At your workplace, you will come across a range of different information. As a staff member of your company, it is your job to ensure that the information you receive is transferred into a document of the appropriate format.
Understanding the format your information must take and how it must be published or sent to others can often be confusing. However, there are a number of steps you can take to make you pick the write format and publishing method for your information.
The Who, What, Where, When, Why, and How
When writing a document, consider:
Who does the information apply to (eg. all staff members within the workplace)?
What information is the document sharing (eg. there is a BBQ lunch held on Friday)?
Where is the event/subject of the message held (eg. The BBQ lunch is held in the lunchroom, the new photocopier can be found in the administration office)?
When does the message apply (eg. The BBQ is on Friday at 12pm, the new photocopier is to be installed Thursday at 10am)?
Why are you writing this document (eg. To inform all staff members of a BBQ lunch this Friday, to let all relevant staff know there will be a new photocopier installed)?
How is the message meant to be conveyed (eg. the BBQ message must be sent to all staff members and received over the few days)? Some messages may be urgent and require a fast response from the receiver.
Formats and Their Uses
There are a range of different formats that can be used to convey a message and many of these formats can be used for multiple different types of messages. However, it is up to you to find the format that is best suited for the tone of the message, purpose of the message and the audience who will receive the message.
Email – Use email when you need to send a short-to-lengthy message. Emails are best used for queeries – as they are easy for receivers to respond to – and to pass on information – as they allow for lengthy peices of information to be added and can be sent to multiple different receivers.
Letter – Letters are used when non-urgent information must be sent (as emails can take a long time to send), and it usually best used for thank-you letters and updating customers/clients and other businesses. Bills and statements are also often sent in letter form, as they allow clients to physically bring their bill into banks, post offices or the business the bill originated from, in order to pay them. Patients may also wish to pay the bill via a check, cash, or by listing their credit card details on the bill itself so the original supplier of the bill can follow the procedures to pay it. In this format, the letter can be returned to the sender with the payment details enclosed and this returned letter is often free of charge via the biller.
Fax – Faxes are used to convey relatively short messages that must be received relatively quickly, similar to email. A cover sheet must be attached to the front of the fax message, containing the area the message must be sent to (eg. Reception, Dr Kahn’s office). Faxes are being quickly replaced by emails due to the speed and efficiency sending emails provides over faxing.
Memo – Memos are used to convey very short messages, usually containing information or other one-way messages (messages that do not require a response). Memos, similar to faxes, are being quickly replaced with emails.
Text – Texting is usually used when the message must be conveyed urgently and can be used to receive a quick answer to an inquiry or contact clients and other businesses. Texting is always informal, and must only be used when the matter is urgent.
How Should Information be Written?
Although different formats will often differ in their writing style and tone, they will usually all contain the same basic structure. This includes:
- A greeting.
- An introduction.
- The main body of the message (main points/main paragrahs).
- A conclusion.
- A sign off
In letters – also some faxes and memos – a letterhead will be used. A letterhead will usually include the name of the person sending the email, the name of the business the sender works at, the sender’s position at the business (eg. manager, assistant supervisor) and the sender or business’ contact details (address, phone number, email etc.).
Emails contain a similar feature, only the details are usually featured below the main body of the email rather than above it.
Emails, Letters, Memos and Faxes may also include a signature after the sign-off. The document may be printed and physically signed, or may be uploaded using an image of the signature. The signer of the document is usually the sender, but could also be the manager or supervisor of the staff member who sent the document.
Proofreading and Editing
Once a draft of the document has been written out, it will often require a round of editing or proofreading.
Editing is done when the first draft has been constructed and includes substantive (structural) changes. This may mean swapping paragraphs around, cutting out any unimportant or repetitive details or completely changing the format used to better suit the message being expressed.
A supervisor, manager or staff member more experienced with writing documents may be asked to help edit your document and provide valuable feedback as to how it can be improved.
Proofreading is done when the document is believed to be structurally sound, and includes changing, adding or omitting words or sentences and fixing incorrect grammar and spelling.
Another staff member may also be required to proofread the document, as other staff members will often be able to spot mistakes you have looked over.
Publishing Your Document
When you are satisfied your document is clear of grammatical, spelling and structural errors, you will need to publish it. This sounds simple enough, but there are some things you will need to keep in mind during this process.
Check the address. Whether sending texts, emails, letters, memos or faxes, always check the address (email address, street address, fax number or phone number).
- Addressing Emails – Emails are addressed using the email address of the intended receiver (eg. jodi.Carls@live.com.au), and include short subject line that summarises what the email is about (eg. Friday Staff BBQ). When emailing, you may find it handy to use the CC (carbon copy) or BCC (blind carbon copy) feature. This allows you to address multiple people, meaning you can send the document to multiple people who might need it. The BCC feature allows you to add multiple addresses without the primary receiver (the ‘to’ address) seeing the other email addresses.
- Addressing Letters – When addressing letters, ensure the address is written correctly on the envelope. This ensures the correct person/business receives the document.
Eg. Caroline Adams,
23 Wilkes Street,
VIC AUS 3219
To include a unit or lot number, write it before the street address (eg. Unit 5, 23 Wilkes Street).
It is also important to make sure the correct amount of stamps is placed on the envelope. This will be a $1 stamp for local postage in Australia (soon rising to $1.10). If there is an insufficient amount of stamps, or the ‘to’ address in incorrect, the letter will be sent back to you (‘return to sender’).
- Addressing Faxes – When sending a fax, you will need to include the name of the receiver, their landline phone number and their fax number. Faxes are usually sent using a fax machine or a general photocopier which includes a faxing feature. If faxing a business, make sure to include the area the fax is being sent to (eg. Administration).
- Addressing Memos – Memos are usually sent in either an online (via email or another similar program) or printed and sent or handed out. Memos should contain the receiver’s name, the sender’s name, the date the message is being sent and a ‘subject’ line containing a short summary of what the memo is about.
- Addressing Texts – Texts are addressed using the phone number of the receiver. You may add multiple recievers in the ‘to’ section, meaning that multiple people will receive the message. When writing texts on behalf of your business, ensure that you include the name of the receiver, a greeting, a main body of text and a sign off.
eg. Hello Karen,
I have organised the BBQ for 12pm Friday.
Texts are usually kept short and to-the-point, but must still be kept formal as you are still representing your business.
Keep a copy – When sending a message, make sure that you still have a copy of the message sent available to you. You will usually be able to easily access a duplicate of text messages, emails and faxes as these are kept either in their original form, or are available through your ‘sent’ messages folders.
Ensure you photocopy any memos or letters that have been written directly onto paper. This ensures that you are able to properly reference your sent material if it is ever questioned. It also ensures that a copy can be re-sent if a letter happens to get lost in the mail.
Date it – Whenever you send a message, ensure that you write the date on the very top. This means that if the integrity of the document ever comes into question – such as through a court case – the date the letter was written and sent will be readily available for proof of integrity. This can also be useful if you have to look back on previous messages to put together a time line (eg. to remember the last time you sent out a business report).
As an employee, you need to make sure all information you send is put into the correct format, edited to ensure it is free of grammar and spelling mistakes, and published using the correct method. If you are unsure as to how a specific piece of information is to be published, it is best to look over your workplace’s Policies and Procedures Manual, or to ask your supervisor, manager, or a staff member experienced in document writing.
- Written using information from Medical Administration Training Certificate III in Business Administration (Medical) course. Unit BSBWRT301 – Writing Simple Documents.