Introduction to the Text

Advanced Professional Communications

A Principled Approach to Workplace Writing

Textbook CoverWelcome to the Fanshawe College Advanced Communications textbook! Some of you are graduates of one of our Fanshawe College diploma/ degree programs, and others may have completed an undergraduate degree/ diploma elsewhere (in another Canadian institution or abroad). Some of you may have also completed a Master’s and perhaps also a doctoral degree. At some point during your studies, you may have taken an introductory or intermediate-level Professional Communications course. Whether or not that is the case, you must be wondering what to expect from COMM 6019: Advanced Professional Communications – what, specifically, you will learn in this course and what makes it advanced.

Since you are now enrolled in a Fanshawe College graduate certificate program, your post-graduation aim must be to gain a management position in a professional organization (a business or another type of institution) – or, perhaps, a higher management position, if you are already employed as a manager. In either of those roles, you’ll have to act as a communication nexus between employees working under you, management employees from other departments, upper-management employees, and (depending on the profile of your organization) clients, shareholders, stakeholders, etc. This means that you will have to switch between different types of audiences all the time and be prepared to respond effectively to their different needs – a challenging task that requires critical thinking, tact, and versatility in terms of general approach and tone. On top of that, you will have to perform your communication tasks quickly, given the current economic context of increasing expectations and workloads across professional sectors.

COMM 6019 was specifically designed to prepare you for the many challenging communication tasks you will have to perform as a team leader/ manager. Like any communication course, COMM 6019 will teach you strategies you can use to ensure you always communicate in clear, concise, and specific terms, and that you always select the best approach for any given situation/ audience. However, since it is an advanced course, both the content taught and the assignments will take you beyond the basics on all these fronts and help you enhance your communication abilities so as to get you noticed as an exceptionally skilled communicator – an essential requirement for a manager and a sure way to gain promotions faster than other employees.

In compiling and writing the content provided to you in this textbook, in addition to our communication expertise as professors in the School of Language and Liberal Studies at Fanshawe College, we were able to draw on feedback from local employers, as expressed in focus group meetings organized by Fanshawe graduate certificate program managers each year. These members of the local business community are typically asked to tell us what they expect the recent Fanshawe graduates they hire to be able to do – and, obviously, what they wish these graduates could do better.

Let us review some of the most common concerns expressed by these employers and then examine the learning outcomes we defined for this course, so you can see that there is a direct correspondence involved.

Writing/ speaking problems: According to local employers, some recent graduates find it difficult to communicate at the right level of formality depending on the audience (they may be awkwardly formal in situations requiring a semi-casual tone and style, or on the contrary, inappropriately casual in situations requiring a more formal attitude). In addition, some tend to write in a wordy and vague style, causing their readers to lose time and to ask for additional clarifications. Finally, in in some cases, they do not edit their messages carefully to eliminate any grammatical and spelling errors – a carelessness typically perceived as unprofessional and disrespectful by readers.
Formatting problems: Some local employers told us that some recent graduates have insufficient knowledge of basic formats for business documents (such as memos, letters, reports of various kinds, etc.). Many companies have document templates you can use, but the issue isn’t limited to, say, using a well-formatted “memo top” or “letter top.” There are specific requirements in terms of paragraph sequence, structure, and graphic highlighting for each type of document, as well as specific requirements in terms of content and style – and local employers continue to insist that we should cover these aspects thoroughly in our Advanced Professional Communications course, since managers need to use a wider variety of document types and formats than other employees.
Research and information-processing problems: Local employers always insist on the importance of being up to date with new trends in their industry/ field, because new information can typically be easily monetized – taking advantage of a new trend or technology before anyone else does can obviously lead to financial benefits and reputation growth. They would love to hire recent graduates who can do effective research and communicate the results of their findings effectively to the rest of the organization. However, they say that some recent graduates have a difficult time identifying relevant sources for specific contexts (they might select sources that are not at a sophisticated enough level for the needs of the organization, or even unreliable sources), and that they sometimes find texts written in formal language (academic journal articles, long formal reports, etc.) difficult to understand and to summarize. Finally, some local employers even complain that some recent graduates find reading policy documents and following instructions written in formal language somewhat challenging.

Two important points should be retained here. First, that any of the issues mentioned by these employers can lead to serious problems:

  • lost time (poorly written messages take longer to read and understand; in addition, the reader may have to contact the writer to ask for additional clarifications before being able to proceed with a related task)
  • costly misunderstandings (unclear messages can be misunderstood; those who act on them might do something they weren’t supposed to do as a consequence – place the wrong order, relay the wrong message to a client, etc.)
  • loss of lucrative business relations (poorly written messages can upset and alienate clients and other business contacts)
  • reputation loss (poorly written press releases or company blog posts can damage a company’s public image)

Second, that employers have high expectations and would not be satisfied with a basic knowledge of some of the issues they mentioned. The job seekers they would like to hire and promote would, ideally, be able to perform all these tasks excellently and in a timely fashion. In short, employers would like to hire recent graduates who can write and communicate at an A+ level – and this is what this course aims to help you achieve.

ThinkThink about it: as managers, how would you be perceived by your subordinates, colleagues on the same level, and superiors if they didn’t think you were A-level writers? Unsurprisingly, Human Resources employees who select job applicants to be interviewed examine their technical/ field-related skills as listed in their employment package but also draw conclusions concerning their communication skills based on those documents. Next, during the interview, the hiring committee focuses even more on communication matters, both by observing each candidate’s oral communication skills in general and through specific questions aimed at finding out more about the candidate’s communication, interpersonal, and leadership abilities.

Now let’s examine our course description and our course learning outcomes (CLOs), so you can see how closely they relate to these workplace communication requirements, especially as they apply to management employees:

COMM 6019 Course Description:

This course focuses on refining and advancing students workplace communication abilities. The advanced communication documents and strategies covered include presentation skills, research skills, business document writing, meeting and management team strategies, business etiquette, and advanced employment communications. Additionally, students learn about interpersonal and intercultural communication (high/low and monochromic/polychromic context) concepts and strategies.

COMM 6019 Course Learning Outcomes:

  1. Prepare and evaluate professional business documents in common formats, using appropriate tone, structure/format (including headings and graphics) and patterns of development (direct/indirect);
  2. Prepare advanced-level proposals and research reports (informational/analytical) on program-related topics; summarize and integrate effective research sources;
  3. Analyze, assess, summarize and/or critique business-related case studies, articles and/or topics to demonstrate skills in evaluation, editing and revision;
  4. Describe, demonstrate, and evaluate effective team, group and meeting management strategies based on audience; increase awareness and identify cultural differences;
  5. Deliver professional presentations, live and/or virtually, using effective techniques and strategies;
  6. Assess various employment communications and create effective employment communication documents (print, digital, and oral).

You should think of these CLOs as a set of measurable goals for success in this course and in a management position at work. All the chapters/ sections included in this textbook will start with a (shorter) list of outcomes you can expect that chapter/ section to primarily focus on. To make the most of this course, you should practice self-monitoring and self-assessment activities each week – specifically, you should try to monitor and assess your individual progress in acquiring the skills listed as you study course materials, ask relevant questions, consult relevant research sources, and complete assignments.

What You Need to Succeed

This resource is suited best to students who use:

  • Microsoft Word (MS Word) as their word processor program, which is available to most Fanshawe College students via the Fanshawe Connected website (you can also contact IT Services for additional assistance).
  • The Google Chrome browser for internet activity
  • A laptop or desktop computer with the Windows operating system, though some considerations are made for Mac users.

A Note on Style

This textbook uses a combination of formal and semi-formal (standard level) language to imitate the style and tone expected of management employees in routine messaging while also familiarizing you with the more formal tone/style expected of workplace documents like formal letters and reports. The language you use at work should never be overly casual or informal (it is very easy, especially for new hires, to be judged as unprofessional if they speak and behave that way), and it should never be overly formal, either (avoid pretentious language, an excessive use of jargon, overly reverential expressions that may sound awkward to most people, etc.). Never sacrifice clarity, concision, and being specific in an attempt to sound more “folksy” or more authoritative. Any miscalibrations can be costly – you can develop a reputation that might prevent you from being promoted. While avoiding these undesirable extremes, you should vary your level of formality depending on the situation/ audience/ type of message/ etc.

See the discussion of the formality spectrum in professional writing in § (section symbol) 2.1: The Formality Spectrum for more details.


This textbook is divided into five major units designed to guide graduate students whose basic writing skills are good but who may need to assimilate more sophisticated writing and communication strategies in order to be able to communicate effectively in a leadership/ managerial position at work.

From the above units, you can further explore the full range of topics in the textbook’s chapters, sections, and subsections.

In addition, the appendices below are designed to support the various topics within the textbooks’ units and chapters. Please note that these appendices appears in the web version of this textbook for ease of access. However, to limit the size of downloadable versions of this text (i.e. Print PDF, Digital PDF, and eReader versions), they have been removed.


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Introduction to the Text Copyright © 2021 by Melissa Ashman; Arley Cruthers; eCampusOntario; Ontario Business Faculty; and University of Minnesota is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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