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Business Writing with Heart - How to Build Great Work Relationships One Message at a Time
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Business Writing: <body class="layout-three-column"> <div id="container"> <div id="container-inner" class="pkg"> <!-- banner - rev2 --> <div id="banner"> <div id="banner-inner" class="pkg"> <h1 id="banner-header"><a href="http://www.syntaxtraining.com" accesskey="1">Business Writing</a></h1> <h2 id="banner-description"></h2> </div> </div> <div id="pagebody"> <div id="pagebody-inner" class="pkg"> <div id="alpha"> <div id="alpha-inner" class="pkg"> <!-- sidebar1 --> <!-- user photo --> <table border="0" align="center" cellpadding="0" cellspacing="0" id="about"> <tr> <td valign="top" class="photo"><a href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/about.html"><img src="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/.a/6a00d8341c02a553ef01a3fa91debe970b-pi" alt="Lynn Gaertner-Johnston" border="0" title="Lynn Gaertner-Johnston"/></a></td> <td width="80" valign="top"><ul class="aboutus"> <li><a href="http://syntaxtraining.com/">Visit Lynn's Website</a></li> <li><a href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/about.html">About Lynn</a></li> <li><a href="http://syntaxtraining.com/contact_us.html">Contact Lynn</a></li> </ul> <strong>Subscribe</strong> <ul class="subscriber"> <li class="email"><a href="http://www.feedburner.com/fb/a/emailverifySubmit?feedId=2863746&loc=en_US" title="Receive a link to the latest post in your inbox.">Email</a></li> <li class="rss"><a href="http://feeds.feedburner.com/businesswritingblog/BwB09" title="Receive the latest post to your favorite newsreader or Outlook.">RSS</a></li> </ul> </td> </tr> </table> <!-- about page link --> <div id="syntax_training" class="module-typelist module"> <h2 class="module-header">Syntax Training</h2> <div class="module-content"> <ul class="module-list"> <li class="module-list-item"><a title="Read about upcoming public classes, both online and in person. "href="http://syntaxtraining.com/upcomingclasses.html">Business Writing Classes Coming Up </a></li> <li class="module-list-item"><a title="Get tips and monthly e-newsletter. "href="http://www.syntaxtraining.com/signup.html">Email Tips: 25 Tips for Email Etiquette</a></li> <li class="module-list-item"><a title="The main article of the current issue is titled "Take Control of Your Jargon.""href="http://www.syntaxtraining.com/signup.html">Free Monthly Ezine on Business Writing</a></li> <li class="module-list-item"><a title="Visit Lynn's website for more articles on business writing."href="http://syntaxtraining.com/articles.html">Lynn's Articles on Writing </a></li> <li class="module-list-item"><a title=""href="http://syntaxtraining.com/heart.html">"Business Writing With Heart": Lynn's New Book</a></li> <li class="module-list-item"><a title="Lynn talks about "Business Writing With Heart""href="http://youtu.be/VXsKN3YeKdY">YouTube Book Interview</a></li> <li class="module-list-item"><a title=""href="http://www.syntaxtraining.com">Visit Lynn's Website</a></li> </ul> </div> </div> <div id="writing_resources" class="module-typelist module"> <h2 class="module-header">Writing Resources</h2> <div class="module-content"> <ul class="module-list"> <li class="module-list-item"><a title="Fine blog on writing, marketing, and business"href="http://www.articulatemarketing.com/blog">Bad Language: The Articulate Marketing Blog</a></li> <li class="module-list-item"><a title="Lynn's picks for best books"href="http://www.syntaxtraining.com/recommended_books.html">Business Writing Books</a></li> <li class="module-list-item"><a title="Tips from Syntax Training"href="http://www.syntaxtraining.com/business_writing_tips.html">Business Writing Tips</a></li> <li class="module-list-item"><a title="Q&A on questions of style and consistency"href="http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/CMS_FAQ/new/new_questions01.html">Chicago Manual of Style</a></li> <li class="module-list-item"><a title="Useful statistics on Internet use and traffic"href="http://www.clickz.com/stats">ClickZ Stats Toolbox</a></li> <li class="module-list-item"><a title="Hundreds of errors listed alphabetically"href="http://www.wsu.edu/~brians/errors/index.html">Common Errors in English</a></li> <li class="module-list-item"><a title="Review 440 lessons in grammar and punctuation in the archives"href="http://www.dailygrammar.com">Daily Grammar</a></li> <li class="module-list-item"><a title="Photos to inspire and stretch"href="http://dailywalks.com/">Daily Walks | Diane Varner</a></li> <li class="module-list-item"><a title="Thought-provoking pieces on marketing "href="http://www.ducttapemarketing.com/weblog.php">Duct Tape Marketing Blog</a></li> <li class="module-list-item"><a title="With 150 excellent interactive quizzes"href="http://grammar.ccc.commnet.edu/grammar/">Guide to Grammar and Writing</a></li> <li class="module-list-item"><a title="Over 1000 interactive quizzes at varying levels of difficulty"href="http://a4esl.org">Interactive ESL Quizzes</a></li> <li class="module-list-item"><a title="Games and exercises for everyone, including native English speakers"href="http://www.manythings.org">Interesting Things for ESL/EFL Students</a></li> <li class="module-list-item"><a title="Resources for lawyers who write"href="http://raymondpward.typepad.com/newlegalwriter/">Legal Writer</a></li> <li class="module-list-item"><a title="In celebration of punctuation"href="http://www.nationalpunctuationday.com">National Punctuation Day</a></li> <li class="module-list-item"><a title="Get results from as many as 18 dictionaries"href="http://www.onelook.com">OneLook Dictionary Search</a></li> <li class="module-list-item"><a title="Join the fight for clear writing"href="http://www.plainenglish.co.uk">Plain English Campaign</a></li> <li class="module-list-item"><a title="Proofreading symbols listed and illustrated"href="http://www.journalismcareers.com/articles/proofreadingsymbols.shtml">Proofreading Symbols</a></li> <li class="module-list-item"><a title="Explore the site for MLA & APA Style guidance, rules, exercises, and presentations "href="http://owl.english.purdue.edu/">Purdue's Writing Lab</a></li> <li class="module-list-item"><a title="Test your spelling at five levels of difficulty"href="http://eslus.com/LESSONS/SPELL/SPELL.HTM">Spelling Tests</a></li> <li class="module-list-item"><a title="Words spelled differently in British, Canadian, and American English"href="http://www3.telus.net/linguisticsissues/BritishCanadianAmerican.htm">Spelling: British, Canadian, American</a></li> <li class="module-list-item"><a title="Syntax Training (Lynn's company) website"href="http://www.syntaxtraining.com">Syntax Training</a></li> <li class="module-list-item"><a title="A test on which Lynn got 3 wrong! "href="http://books.guardian.co.uk/quiz/questions/0,5957,1303707,00.html">Tough Spelling Test</a></li> <li class="module-list-item"><a title="Take a free typing test. Available in English, Spanish, German, French, Italian, Portuguese, Dutch, Swedish, and Finnish. "href="http://www.typingtest.com">TypingTest.com </a></li> <li class="module-list-item"><a title="Words with different meanings in British, Canadian, and American English"href="http://www3.telus.net/linguisticsissues/britishcanadianamericanvocab.html">Vocabulary: British, Canadian, American</a></li> <li class="module-list-item"><a title="A list that allows you to search by misspellings--not correct spellings"href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:List_of_common_misspellings">Wikipedia: List of Common Misspellings </a></li> <li class="module-list-item"><a title="New words defined, a great resource"href="http://www.wordspy.com">Word Spy</a></li> <li class="module-list-item"><a title="A search engine to hundreds of online dictionaries, and much more"href="http://www.yourdictionary.com">YourDictionary.com</a></li> </ul> </div> </div> </div> </div> <div id="beta"> <div id="beta-inner" class="pkg"> <div id="sharethis" style="text-align:right;"> <span class='st_twitter' displayText='Tweet'></span> <span class='st_facebook' displayText='Facebook'></span> <span class='st_linkedin' displayText='LinkedIn'></span> <span class='st_pinterest' displayText='Pinterest'></span> <span class='st_sharethis' displayText='ShareThis'></span> <span class='st_email' displayText='Email'></span> </div> <script type="text/javascript"> window.ZemantaBlogSettings = ""; </script> <script type="text/javascript" src="http://content.zemanta.com/static/typepad/js/recommend.js"></script> <!-- entries --> <h2 class="date-header">July 23, 2015</h2> <div class="entry-category-teaching_business_writing entry-category-writing_tips entry-author-lynn_gaertnerjohnston entry-type-post entry" id="entry-6a00d8341c02a553ef01bb08573ebd970d"> <div class="entry-inner"> <h3 class="entry-header"><a href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/2015/07/avoid-fake-intimacy.html">Avoid Fake Intimacy</a></h3> <div class="entry-content"> <input type="hidden" name="zemanta-related" val="" /> <div class="entry-body"> <p>If you write a blog, a newsletter, or both, you work to develop valuable content that appeals to readers. You build a relationship of trust with your readers that encourages them to return to your site.</p> <p>But you don't want to take such relationships for granted, as my marketing mentor, <a href="http://yudkin.com" target="_self" title="Learn more about Marcia">Marcia Yudkin</a>, warned in her recent weekly "Marketing Minute," which I share with her permission:</p> <p style="padding-left: 30px;">Whether it's your blog or your weekly/monthly newsletter, avoid relating to your readers as if they've known you for years. Why? When your business has healthy growth, each post or ezine has some readers who know little or nothing about you.</p> <p style="padding-left: 30px;">I hate it when I start receiving emails that refer to the sender only as "Carol" or "Jason." With just a first name to go on, I cannot connect the email to what made me want to hear from that person. It's like reading a random note that washed up in a bottle.</p> <p style="padding-left: 30px;">Likewise, some marketers write as if you know that "George" is their pet guinea pig. Or they'll refer to their cramped living space as if you undoubtedly remember that they live and work in an RV.</p> <p style="padding-left: 30px;">Your readers are not necessarily best buddies who have known you forever. So don't write as if each message is an installment in an ongoing conversation. Instead, always provide enough context so whether it's a first contact or the thousandth, it makes sense and connects to your relevant business identity.</p> <p>My favorite part of Marcia's advice is her reminder that healthy growth brings readers who don't know you. Those strangers deserve content that is fleshed out enough to make them feel at home with you and the knowledge and services you offer.</p> <p>The advice applies beyond blogs and newsletters. Your home page (and other pages readers land on) must offer more than obscure, changing images and cryptic phrases. Don't make readers click, click, click to figure out who you are. </p> <p>Likewise, be sure your emails supply what readers need, especially those readers who may not know you well. I recently received this message: </p> <p style="padding-left: 30px;">Subject: Lynn, Quick Question</p> <p style="padding-left: 30px;">Forgive me for reaching out to you again, just wanted to check in to see if you think our infographic is a fit for your audience.</p> <p style="padding-left: 30px;">Thanks again for taking the time out.</p> <p style="padding-left: 30px;">Annie :-)</p> <p style="padding-left: 30px;">PS: Any and all feedback is welcome.</p> <p>I would love to respond and possibly provide feedback when I have extra time. But WHICH infographic? Why should I remember it? Unless we know each other well, I need information and the infographic again to help me respond this time. </p> <p>Checking old emails, I realize that Annie wrote to me in April and was following up this month. Too much time has passed for me to remember her earlier request. </p> <p>With your family, yes, you can expect an intimate knowledge of your life. But with the rest of us, as Marcia Yudkin says, avoid fake intimacy. </p> <p><a href="http://yudkin.com/markmin.htm" target="_self" title="Subscribe to the newsletter">Subscribe</a> to receive Marcia's free weekly "Marketing Minute" by email. It takes just a minute to read. </p> <p>Does this advice on fake intimacy ring true for you? Please share your thoughts. </p> <p>Lynn<br /><a href="http://syntaxtraining.com" target="_self" title="Visit Lynn's company website">Syntax Training</a></p> </div> <!-- SIGNATURE --> </div> <div class="entry-footer"> <p class="entry-footer-info"> <span class="post-footers">July 23, 2015 in <a href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/teaching_business_writing/">Teaching Business Writing</a>, <a href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/writing_tips/">Writing Tips</a> </span> <span class="separator">|</span> <a class="permalink" href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/2015/07/avoid-fake-intimacy.html">Permalink</a> <span class="separator">|</span> <a class="entry-comments" href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/2015/07/avoid-fake-intimacy.html#comments">Comments (6)</a> </p> <!-- technorati tags --> <!-- post footer links --> </div> </div> </div> <h2 class="date-header">July 16, 2015</h2> <div class="entry-category-email entry-category-frequently_asked_questions entry-category-teaching_business_writing entry-category-writing_tips entry-author-lynn_gaertnerjohnston entry-type-post entry" id="entry-6a00d8341c02a553ef01b7c7af9826970b"> <div class="entry-inner"> <h3 class="entry-header"><a href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/2015/07/how-to-spend-less-time-revising-.html">How to Spend Less Time Revising </a></h3> <div class="entry-content"> <input type="hidden" name="zemanta-related" val="" /> <div class="entry-body"> <p>Do you take too long revising emails, reports, and other communications? This post shares three ways to cut your rewrite time. They cover planning, writing, and adjusting your standards. </p> <p><br /> <strong>1. Make a simple plan and follow it.</strong> Diving in without a plan may give you a rush of accomplishment. But eventually you will have to slog through the revision stage, forcing your words and ideas into a coherent package.<br /> <br /> Decide from the start what you want the message to accomplish. Examples:</p> <ul type="disc"> <li>This agenda will help team members prepare for a productive meeting.  </li> <li>This flyer will motivate parents to attend the open house.</li> <li>This email will help the customer complete the necessary paperwork.</li> </ul> <p>Once you know what you want to accomplish, list the questions your message must answer for your readers to achieve your goal. Then write the piece by answering your readers’ questions. Do not include information that your readers would not ask for. If you do, you will write too much and will spend too much time cutting and revising. <br /> <br /> For instance, an agenda that helps people prepare for a meeting might answer these questions:</p> <ul type="disc"> <li>What are the agenda items?</li> <li>Who is responsible for handling each agenda item?</li> <li>How much time will we spend on each item?</li> <li>What do we want to accomplish with each one: to agree? to decide? to assign?</li> <li>How should I prepare?</li> </ul> <p>Too often writers focus on background information, when readers rarely want or need it.<br /> <br /> <strong>2. Use the power of one.</strong> When you write, limit yourself to one: just one topic per paragraph, one idea per sentence. Focusing on just one thing at a time will help you avoid sprawling paragraphs and sentences that you have to rework later.</p> <p>For example, in a flyer to motivate parents to attend an open house, the answer to each of these questions would be a separate, short chunk of text: </p> <ul type="disc"> <li>What’s this about?</li> <li>When is the open house?</li> <li>Where is it?</li> <li>Why should I attend? How will it benefit my family?</li> <li>Who will be there?</li> <li>Will food be served?</li> <li>Do I need to let anyone know that I plan to attend?</li> <li>Where can I get more information?</li> </ul> <p>Combining the answers to several questions in one chunk of text will tangle the message. And it will require more time to revise.</p> <p>Similarly, a sentence with several interwoven ideas will take time to untangle:</p> <p style="padding-left: 30px;">Our credit department has requested that you provide a copy of your exempt sales tax document and that you fill the top and signature portion of the credit application out just for assurance that we have the pertinent contact information correct.</p> <p>This version, with one idea per sentence, is simple and clear:</p> <p style="padding-left: 30px;">Our credit department has requested that you provide a copy of your exempt sales tax document. Also, please fill out the top and signature portion of the credit application. These actions will ensure that we have your correct contact information.</p> <p>Even better, this version helps the ideas stand out for quick action:</p> <p style="padding-left: 30px;">To ensure that we have your correct contact information, please:  </p> <p style="padding-left: 60px;">1. Provide a copy of your exempt sales tax document. </p> <p style="padding-left: 60px;">2. Fill out the top and signature portion of the credit application. </p> <p>If you limit yourself to one idea per sentence (or bullet), you will write a clear version from the start. The time you spend rewriting will shrink.<br />  <br /> <strong>3. Recognize that perfection is unattainable—and a waste of time. </strong>Unless you write essays, poetry, or other literary works, your audience will not read and savor your every word. Instead, they will skim the agenda, flyer, email, proposal, report, or other communication in search of the information they need. So why strive for perfection when clarity, conciseness, and courtesy are useful, achievable goals?<br /> <br /> Avoid pointless revising:</p> <ul type="disc"> <li>Don’t fuss over changing “interesting” to “notable” unless “notable” is more accurate.</li> <li>Don’t take time to change “Thanks” to “Thank you” unless your reader needs a more formal tone.</li> <li>Don’t struggle to eliminate “I am writing to” at the beginning of an email. Yes, your reader knows you are writing. But there is no harm in stating “I am writing to inform you of a change in your interview schedule.”</li> <li>Don’t strive to revise just because two sentences in a row begin with “I.” Those two “I”s will not distract your reader. (But starting every paragraph with “I” <em>will </em>distract your reader, who is probably skimming at the left margin.)</li> <li>Don’t take time to apply outdated rules. You <em>can</em> start a sentence with any word you choose. You <em>can </em>end a sentence with a preposition. You <em>can </em>use contractions unless your document must be formal.</li> </ul> <p>When your communication focuses on its goal and answers your readers’ questions in clear sentences and paragraphs, you are finished revising. Just run your grammar and spelling checker; then proofread. Hurray! The piece is done! Now move on to the next one.</p> <p style="padding-left: 30px;"><span style="font-family: 'arial black', 'avant garde';">This piece originally appeared in our monthly ezine, <em>Better Writing at Work. </em><a href="http://syntaxtraining.com/signup.html" target="_self" title="Subscribe to "Better Writing at Work"">Subscribe</a> to receive a practical article each month. </span></p> <p>I would love to hear how you cut your rewriting time. Please share your tips. </p> <p><em><span style="color: #0000bf;">Lynn </span></em><br /><a href="http://syntaxtraining.com" target="_self">Syntax Training</a></p> </div> <!-- SIGNATURE --> </div> <div class="entry-footer"> <p class="entry-footer-info"> <span class="post-footers">July 16, 2015 in <a href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/email/">Email</a>, <a href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/frequently_asked_questions/">Frequently Asked Questions</a>, <a href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/teaching_business_writing/">Teaching Business Writing</a>, <a href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/writing_tips/">Writing Tips</a> </span> <span class="separator">|</span> <a class="permalink" href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/2015/07/how-to-spend-less-time-revising-.html">Permalink</a> <span class="separator">|</span> <a class="entry-comments" href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/2015/07/how-to-spend-less-time-revising-.html#comments">Comments (0)</a> </p> <!-- technorati tags --> <!-- post footer links --> </div> </div> </div> <h2 class="date-header">July 09, 2015</h2> <div class="entry-category-email entry-category-teaching_business_writing entry-author-lynn_gaertnerjohnston entry-type-post entry" id="entry-6a00d8341c02a553ef01b8d1350fc4970c"> <div class="entry-inner"> <h3 class="entry-header"><a href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/2015/07/can-this-email-be-saved-.html">Can This Email Be Saved? </a></h3> <div class="entry-content"> <input type="hidden" name="zemanta-related" val="" /> <div class="entry-body"> <p>I got a request from Luke, who wanted help with an email. He wrote:</p> <p style="padding-left: 30px;">I recently authored a brief ACT prep guide that I am giving to schools throughout the country free of charge. Unfortunately, the response rate from superintendents/ principals has been very low. I believe this is partially because I need to send a more concise and inviting email. I'm also not sure whether I should send the PDF of the prep guide with the initial email or not. Could you help me construct a better email so that I can reach more schools?  </p> <p>Note: ACT is an entrance exam that many U.S. colleges use to assess applicants. </p> <p>Below is the entire email Luke has been sending, with the exception of his subject line, which he did not share with me. </p> <p style="padding-left: 30px;">I am writing to inform you about a brief study guide I recently authored. My advice is based upon years of studying and coaching, and it is available free of charge. Would you mind passing this on to the parents of ______ High School? I hope you find it useful, and I wish you the best of luck. Thank you for your time! Let me know if you have any questions.</p> <p>Do you recognize why Luke's email is not getting a response? Would you revise it or start over? On Friday I will share my recommendations. </p> <p><em><span style="color: #0000bf;">Lynn</span></em><br /><a href="http://syntaxtraining.com" target="_self" title="Visit Lynn's company website">Syntax Training</a></p> <p> </p> </div> <!-- SIGNATURE --> </div> <div class="entry-footer"> <p class="entry-footer-info"> <span class="post-footers">July 09, 2015 in <a href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/email/">Email</a>, <a href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/teaching_business_writing/">Teaching Business Writing</a> </span> <span class="separator">|</span> <a class="permalink" href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/2015/07/can-this-email-be-saved-.html">Permalink</a> <span class="separator">|</span> <a class="entry-comments" href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/2015/07/can-this-email-be-saved-.html#comments">Comments (15)</a> </p> <!-- technorati tags --> <!-- post footer links --> </div> </div> </div> <h2 class="date-header">June 25, 2015</h2> <div class="entry-category-grammar_and_usage entry-category-proofreading entry-category-teaching_business_writing entry-author-lynn_gaertnerjohnston entry-type-post entry" id="entry-6a00d8341c02a553ef01b8d12d8860970c"> <div class="entry-inner"> <h3 class="entry-header"><a href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/2015/06/how-fast-can-you-change-passive-verbs.html">How Fast Can You Change Passive Verbs?</a></h3> <div class="entry-content"> <input type="hidden" name="zemanta-related" val="" /> <div class="entry-body"> <p>Passive voice verbs sneak into everyone's writing--at least in first drafts. When your grammar and spelling checker flags a passive verb, how quickly can you rewrite the sentence?</p> <p>My Microsoft grammar and spelling checker underlined 10 of the 11 passive verbs below. Its only miss was <em>were completed. </em></p> <p>See how fast you can revise these sentences to eliminate the underlined passive verbs:  </p> <ol> <li>I <span style="text-decoration: underline;">can be reached</span> at the number below. </li> <li>This expense <span style="text-decoration: underline;">must be approved</span> by a VP. </li> <li>Milestones <span style="text-decoration: underline;">should be defined</span> in the project plans. </li> <li>It <span style="text-decoration: underline;">would be appreciated</span> if this form <span style="text-decoration: underline;">were completed</span>. </li> <li>It <span style="text-decoration: underline;">should be noted</span> that the deadline is July 15. </li> <li>Low-priority items <span style="text-decoration: underline;">are summarized</span> in the table below. </li> <li>The invoices <span style="text-decoration: underline;">should be reviewed</span> carefully. </li> <li>All visitors <span style="text-decoration: underline;">must be escorted</span>. </li> <li>Your feedback <span style="text-decoration: underline;">is appreciated</span>. </li> <li>The event <span style="text-decoration: underline;">was postponed</span> until August. </li> </ol> <p>As you worked through the list, you may have wanted to keep some sentences as they were. For example, what's wrong with "All visitors must be escorted"? Nothing. </p> <p>Sometimes passive verbs do work as well as or better than active verbs: </p> <ul> <li>When you want to soften or broaden a directive: "All visitors must be escorted" rather than "Escort your visitors." </li> <li>When you want to avoid blame: "This invoice should have been paid" rather than "You [or someone else] should have paid this invoice." </li> <li>When you don't know the doer of the action: "The car was stolen" rather than "Someone stole the car." </li> <li>When the doer of the action doesn't matter: "All the tickets were distributed" rather than "The outreach workers distributed all the tickets." </li> </ul> <p>Use a passive verb only when you have a reason for it. Otherwise, as Strunk and White advised, "Use the active voice." It's typically clearer, more direct, and more concise. The revisions below reduce word count by 25 percent.  </p> <p>Here are my active verb versions of the 10 sentences:</p> <ol> <li>You [or customers, users, etc.] can reach me at the number below. </li> <li>A VP must approve this expense.</li> <li>The project plans should define milestones. </li> <li>Please complete this form.  </li> <li>Please note that the deadline is July 15. [OR]<br />Note: The deadline is July 15. </li> <li>The table below summarizes low-priority items.</li> <li>Review the invoices carefully.</li> <li>Escort all visitors. </li> <li>We [I] appreciate your feedback. </li> <li>We [or someone else] postponed the event until August. [OR]<br />The event has moved to August. </li> </ol> <p>Can you revise passive verbs quickly? If not, what gets in the way?</p> <p>Here are other helpful blog posts on passive verbs:</p> <p style="padding-left: 30px;"><a href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/2007/01/make_microsoft_.html" target="_self">Make Microsoft Find Passives</a></p> <p style="padding-left: 30px;"><a href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/2007/01/procedures_no_p.html" target="_self">Procedures: No Place for Passive Verbs</a></p> <p style="padding-left: 30px;"><a href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/2010/04/a-passive-verb-to-change.html" target="_self">A Passive Verb to Change</a></p> <p><em><span style="color: #0000bf;">Lynn</span></em><br /><a href="http://syntaxtraining.com" target="_self">Syntax Training</a></p> </div> <!-- SIGNATURE --> </div> <div class="entry-footer"> <p class="entry-footer-info"> <span class="post-footers">June 25, 2015 in <a href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/grammar_and_usage/">Grammar and Usage</a>, <a href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/proofreading/">Proofreading</a>, <a href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/teaching_business_writing/">Teaching Business Writing</a> </span> <span class="separator">|</span> <a class="permalink" href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/2015/06/how-fast-can-you-change-passive-verbs.html">Permalink</a> <span class="separator">|</span> <a class="entry-comments" href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/2015/06/how-fast-can-you-change-passive-verbs.html#comments">Comments (2)</a> </p> <!-- technorati tags --> <!-- post footer links --> </div> </div> </div> <h2 class="date-header">June 15, 2015</h2> <div class="entry-category-email entry-category-teaching_business_writing entry-category-writing_tips entry-author-lynn_gaertnerjohnston entry-type-post entry" id="entry-6a00d8341c02a553ef01b8d12856f2970c"> <div class="entry-inner"> <h3 class="entry-header"><a href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/2015/06/when-to-write-a-memo-not-an-email.html">When to Write a Memo, Not an Email</a></h3> <div class="entry-content"> <input type="hidden" name="zemanta-related" val="" /> <div class="entry-body"> <p>Before emails demanded everyone’s attention, people communicated internally through a medium called the interoffice memorandum—the memo. We typed and printed it, signed or initialed it, and distributed it through interoffice mail to people who read it to make decisions, take action, or have essential information.</p> <p>These days we have replaced memos with rampant emails. We have pushed email too far, expecting it to communicate long, complex, important messages to everyone. Our inboxes are stuffed, and those essential messages are not being read. </p> <p>It’s time to take the pressure off emails. If you want people to read your important ideas and information, you need to revive the memo. Consider these suggestions:</p> <p><strong>1. Recognize the best uses of email.</strong> Emails win for fast, temporary communications that readers quickly read, act on, and delete. Emails excel at succinct requests and replies, speedy updates, short reminders or check-ins, time-sensitive announcements, and similar short-lived messages. They are perfect for briefly introducing attachments such as memos.</p> <p><strong>2. Use a memo when you are writing a message built to last. </strong>If your communication is a detailed proposal, a significant report, a serious recommendation, a technical explanation, meeting minutes, a new policy, or something else that readers will consult more than once, make it a memo. Your readers will be able to save the document, read it, and find it when they need the information again.</p> <p><strong>3. Use a memo when formatting matters.</strong> If the piece contains bullet points, bold headings, columns, tables, a graph, or even a good balance of white space, a memo will help you retain that formatting. To guarantee your formatting, save the memo as a PDF. If your audience reads emails on their phones, an attachment may be the only way to preserve the formatting you intend.</p> <p><strong>4. If people will print your communication, use a memo rather than an email.</strong> If your message belongs on a bulletin board—for example, in an employee break room—write a memo. If people will discuss your ideas at a meeting, write a memo to make it easy for them to print the document you intended.</p> <p><strong>5. To communicate formally, choose a memo. </strong>Memos provide a place at the top of the message to insert the company name and logo and the professional titles of senders and receivers. Those inclusions make the message appear more formal. Also, a well-formatted message conveys significance.</p> <p><strong>6. When you worry that your message is too long as an email, write a memo. </strong>Impossibly long emails often result when you try to incorporate important, lasting information in them. But memos work best when people will return to your message for information. (See Point 2.) For instance, if you are communicating the details of the four-stage construction project, use a memo. To convey pros and cons of a major purchasing decision, lay out your research in a memo.</p> <p>Attach your memo to an email that gives your readers a brief summary of the memo contents. For some readers, that summary will be enough. Those who need the information will read and save the memo.</p> <p><strong>7. To communicate complex information to people outside your organization </strong>(clients, citizens, etc.), consider a memo or a letter. A letter is the traditional format for external correspondence, especially to people you serve, such as customers and patients. But you can choose a memo to write to vendors, consultants, members, clients, professional peers, and others who collaborate with you to get results.</p> <p><strong>8. To send your memo, simply attach it to a brief email. </strong>Or send a printed copy through interoffice mail if that approach makes sense.</p> <p>I saw the movie “Jurassic World” last week. It’s about dinosaurs thriving today, at a time when the creatures don’t belong. You may think of memos as dinosaurs too, but think again.<strong> </strong>The memo can help your messages come across as professional, relevant, and of lasting importance.</p> <p>***************</p> <p>This article originally appeared in our monthly ezine, <em>Better Writing at Work. </em><a href="http://syntaxtraining.com/signup.html" target="_self" title="Subscribe here">Subscribe</a> to receive a practical article in your inbox each month. </p> <p><em><span style="color: #0000bf;">Lynn</span></em><br /><a href="http://syntaxtraining.com" target="_self" title="Visit Lynn's company website">Syntax Training</a> </p> </div> <!-- SIGNATURE --> </div> <div class="entry-footer"> <p class="entry-footer-info"> <span class="post-footers">June 15, 2015 in <a href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/email/">Email</a>, <a href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/teaching_business_writing/">Teaching Business Writing</a>, <a href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/writing_tips/">Writing Tips</a> </span> <span class="separator">|</span> <a class="permalink" href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/2015/06/when-to-write-a-memo-not-an-email.html">Permalink</a> <span class="separator">|</span> <a class="entry-comments" href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/2015/06/when-to-write-a-memo-not-an-email.html#comments">Comments (0)</a> </p> <!-- technorati tags --> <!-- post footer links --> </div> </div> </div> <h2 class="date-header">June 10, 2015</h2> <div class="entry-category-courteous_writing entry-category-email entry-category-teaching_business_writing entry-category-writing_tips entry-author-lynn_gaertnerjohnston entry-type-post entry" id="entry-6a00d8341c02a553ef01b7c79c8096970b"> <div class="entry-inner"> <h3 class="entry-header"><a href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/2015/06/when-writers-hide-details-in-plain-sight.html">When Writers Hide Details in Plain Sight</a></h3> <div class="entry-content"> <input type="hidden" name="zemanta-related" val="" /> <div class="entry-body"> <p>Have you ever read something once, maybe twice, only to learn later that the detail you needed was hiding in plain sight? </p> <p>I recently submitted travel reimbursement forms for an association's national conference. I included all my usual travel expenses: airfare, taxi to the conference and back to the airport, and three meals on the day I presented my session. (The association had already paid for my hotel.) </p> <p>I received this email in reply:</p> <p style="padding-left: 30px;">Good evening!</p> <p style="padding-left: 30px;">I just finished processing your reimbursement request and wanted to inform you that, although you did request reimbursement for ground transportation (parking, shuttle, cab, mileage, etc.), I’m afraid it will not be reimbursed. It is stated in your contract as noted below (please see the last bullet), and our Board did make the decision to not reimburse these costs as a cost-saving measure for the Association. I do sincerely apologize for any inconvenience. I know that this is a new process this year, and we all appreciate your understanding.  </p> <p>I usually read the fine print carefully. How had I missed the point that my taxis would not be covered?</p> <p>Easily! Notice where the information appears: </p> <p style="padding-left: 30px;"><span style="text-decoration: underline;">Airfare, Baggage, Fees</span>: We have agreed to provide round-trip coach airfare and reimbursement of any fees associated with checking one piece of luggage. Additional guest tickets or checked bags beyond the first are not included. </p> <ul> <li>You are responsible for making your own arrangements, which must be booked no less than <span style="text-decoration: underline;">21</span> days before the speaking engagement. </li> <li>If the airfare is booked in less than 21 days, reimbursement will be limited to the cost of the ticket up to $500, unless an exception is submitted in writing/electronically, and pre-approved by your association contact.</li> <li>The association does not reimburse travel agent booking fees associated with ticket changes or any local/ground transportation.</li> </ul> <p>The information I needed appears at the end of a bullet point about travel agent booking fees--not about local transportation.</p> <p>It is buried in a section with the heading "Airfare, Baggage, Fees"--not "Items Not Covered This Year." </p> <p>Because this is the first year the association has not covered local transportation for its speakers, the exception should stand out--not hide out. </p> <p>I received a group email rather than the usual individual messages I get from the association, so I can tell they had to send this message to many other speakers. I was not alone in missing the essential information tacked onto "Airfare, Baggage, Fees." </p> <p>I have presented at this association's conferences many times, and this email does not change my positive feelings about the group. But it does make me question their intention in burying the bad news. After all, their cost-saving measure is my cost-paying measure. Why not make the information plain? That way, when I took the taxis, I would know that I was paying for them. </p> <p>Has information hidden in plain sight surprised you? My elusive information cost me only $50. Did yours cost more?</p> <p><em><span style="color: #0000bf;">Lynn</span></em><br /><a href="http://syntaxtraining.com" target="_self" title="Visit Lynn's company website">Syntax Training</a> </p> </div> <!-- SIGNATURE --> </div> <div class="entry-footer"> <p class="entry-footer-info"> <span class="post-footers">June 10, 2015 in <a href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/courteous_writing/">Courteous Writing</a>, <a href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/email/">Email</a>, <a href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/teaching_business_writing/">Teaching Business Writing</a>, <a href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/writing_tips/">Writing Tips</a> </span> <span class="separator">|</span> <a class="permalink" href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/2015/06/when-writers-hide-details-in-plain-sight.html">Permalink</a> <span class="separator">|</span> <a class="entry-comments" href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/2015/06/when-writers-hide-details-in-plain-sight.html#comments">Comments (0)</a> </p> <!-- technorati tags --> <!-- post footer links --> </div> </div> </div> <h2 class="date-header">May 28, 2015</h2> <div class="entry-category-courteous_writing entry-category-email entry-category-etiquette entry-author-lynn_gaertnerjohnston entry-type-post entry" id="entry-6a00d8341c02a553ef01bb0836155a970d"> <div class="entry-inner"> <h3 class="entry-header"><a href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/2015/05/dont-be-driven-by-the-three-email-rule.html">Don't Be Driven by the Three-Email Rule</a></h3> <div class="entry-content"> <input type="hidden" name="zemanta-related" val="" /> <div class="entry-body"> <p>Lately people in business writing classes have been asking about the three-email rule. That's the rule espoused by Phil Simon, author of <em>Message Not Received: Why Business Communication Is Broken and How to Fix It. </em>Simon touched on the rule in a recent online <a href="http://www.businessinsider.com/the-3-email-rule-2015-5" target="_self">article</a>, "The '3-Email Rule' Is the Key to Solving the Biggest Problem With Your Inbox":</p> <p style="padding-left: 30px;">For a few years now, I have argued for a radical addition to the pantheon of email "best practices."</p> <p style="padding-left: 30px;">Yes, it's time to start following a three-email rule — <em>and invoking it</em>. Put as succinctly as possible, after three messages, it's time to talk.</p> <p style="padding-left: 30px;">In my email signature, you'll find that very rule:</p> <p style="padding-left: 30px;"><strong>I abide by a three-email rule. After three, we talk.</strong> </p> <p><br />I don't abide by a three-email rule. I have extended conversations, far beyond three emails, especially with clients and potential clients. We trade messages introducing ourselves, scheduling meetings and classes, clarifying details, agreeing on fees, checking in, troubleshooting issues, and following up. Sometimes a simple matter may require several emails back and forth.  </p> <p>Could we save time if we talked rather than emailed? Sometimes yes, usually no. And talking is often not an option. </p> <p>We email <span>instead of talking on the phone regardless of the number of messages </span>because:</p> <ol> <li>It's easy to send a quick email, but it is not so easy to schedule time to talk. My clients are moving from meeting to meeting; I'm teaching and traveling. </li> <li>We want to get the conversation started now rather than wait two weeks until we are both free. Even if it takes three emails just to get things going, at least they are moving forward.</li> <li>We can read and write our emails when we catch a free moment, but we don't have the same moments free to talk. Often we are in faraway time zones, so I am still sleeping when they're well into their to-do lists; they are heading home from happy hour when I'm still having a productive day. </li> <li>We like to have things in writing. If I answer their questions in email--even if it takes them three emails to communicate all their questions (and me three emails to answer them)--they have easy, searchable access to the information. On the phone, we would both need to take notes, either typing or jotting them down, and sometimes we would lose them. </li> <li>They can forward emails to whoever needs the information. Forwarding is much easier than pulling people into a conference call or sharing sketchy notes. </li> <li>When we talk, we need to follow up with confirming emails anyway. </li> <li>Some of us like to think before we communicate. Composing an email in a quiet moment can lead to a better, more careful communication than a call.  </li> </ol> <p>Yes, talking on the phone wins in many situations. Talking helps us get to know one another, coach, work through conflicts, schedule lunch quickly, and hear a range of reactions and emotions. When I talk with a client, I can hear hesitation much better than I can recognize it in email. </p> <p>In my <a href="http://syntaxtraining.com/our_products.html#110_Tips" target="_self" title="Learn more about the booklet">"110 Tips for Sending Email That Gets Read--and Gets Results,"</a> I too offer a three-email tip: "When you have exchanged emails three times without a resolution, stop emailing. Use the phone or meet in person to resolve the issue." It's a tip for solving problems and clearing up misunderstandings when email fails or makes things worse.</p> <p>Rather than conforming to a three-email rule (or making others do so), I recommend paying attention to what works. If exchanging a dozen emails leads to a happy, productive conclusion, write on! If talking brings quick resolutions, keep calling. </p> <p>Do you follow a form of the three-email rule? Or do you email as long as you are getting results? </p> <p>To write efficient, productive emails every time, take my online class <a href="http://syntaxtraining.com/PDF/How_to_Write_Email_June_18_2015.pdf" target="_self" title="This PDF gives you are the information.">How to Write Email That Gets Results</a>. The next session runs on Thursday, June 18, at 1 p.m. Eastern (New York) Time. </p> <p><span style="color: #0000bf;"><em>Lynn</em></span><br /><a href="http://syntaxtraining.com" target="_self" title="Visit our company website">Syntax Training</a></p> </div> <!-- SIGNATURE --> </div> <div class="entry-footer"> <p class="entry-footer-info"> <span class="post-footers">May 28, 2015 in <a href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/courteous_writing/">Courteous Writing</a>, <a href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/email/">Email</a>, <a href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/etiquette/">Etiquette</a> </span> <span class="separator">|</span> <a class="permalink" href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/2015/05/dont-be-driven-by-the-three-email-rule.html">Permalink</a> <span class="separator">|</span> <a class="entry-comments" href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/2015/05/dont-be-driven-by-the-three-email-rule.html#comments">Comments (8)</a> </p> <!-- technorati tags --> <!-- post footer links --> </div> </div> </div> <h2 class="date-header">May 13, 2015</h2> <div class="entry-category-email entry-category-etiquette entry-category-teaching_business_writing entry-author-lynn_gaertnerjohnston entry-type-post entry" id="entry-6a00d8341c02a553ef01bb082d976a970d"> <div class="entry-inner"> <h3 class="entry-header"><a href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/2015/05/10-wrong-ways-to-start-your-emails.html">10 Wrong Ways to Start Your Emails</a></h3> <div class="entry-content"> <input type="hidden" name="zemanta-related" val="" /> <div class="entry-body"> <p>Do you want your email readers to delete your messages immediately? Of course you don't. Who would? Then you must avoid these 10 bad ways of starting emails.  ​ </p> <p>1. Spell the reader’s name wrong, use a nickname rather than the reader’s preferred name, or get the gender wrong. Examples:</p> <p style="padding-left: 30px;">Hi Suzanne, (for Susannah) <br />Hello Denny, (for Dennis)      <br />Dear Sir: (for a woman) </p> <p style="padding-left: 30px;"> </p> <p>2. Use an old subject line that has nothing to do with your current subject. Example:</p> <p style="padding-left: 30px;">Subject: Re: Cancelling today’s weekly meeting </p> <p style="padding-left: 30px;">Rita Clarke was admitted to Central Hospital this morning after she fainted on the job. Would you please order flowers for her?</p> <p> </p> <p>3. Dive right into what you need without a greeting or courteous language. </p> <p style="padding-left: 30px;">  I need this proposal proofread by 4 p.m. </p> <p><br /> 4. Spend at least a paragraph on fluff.  </p> <p style="padding-left: 30px;">Thanks, everybody, for your whole-hearted participation in last week’s retreat. Not only were the pastries for breakfast and the pasta for lunch sweet treats, but the treats you also gave each other in terms of focused attention and feedback were great—and contained no calories! Wouldn’t it be nice if food worked that way, too? Now, on to the meat of this message (no pun intended).  </p> <p><br /> 5. Give background first rather than the purpose of your message.  </p> <p style="padding-left: 30px;">I was talking with Greta Marks yesterday about the new customer portal, and Greta offered some suggestions for issues I have had with customer training and communications. In her experience, the situation . . . </p> <p><br /> 6. Begin with a long, complex sentence.  </p> <p style="padding-left: 30px;">Following up on our conversation this morning in which we discussed the initial costs of Phase 2 implementation, and your question about whether the scheduled dates are firm and realistic, I talked with Michael Amato in Creative Services to benefit from his wisdom and creativity. [45 words]</p> <p style="padding-left: 30px;"> </p> <p>7. Immediately talk about yourself and your company rather than your readers and their needs. </p> <p style="padding-left: 30px;">My name is Henry Wu. My company, XYZ, has worked with well-known brands including Coca-Cola, Nestlé, and Nike. We have been in the brand-enhancement business for 7 years. We are launching a new service that . . . </p> <p><br /> 8. In a marketing message, pretend you have analyzed your reader’s situation, but don’t bother to do the necessary research.  </p> <p style="padding-left: 30px;">I thought you might like to know some of the key points that you need to address as priorities on your website, syntax.com [wrong URL]. These can be the reason you are not getting the desired position out of continued SEO efforts. [Followed by irrelevant points.]</p> <p><br /> 9. Begin negatively.  </p> <p style="padding-left: 30px;">I am responding to your complaint about how your refund was mishandled. </p> <p><br /> 10. Focus on your apology rather than on what your reader has asked for. </p> <p style="padding-left: 30px;">Bryan, I am so sorry I did not get this information to you sooner! I had thought I would be at work on Friday, but my toddler was sick and I could not send him to daycare. </p> <p> </p> <p>Bonus bad way: Begin by having your readers click to show that they have received your message.  </p> <p><br />Not sure how to begin effectively? Just do the opposite:<br /> <br /> 1. Spell the reader's name correctly, use the name he or she prefers, and if you use a gender-based courtesy title, get it right. <br /> <br /> 2. Use a fresh, accurate subject.<br /> <br /> 3. Greet your reader and use "Please" when requesting or directing. <br /> <br /> 4. Spend no more than a brief sentence or two on relationship building, such as "Thanks for your whole-hearted participation in last week's retreat." <br /> <br /> 5. Communicate the purpose of your message before giving background. <br /> <br /> 6. Begin with a clear, simple sentence. <br /> <br /> 7. Start by focusing on your readers and their needs.<br /> <br /> 8. Do the research necessary to engage your readers. <br /> <br /> 9. Begin positively. For instance, write "Thank you for letting us know how we handled your refund."<br /> <br /> 10. Give the reader the requested information; then apologize briefly, if necessary.<br /> <br /> Bonus tip: Avoid using read receipts unless you <em>must </em>have evidence that your readers have opened your email. Read receipts shift the focus away from the message purpose and onto your need for documentation. </p> <p>Have you been the victim of other bad email beginnings? Please share them. <br /> <br />If you would like to learn <a href="http://syntaxtraining.com/PDF/How_to_Write_Email_June_18_2015.pdf" target="_self" title="Learn about the class on this PDF.">How to Write Email That Gets Results</a>, take my live online class on June 18.</p> <p>I borrowed this article from my monthly newsletter, <em>Better Writing at Work. </em><a href="http://syntaxtraining.com/signup.html" target="_self" title="Subscribe">Subscribe </a>for free.</p> <p><em><span style="color: #0000bf;">Lynn</span></em><br /><a href="http://syntaxtraining.com" target="_self" title="Visit my website!">Syntax Training</a></p> </div> <!-- SIGNATURE --> </div> <div class="entry-footer"> <p class="entry-footer-info"> <span class="post-footers">May 13, 2015 in <a href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/email/">Email</a>, <a href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/etiquette/">Etiquette</a>, <a href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/teaching_business_writing/">Teaching Business Writing</a> </span> <span class="separator">|</span> <a class="permalink" href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/2015/05/10-wrong-ways-to-start-your-emails.html">Permalink</a> <span class="separator">|</span> <a class="entry-comments" href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/2015/05/10-wrong-ways-to-start-your-emails.html#comments">Comments (8)</a> <span class="separator">|</span> <a class="entry-trackbacks" href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/2015/05/10-wrong-ways-to-start-your-emails.html#trackback">TrackBack (0)</a> </p> <!-- technorati tags --> <!-- post footer links --> </div> </div> </div> <h2 class="date-header">April 30, 2015</h2> <div class="entry-category-best_picks_ entry-category-books entry-category-gems_of_language entry-category-punctuation_pointers entry-category-teaching_business_writing entry-author-lynn_gaertnerjohnston entry-type-post entry" id="entry-6a00d8341c02a553ef01b7c782cbaf970b"> <div class="entry-inner"> <h3 class="entry-header"><a href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/2015/04/book-review-confessions-of-a-comma-queen.html">Book Review: Confessions of a Comma Queen</a></h3> <div class="entry-content"> <input type="hidden" name="zemanta-related" val="" /> <div class="entry-body"> <p>There is a lot to like in Mary Norris’s <em>Between You & Me: Confessions of a Comma Queen.</em> If you live and breathe the world of publishing, writing, or editing, you will enjoy Norris’s stories about the quirky way things are at <em>The New Yorker,</em> where she has copyedited and proofread for many years. And you will like the anecdotes and tales of how she has chosen apostrophes, hyphens, swear words, and pencils in her work. I liked it all.</p> <p>This 240-page book isn’t a primer or a practical guide—it’s much more a memoir and a collection of essays for people who care about publishing and language. But in it, Norris makes many engaging yet useful points you can smile at and learn from. </p> <p>In Chapter 1, “Spelling Is for Weirdos,” the author shares information about dictionaries, their history, and their strengths. According to Norris, when <em>New Yorker</em> copyeditors need a dictionary to referee a spelling or word choice (after checking the house style guide), they begin with <em>Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary</em>. If <em>M-W</em> doesn’t solve the problem, they turn to <em>Webster’s New International Dictionary</em>, unabridged. <em>Random House Unabridged Dictionary</em> stands in as backup. Norris sometimes goes to <em>RH</em> immediately if a word seems recent.</p> <p>Although she reveres printed dictionaries, Norris doesn’t scorn the online versions. Her list of words she now pronounces correctly—some with the help of an online dictionary—includes <em>uxorious, elegiac, chimaera</em>, and <em>spurious</em>. If you aren’t sure how to pronounce those, try an online dictionary (or get <em>Between You & Me</em>—Norris indicates the correct pronunciation of each one). Here's one for you: <em>Spurious </em>has the same <em>u</em> sound as <em>curious</em>. </p> <p>In that rich first chapter, Norris also reminds us of some tricky homophones whose differences copyeditors need to recognize: <em>peddle/pedal, hoard/horde, cannon/canon, roomy/roomie/ Rumi/rheumy, what ever/whatever,</em> and <em>overall/over all.</em> Does that list open your eyes to a homophone you had forgotten? Norris tells an early-career<em> New Yorker</em> story of catching a homophone error, which prompted a note of thanks, the kind we would all like to receive:</p> <blockquote> <p>“I thank you, the writer thanks you . . . the proofreader thanks you, the fact checker thanks you, we all thank you for doing what we in all our numbers could not do: catching the <em>flower</em> for <em>flour</em> in the Christmas list on food.”</p> </blockquote> <p>You can guess what Norris covers in Chapter 2, “That Witch.” Among a china shop of topics, she riffs on <em>that/which</em> decisions, illustrating the gray areas with examples from the poet Dylan Thomas and the Lord’s Prayer. Confession: This chapter taught me that “chaise lounge” is actually “chaise longue.” Who knew? (Let me know if you did, and you will earn my admiration.) And how about the difference between <em>terrine </em>and<em> tureen</em>? You should know it if you write about serving dishes.</p> <p>Norris believes that sometimes letting a participle dangle in a sentence makes more sense than forcing it into correct structure. She offers this example from the novelist Edward St. Aubyn: “Walking down the long, easily washed corridors of his grandmother’s nursing home, the squeak of the nurse’s rubber soles made his family’s silence seem more hysterical than it was.” We know the squeak wasn’t walking (as the sentence suggests), but Norris left the phrase to dangle. She explains:</p> <blockquote> <p>Sometimes it’s easier to reconcile oneself to the dangler than it is to fix it. In this instance, maybe the queasiness created by the dangler, that sense of imbalance, whether or not one knows the reason for it, helps convey the sensation of walking down the corridor of the dreaded nursing home.</p> </blockquote> <p>That must be a copyediting difference between fiction and business writing. When I find a dangler, I have to reel it back into a solid place in the sentence. But Norris copyedited the likes of John McPhee, Nora Ephron, and Pauline Kael, and she has learned restraint.</p> <p>Norris tells of catching a misuse of <em>garnish</em> for <em>garnishee</em> in fiction by George Saunders. One of Saunders’ characters had used the wrong term. In response to a query about the mistake, Saunders kept the error, commenting, “I don’t think this guy [the fictional character] should know more than I do.” Norris rounds out the story with an homage, I believe, to Saunders’ style of writing:</p> <blockquote> <p>Fair enough. Garnishee my wages. Anyway, spelling not point. Point is words—right words in right order, for devastating effect. Job of copy editor is to spell words right: put hyphen in, take hyphen out. Repeat. Respect other meaning of spell: spell writer weaves.</p> </blockquote> <p>The chapter “The Problem of Heesh” is a lovely essay on gender in language. It begins with the author’s youthful resistance to considering a table feminine when learning French (<em>la table</em>). It ends with Norris breaking through her resistance and lifelong habits to use a feminine pronoun to refer to her transsexual sibling. In between those stories, Norris takes on pronouns and gender issues. She firmly rejects the use of <em>their</em> as a singular (as in “the owner and their dog”), complaining:</p> <blockquote> <p>An antecedent that is in the singular cannot take a plural pronoun. And yet it does, all the time—certainly in speech. It’s not fair. Why should a lowly common-gender plural pronoun trump our singular feminine and masculine pronouns, our kings and queens and jacks?</p> </blockquote> <p>I’m on Norris’s side of that issue. I will rewrite endlessly before I will allow <em>their</em> to stand in for a singular noun.</p> <p>The chapter “Between You and Me” covers people’s struggles and strivings with subject and object pronouns. Norris gives a satisfying account of why the song “The Girl From Ipanema” has the flawed lyric “She looks straight ahead—not at <em>he</em>.” (The correct pronoun would be <em>him</em>.) The author of the English version, Norman Gimbel (the original version is Portuguese), wrote “not at <em>me</em>.” But when Astrud Gilberto sang it, she substituted <em>he</em> to make the story fit her feminine perspective. I am glad to finally know how that irritating error came to life.</p> <p>Norris does a fine job of explaining why phrases such as “between you and me” are correct. (But if you are reading her book, you probably know already.) She suggests that people who struggle with that phrase should practice like singers: “between you and mi-mi-mi-mi-mi.” If that works for you or the people you know, terrific.</p> <p>Four generous chapters cover punctuation: “Comma Comma Comma Comma, Chameleon,” “Who Put the Hyphen in <em>Moby-Dick</em>?” (it was a copyeditor—not Herman Melville), “A Dash, a Semicolon, and a Colon Walk into a Bar,” and “What’s Up with the Apostrophe?” I don’t recommend these chapters as straightforward resources for learning punctuation, but they are great fun for punctuation enthusiasts.</p> <p>I like Norris’s advice on punctuating a sentence that is both a question and an exclamation. She uses “What the devil” as an example:</p> <blockquote> <p>People are sometimes tempted to use both a question mark and an exclamation point, but this is a bad idea. Word order will take care of the interrogative, while the bold exclamation point trumps the hesitant question mark every time.</p> </blockquote> <p>In my business writing classes, people often ask for help understanding how to use a dash. Norris illustrates ways to use it, among them:</p> <blockquote> <p>—It can stand at the head of a line to indicate an item in a list.<br />—It can be deployed like a colon—it introduces an amplification of what has come before.<br />—It can be employed in pairs within a sentence—like the comma—and is subject to some of the same rules as the comma.<br />—It can create a sense of drama—false drama.<br />—It can be used within dialogue in place of a semicolon, and it is actually more realistic—most people don’t think in semicolons.</p> </blockquote> <p>Here are other punctuation quips and anecdotes you may appreciate:</p> <blockquote> <p>“There is no mark of punctuation so upper-crust as the semicolon.”</p> <p>“A colon is a very controlling gesture. It says, ‘Right this way,’ like a proper butler." </p> <p>To show the plural possessive of <em>McDonald’s</em> (the fast-food restaurant), <em>The New Yorker</em> pushed to the epitome of conservative correctness: They used <em>McDonald’ses’</em>.</p> <p>The company Lands’ End took its name from Land’s End, the tip of Cornwall. The name changed to Lands’ End because of a typo on the first catalog, which the company could not afford to reprint.</p> </blockquote> <p>The chapter “Ballad of a Pencil Junkie” shows Mary Norris to be my soul sister. She loves all things pencils, as long as they are the softer, darker No. 1s. That love carried her to the Paul A. Johnson Pencil Sharpener Museum in Logan, Ohio. And her chapter has carried me to the online catalog featuring <a href="http://calcedar.com/blackwing" target="_self" title="See the beautiful pencils">Cal Cedar’s Blackwing pencils</a>, whose praises Norris sings.</p> <p>The not-so-naughty chapter “F*ck This Sh*t” (those are Norris’s asterisks) takes a measured look at profanity in print. Norris sums up her current view:</p> <blockquote> <p>. . . no one wants to be pummeled constantly by four-letter words. If we are going to use them, let’s use them right. Profanity ought to be fun. I love the title of this chapter and thought I should spell out those words. . . . But I like it even better with the blessed euphemism: the asterisks standing in for the vowels are interior punctuation, little fireworks inside the words.</p> </blockquote> <p>W.W. Norton & Company published <em>Between You & Me: Confessions of a Comma Queen</em> this month. It retails for $24.95 and includes an excellent index and a list of recommended books. I recommend this one to you if you care about writing, editing, and language. Does it sound like a book you would enjoy? </p> <p><em><span style="color: #0000bf;">Lynn</span></em><br /><a href="http://syntaxtraining.com" target="_self" title="Visit Lynn's company website">Syntax Training</a></p> </div> <!-- SIGNATURE --> </div> <div class="entry-footer"> <p class="entry-footer-info"> <span class="post-footers">April 30, 2015 in <a href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/best_picks/">Best Picks </a>, <a href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/books/">Books</a>, <a href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/gems_of_language/">Gems of Language</a>, <a href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/punctuation_pointers/">Punctuation Pointers</a>, <a href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/teaching_business_writing/">Teaching Business Writing</a> </span> <span class="separator">|</span> <a class="permalink" href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/2015/04/book-review-confessions-of-a-comma-queen.html">Permalink</a> <span class="separator">|</span> <a class="entry-comments" href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/2015/04/book-review-confessions-of-a-comma-queen.html#comments">Comments (4)</a> <span class="separator">|</span> <a class="entry-trackbacks" href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/2015/04/book-review-confessions-of-a-comma-queen.html#trackback">TrackBack (0)</a> </p> <!-- technorati tags --> <!-- post footer links --> </div> </div> </div> <h2 class="date-header">April 21, 2015</h2> <div class="entry-category-etiquette entry-category-meeting_minutes entry-category-meeting_notes_and_minutes entry-author-lynn_gaertnerjohnston entry-type-post entry" id="entry-6a00d8341c02a553ef01b8d106f012970c"> <div class="entry-inner"> <h3 class="entry-header"><a href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/2015/04/when-someone-lies-in-meeting-notes-.html">When Someone Lies in Meeting Notes </a></h3> <div class="entry-content"> <input type="hidden" name="zemanta-related" val="" /> <div class="entry-body"> <p>James (not his real name), a contract manager at a public agency, wrote to me about a delicate situation. His job includes recording the minutes of the meetings his team has with the contractor’s team. James submits the meeting notes to the contractor for review and approval. </p> <p>According to James, the contractor has tried to change meeting notes into notes for a meeting he wishes had happened, adding topics that he never brought up at the meeting. In the past, James has wisely told the contractor that meeting notes should include only what has occurred at the meeting. James informed him that if the contractor wanted to cover additional topics, he could add them to the agenda of a future meeting. Or he could email everyone and have a "discussion" by email. </p> <p>James thought the contractor had finally understood the role of meeting notes. Yet for the latest minutes, the contractor has again added topics that he did not bring up at the meeting--or at any meeting. Confronted by James, the contractor insists that he did make the statements, and he wants James to include the statements in the minutes. </p> <p>What should James do? How should he handle these meeting minutes and the contractor's statements? What can he do to prevent this situation in the future?</p> <p>Please share your advice for James, especially if you have experienced a similar dilemma. I am traveling all day tomorrow, but I hope to share my suggestions and comment on yours on Thursday. </p> <p>If you would like insights, tips, strategies, and templates for taking meeting notes and minutes, take <a href="http://syntaxtraining.com/PDF/Meeting_Notes_Made_Easy_Apr_29_2015.pdf" target="_self" title="Review the class flyer in PDF">Meeting Notes Made Easy</a> online on Wednesday, April 29. <em><br /></em></p> <p><em><span style="color: #0000bf;">Lynn</span></em><br /><a href="http://syntaxtraining.com" target="_self" title="Visit Lynn's company website">Syntax Training</a></p> </div> <!-- SIGNATURE --> </div> <div class="entry-footer"> <p class="entry-footer-info"> <span class="post-footers">April 21, 2015 in <a href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/etiquette/">Etiquette</a>, <a href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/meeting-minutes/">Meeting minutes</a>, <a href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/meeting-notes-and-minutes/">Meeting Notes and Minutes</a> </span> <span class="separator">|</span> <a class="permalink" href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/2015/04/when-someone-lies-in-meeting-notes-.html">Permalink</a> <span class="separator">|</span> <a class="entry-comments" href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/2015/04/when-someone-lies-in-meeting-notes-.html#comments">Comments (9)</a> <span class="separator">|</span> <a class="entry-trackbacks" href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/2015/04/when-someone-lies-in-meeting-notes-.html#trackback">TrackBack (0)</a> </p> <!-- technorati tags --> <!-- post footer links --> </div> </div> </div> <div class="pager-bottom pager-entries pager content-nav"> <div class="pager-inner"> <span class="pager-right"> <a href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/page/2/"><span class="pager-label">Next</span> <span class="chevron">»</span></a> </span> </div> </div> </div> </div> <div id="gamma"> <div id="gamma-inner" class="pkg"> <!-- sidebar2 --> <!-- Google Search --> <script type = "text/javascript"> function clickFocus(input){ input.className = 'focus'; if (input.value == input.defaultValue){ input.value = ''; } } function unFocus(input){ input.className = 'entered'; if (input.value == ''){ input.value = input.defaultValue; input.className = 'normal'; } } </script> <form method="get" action="http://www.google.com/search"> <div class="googlebox"> <input type="hidden" name="ie" value="UTF-8" /> <input type="hidden" name="oe" value="UTF-8" /> <div align="center"><input type="text" name="q" size="14" maxlength="255" value="Search This Blog" class="searchbox" onfocus="clickFocus(this)" onblur="unFocus(this)" /> <input type="submit" name="btnG" value="Go" style="padding:0; margin:0; text-align:center; width:28px; font-family:Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-weight:bold; font-size:11px;" /></div> <span style="font-size:0px;"> <input type="hidden" name="domains" value="www.businesswritingblog.com" /> <input type="hidden" name="sitesearch" value="www.businesswritingblog.com" /> </span> <div align="center"> <a href="http://www.google.com/"><img src="http://www.google.com/logos/Logo_40wht.gif" alt="Google" width="128" height="53" border="0" /></a> </div> </div> </form> <!-- end Search --> <!-- photo adspot --> <a href="http://syntaxtraining.com/heart.html"><img src="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/assets/images/business-writing-with-heart.png" alt="Business Writing with Heart - How to Build Great Work Relationships One Message at a Time" width="177" height="292" style="margin-left:8px;" title="Learn about Lynn’s award-winning book"/></a> <!-- End photo adspot --> <!-- rss / bookmarking --> <div class="subscribebox"><h2>Subscribe</h2> <!-- social subscribe --> <div id="followthis" style="text-align:center; padding:10px 0;"> <span class='st_twitterfollow' displayText='Twitter Follow' st_username='SyntaxLynn'></span> <iframe src="https://www.facebook.com/plugins/likebox.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2Fsyntaxtraining&width=180&height=270&colorscheme=light&show_faces=true&header=true&stream=false&show_border=false&appId=649758471713658" scrolling="no" frameborder="0" style="padding:0; border:none; overflow:hidden; width:180px; height:270px;" allowTransparency="true"></iframe> </div> <!-- end social --> <div class="module-syndicate module" style="padding:0px; margin:0px;"> <div class="module-content" style="padding:4px 0px 0px 0px; margin:0px; border-bottom:0px #C4D4E5 solid;"> <strong style="font-size:13px;">By Email</strong><br /> <a href="http://www.feedburner.com/fb/a/emailverifySubmit?feedId=2863746&loc=en_US" target="_blank"><span style="font-size:12px; line-height:14px;">Have the latest posts delivered to your inbox!</span></a> <p> <strong style="font-size:13px;">By RSS Feed</strong><br /> <a href="http://feeds.feedburner.com/businesswritingblog/BwB09" title="Works with all email clients such as Outlook, Yahoo! 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