Composing a Negative Message

Composing a Negative Message

Unit Learning Outcome(s) Reflects in assignment:

  • Use you-attitude and positive emphasis to maintain good will with audiences in a negative situation (CLO 2)
  • Use effective organizational strategies for negative messages (CLO 2)
  • Identify realistic and reasonable alternatives to give readers agency in a negative situation (CLO 2)
  • Analyze audience, context, and purpose to decide on an effective approach to negative message (CLO 1 and 2)


In this assignment, you will put what you learned in this unit about crafting negative messages into practice by writing a letter in which you refuse a student’s request to waive a policy.


Read the scenario in problem 10.14 on pg. 316 which asks you to assume you are a licensing program coordinator that needs to say no to a request from a student to waive a policy.  Write a business letter using block format (see Appendix A, figure A.1) in which you refuse her request.

Assume that the organization you are representing is Park University.

A couple of tips:

  • When developing alternatives, you may need to do some thinking about the kinds of resources that are actually available at Park University for helping your audience get what she wants. Who at Park has the knowledge or expertise to help her figure out how to generate start-up capital for her new business?  What organizations or people within the university exist to help students with projects like these?  Are there outside sources of information or resources she could turn to?  Use the Park website to investigate possible alternatives.
  • An acceptable alternative should not change the policy that you are expected to enforce. You can’t, for example, offer her a payment plan or offer to accept part of her proposal. It is your job to say no; offering her an alternative you are not authorized to offer could get you fired in a real world scenario.
  • When you think about reasons to offer, remember, policy is not a reason. You may want to review the advice in Chapter 3 about maintaining goodwill.  Offer reasons for the policy that will appeal to her or that benefits her (or people like her) in some way.
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