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Rhetorical Analysis of Business Communication

Autor:   •  September 10, 2015  •  Coursework  •  1,982 Words (8 Pages)  •  431 Views

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TO: Professor Prinna Boudreau

DATE: September 9, 2014

SUBJECT: Assignment #1, Rhetorical Analysis of Business Communication

General Motors produced a faulty ignition switch that was installed in vehicles.  “GM has recalled about 1.6 million autos for an ignition switch problem and has blamed for 31 accidents that caused 12 deaths (Six Things You Need to Know About the General Motors Recall, 2014, para. 2).”  This assignment will complete a rhetorical analysis of business communication of a letter to employees completed by Mary Barra, General Motors Chief Executive Officer.


The business communication that I found was a letter written by Mary Barra, General Motors CEO, to her employees. Mary Barra, posted the message to employees on March 4, 2014. In the letter, Mary Barra defends the GM Company, and announces the actions the company has taken, including plans for an internal investigation. The letter provides details on how the company plans to handle the recall of ignition switches and emphasizes the GM principle of putting the customer first. A copy of this letter can be found at the end of this memo.  Below is the online link to view the letter:

  • Business Writing Style: The document is written in the format of a business letter used for internal correspondence. The letter’s intended audience is General Motors employees as the letter is addressed as “Dear GM Employee.” This type of internal correspondence would be considered an announcement (Haynes, 2011, p. 121). The letter is used to announce the GM recall to employees and provides details on what actions have already been taken by the company. Indirect strategy is used to compose this letter. “Using this strategy a writer leads the reader logically to the bad news. Successfully developed, the message minimizes the reader’s negative reactions and builds goodwill (Hayes, 2011, p. 103).”  The writer provides the negative information within the body of the message while maintaining goodwill statements throughout the letter.
  • Openings: As stated by Haynes (2011), “The indirect message beings with a buffer, some neutral or positive statement that clearly relates to the purpose that both the reader and writer agree on (p. 103).” The writer opens the letter with the following statements “First and foremost, everything we are doing is guided by one unwavering principle: do what is best for our customer. Customer safety and satisfaction are at the heart of every decision we make.”
  • Research: The letter reported when and if a recall should be issued and was decided by “experienced technical experts”. General Motor employees likely completed this research internally. Although the specific results of the research were not detailed in the letter, it does state that a recall will be pursued. 
  • Medium: The medium for the letter was electronic correspondence. “A public Internet or company intranet Web site is ideal for posting announcements (Alred, Brusaw, Oliu, 2012, p. 523).” The letter was posted to employees on the GM company intranet network.
  • “You” Viewpoint: The letter “places the reader’s interest and perspective foremost” by utilizing the “You” viewpoint in a conversational style (Alred, Brusaw, Oliu, 2012, p.590). The writer provides a proactive positive sense to the letter while addressing employees primary concerns for the future, even though it is covering a negative subject matter.
  • Direct Address: The writer directly addresses the reader by “Dear GM Employee.”
  • Logic Errors: Logic errors could not be found in the letter. Likely, the writer utilized a communication team within the company to review company documents and communications before they are submitted to employees and the public. 
  • Organization:  The letter is written using the indirect strategy. The opening provides a neutral buffer (Hayes, 2011, p. 103). The body provides explanation and negative news, and closes with goodwill building (Hayes, 2011, p. 103). The writer also used bullet points within the body of the letter to organize and emphasizes the content of the message. 
  • Elements of Persuasion: The letter uses persuasion to “gain support” of the GM

employees (Hayes, 2011, p. 115).

The vehicles we make today are the best in memory and I’m confident that they will do fine, on their own merits.  And our company’s reputation won’t be determined by the recall itself, but by how we address the problem going forward. What is important is taking great care of our customers and showing that it really is a new day at GM.”


There was ample news coverage regarding General Motors and the recalls on the faulty ignition switches. Below are a few online news articles from CNN, NY Times, and NBC News reporting about the letter Mary Barra, GM CEO, presented to GM employees on March 4, 2014.


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