondences’ effectiveness in terms of audience, style, and tone.

Exercise 5

“Match Audience to Memos”

Objective: Audience Analysis of Memos

[Instructor steps] Find four exemplar memos that have different audiences. Put students in small groups and assign one of the memos to each group. Ask each group to do structured audience analysis of the memos (i.e., primary audience, secondary audience, level of expertise, exigence/context, etc.). Have each group report on their analyses with memos projected to the class. Focus on specific elements in the memos that led them to their conclusions.

Exercise 6

“What is the structure of an email?”

Objective: Analyze email structure to identify effective strategies

[Instructor steps] Find four exemplar short, business emails. Put students in small groups and assign one of the emails to each group. Ask each group to describe the structure of the email line by line, paragraph by paragraph. Ask students to outline the email identifying the purpose of each sentence/paragraph. Finally, ask students to conclude whether the email is effective or not and why. Have each group report on their analyses with the emails projected to the class. Focus on patterns in email structure and how those patterns correspond to email effectiveness to come up with some general guidelines for writing effective business emails.


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