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Stakeholder Memo
You read about stakeholders in your Reading area of this unit. How might external stakeholders’
points of view be different from the internal stakeholders? What changes would you expect to
see in writing under the following circumstances?
Read the scenario and follow the steps provided.
Scenario: A public company is changing its mission and business entity to be a for-profit benefit
corporation that is required to show social and environmental benefits besides a profit. But so
far, the company has not altered their actions and policies with regards to enormous
environmental waste being generated. Access background information for the Discussion
Step 1: Read the scenario and choose one of these external stakeholders: Suppliers,
customers, the community, competitors, society (the environment), banks and lending
institutions, and the government.
Step 2: Compose a short memo (200 words) to the CEO regarding your chosen stakeholder’s
reaction to the changes and the ethical considerations. Remember the appropriate memo format.
Strategies to Improve Your Writing
Read the Transcript from Evan Thomas, former editor at large for Newsweek. Thomas shares
strategies for student writers to improve their writing. Reflect on your writing skills and
confidence 5 weeks ago and consider the progress you have made. Specifically, what new skills
have you added to your writer’s repertoire that will help carry you through your graduate
program? What points does Thomas address that are consistent with challenges you face as a
writer? You do not have to respond to your colleagues’ posts in this Discussion Board but post
using a minimum of 300 words.
Unit 5 Discussion Background Information Regarding a Benefit Corporation:
A Benefit Corporation is a new legal for-profit corporation entity now recognized in the
following states:
Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia,
Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Maryland, Nevada, New Jersey,
New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Virginia, and Vermont.
Over half the U.S. allows benefit corporations and legislation is pending in fifteen other
states according to B Lab© (2013).
Although taxed as either a C or an S corporation, this new type of company must have
as their purpose or mission to “create a material positive impact on society and
environment”, and provide a public benefit assessment report based on an objective
“third party standard” according to the non-profit group B Lab© (2013).
There is no specific third party that any company has to use to provide this required
pubic benefit assessment report. However, many companies use the non-profit
organization B Lab© including Patagonia® and Method® to certify that they are in fact
providing environmental and social benefits to society. This organization audits 10% of
certified companies every year to ensure compliance with standards.
Directors and Officers: Offers legal protection to officers and directors in their corporate
decisions, and even concerning the sale of stock, to consider the employees,
community, and the environment.
Shareholders have additional rights to ensure the mission and public benefit purpose of
the company remain since it requires 2/3 super majority vote of shareholders to change
B Lab©. (2013). Benefit Corp. information center. Retrieved from
This is a slightly edited transcript of an audio presentation made by Evan
Thomas, author and former Editor at Large for Newsweek Magazine.
Here are two things that writers often do wrong: 1) They tend to zigzag. By that I
mean [you don’t want to be] jerking the reader back and forth through a lot of “buts” and
“howevers.” If you read the memo that you’ve just written and you see a lot of “buts” or
“however” or those things that make the readers zigzag, you know you’ve got a problem.
You need to comb those out and write in a more linear straightforward fashion. It’s a sign
of sloppy thinking or confused thinking if you are zigzagging too much. Again, a simple
way to tell is just look at all those “buts” and “howevers.” It’s okay, in fact it’s good to
begin sentences with “but”; you just can’t do it too often or you’re going to give the reader
an aching neck and an aching brain because they won’t really figure out what direction
you’re going in. They’ll think that you’re really confused and not sure where you’re going.
Another basic mistake that writers make is that they’re not careful about their
topic sentences. The topic sentence as you know from grade school is the first sentence of
the paragraph. It is critically important to have good clear topic sentences that clearly aim
where you’re going, that tell the reader where you’re going. Your topic sentence should
clearly signal the direction of the memo, speech, or story that you’re writing. A lot of
people neglect this. They don’t pay attention to their topic sentences. Often writers will
get cute. They worry more about the transition, going from one paragraph to the next and
they think they’ve written some clever connective tissue, some clever transitions.
Transitions aren’t nearly as important as topic sentences. What’s really important is that
first sentence of the paragraph clearly signals [what direction the reader will be going].
And often, writers will begin a topic sentence with some kind of a qualifying clause. It’s
confusing. Don’t do it. Don’t say while I was thinking this, I did that. Just begin the
paragraph with the subject, verb, and object. Do not begin a paragraph with a qualifier.
Don’t begin a topic sentence or a paragraph with a qualifying clause. It just throws off
and confuses the reader.
I’ve been talking about writing, but you know the most important part of writing is
not the writing; it’s the information in there. You can be a great writer, but if you don’t
have good information, good research, or good reporting it really doesn’t matter. The
piece, story, or memo, whatever it is you’re doing isn’t going to be very good unless you
have the basic stuff.
I’m a writer at Newsweek, but unless I have good reporting, unless the
correspondents at Newsweek give me good reporting no matter how well written my
piece is, it really doesn’t matter. So you have to have the basic material and that means
you’ve got to do your research. You have to do your reporting. You have to really have
and master the data. You’ve got to really immerse yourself into it and be able to be so in
control of it that you can write about it clearly because you’ve really mastered the detail.
Now here’s a very important point when you’re doing research. Do not plagiarize
ever, ever. It is absolutely a career ender. If you get caught stealing something, lifting
something, pulling something and using it without attribution, pretending that it’s your
own work and you get caught doing that, you are fired. It is the end of your career. It can
be a really serious blow. The business pages are full of chief executives who fake stuff on
their resume to make themselves look better. They get fired and it’s just a terrible thing to
have happen to you. It’s morally wrong, but also it’s a career ender. So be very careful
about attributing material. A lot of you will get stuff off the Internet. You can use the
Internet as a research tool, but just as you would with a book, make sure you attribute
everything that you’re using so the reader knows where the information is coming from.
And here’s another point…Be honest, more broadly speaking. If you don’t know the
answer to something don’t fudge it. Don’t fake it. Don’t pretend that you do. Readers can
see right through that. Sometimes you can’t answer every question when you’re writing a
memo or a report. Be honest about it, admit it, say that you don’t know. Say that the
information is incomplete, that you weren’t able to get the answer, but be straightforward
about it. Don’t try to slide and, and fake things by writing around them because believe
me readers can smell it out and it will ruin your credibility all together.
It’s important when you’re making an argument to acknowledge that there’s an
argument against what you’re arguing. We call it a counterargument. It’s very important
when you write, when you make an argument to include that counterargument. To
acknowledge there may be, probably is somebody arguing against you, and to take on
what it is they say or whatever the argument is and deal with it. You can’t just slide
around it or forget about it or pretend it’s not there. It will strengthen your argument if
you take on the opposing argument and you deal with it. You answer the questions raised
by the opposition, so to speak or you deal with the points made in the counterargument.
That will actually strengthen the argument that you’re making.
One of the pitfalls for researchers is having done all this research, having
collected all this material, there is a tendency to drown in it, to be overwhelmed by it, and
to want to use all of it. This comes up in journalism all the time where reporters will go
out and they’ll get a lot of information and they’ll want to use all of it. We call it emptying
your notebook. Now it feels satisfying to be able to write down everything that you’ve
learned and everything that you’ve researched, but don’t do it. The reader hates it. The
reader hates being overwhelmed by a lot of irrelevant information that is maybe exciting
to the writer, but really is not all that relevant to what the reader cares about. Remember
in writing: less is more. Pare down what you’re writing. Only use the essential stuff. Do
not drown the reader in information. Cutting is a good thing when you write and
simplifying and clarifying. [When you read a long novel in school] that had lots of plots
and characters, almost too many plots and characters, too much going on, avoid the [long
novel] problem. Have simple, straightforward plots or storylines, or if you will, lines of
argument. Don’t have too many characters. Don’t unnecessarily complicate things. Keep
things linear and straight and clear and don’t clutter up your writing. Now this applies to
word choice. Often writers use too many adjectives and adverbs. They just don’t need
them. It’s better to be clear and definite about what you’re saying. Don’t say something is
pretty good or really good. Just say it’s good. You can go through a piece [of writing] and
pare out all sorts of adjectives and adverbs, make it much clearer, much simpler, and
much direct and you won’t be burdening the reader with a whole lot of excess clutter and
verbiage. One of the risks of over-researching a problem is that you will try to make eight
points superficially instead of four points well. This is very important not only in
journalism but in business writing. When you do raise a point you should deal with it
fully and completely, that you don’t just skip along from one point to the next. Go back
and look at what you’ve written and ask yourself is the reader, the uninformed reader,
going to understand exactly what I’m saying? Have I answered all their questions? And
don’t think that you can sort of quickly skip from one paragraph to the next thinking that
they won’t really notice if you don’t fully deal with it. This happens all the time in
journalism. As an editor I’m often saying don’t make eight points superficially. Make four
points well.
Let me add a note about writing in your own voice. There is a tendency when
people write letters particularly to not write in their own voice, to imagine the way they
think somebody else would write and write in a florid or overwritten way. When you
write a letter when you’re applying for a job, or you’re writing a letter to a client, write it
simply in your own voice, conversationally. Don’t use too many words. Get to the point.
Don’t overdo it. You need to find a natural voice that is your own voice and stick to it.
Generally speaking it’s a conversational voice, a simplified version of your
conversational voice. Often students will cast about
and they’ll try to write like F. Scott Fitzgerald one week or Ernest Hemingway the next.
That’s all fine for when you’re in college or in school. Once you’re out in the real world
find a voice that’s your own voice and stick to it and don’t overwrite. Write simply and
clearly, but do it as if you were speaking conversationally to somebody.

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