3.1 Writing to inform
Writing to inform is about communicating information to your audience. Your information should be factual, relevant and clear.
One example of when you ‘write to inform’ is in a job application. You may be asked to write a personal statement providing information on:
- your qualifications
- experience that makes you suitable for the role
- reasons why you would like the position.
Activity 14 Texts that inform
How many different texts to inform can you think of? Write down as many as you can.
Here are some suggestions:
- newspapers and magazines that contain information
- a letter to confirm a doctor’s appointment
- informative websites, for example Citizens Advice
- a party invitation from a family member or friend
- a textbook
Below is an example of a text that informs. It is a formal letter from a contracting company, informing the recipient of changes to their terms and conditions. It shows the kind of language that is used in a text that informs.
41 Elm Walk
PO Box 71
29 July 2019
Dear Ms Edwardes
Re: Changes to terms and conditions
We are writing to tell you that we are changing the terms and conditions of your contract. This will take effect from 1st November 2019.
The changes and the reasons for them are shown on the next page.
Please read the notes we have sent with this letter. They tell you what changes you must tell us about. You can tell us about any changes online.
Mr Matthew Meadows
Activity 15 Features of texts that inform
Tick the writing techniques that apply to the letter above.
The letter uses most of these techniques, apart from diagrams and illustrations.
It’s useful to keep these features in mind when you write to inform. In other words, you need to:
- use language that is clear and to the point
- include facts
- write in an impersonal way
- use short, clear sentences
- break up your text with subheadings, diagrams and illustrations
- write in an unbiased way.
One of the golden rules of writing to inform is contained in the acronym KISS (Keep It Short and Simple). That means deciding what must go in and what might go in.
Two questions can help you decide whether any piece of information is a ‘must-go-in’ or a ‘might-go-in’.
What am I trying to tell my reader?
This question gets you to focus on why you are writing in the first place.
Will my reader understand what I am trying to say without this piece of information?
If the answer to this question is ‘no’, the information must go in. If the answer is ‘yes’, you may or may not choose to include it.
In the next two activities, you plan and write an email. Before you do so, take a look at the example below, so that you’re familiar with the main elements and the kind of wording that is appropriate.
Date: 23 April 2019
Subject: March invoices
I’ve just noticed we still haven’t received the invoices for March. The cut-off date is tomorrow and if we haven’t received them by then, they will not be paid until next month.
I’d be grateful if you could put them in the internal post before the end of the day.
Activity 16 Constructing an email that informs
Imagine you are a supervisor in an engineering laboratory. You have found that some of the staff are clocking on before they change into their protective clothing. You know one team member in particular (Catrin Rogers) resents arriving five or ten minutes early to change. You suspect she has been encouraging others. This is against company regulations – in fact, it is a disciplinary matter.
Safta Iqbal, the Health and Safety Manager, has asked you to deal with the problem. Safta also mentioned that the company has finally agreed to replace the existing lockers with bigger ones within the next six months.
You have been asked to write an email to inform the staff of this matter. Below are a number of statements that could go into the email. Decide which you must include (essential) and which you might include (optional) and drag and drop into the correct category.
Hint Put yourself in your reader’s shoes. Look at the writing task and ask yourself: ‘What would I want from this if I were the reader?’ Remember, the more you question what you are doing, the better you will do it.
Here is one way of sorting the elements into ‘essential’ and ‘optional’:
Must include (essential):
- Date: [today’s date]
- To: All laboratory staff
- From: [your name]
- Subject: Clocking on before changing into protective clothing
- Cc: Safta Iqbal, Health and Safety Manager
- Against company policy – must stop
- Disciplinary issue – this is a warning
- Kind regards [your name]
Might include (optional):
- They all know it’s against company policy (told at induction).
- They may not understand the reasons why – hours lost to department (5/10 minutes per person x 60 staff = 5/10 hours per day!).
- Decision to order new lockers.
- Anybody with any problems see me.
For this email it is essential to:
- include the Date, To, From, Subject (or ‘Re’) and cc information
- state the issue clearly
- say what you want staff to do (and what will happen if they do not do it).
Activity 17 Writing an email that informs
Now try writing the email that you planned in the previous activity. Use the ‘must include’ and ‘might include’ lists to help you.
One possible version of the email is provided below. See how it compares to yours.
Date: 30 August 2019
To: All laboratory staff
From: Head of Service
Subject: Clocking on before changing into protective clothing
Cc: Safta Iqbal, Health and Safety Manager
It has come to my attention that some staff have been clocking on before changing into their protective clothing. I wish to remind you that this is strictly against company policy and must stop.
I understand the time involved amounts only to five or ten minutes per person. Please note, however, that this company employs over 60 staff. Five or ten minutes per person for 60 people costs the company five or ten hours per day. We cannot afford this loss of time.
From now on, disciplinary action will be taken against any member of staff found clocking on before they have changed.
Thank you for your co-operation.