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Communications Notes 1 MECHANICAL ENGINEERING COMMUNICATIONS ME 365 SYSTEMS AND MEASUREMENTS Response Letter Format To: ME 365 Staff From: Dianne Atkinson Re: Response Letter Format To help students draft and format a response letter for their oscilloscope recommendations, I ’ve provided a brief discussion of correspondence and a sample response letter illustrating standard format. Students do have some familiarity with formal letters from their written assignments in the ME 290, the Mechanical Engineering Seminar, but may appreciate a review of the essential features. General Issues in Written Correspondence Written correspondence is expensive. Generating the physical artifact of a letter costs time and money. Furthermore, a letter is static and non-interactive, compared to such alternatives as a telephone conversation. The positive side of “hard copy” is that written correspondence often has a dual purpose, serving not only to convey information but also to conserve it as a written record. Putting a recommendation in writing can not only impact future action but can also preserve the rationale or justification for future reference. The durability of “hard copy” correspondence can be important and can contribute to a preference for letters over more casual modes of communication such as telephone conversations. Specific Features of Letters Formal letters usually have three parts: an opening which connects with the reader and provides context, a middle where the “news” is developed, and a close where an investment in futur e interaction is made. Even very short letters of just a few sentences will still typically contain these three parts, including context in the first sentence and courtesy in the last sentence. In the case of a response letter, the opening should identify the specific question motivating the response or recommendation provided in the letter. The middle part of the letter then details the response, using headings or lists, or other format devices to emphasize important points and to keep details from detracting from the main points. The close is an appropriate place to invite questions, always a considerate action. Specifically about Recommendations Letters In addition to the general structure of any correspondence (context, core, and close) a recommendations letter should be organized with the most important information presented first. The first section states the recommendation or “answer”. The second part then provides an explanation or rationale, showing how facts or conditions resulted in the part icular outcome or “answer”. This “top down” sequence is often used in formal reports and the pattern is familiar to readers. Although a recommendation is generally a creative response and not just the one correct “deductive” answer, report-style sequence is usually the best choice. Report style organization gets the “news” to an audience who is most interested in the “bottom line” and who may not necessarily be interested in every
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