Lesson 3:1

WEEK SEVEN  Writing with the Right Attitude


  • Study and review writing techniques
  • Learn how to write with “You Attitude”
  • To initiate your search for a job, or an international volunteer position, or a graduate school. Keep good files because you will be writing a progress report on your search at the end of lesson 3:3


3: 1 Assignments:

PLEASE SEE Due dates on our Course Schedule

  •  Writing with You Attitude posted on your Team Forum before midnight  [late assignments will loose 0.5 points per day]
  • Business Letters: Complaint & Bad News letter posted on your Team Forum  before midnight  [late assignments will loose 0.5 points per day]
  • Peer Review of Writing with Attitude assignment posted on your team Forum  before midnight  [late assignments will loose 0.5 points per day]

Instructions for Assignments:

 Memorandum Demonstrating You- Attitude

The Context:

Students working to register in courses at UBC sometimes find themselves faced with the challenge of writing to instructors to ask for placement in a course that is full. Such correspondence frequently involves the use of e-mail, as in the example of an e-mail from an unidentified student to an English professor concerning a course:

To P. Lambert, No Subject


To: P. Lambert HYPERLINK “mailto:P.Lambert@ubc.ca” P.Lambert@ubc.ca
From: <HYPERLINK “mailto:bahaguy5454@hotmail.com” bahaguy5454@hotmail.com>


Hey there,

I’ve been trying for at least an hour to register in one of your English classes for next year with

no luck. I guess it’s full? I need any three credits to graduate, and this course fits perfectly into my schedule. The 8:00 am section is way too early in the morning for me, so I refuse to take that one. So could you squeeze me into the class as an extra student and get back to me asap about this today before I head off to the beach at 3:00?



PS. I’ll be away in Mexico for the first two weeks of the term, so I’ll check in with you when I get back to see if I’ve missed anything important.


Your Task

The writer of this e-mail, Evan Crisp, is disappointed that his message has not been answered. He comes to students in his English 301 class for advice. Write a memorandum of advice to Evan Crisp on best practices in writing an e-mail to a professor seeking to be added to a full course, and demonstrate the you-attitude toward Evan in the memo you write. Be sure to review section 1:7 of the handoutThe most common error with this assignment is the use of imperative verbs at the beginning of the bullet list and the repetition of the word ‘you’ in the body of the email.

 Two Business Letters: Complaint and Bad News

What defines an effective business document? For one thing, it achieves the purpose set out by its writer, whether that is to persuade the audience to respond or act in a certain way, or to provide information. This is an especially important consideration when you are writing a letter of complaint. If your purpose is to vent your frustration, you may well write an angry, irrational, and rambling letter. Don’t expect a quick or a positive response to such a rant. However, if you wish to be compensated for an inconvenience you have suffered, you will provide the company/organization you are writing to with details, facts, and requests in a way that presents you as a worthy customer. What content do you need to include and what pattern of organization should you employ to accomplish this goal?

In other circumstances, you may find yourself on the opposite side of this situation, representing a company or an organization, and having to respond to letters of complaint with so-called adjustment letters that deliver bad news (a “no” to demands for compensation or compensation less than or different from what the complainant may expect).In such cases, your strategy should involve indirection–that is, you should never begin or end the letter with the bad news but rather position it in the mid-section after an introduction that expresses courteous appreciation of the complainant’s correspondence. Remember that what you write will reflect your professionalism, so you will want to determine the facts and make sound decisions based on your findings. You won’t want to overreact to your correspondent’s criticisms—even though you may be sorely tempted to criticize or insult right back.

To meet the particular demands of writing the letter of adjustment containing bad news, you will want to employ a number of the following strategies:

  1. Begin the letter with a neutral statement on which both the writer and the reader of the letter can agree. Offer a compliment. Briefly review the facts. Offer an apology.
  2. Move in the middle section to valid reasons for refusal, and maintain a neutral tone.
  3. Soften the blow by accentuating the positive.
  4. Offer a reasonable compromise if possible.
  5. Close the letter with a positive statement and avoid referring to the bad news at the end.
  6. Be sure to use YOU-Attitude.

Letter #1

Write a letter of complaint about an error on a bill, rude service, a mistake in delivery, or the poor quality of some product you have purchased. Draw on your own recent experience for this complaint. That is, do not draw on the scenarios set out in your course text or in other sources.


Letter #2

Take the role of the employee whose job it is to respond

You will be reviewed on the format and content of your letters. Use the checklist below in preparing your work for submission.

ENGL301 – Checklist for Business Correspondence

Letter Format

  • Is the letter dated correctly?
  • Is the inside address complete and correct?
  • Is the appropriate courtesy title used?
  • Is the salutation appropriate?
  • Is the complimentary close written with only the first word capitalized?
  • Is the complimentary close followed by a comma?
  • Is the signature legible, and is the writer’s name typed below the signature?
  • If appropriate, is an enclosure line included?
  • Is the letter written in one of the standard formats described and illustrated in Technical Communication?
  • Is the letter grammatically correct, concise, complete, coherent, and courteous?

Complaint Letter

  • Are the details of the transaction included?
  • Are the details of the problem included?
  • Are the details of the problem’s consequences to you included?
  • Are the details of the solution you propose included?
  • Is your tone rational, credible, and polite but firm?

Bad News Adjustment Letter

  • Does the letter begin with a neutral statement on which both the reader and the writer can agree? (a compliment? an expression of appreciation? a quick review of the facts? an apology?)
  • Does the letter have a transition idea from the opening buffer to an explanation?
  • Does the letter present valid reasons for refusal, avoiding language creating a negative tone?
  • Does it contain offers of resale or sales promotion if appropriate?
  • Does the letter soften the blow by positioning the bad news strategically, by using the passive voice, or by accentuating the positive?
  • Does the letter suggest a compromise or substitute, if possible?
  • Does the closing avoid clichés, renew good feelings with a positive statement, and avoid referring to bad news?

 Peer Review of Writing with Attitude assignment

  • Be sure to include headings for writing style and grammar with this review
  • Be sure to employ YOU attitude
  • Review the chapter in our text book on self-editing
  • Post on your team forum and include a link to your partner’s assignment at the bottom of the page.

ONGOING: Initiate your Application Search:

The application package is a major writing assignment. Success on this assignment is predicated upon close reading and good command of the details and examples presented in both Technical Communication and the UBC Career Services website.

The full assignment is as follows:

  • Draw a suitable, current, and career-relevant job advertisement from UBC’s Careers Online and prepare a full job application package in response.
  • Or, alternatively, draw a suitable, current advertisement for an international volunteer position, or select a graduate program and prepare a full application package.

Please contact your instructor well in advance of the due date if you have having any trouble accessing the Careers Online website or if you wish to seek permission to use a current and relevant job ad from an accessible site other than the Careers Online site.

Your assignment will  include the following:

  1. The advertisement or application instructions, accompanied by MLA documentation showing the source of the ad
  2. A one-page cover letter addressed to the prospective employer or organization and designed to conform to the best practices for organization, content, layout, and design set out in Technical Communication
  3. A pdf file resume maximum two pages following the format and layout of one of the resume styles set out in Technical Communications
  4. An online resume post to your Web-folio.

Your assignment will be evaluated for the quality of its content including:

  • selection of a suitable, current, career-related ad
  • research you do into the job and organization to which you are applying
  • the appeal and effectiveness of your resume’s organization
  • the visual appeal of design in both the cover letter and the resume
  • the appropriateness of tone and style, and the correctness of expression and documentation.

A meticulously edited set of documents is vital to the success of this assignment, as it would be in the job market and in the world of work. For now, begin the process of finding the perfect position for your future – and take notes on this research process, keep a file.