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Guide to Successful Executive Correspondence Actions

This guide is to help each office prepare correspondence and reports that are clear, concise and timely.  It is not exhaustive, as it is meant to be a quick guide for preparers and reviewers of controlled correspondence.  The staff of the Office of Communications/Executive Affairs (EA) is committed to excellence in correspondence.  The office’s experts are available to answer questions and offer advice to all who prepare controlled correspondence. 

Those preparing or reviewing controlled correspondence should have the following reference materials:

Getting started:  Have a plan before you start writing.

  • Are you writing a memorandum or a letter?  If you are communicating outside of DOC/NOAA or writing a thank you letter to someone within NOAA, then a letter is appropriate.  Any official communication within DOC/NOAA requires a memorandum.  In many cases, correspondence going to DOC and/or NOAA leadership requires an additional transmittal memorandum from the NWS AA or the Under Secretary requesting NOAA or DOC leadership to sign the correspondence.
  • Who is your audience?  The end user of the document is the reader, not the signer.  Use language and tone appropriate for the reader.
  • Why are you writing this?  Can you explain, either with incoming correspondence or a point paper, or by the use of the discussion and background section of the correspondence cover sheet (see below) why this letter needs to be written and signed. 
  • When does this correspondence have to arrive at the addressee?  Timeliness, accuracy, and quality are vital attributes of a well executed piece of correspondence. Generally allow four working days from the time you submit the correspondence package to EA until signature.  The quality and length of the original package presented to EA can either speed up the process or slow it down.  If you need additional time for delivering the document, you should take this extra time into account and submit the correspondence to EA earlier.
  • Do you have the proper “buy-in”?  Make sure all necessary clearances have been acquired before submitting to EA for the AA’s or DAA’s signature.  If there are other signatures at a lower level they should sign before submitting to the AA or DAA.  If the document concerns funding, either future or past, then the CFO should clear on it.  If there are legal implications then NOAA General Counsel should clear.  All addressees for an EA action should clear.

Writing the correspondence:  The Correspondence Handbook (NWSM 1-801) has many tips on successful writing.  Common errors are described later in this document, but some important ones to keep in mind are:

  • Keep letters and memorandum to one page if at all possible.  If you need to provide additional information use an “enclosure” (for letters) or “attachment” (for memoranda).
  • Get to the point of the correspondence as soon as possible.
  • Avoid long sentences.
  • Avoid repeating information.

Packaging the Correspondence:  The better a package is put together, the faster EA can process it and get it signed.

  • Use a current Correspondence Cover Sheet (see Attachment #2), noting all required clearances.
    • Use the BACKGROUND, DISCUSSION, and RECOMMENDATION blocks in the Correspondence Cover Sheet to provide information to the signer on why they should sign.  If additional information, such as policy documents, is needed, attach documents as background to the inside left cover, identifying each document on a separate page and tabbing each document (e.g. Document #1 NAO 123B) 
    • Make sure the date due to EA, NWS, and, if applicable, NOAA are noted.
  • The executive officer or designee will e-mail the most current/final electronic version of the to the NWS HQ Executive Affairs address, at  Do not send to an EA individual’s address.
    • Subject of the e-mail must include the EA tracking number, or the phrase “Internally-Generated Action”
    • cc the Office or Staff Office Director, or applicable Regional Director
    • The electronic document must be in final, not showing track changes
  • The inside left-hand side should have the Correspondence Checklist (See Attachment #1), background and the EA tracking sheet.
  • Have all clearances (e.g. e-mails from signatories, if signatories were unable to sign clearance form) stapled to the right inside with a blank cover sheet labeled “clearance.”  On top of these should be the document to be signed (with the clear protective executive correspondence cover) and any enclosures or attachments.

Delivering the Correspondence Package:  Place the package in the EA mail slot outside of cubicle 18100.  Do not put package on the desks or chairs of the EA staff as this may delay processing.  If you have any e-mail correspondence, make sure you forward it to the NWS HQ Executive Affairs address, at  If the package needs to be returned to you for changes, it will be returned to the XO of your office.  Once changes have been made, the action office should return the package to EA.

Returning the Signed Correspondence:  We will notify your office when the package is ready to be picked up, or we will bring the completed package to you so you may distribute the document.

The package will also contain a copy of the EA scoring sheet with comments.  The scoring sheet is part of our 360 degree quality control program.  EA will post the original draft document and the final document with track changes into NZone.  In order to see the changes, make sure to click on “Open” instead of “View” when you open the document in NZone.

Packaging: Keep it simple and clear (re: NWSM 1-801, Section 7)


 Inside Left

 Inside Right

Answer the following:

  • What is it?
  • Who has seen it?
  • What do you want the signer to do?


  • Correspondence Clearance Sheet (EA Actions)

Background (e.g.,  incoming, background paper, referenced documents)

Not a “file”; include what is necessary for signer to know.


Think - What do the reviewers need to know to understand/explain the material on the right side

Outgoing ( what-goes-in-the-envelope); Document for approval

Generally one tab only for e-mail clearances (i.e., those not signed on the outside sheet)


Think - Write for the audience, not the person signing

  • Use RED folders for NOAA actions (i.e., WebCIMS); use manila for all others
  • Tabs (re: NWSM 1-801, Section 7.4, Note (1))

Coordination: (re: NWSM 1-801, Section 2.2.4)

  • If a person’s name is in it, they should clear on it.
  • Strategic Planning and Policy and Legislative Affairs clear on congressional; International Activities for international.

Attachment #1 NWS Correspondence Preparation Checklist

Attachment #2 Correspondence Control Sheet

Attachment #3 Plain Language Checklist

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