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April 2006

| Writing Bad-News Letters | Writers' Forum | Writers' Forum Topic for April |
| Coming Next Month | Blended Learning |


Writing Bad-News Letters



Older man with bad news

Four Steps to Tactful Bad-News Letters

  • Work gradually into the news.
  • Prepare the reader with details.
  • Present the bad news tactfully and honestly.
  • End quickly.

Sometimes you simply have to write something you'd rather not. Whether it is a personnel issue,
a proposal rejection, or a funding denial, bad news is tricky to deliver. The key is to maintain a calm, professional voice and to organize your writing to soften the blow.

  1. Work gradually into the news. Start out by presenting some sort of bridge to the actual bad news. For example, if you are denying an employee's request for a raise, you could begin by emphasizing your appreciation of the employee's service and an acknowledgement of his or her importance to the company.

  2. Prepare the reader with details. Next, you should build up to the bad news by presenting details that prepare the reader. You might explain that sales are down, expansion has eaten reserve funds, the timing is not good, or any other plausible reason for denying the request.

  3. Present the bad news tactfully and honestly. You might simply state that no one will be receiving raises this quarter, but that the request will stay on file, and that when things change, the request will be considered again.

  4. End quickly. Finally, end the writing as quickly as possible. In any case, avoid sounding either apologetic or falsely optimistic. Be clear, be sincere, and be firm.

Learn more about writing bad-news messages in Write for Business: A Compact Guide to Writing
& Communicating in the Workplace.

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Writers' Forum

Writers' Forum Topic for April

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Share a time you experienced a misunderstanding from a written communication. How did you address and correct it? E-mail your response to writersforum@upwritepress.com, and you could see your reply in the eTips Mid-Month Mini!


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Writing Persuasive Messages

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