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What is Correspondence, Methods of Dictation

Updated on November 11, 2013

What is Correspondence

Correspondence covers many types of written communication like reports, circulaers, letters, memoranda, telegram, notes, facsimiles, cables, postcards, email etc.  But the term is commonly used to mean communication through letters.  Letters form the most widely used media of external business communication.  The main function of business correspondence is to open up and maintain external relationships as well as to initiate, conduct and conclude business transactions of all types.   Communication is called the life-blood of modern trade and commerce.

Letters are composed in the form of person to person communication.  A format of a business letter has evolved in course of time out of custom and convenience and is now universally accepted.  Letters are consists of the inside address (personalized letters with name and address of the recipient), the opening salutation (Eg. Dear Sir, or Sir or Dear Mr. xyz etc.,) the body of the letter i.e. the message, Complimentary close (i.e. yours Sincerely or yours faithfully etc.,) and the signature, Name and designation of the writer.

The contents of a business letter may vary according to the nature of the message or information to be conveyed.  It may be a simple letter of routine nature like letters of acknowledgment or greeting or may deal with more complicated subjects like inquiries, collection letters, orders, complaints and their adjustments etc.

Correspondence is the most important form of external communication.  Because of its many advantages, correspondence has become the chief means of written communication between business concern and its outside contacts.  The success and reputation of a business depends to a great extent, on the quality of its correspondence.

Production of Correspondence

Apart from providing a written record of the message, correspondence is the most effective means of maintaining favorable relationships with outside contacts.  It allows information and messages to be conveyed clearly and accurately.  This creates a positive image of the business and improves its prospects.  The main purpose of office correspondence or business letters is to convey message or information effectively and accurately and to produce the desired results or evoke action.  To achieve this purpose, the letter must not only be of good and effective quality, but it must also be produced promptly and neatly at an economical cost.  One of the major task of an office manager is to setup an organized and efficient system for production of correspondence.

Interrelated principal two stages in production of correspondence are:

1.  Drafting of the correspondence

2.  Transcription i.e. typing and duplication of the drafted correspondence.

Drafting of correspondence

By whom or how the correspondence will be drafted or composed will depend on the nature and importance of the message, the type of organization set up to do the work, volume of correspondence work and the degree of mechanisation adopted. Different offices use different methods for drafting correspondence. Some of the methods used in modern offices are:

1. Manual Drafting
2. Dictation
3. Verbal or written notes
4. Standard Paragraphs

Manual Drafting: For drafting confidential and complicated letters manual drafting method usually adopted. Manual drafting also used in small offices where the volume of correspondence is small.  But in large offices where the volume of correspondence is large, manual drafting is replaced by dictation as it is both time consuming and cumbersome.

Dictation: Managers and higher executives who find little time to draft letters by hand normally give dictation to a shorthand writer or correspondent.  Drafting of correspondence by dictation needs considerable expertise on the part of both the dictator and the typist or shorthand writer.

Verbal or written notes:  Sometimes busy top executives or managers only write or dictate the points to be covered in the letter.  The actual drafting is done by the secretary or some other correspondent who is competent to do so.  Sometimes printed forms or post cards with standard message are used for the purpose of routine letters or reports which arise frequently.  A junior clerk or a correspondent can easily fill the form letter with variable particulars.  It results in saving of valuable time and cost in correspondence.

Standard Paragraphs:
  When the correspondence deals with standard situations of repetitive in nature (Eg. inquiry letter, non-delivery of goods, orders etc., a set of standard letters/paragraphs prepared beforehand can be used to draft the correspondence.  The correspondent or the dictator has merely to select the required paragraphs and add the variable particulars to complete the drafting.

Methods of Dictation

Dictation directly to a typist: One of the method used in dictating letters is to dictate directly to the typist who simultaneously types the letter in draft or final form. Where the simultaneous presence of the dictator and the typist in one place is not possible, the executive can dictate the letter directly to the typist through the telephone. By using specially made head-phones or ear phones, typist can follow the dictation and type the letter in draft or final form. This method offers the advantage of direct transcription where the work is urgent and result in saving of time and cost.

Dictation to a shorthand writer: The conventional method of dictation which is still being used in many offices is that the executive dictate the letter to a shorthand writer who take it down in shorthand, that is in phonetic symbols. Later he transcribes and types the letter in final form. Dictation can be given over telephone also. The disadvantage of this method is that it is time consuming and the dictator should have a secretary exclusively for him to take dictation and transcription. However this problem can be solved by a stenographic pool in large organizations. Stenographic pool is an arrangement where there is a common pool of stenographers under an expert supervisor. All stenographers in this pool can assist executive as and when required.

Dictation to Dictating Machine: In this type of method the executive dictates the letter to a dictating machine instead of a shorthand writer. The machine records the diction and a stenographer or typist play back the dictation and transcribe the letter into final form. Now a days electronic instruments are available which can be played back in a computer and typist can type the same in a letter format. Recorded electronic files can be sent through email as attachment. Now a days voice recording in MP3 format is available which is easy and can be reuse. Mobile phones are available with the recording facility.  The main advantage of this method is that the dictator and the stenographer must not be in the same place. Stenographer can transcribe the letter at his convenience and the dictator can record the message whenever he is free.


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