Context and Background in Business Documents

Context and Background in Business Documents

One of the most common mistakes made when writing a letter, memo, or email is to forget to give the receiver the necessary context or background.

Consider the following two messages:

Here are the numbers you requested:
Chicago – $2,345,567.89
New York – $4,567,876.34
Janesville – $2.89

Sincerely,

Winthrope Q. Schmiggins


You asked me to calculate the gross profits of our adult arcade operations excluding food and beverage sales in 2001. Here are the numbers you requested:
Chicago – $2,345,567.89
New York – $4,567,876.34
Janesville – $2.89

Sincerely,

Winthrope Q. Schmiggins


The person who originally asked for this information may have asked several people for several different things since she requested this information of you. Even if the receiver does remember the context immediately, often these types of messages are forwarded to others who must understand them, or the messages are filed and must be understood at a later date. Imagine how frustrating it would be to try to understand the first example if you found it in a file two years later. Lastly, it’s possible that the person who requested the information intended to as for net profits rather than gross, youth arcade operations rather than adult, etc.  You can see how important this small bit of background and context information is.

Assignment:

Work by yourself or with one other person. Rewrite the following so that the background and context are clear. Make up any unknown information. Include everything the customer might want or need to know to complete the transaction.

“The parts you requested have arrived and you may pick them up here after you pay the balance.”