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How To Convey A Negative Message In Business Writing

Need to convey a negative message in a business setting?  Here’s how to go about it with your favorite grammar program for business writing.

Tone. For most business writing, a confident and courteous tone is advised.  You want to retain the courtesy in a negative message, while adding graciousness and sincerity.  In cases where you’re citing an individual’s faults (e.g. when you’re warning the employee about their tardiness), maintain a professional tone, but make your stance on the issue crystal clear.

Voice. When writing in the active voice, you put emphasis on the person performing the action in the sentence. For negative messages, it’s best to focus the emphasis on the action – whether you’re turning down an offer, rejecting an application or nixing a deal. That way, the recipient focuses on what’s happening rather than who made the decision.

Explanation. Always give a reason for the negative decision.  Why is an applicant being turned down?  Why is the product being taken off the shelves?  This helps the reader understand the decision process and make the impact of the negative message just a little less harsh.

Others. Forget running off a list of benefits, such as informing a rejected applicant that the rejection opens up a world of new opportunities for them.  It’s insincere and, frankly, insulting.    Just inform them of the negative message, provide an explanation and remind them that the communication lines remain open should they have further inquiries.


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