An Example Of A Poorly Organized Letter

In continuing our series on organization messages, a Houston Translation Services worker provided this letter that we will be evaluating.  According to the translator, this letter was mailed to the customer care team of a major retailer operating in a Houston, Texas mall:

My father was in an automobile collision 6 months ago, and hasn’t had the capacity return to full-time full-time employment since.  Because he is on disability, we no longer have as much money to buy things like before. However my mother is a librarian at the Houston Public Library and consequently aren’t living in poverty. And in another month or two, my father is going to start working again.

My mother, father, brothers, sisters and I have all shopped at the location in the Galleria ever since I was a little baby. Your original location was much smaller and was located in an old mall that the city eventually tore down and built several tall buildings in its place. My father purchased my first bicycle there for my sixth birthday. I will always recall that exciting day. I even remember him paying in cash for it. My parenys usually buy things with cash. I have three brothers and two sisters, and they all need a lot of products that you sell. The mp3 player that I purchased for my oldest sister Janette for her birthday seems to be broken. My family has  sent to the factory service center twice in 6 months to get it fixed, and my sister is really protective with it and hasn’t dropped it or gotten it wet. My sister really enjoys likes to play her guitar. It’s still not working, and I’m exhausted from carrying it to the post office and home due to the fact that I work at 7-Eleven after school and never have any leisure time. I paid cash for the mp3 player too.

This is actually the very first time that I had to returned something to your store, and I think you recognize that I need a better offer.

This message demonstrates the type of poor organization that message recipients consider aggravating. Here is an analysis of what one English to French translator in Chicago found wrong:

  • Using too much time to state the issue. The author used several hundred words before mentioning the topic: the defective mp3 player. Then the author finally stated her purpose at the end: She would like a some sort of discount.
  • Including unnecessary content. The author included unnecessary details that had offered no support to her purpose or topic. Who honestly cares if the store used to be smaller or was located somewhere else several years ago? Just what exactly does working at 7-Eleven have to do with anything? Or whether her sister plays a guitar?
  • Introducing thoughts in an irrational sequence. The author placed a few of the thoughts in the incorrect spot. The grouping and order are illogical. The author is apparently presenting six points: (1) her family has cash to buy things, (2) they are long-time, loyal shoppers, (3) they make payments in cash, (4) they purchase a lot of products from the store, (5) the mp3 player won’t function correctly, and (6) the shopper would like a discount. Isn’t it more reasonable to start with the fact that the mp3 is broken? Don’t you agree that many of her thoughts should be put together under the common concept that the author is a repeat customer?
  • Removing essential details. The author neglected a few essential details. The customer care agent probably needs to have the brand, model number, and price of the mp3 player; the purchase date; the particular problems the mp3 player exhibits; and if the repairs were included under the terms of the warranty. The author also neglected to indicate the precise action she wants the store to take. Does she want a new cassette player of the same type? A different model? Or her money back?

These four types of problems are the cause of many difficulties an experienced certified translator will find in international business communication.

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