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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="" 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=""><img src="" alt="Lynn Gaertner-Johnston" border="0" title="Lynn Gaertner-Johnston"/></a></td> <td width="80" valign="top"><ul class="aboutus"> <li><a href="">Visit Lynn's Website</a></li> <li><a href="">About Lynn</a></li> <li><a href="">Contact Lynn</a></li> </ul> <strong>Subscribe</strong> <ul class="subscriber"> <li class="email"><a href="" title="Receive a link to the latest post in your inbox.">Email</a></li> <li class="rss"><a href="" 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. 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"href=""> </a></li> <li class="module-list-item"><a title="Words with different meanings in British, Canadian, and American English"href="">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="">Wikipedia: List of Common Misspellings </a></li> <li class="module-list-item"><a title="New words defined, a great resource"href="">Word Spy</a></li> <li class="module-list-item"><a title="A search engine to hundreds of online dictionaries, and much more"href=""></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=""></script> <!-- entries --> <h2 class="date-header">March 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-6a00d8341c02a553ef01bb0810e98b970d"> <div class="entry-inner"> <h3 class="entry-header"><a href="">How I Left Out Negative Feelings</a></h3> <div class="entry-content"> <input type="hidden" name="zemanta-related" val="" /> <div class="entry-body"> <p>This week I received a frustrating email. It was from a professional organization telling me that my proposal to present a program had been rejected.</p> <p>Usually such messages carry no emotion for me. As part of doing business, they are as neutral as oatmeal. </p> <p>But this message did frustrate me: The organization had accepted the same proposal last summer. Since then, its representatives had exchanged several meaty phone calls and long strings of emails with me about choosing a day, time, place, and price for the program. Because the organization had volunteer turnover, I was introduced to a new contact twice, and both times I needed to explain the proposal. Then, this week, an email informed me that the organization's programming was going in a new direction that my proposal did not match. </p> <p>Aaargh! (I'm not sure of the spelling, but those letters communicate my feelings.) </p> <p>It was not a bad email. In fact, the email shone with politeness and professionalism. What irked me was the entire time-wasting experience.</p> <p>Do you sometimes receive emails whose news exasperates you? </p> <p>I had to reply because the message needed acknowledgment. And I wanted to express my frustration about having my time wasted for months. </p> <p>But I decided to follow the advice I give business writing students all the time: I thought about my purpose in writing.</p> <p>So: </p> <p>Was my purpose to lash out at the person who sent the email? No, that would be silly and immature. Besides, it was a well-written message. </p> <p>Was my purpose to express my frustration? No, what good would that do? </p> <p>Was my purpose to acknowledge the message? Yes.</p> <p>Was my purpose to present myself as a professional? Yes.</p> <p>Here's what I wrote, disguised slightly:</p> <p style="padding-left: 30px;">Hi Chris,</p> <p style="padding-left: 30px;">Thanks for your message. I regret not being able to present, especially since I received enthusiastic approvals of the program from the association last year. But if the program doesn’t match current programming, I agree that dropping it makes sense.</p> <p style="padding-left: 30px;">Best wishes for your continued success,</p> <p style="padding-left: 30px;">Lynn</p> <p>You can see that I left out my frustration and touched only slightly on my disappointment. </p> <p>One of my friends doesn't see the benefit of leaving out the negative stuff. She would say, "If you feel that they treated you badly, why not tell them so? Don't they need to hear it?" But I always go back to the question, What is my purpose? If I want to complain, I can yell at my computer.</p> <p>Do you think I communicated appropriately? What would you have done? How do you handle irritating news that arrives in your email inbox? Feel free to rant here--as long as you do it politely and professionally. (Smile.) </p> <p>For tips on relationship-building writing, get my <a href="" target="_self" title="Learn more here">book</a> <em>Business Writing With Heart: How to Build Great Work Relationships One Message at a Time. </em></p> <p><span style="color: #0000bf;"><em>Lynn</em></span><br /><a href="" 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">March 28, 2015 in <a href="">Courteous Writing</a>, <a href="">Email</a>, <a href="">Etiquette</a> </span> <span class="separator">|</span> <a class="permalink" href="">Permalink</a> <span class="separator">|</span> <a class="entry-comments" href="">Comments (13)</a> <span class="separator">|</span> <a class="entry-trackbacks" href="">TrackBack (0)</a> </p> <!-- technorati tags --> <!-- post footer links --> </div> </div> </div> <h2 class="date-header">March 19, 2015</h2> <div class="entry-category-frequently_asked_questions entry-category-grammar_and_usage entry-category-proofreading entry-author-lynn_gaertnerjohnston entry-type-post entry" id="entry-6a00d8341c02a553ef01b7c766dbc4970b"> <div class="entry-inner"> <h3 class="entry-header"><a href="">Challenge: Capitalizing Job Titles and Units</a></h3> <div class="entry-content"> <input type="hidden" name="zemanta-related" val="" /> <div class="entry-body"> <p>A reader named Michelle sent me an excellent capitalization challenge. She received a brief article (indented below) to publish in a magazine, and she wants to follow standard capitalization rules. </p> <p>Which categories of capitalization would you change in Michelle's example? Would you change job titles, divisions, or anything else? (I have fictionalized the details.) </p> <p>Decide on changes before you read the rules below. </p> <p style="padding-left: 30px;">Detective John Harris began his Law Enforcement career as a Reserve at the Clover Ridge Police Department in 1997. He moved to Greenville and became a Reserve for the Harrison Police Department in 1999. After testing, John became a full-time Police Officer for the Harrison PD in 2000.</p> <p style="padding-left: 30px;">John joined the Marion County Sheriff’s Office in 2002 as a Sheriff’s Deputy and was promoted to Detective in 2012. He has worked in Property Crimes, Financial Crimes, and Auto Theft before arriving in Family Violence. We are delighted to add John to our unit, but we are heavy hearted about saying goodbye to Detective Dale Estes.</p> <p> </p> <p>These rules can help you capitalize correctly in challenging writing samples like Michelle's:</p> <p>1. Avoid unnecessary capitalization. Only capitalize something when you have a good reason to do so. Liking the way a word looks does not pass as a good reason.</p> <p>2. Capitalize proper nouns. Proper nouns are the unique names of specific people, places, and things. For instance, if "Clover Ridge Police Department" is the proper name of the police department, it deserves capitalization. </p> <p>3. Don't capitalize common nouns. A common noun is a label but not a specific, unique name. "Law Enforcement" is not a specific name in Michelle's piece--it is a career. That's why it should be lower case rather than capitalized. The same goes for "Reserve" and "Detective" when they do not come before an individual's name. They are generic rather than proper names. </p> <p>4. Capitalize a title when it comes directly before a person's name, not separated from the name even by punctuation. "Detective Dale Estes" is correctly capitalized. In contrast, "our retiring detective, Dale Estes" would have a lower case title. </p> <p>Those rules resolve most of the challenges in Michelle's piece. One that remains involves Property Crimes, Financial Crimes, Auto Theft, and Family Violence. What would you want to know about those terms before you capitalized them? </p> <p>I will post my revision tomorrow. In the meantime, feel free to comment or post yours. </p> <p>Do you see rampant capitalization in the pieces you read or edit? </p> <p> </p> <p> </p> <p><strong><span style="color: #111111;">March 20 update: </span></strong><span style="color: #111111;">Below is my revision. It assumes that the names of the police departments, sheriff's office, and work units are official. </span><span style="color: #111111;"><br /></span></p> <p style="padding-left: 30px;">Detective John Harris began his law enforcement career as a reserve at the Clover Ridge Police Department in 1997. He moved to Greenville and became a reserve for the Harrison Police Department in 1999. After testing, John became a full-time police officer for the Harrison PD in 2000.</p> <p style="padding-left: 30px;">John joined the Marion County Sheriff’s Office in 2002 as a sheriff’s deputy and was promoted to detective in 2012. He has worked in Property Crimes, Financial Crimes, and Auto Theft before arriving in Family Violence. We are delighted to add John to our unit, but we are heavy hearted about saying goodbye to Detective Dale Estes.</p> <p>Questions? Comments? </p> <p><em><span style="color: #0000bf;">Lynn</span></em><br /><a href="" target="_self" title="Visit Lynn's company website">Syntax Training </a></p> <p>P.S. Learn about upcoming <a href="" target="_self" title="Learn about upcoming public classes">business writing classes</a> that may solve your writing challenges. Read more about <a href="" target="_self" title="Read another blog post">capitalizing departments</a>. </p> </div> <!-- SIGNATURE --> </div> <div class="entry-footer"> <p class="entry-footer-info"> <span class="post-footers">March 19, 2015 in <a href="">Frequently Asked Questions</a>, <a href="">Grammar and Usage</a>, <a href="">Proofreading</a> </span> <span class="separator">|</span> <a class="permalink" href="">Permalink</a> <span class="separator">|</span> <a class="entry-comments" href="">Comments (10)</a> <span class="separator">|</span> <a class="entry-trackbacks" href="">TrackBack (0)</a> </p> <!-- technorati tags --> <!-- post footer links --> </div> </div> </div> <h2 class="date-header">March 13, 2015</h2> <div class="entry-category-courteous_writing entry-category-etiquette entry-author-lynn_gaertnerjohnston entry-type-post entry" id="entry-6a00d8341c02a553ef01bb080600e3970d"> <div class="entry-inner"> <h3 class="entry-header"><a href="">Best Practice: Scheduling Thank-Yous</a></h3> <div class="entry-content"> <input type="hidden" name="zemanta-related" val="" /> <div class="entry-body"> <p>As one of their volunteers, I just received an email from <a href="" target="_self" title="Learn about Treehouse">Treehouse</a>, a Seattle-area nonprofit that sponsors programs for kids in foster care. Here is one of the volunteer opportunities listed:</p> <p style="padding-left: 30px;"><strong>Champions Thank-You Note Mailing</strong> <br />Tuesday, March 31, 3:30 p.m. SHARP until 6 p.m. <br />We are looking for enthusiastic volunteers with good handwriting to fill out, hand address, stuff, stamp, and seal donor thank you cards.</p> <p style="padding-left: 30px;">After an inspirational fundraiser, we rush back to the office to prepare thank you cards to over 1000 donors to mail by 6 p.m. so that they receive their tax receipt and thank you note the very next day! There will be snacks and a very fun and celebratory atmosphere. </p> <p>This volunteer listing warms my heart. It shows the care with which Treehouse treats its donors--and its volunteers. And it shares tips for all of us who want to build good work relationships:</p> <ul> <li>Treehouse sets aside time immediately after an event to thank donors. </li> <li>The thank-you notes will be individual, handwritten, hand addressed, and very prompt. </li> <li>The notes will include the item donors need for tax purposes: a receipt. </li> <li>Volunteers will have fun celebrating while they prepare the thank-yous. </li> <li>Volunteers know the time, place (it's listed elsewhere), and the purpose of the activity. It feels well coordinated and inviting. </li> </ul> <p>Can your organization or company learn something from how Treehouse operates? </p> <p>I will be at the <a href="" target="_self" title="Learn about the luncheon">Champions for Foster Kids Luncheon</a> on March 31. It feels terrific to support an organization that does good in our community and does it well. </p> <p><em><span style="color: #0000bf;">Lynn</span></em><br /><a href="" target="_self" title="Visit Syntax Training website.">Syntax Training</a></p> </div> <!-- SIGNATURE --> </div> <div class="entry-footer"> <p class="entry-footer-info"> <span class="post-footers">March 13, 2015 in <a href="">Courteous Writing</a>, <a href="">Etiquette</a> </span> <span class="separator">|</span> <a class="permalink" href="">Permalink</a> <span class="separator">|</span> <a class="entry-comments" href="">Comments (4)</a> <span class="separator">|</span> <a class="entry-trackbacks" href="">TrackBack (0)</a> </p> <!-- technorati tags --> <!-- post footer links --> </div> </div> </div> <h2 class="date-header">March 11, 2015</h2> <div class="entry-category-courteous_writing entry-category-email entry-category-etiquette entry-category-writing_tips entry-author-lynn_gaertnerjohnston entry-type-post entry" id="entry-6a00d8341c02a553ef01b7c760257a970b"> <div class="entry-inner"> <h3 class="entry-header"><a href="">10 Questions to Flag Sensitive Situations</a></h3> <div class="entry-content"> <input type="hidden" name="zemanta-related" val="" /> <div class="entry-body"> <p>Sometimes you can recognize instantly that a message will lead to trouble. When you are angry or upset, you know better than to bang out a hostile email. But some sticky circumstances may not be obvious. Ask yourself these 10 questions to recognize potential problems. If you answer yes to any question, think twice or get advice before communicating in email. </p> <p><strong>1. Could this be someone else’s news to share?</strong><br />In your excitement about good news, you may want to broadcast the information quickly. Maybe your company has won the contract, grant, or lawsuit. Maybe the amazing candidate has accepted the job offer. But before you email the news, ask yourself whether it is YOUR news or someone else’s to share. Sharing news that is not yours can deflate other people’s pride and excitement. It can even suggest that you were responsible for the accomplishment. On the job, don’t think of yourself as a newscaster, sharing updates whenever they happen. Let the good news come from those who own it.  <br /><br /><strong>2. Do certain people need to learn this news before others? </strong><br />People who will be most affected by news should receive it first. For instance, if several internal candidates apply for a position, the applicants should learn which one of them got the job before everyone in the company finds out. If a team will move to another city, the people on the team need the information before the entire company requires it. Informing people in advance shows them respect, and it eliminates the embarrassment of their not knowing before others do. Avoid needless problems by thinking about your various audiences before sending one all-company message. <br /><br /><strong>3. Could including others on the Cc line hurt someone’s feelings, relationships, or reputation?</strong><br />It is easy to get in the habit of Ccing the team or replying to all to keep everyone informed. But everyone should NOT be informed when there is any chance that the information will embarrass or harm others. Tasks such as communicating constructive feedback, denying a request, disagreeing—even sending a straightforward reminder to someone who has missed a deadline—can create embarrassment and bad feelings when other people get a copy of the email. In these situations, do not Cc or reply to all. Communicate privately with the individual involved. <br /><br /><strong>4. Do I have feelings of discomfort about sending this message? Is there a small voice warning me not to do this?</strong><br />When you have any doubts about sending an email, listen to them. Doubts and feelings of discomfort are huge signs of likely insensitive communication. Maybe the solution is to wait, not communicate, or ask your manager or your human resources representative for help. It is better to delay communicating than to have to heal a strained relationship or apologize for a serious blunder. <br /><br /><strong>5. Might my manager, my human resources rep, or another professional have advice for me to consider?</strong><br />You may know that you need to communicate, and there is no small voice telling you not to. Yet other people may be able to help you express yourself more diplomatically or appropriately. When you suspect that your email will fall short and may damage relationships, seek advice from a trusted guide. The advice may be to call or meet in person rather than emailing. <br /><br /><strong>6. Would a face-to-face or phone conversation manage this situation more effectively? </strong><br />Sometimes email does not work because it is just crisp words on a screen, not the voice of a human being in conversation. Situations in which email may be insensitive are communicating bad news, denying a request, apologizing, and giving performance feedback. Email isn’t always wrong in these circumstances, but it can be. <br /><br /><strong>7. Could the timing of this communication be unfortunate for any reason? </strong><br />Sometimes a message is right but the timing is wrong. Maybe the timing affects one individual badly, or maybe a whole group will rebel if they receive such a message now. If an employee has just shared with you that his spouse is ill, for instance, he will not welcome a message saying overtime is required until the project is completed. If a team is preparing for a huge implementation, learning that the leader has given two weeks’ notice may cause an uproar. Such delicate situations don’t require that you hide the news but that you communicate it sensitively—maybe individually, maybe in a group meeting—and allow two-way communication. <br /><br /><strong>8. Is it possible that I do not have all the information to understand this situation?</strong><br />Assumptions and incomplete information damage workplace communication every day. You may think that someone is ignoring your email, when you are using an incorrect address. A delay may suggest to you that your boss has rejected your proposal, when she is really taking time to gain approval for it. Do not send email inspired by assumptions, or you risk creating a problem unnecessarily. <br /><br /><strong>9. Could this topic be inappropriate for a workplace communication? </strong><br />In most workplaces, religion, race, politics, sex, sexual orientation, and physical appearance are off-limits as topics. Words, cartoons, and other images on these topics will be hurtful to some people, which is the reason workplaces prohibit them. It is not acceptable to send a message on these topics to even one person because of the necessity of keeping the workplace safe and welcoming for everyone.<br /><br /><strong>10. Could anything about this communication make my company look bad? </strong><br />Your unstated purpose in every communication is to present your organization as positively as possible. Imagine your email featured on a six o’clock evening news program. Would it make your company look like a good corporate citizen and employer? Or could it lead to scandal and embarrassment? If anything about the message might present the organization in a negative light, talk to your human resources and legal departments before moving forward. </p> <p>Do you have any questions to add to these? Have you learned any of these lessons the hard way?</p> <p>(Note: This article was first published in our free monthly ezine, <em>Better Writing at Work,</em> as "How to Recognize Sensitive Situations."<em> </em><a href="" target="_self" title="Subscribe to the free ezine.">Subscribe</a>.) <br /><br />To continue to build solid work relationships, get my award-winning book, "Business Writing With Heart: How to Build Great Work Relationships One Message at a Time." <a href="">Learn more and download the first chapter</a>. </p> <p><em>Lynn</em><br /><a href="" 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">March 11, 2015 in <a href="">Courteous Writing</a>, <a href="">Email</a>, <a href="">Etiquette</a>, <a href="">Writing Tips</a> </span> <span class="separator">|</span> <a class="permalink" href="">Permalink</a> <span class="separator">|</span> <a class="entry-comments" href="">Comments (2)</a> <span class="separator">|</span> <a class="entry-trackbacks" href="">TrackBack (0)</a> </p> <!-- technorati tags --> <!-- post footer links --> </div> </div> </div> <h2 class="date-header">February 25, 2015</h2> <div class="entry-category-courteous_writing entry-category-proofreading entry-category-writing_tips entry-author-lynn_gaertnerjohnston entry-type-post entry" id="entry-6a00d8341c02a553ef01b8d0dc58f0970c"> <div class="entry-inner"> <h3 class="entry-header"><a href="">How to Lose Your Readers' Trust </a></h3> <div class="entry-content"> <input type="hidden" name="zemanta-related" val="" /> <div class="entry-body"> <p>When I pay for my groceries at the supermarket, the cash register spits out coupons based on what I have bought. Recently I received one with this offer:</p> <p style="padding-left: 30px;">Buy any large [brand name] pizza between 2/23/15 and 3/22/15 and SAVE up to $3.00 on a future order with coupon. </p> <p>Because I occasionally buy frozen pizza, I put the coupon in my pocket, then read it later. Here is the "fine print": </p> <p style="padding-left: 30px;">PURCHASE REQUIREMENTS:</p> <p style="padding-left: 30px;">Buy 2, get $1 OR</p> <p style="padding-left: 30px;">Buy 3, get $2 OR </p> <p style="padding-left: 30px;">But 4 or more, get $3 coupon for your next shopping order.</p> <p>I am annoyed. Can you determine why?</p> <p>"Buy any large pizza" was misleading. <em>Any</em> means "one," yet there was no savings if I bought just one. </p> <p>False or misleading promises erode readers' trust in us as writers. This problem exists even beyond coupons and offers trying to sell products. Whenever we write, we must be sure our messages do not damage our readers' trust and confidence in us.</p> <p>Consider these situations, imagining you are the reader:</p> <ol> <li>A writer provides a link to a web page, noting that it will give you the specific information you need. When you click the link, it takes you to a generic home page, with none of the information you seek. How do you feel? </li> <li>A consultant emails you saying you will receive her proposal by the end of the week. But when you leave on Friday at 6 p.m., you still have not gotten it. Does this delay affect your opinion of the consultant? </li> <li>A meeting agenda says attendees will be able to ask questions about a new program. When you attend the meeting, the entire hour is taken up by the presentation. How do you feel about the meeting organizer? </li> <li>Your new assistant's resume describes him as proficient in Microsoft Office. When you ask him to edit a PowerPoint presentation, he can't seem to make simple changes in it. What is your reaction? </li> <li>Your manager gives you the written go-ahead to update the company's Contact Us page. As soon as you do, he calls you in, upset that you didn't ask his approval on the new content. How does this situation affect your relationship? </li> </ol> <p>All five situations erode trust. And writers can avoid all five if they do one simple thing: ask themselves the question "Is this completely true?" and make changes when the answer is no. </p> <ol> <li>If the writer had asked "Is this true?" and clicked the link to confirm it, it would have been obvious that the page did not provide the information. He or she could have found the correct page and given you that link. </li> <li>If the consultant had questioned herself about the feasibility of her promise, she might have recognized that her week was too hectic and committed herself to a later date. </li> <li>The meeting organizer might have talked with the presenter to be sure the meeting would include time for questions. </li> <li>The new assistant's resume might have said "proficient in Word, Excel, and Outlook" rather than claiming expertise in Microsoft Office. </li> <li>Your manager might have realized that he wanted to approve changes.</li> </ol> <p>And the store coupon I received might have said "Buy large pizzas" rather than "Buy any large pizza."  </p> <p>Ask yourself "Is this completely true?" before you click Send, Publish, or Post. That simple question can help you maintain your readers' trust and confidence. ("Is this true?" may be sufficient, but I add the word <em>completely </em>to push to the heart of the content.) </p> <p>How have business writers diminished your trust in them? </p> <p>Get my guide <em><a href="" target="_self" title="Learn more about the guide">Clarity, Conciseness, Zing, and More</a> </em>for 27 articles of tips and strategies for writing well on the job.</p> <p>Learn about <a href="" target="_self" title="Learn more">upcoming public classes</a>, including Proofreading Like a Pro.</p> <p><em><span style="color: #0000bf;">Lynn </span></em><br /><a href="" 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">February 25, 2015 in <a href="">Courteous Writing</a>, <a href="">Proofreading</a>, <a href="">Writing Tips</a> </span> <span class="separator">|</span> <a class="permalink" href="">Permalink</a> <span class="separator">|</span> <a class="entry-comments" href="">Comments (4)</a> <span class="separator">|</span> <a class="entry-trackbacks" href="">TrackBack (0)</a> </p> <!-- technorati tags --> <!-- post footer links --> </div> </div> </div> <h2 class="date-header">February 19, 2015</h2> <div class="entry-category-books entry-category-writing_tips entry-author-lynn_gaertnerjohnston entry-type-post entry" id="entry-6a00d8341c02a553ef01b8d0d9cf71970c"> <div class="entry-inner"> <h3 class="entry-header"><a href="">Stephen King on Writing</a></h3> <div class="entry-content"> <input type="hidden" name="zemanta-related" val="" /> <div class="entry-body"> <p>If you have never read a book by Stephen King, the bestselling author of horror, fantasy, and suspense fiction, we had that in common--until now. Over the past two days, while waiting as a potential juror at the King County Courthouse, I read Stephen King's <em>On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft. </em></p> <p>If you want to write fiction, you must read this book. A gem of story-telling advice shines on every page. Mr. King's enthusiasm and love of his craft almost made me want to quit teaching business writing and start trying to tell the stories all around me. </p> <p>But I read <em>On Writing</em> in search of treasures to apply to business writing. I quote a few of Mr. King's beauties for you below. </p> <p><strong>On Vocabulary<br /></strong>"Don't make any conscious effort to improve it. . . . One of the really bad things you can do to your writing is to dress up the vocabulary, looking for long words because you're maybe a little bit ashamed of your short ones. This is like dressing up a household pet in evening clothes. The pet is embarrassed and the person who committed this act of premeditated cuteness should be even more embarrassed. Make yourself a solemn promise right now that you'll never use <em>emolument</em> when you mean <em>tip</em>."</p> <p>When you are tempted to write <em>concordance </em>instead of <em>agreement, </em>or <em>utilize </em>instead of <em>use</em><em>, </em>think of Mr. King's household pet in evening clothes. </p> <p><strong>On Paragraphs<br /></strong>"You can tell <em>without even reading </em>if the book you've chosen is apt to be easy or hard, right? Easy books contain lots of short paragraphs--including dialogue paragraphs which may only be a word or two long--and lots of white space. They're as airy as Dairy Queen ice cream cones. Hard books, ones full of ideas, narration, or description, have a stouter look. A <em>packed </em>look. Paragraphs are almost as important for how they look as for what they say; they are maps of intent." </p> <p>Do you want your business writing to look stout and packed? Or would short chunks of text and bullet points make your writing easier and more appealing to read? Whenever I receive an email or a report with long paragraphs, I look for something else to read. </p> <p><strong>On Passive Voice <br /></strong>"The timid fellow writes <strong>The meeting will be held at seven o'clock </strong>because that somehow says to him, 'Put it this way and people will believe <em>you really know.' </em>Purge this quisling thought! Don't be a muggle! Throw back your shoulders, stick out your chin, and put that meeting in charge! Write <strong>The meeting's at seven. </strong>There, by God! Don't you feel better?" </p> <p>Mr. King offers another illustration of numbing passive verbs: "My first kiss will always be recalled by me as how my romance with Shayna was begun." </p> <p>Here is his revision: "My romance with Shayna began with our first kiss. I'll never forget it." </p> <p>The passive memory of the kiss doesn't get or keep your attention. The revision communicates energy and excitement. Think of that kiss when you write your next policy or procedure. </p> <p>In <em>On Writing </em>Stephen King comes across as a passionate, clear-headed fiction writing champion. The book inspired me to finally read a Stephen King novel. Do you have one to recommend? </p> <p><em>On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft </em>came out in the year 2000, published by Scribner. If you want to have Stephen King's reading list, the things in his writer's toolbox, and lots of comparisons between powerful and puny writing, I recommend it.</p> <p><em><span style="color: #0000bf;">Lynn</span></em><br /><a href="" target="_self" title="Visit Lynn's website">Syntax Training</a></p> </div> <!-- SIGNATURE --> </div> <div class="entry-footer"> <p class="entry-footer-info"> <span class="post-footers">February 19, 2015 in <a href="">Books</a>, <a href="">Writing Tips</a> </span> <span class="separator">|</span> <a class="permalink" href="">Permalink</a> <span class="separator">|</span> <a class="entry-comments" href="">Comments (10)</a> <span class="separator">|</span> <a class="entry-trackbacks" href="">TrackBack (0)</a> </p> <!-- technorati tags --> <!-- post footer links --> </div> </div> </div> <h2 class="date-header">February 10, 2015</h2> <div class="entry-category-courteous_writing entry-category-email entry-category-etiquette entry-author-lynn_gaertnerjohnston entry-type-post entry" id="entry-6a00d8341c02a553ef01b8d0d3c0b3970c"> <div class="entry-inner"> <h3 class="entry-header"><a href="">10 Ways to Earn More Valentines</a></h3> <div class="entry-content"> <input type="hidden" name="zemanta-related" val="" /> <div class="entry-body"> <p>Where I live, bright red signs of Valentine's Day are everywhere--hearts, flowers, candies, cupids, and sugary cookies. You can buy a special valentine for almost anyone: sweetheart, lover, wife, husband, mother, someone like a mother, friend, child, sister, brother, grandpa, nana, teacher, boss, etc. </p> <p>If you would like to earn more valentines at work--in other words, to be liked and appreciated more by coworkers and others--try these business writing tips:</p> <ol> <li>When you send an email or a text, greet your reader by name, just as you would in person or on the phone. Use <em>Hi, Hello, Good morning, </em>or another greeting. Diving into the message without a greeting ignores the fact that your reader is human.</li> <li>Take time to double-check the spelling of people’s names. Kathryn will not feel appreciated if your message calls her Catherine. At least once or twice each week, someone addresses me as Lynne rather than my name, Lynn. </li> <li>Use positive phrases such as <em>glad to, happy to, </em>and<em> look forward</em> to communicate warmth and helpfulness.</li> <li>Use <em>please</em> and <em>thank you</em> even in routine messages. Begin most of your replies with a thank-you, for example, "Thank you for letting me know," "Thanks for reaching out," or "Thank you for asking." </li> <li>Keep yourself on a first-name basis with your reader. Include your first name at the end of an email—not just your signature block. Using your first name helps you come across as a person rather than a position. </li> <li>Avoid abrupt one- and two-word messages that confuse people and damage relationships. Curb any desire to go crazy with punctuation. Writing "Why??!!!!!" or "Why NOT?!!!!" boots you off the Nice list. </li> <li>Reply quickly whenever you can. Don’t leave coworkers, employees, and customers watching the clock and waiting for your message.</li> <li>Take time to write thoughtful messages such as thank-yous, congratulations, sympathy notes, and positive feedback. If you invest in people with these messages, you'll be forgiven an occasional gaffe. </li> <li>Avoid replying to all or copying others on an email in which you blame the reader or even hint at a criticism. Public shaming can earn you a permanent bad reputation. </li> <li>Even though you want to warm up a relationship, avoid words like <em>hon </em>and <em>sweetie, </em>which are too sticky sweet for business messages. Instead, use the person's name--and spell it correctly. </li> </ol> <p>To celebrate Valentine's Day, we are offering $5 off <em><a href="" target="_self" title="Learn more about the book">Business Writing With Heart: How to Build Great Work Relationships One Message at a Time</a> </em>through Friday, February 20. Just use the coupon code "heart" (no quotation marks) in the <a href="" target="_self" title="Find the buy button here">shopping cart</a>.</p> <p>The 436-page paperback version of <em>Business Writing With Heart </em>can be a thoughtful gift for someone you like (including yourself), with detailed advice on the challenging relationship side of writing. The e-book is available from Amazon around the world. (The coupon code applies only at Syntax Training, not Amazon.)  </p> <p>Do you have relationship-building communication tips to share? I would love to read them. </p> <p><span style="font-size: 13pt; color: #c00000;"><strong>Happy Valentine's Day! </strong></span></p> <p><span style="color: #0000bf;"><em>Lynn</em></span><br /><a href="" 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">February 10, 2015 in <a href="">Courteous Writing</a>, <a href="">Email</a>, <a href="">Etiquette</a> </span> <span class="separator">|</span> <a class="permalink" href="">Permalink</a> <span class="separator">|</span> <a class="entry-comments" href="">Comments (9)</a> <span class="separator">|</span> <a class="entry-trackbacks" href="">TrackBack (0)</a> </p> <!-- technorati tags --> <!-- post footer links --> </div> </div> </div> <h2 class="date-header">February 04, 2015</h2> <div class="entry-category-writing_tips entry-author-lynn_gaertnerjohnston entry-type-post entry" id="entry-6a00d8341c02a553ef01bb07e94e3c970d"> <div class="entry-inner"> <h3 class="entry-header"><a href="">7 Tips for Communicating Data</a></h3> <div class="entry-content"> <input type="hidden" name="zemanta-related" val="" /> <div class="entry-body"> <p>After you have worked hard to collect meaningful data, the big challenges are how and how much to communicate. Consider these tips when you work on your next report or presentation that includes data.</p> <p><strong>1. Focus first on your message, not on the numbers.</strong> <br />When planning your communication, focus first on the big idea or points you want to make. Then incorporate the data that will help your audience understand and appreciate your points. Be sure your big idea gets center stage--not the numbers.</p> <p><strong>2. Explain the data.</strong><br />Numbers mean nothing on their own. They need interpretation. Avoid asking readers or your audience to "review the attached spreadsheets." <em>Why</em> should they review them? Which numbers should they pay attention to and why? What do the numbers indicate?</p> <p><strong>3. Put data in context.</strong> <br />Make it clear whether numbers are positive, negative, or neutral. If you tell a sales rep that she visited an average of six prospects per day, compare that number to the goal number of prospects. If a client walks 5500 steps in a day, state whether 5500 is the magic healthy number or only halfway there. If expenses are 18 percent over income, say why the reader should care. Explain that the account balance will be €0 by 2018 if nothing changes.</p> <p><strong>4. Paint a picture with your numbers so people can see them.</strong> <br />Even simple expressions like "a tenfold increase" or "a 30 percent drop" can seem vague unless your audience can see them. If numbers have decreased dramatically over a decade, do not use words and numbers alone. In a bold-colored graph, show the deep drop year by year, month by month over 10 years.</p> <p>If your numbers are so large as to be abstract, paint them in recognizable mental pictures such as an area as large as Italy or a distance of 100 Greyhound buses. (Think of your audience when you choose the image.) How hot is 158 degrees Fahrenheit? Hot enough to fry an egg on the sidewalk.</p> <p>Or show the numbers reduced to their essence. Jack Hagley's graphic <a href="" target="_self" title="See the world">The World as 100 People</a> presents the world as though it were only 100 people. For instance, 83 of the world's 100 people are able to read and write; 17 are not.</p> <p><strong>5. Highlight important numbers.</strong> <br />A wall of numbers is as intimidating as a wall of text. Pull out essential numbers and focus on them. If you are presenting financial data, show just a small portion of it at a time on a slide or a page--just the portion you are discussing now. If you refer to and show just a small part, your audience will not say, "Where are you?" and "What are you talking about?" And always render numbers in a large enough font that you do not have to apologize for it.</p> <p>Make it easy for your readers to find important numbers. If a client has asked for your fee, for example, don't bury the number in a paragraph. Instead, render the number alone on a line or as part of a short heading, like this: <br />Your investment: US$19,000</p> <p><strong>6. Prominently display the legends for tables and charts of numbers.</strong> <br />Ensure that your audience will know instantly that 3000 indicates 3,000,000 and that your balance is positive rather than negative. Use abbreviations such as <em>K</em> and <em>M</em> only if you are certain your readers understand them. (To some people, <em>M</em> means thousand; to others, it means million.)</p> <p><strong>7. Use only the essential, compelling numbers in the body of your document. </strong>If numbers weigh down your document, your readers may forget your main point. So move most of the supporting tables, lists, charts, and graphs to the appendices. In a presentation, hold back some slides of data, and show them only upon request. Remember: The numbers are not the message; they serve the message. </p> <p>If you think of your communication as music, your most important message comes through the soloist. The numbers are the accompanists. They play an essential role, but they should never drown out the soloist. If they do, your communication will not reach and change your audience.</p> <p>**********************</p> <p>I excerpted this article from my newsletter, <em>Better Writing at Work. </em><a href="" target="_self" title="Subscribe to "Better Writing at Work"">Subscribe</a> to get a practical article focused on business writing each month.</p> <p>Do you have tips or comments on communicating data? Please share them.</p> <p><em><span style="color: #0000bf;">Lynn</span></em><br /><a href="" 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">February 04, 2015 in <a href="">Writing Tips</a> </span> <span class="separator">|</span> <a class="permalink" href="">Permalink</a> <span class="separator">|</span> <a class="entry-comments" href="">Comments (3)</a> <span class="separator">|</span> <a class="entry-trackbacks" href="">TrackBack (0)</a> </p> <!-- technorati tags --> <!-- post footer links --> </div> </div> </div> <h2 class="date-header">January 28, 2015</h2> <div class="entry-category-email entry-category-proofreading entry-author-lynn_gaertnerjohnston entry-type-post entry" id="entry-6a00d8341c02a553ef01b7c740e776970b"> <div class="entry-inner"> <h3 class="entry-header"><a href="">What's Missing From This Reminder?</a></h3> <div class="entry-content"> <input type="hidden" name="zemanta-related" val="" /> <div class="entry-body"> <p>My husband, Michael, is planning to participate in an event on Saturday. Below is the entire content of the reminder email he received today. Can you identify what's missing?</p> <p>Subject: Three More Days Until the Run! </p> <p>We hope you are getting excited about participating in Saturday's group run/walk! A few things to remember:</p> <ol> <li>Please plan on arriving early to find parking.</li> <li>Bring a food donation for the University Food Bank (optional).</li> <li>We are meeting at the basketball courts (if you look to the east, you can see Starbucks).</li> <li>If you have any questions, don't hesitate to contact us at (425) 610-XXXX.</li> <li>Please LIKE us on Facebook:</li> <li>GO SEAHAWKS!</li> </ol> <p>If you were sending this reminder to people who had registered for the event, what essential information would you also include? </p> <p>Proofreading is not just identifying errors. Sometimes it involves recognizing what isn't there. If you would like to increase your proofreading skills and confidence, take our Proofreading Like a Pro class online. Learn about our <a href="" target="_self" title="Learn more">upcoming public classes</a>. <a href="" target="_self" title="Learn more"><br /></a></p> <p><em><span style="color: #0000bf;">Lynn</span></em><br /><a href="" 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">January 28, 2015 in <a href="">Email</a>, <a href="">Proofreading</a> </span> <span class="separator">|</span> <a class="permalink" href="">Permalink</a> <span class="separator">|</span> <a class="entry-comments" href="">Comments (11)</a> <span class="separator">|</span> <a class="entry-trackbacks" href="">TrackBack (0)</a> </p> <!-- technorati tags --> <!-- post footer links --> </div> </div> </div> <h2 class="date-header">January 26, 2015</h2> <div class="entry-author-lynn_gaertnerjohnston entry-type-post entry" id="entry-6a00d8341c02a553ef01b7c73d9c1b970b"> <div class="entry-inner"> <h3 class="entry-header"><a href="">Who Are You? Tell Resume Readers Fast</a></h3> <div class="entry-content"> <input type="hidden" name="zemanta-related" val="" /> <div class="entry-body"> <p>The other night I helped a young friend with her resume by phone and email. I have known "Alicia" for many years, so I know her story--her job and education history, her strengths, and her accomplishments. I know the essential Alicia.</p> <p>But her resume readers--potential employers--would know nothing about her at first glance, and Alicia needed to fill that information gap instantly. But instead, her resume draft went from contact information to Work Experience, then Education, all in the typical bullet point format. Readers would not have a clear picture of who Alicia is until the very end of the resume--if they got there. </p> <p>The resume was missing an opening summary. And Alicia was missing an opportunity to shape her readers' first impression of her. </p> <p>Variously labeled Summary, Summary of Qualifications, Professional Summary, Skills Summary, and Professional Profile, it's a section that appears after the name and contact information. It helps readers see the whole picture in a quick snapshot. And it helps them avoid having to create a picture on their own, pulling together all the resume pieces. </p> <p>Notice in these examples how the writer presents a clear picture of his or her qualifications: </p> <p>**********************************</p> <p><strong>Summary of qualifications<br /></strong></p> <ul> <li>Significant experience in a print production environment. </li> <li>Strong mechanical aptitude and trouble-shooting skills.</li> <li>Excellent attendance, with years of perfect attendance on the job.</li> <li>Reliability, focus, inventiveness, and good common sense.</li> </ul> <p>**********************************</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong><strong>SUMMARY</strong></strong></p> <p style="text-align: left;">Award-winning communications manager with proven ability in project management, strategic planning, business writing, and mass communication. Strong background in communicating corporate messages through wide-ranging media, including social media, publications, films, exhibits, conferences, and special events. Expert in Word, Excel, and InDesign. Fluent in Spanish.</p> <p>**********************************</p> <p><strong>Professional Profile</strong><br />An accomplished manager and individual contributor with solid experience in corporate and educational settings, providing management and information technology solutions.</p> <ul> <li><strong>Systems and software experience:</strong> Solomon, Ceridian, and CAMS; Paradox, object PAL, Crystal Reports, SQL, HTML, ASP, and MS Office.</li> <li><strong>Traits:</strong> Resourcefulness, adaptability, optimism, empathy, and calm under pressure. </li> <li><strong>Satisfiers:</strong> Facilitating the work of others, simplifying processes, solving problems, establishing good relationships, and providing high-quality reports and information.</li> </ul> <p>**********************************</p> <p><strong>Summary: Warehouse and Shipping Professional</strong> <br />Over 11 years in warehouse and shipping. Experienced training and supervising seasonal workers. Accustomed to working in fast-paced, high-volume environments focused on first-class customer service. Recognized for reliability, safety, and excellent attendance.</p> <p>**********************************</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>Summary Statement</strong></p> <p style="text-align: center; text-align: left;">10+ years of experience supporting the success of individuals, groups, and organizations. Notable achievements as a non-profit director, project manager, and consultant. Excellent presentation, writing, and relationship-building skills developed through working with diverse groups. Methodically organized yet energized by change.</p> <p><strong>**********************************</strong></p> <p>When adding an opening summary to your resume, consider these tips about its content:</p> <ol> <li>Include words and phrases your readers will be looking for: <em>manager, project management, trouble-shooting, training design, non-profit, diversity, MS Office, Arabic.</em></li> <li>Use words that paint a positive picture: <em>award-winning,</em> <em>achievements, success, significant, strong, excellent, expert, proven, </em><em>accomplished.</em></li> <li>Use phrases that summarize: "warehouse and shipping professional," "10 years of experience in," "experience handling large portfolios," "background in operations, sales, and customer service."</li> <li>Choose words that describe you precisely while avoiding clichés. For instance, rather than calling yourself a "results-driven self-starter," use words that uniquely describe you. </li> <li>Consider a maximum length of about 75 words. The examples above range from 33 to 69 words, including their headings. </li> <li>Include areas you want to highlight, and omit others. For example, if your resume includes five years as a kindergarten teacher but you are looking for a job as a technical writer, do not mention kindergarten in the summary. </li> <li>Tell the truth. Do not exaggerate or mislead in the summary or anywhere in your resume. </li> <li>Write your resume first. Then create your qualifications summary. </li> </ol> <p>Yesterday Alicia sent me her revised resume featuring a summary of qualifications. The summary transformed her resume from lists of details to a powerful strategic document. It packaged her six years of experience (some of it in college) as a solid professional background.  </p> <p>Now readers of Alicia's resume can know her as I do in just a glance. That's the power of a professional summary. </p> <p>Do you have comments or questions about qualifications summaries, including the ones above? Please share them. </p> <p><span style="color: #0000bf;"><em>Lynn</em></span><br /><a href="" 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">January 26, 2015 </span> <span class="separator">|</span> <a class="permalink" href="">Permalink</a> <span class="separator">|</span> <a class="entry-comments" href="">Comments (6)</a> <span class="separator">|</span> <a class="entry-trackbacks" href="">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=""><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=""> <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="" /> <input type="hidden" name="sitesearch" value="" /> </span> <div align="center"> <a href=""><img src="" alt="Google" width="128" height="53" border="0" /></a> </div> </div> </form> <!-- end Search --> <!-- photo adspot --> <a href=""><img src="" 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="" 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="" 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="" title="Works with all email clients such as Outlook, Yahoo! 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