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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"> <!-- social sharing --> <div id="beta-inner" class="pkg"> <div id="sharethis" style="text-align:right;"> <span class='st_twitter' st_via='SyntaxLynn' 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">November 13, 2015</h2> <div class="entry-category-proofreading entry-category-punctuation_pointers entry-author-lynn_gaertnerjohnston entry-type-post entry" id="entry-6a00d8341c02a553ef01b7c7ec1adc970b"> <div class="entry-inner"> <h3 class="entry-header"><a href="">Correct This Sign </a></h3> <div class="entry-content"> <input type="hidden" name="zemanta-related" val="" /> <div class="entry-body"> <p>This sign includes several subtle errors. Can you find and correct them? Please share your brief corrections--no need to rewrite the content.</p> <p>I will post my corrections on November 16. Enjoy the weekend!</p> <p><a class="asset-img-link" href="" style="display: inline;"><img alt="Eye Protection" border="0" class="asset asset-image at-xid-6a00d8341c02a553ef01bb08904ca0970d image-full img-responsive" src="" title="Eye Protection" /></a></p> <p> </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">November 13, 2015 in <a href="">Proofreading</a>, <a href="">Punctuation Pointers</a> </span> <span class="separator">|</span> <a class="permalink" href="">Permalink</a> <span class="separator">|</span> <a class="entry-comments" href="">Comments (10)</a> </p> <!-- technorati tags --> <!-- post footer links --> </div> </div> </div> <h2 class="date-header">November 03, 2015</h2> <div class="entry-category-frequently_asked_questions entry-category-punctuation_pointers entry-author-lynn_gaertnerjohnston entry-type-post entry" id="entry-6a00d8341c02a553ef01b7c7e70a48970b"> <div class="entry-inner"> <h3 class="entry-header"><a href="">Do Not Use Apostrophes to Make Plurals</a></h3> <div class="entry-content"> <input type="hidden" name="zemanta-related" val="" /> <div class="entry-body"> <p>Please--don't do it. Don't use apostrophes to make expressions plural, like this:</p> <p><a class="asset-img-link" href="" style="display: inline;"><img alt="Apostrophe plural" border="0" class="asset asset-image at-xid-6a00d8341c02a553ef01bb088adec6970d image-full img-responsive" src="" title="Apostrophe plural" /></a></p> <p>This photo of a plumbing supply company storefront is NOT for a company owned by people named Spa and Pool. If it were, <em>Spa's & Pool's</em> might be the perfect sign. </p> <p><em>Spas & Pools</em>--that's what the sign should say. </p> <p>Google knows better. When I typed <em>Spa's and Pool's</em> into the search box, it responded: </p> <p style="padding-left: 30px;">Did you mean: spas and pools</p> <p>Yes, Google, the owner of the company meant <em>Spas & Pools--</em>the sign is simply wrong. </p> <p>You may be wondering whether it is ever correct to use an apostrophe to form a plural. Yes, occasionally that use makes sense. These rules and examples are taken from <em>The Gregg Reference Manual (Gregg), </em>with additional notes from <em>Garner's Modern American Usage (Garner's) </em>and <em>The Associated Press Stylebook (AP). </em></p> <ol> <li>Capital letters and abbreviations ending with capital letters are made plural by adding <em>s </em>alone. Examples: three Rs, two Cs, HMOs, FAQs, Ph.D.s, DVDs<br />However, use an apostrophe before the <em>s </em>where confusion might otherwise result. Examples: three A's, too many I's, two U's (The plurals might otherwise be seen as <em>As, Is, </em>and<em> Us</em>.)<br /><br /><em><em>AP </em><span style="font-style: normal;">agrees with </span><em>Gregg. <br /><br /></em>Garner's </em>recommends an apostrophe with capitalized abbreviations that contain periods. Example: M.B.A.'s. <br /><br /></li> <li>For the sake of clarity, uncapitalized letters and most uncapitalized abbreviations are made plural by adding an apostrophe and an <em>s. </em>Examples: dotting the <em>i</em>'s, wearing pj's, <em>p</em>'s and <em>q</em>'s, bbc's<br /><em><br />Garner's </em>agrees with <em>Gregg</em>, citing <em>gif's </em>as an example. <br /><br /><em>AP </em>does not discuss uncapitalized letters; for single letters, it uses the apostrophe, citing <em>p's </em>and <em>q</em>'s. <br /><br /></li> <li>If the plural form is unfamiliar or is likely to be misread, use an apostrophe and an <em>s </em>to form the plural. Examples: <em>or</em>'s or <em>nor</em>'s, <em>which</em>'s and <em>that</em>'s (rather than <em>ors </em>or<em> nors, whiches </em>and<em> thats</em>). <br /><em><br /><em>AP </em><span style="font-style: normal;">does not use an apostrophe in these situations, just simple plurals. <br /><br /></span>Garner's </em>prefers using typography rather than apostrophes in these situations, with the word itself in italic type and the <em>s </em>in roman type. Example: Trim the number of <em>of</em>s to tighten prose. <br /><br />Everyone agrees that if the singular form contains an apostrophe, add only an <em>s </em>to form the plural. Examples: <em>ain't</em>s, <em>don't</em>s<br /><br /></li> </ol> <p>When I learned the rules of plurals many years ago, I think I learned to add an apostrophe to make numbers plural, things like 1970's<em> </em>and temperatures in the 80's. My copy of the <em>Handbook of Business English, </em>published in 1914 (No, I'm not <em>that </em>old! I got it from my 100-year-old cousin), says to use the apostrophe to indicate the plural of figures.</p> <p>However, these days we use only an <em>s </em>to make numbers plural: 1970s, 80s, W-2s, 1099s, MP3s, etc. <em>Gregg, Garner's </em>and <em>AP </em>agree on these number plurals without apostrophes. Still, the <em>New Oxford Style Manual </em>points out that "find all the number 7's" may be useful. Without that apostrophe, readers might look for the number 7 with a letter <em>s </em>after it. </p> <p>In my business writing classes, the word that people most often render incorrectly is <em>memos, </em>into which they have inserted an apostrophe. But <em>memos </em>is the correct plural. The term <em>memo's </em>is correct only when you intend it to be possessive: The memo's subject line is too long. </p> <p>Except for the few exceptional situations above, don't use an apostrophe to form a plural. It will grab your readers' attention, but not for a good reason. </p> <p>If you and your team argue about apostrophes and other punctuation marks, why not take our upcoming online class <a href="" target="_self" title="Learn about the class">Punctuation for Professionals</a> together? A group discount applies. Our website always has information about <a href="" target="_self" title="Learn about classes">upcoming classes</a>.</p> <p>Feel free to share your bad <span style="text-decoration: line-through;">example's</span> examples of apostrophes for plurals here. </p> <p><em><span style="color: #0000bf;">Lynn</span></em><br /><a href="" target="_self" title="Visit our company website">Syntax Training</a></p> <p> </p> </div> <!-- SIGNATURE --> </div> <div class="entry-footer"> <p class="entry-footer-info"> <span class="post-footers">November 03, 2015 in <a href="">Frequently Asked Questions</a>, <a href="">Punctuation Pointers</a> </span> <span class="separator">|</span> <a class="permalink" href="">Permalink</a> <span class="separator">|</span> <a class="entry-comments" href="">Comments (10)</a> </p> <!-- technorati tags --> <!-- post footer links --> </div> </div> </div> <h2 class="date-header">October 28, 2015</h2> <div class="entry-category-email entry-category-etiquette entry-category-tips_on_microsoft_office entry-author-lynn_gaertnerjohnston entry-type-post entry" id="entry-6a00d8341c02a553ef01b7c7e3c8c8970b"> <div class="entry-inner"> <h3 class="entry-header"><a href="">21 Ways to Shrink the Email Monster</a></h3> <div class="entry-content"> <input type="hidden" name="zemanta-related" val="" /> <div class="entry-body"> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong> <a class="asset-img-link" href="" style="display: inline;"><img alt="Email monster" border="0" class="asset asset-image at-xid-6a00d8341c02a553ef01bb0887c923970d img-responsive" height="270" src="" title="Email monster" width="405" /></a><br /></strong></p> <p><strong>Are you haunted by too much email appearing nonstop, lurking in your inbox, and raising your anxiety level?</strong> </p> <p><strong>If you are like most people at work, you get too much unnecessary email.</strong> If you need to keep your email open, you probably have messages popping up constantly, stealing your concentration. Out of habit, you may be sending disruptive, needless emails too.</p> <p>Apply these 21 tips, and take the fear out of looking at your screen!  </p> <p><strong> </strong></p> <p><span style="font-size: 12pt; color: #800000;"><strong>1-6. Use a different medium. </strong></span></p> <p><strong>1. Choose to pick up the phone. </strong>When you know an email is likely to spawn a series of back-and-forth messages, ask yourself whether a phone call is more efficient. When you want to choose a date, time, and place to meet for lunch, for example, planning by phone for five minutes can achieve your goal. It's more efficient than exchanging six to ten email interruptions.   </p> <p><strong>2. Choose to talk by phone or in person </strong>when the subject is touchy. When you and the other individual or individuals are likely to disagree, don't start an email argument. It will drain your time and energy. Instead, meet by phone, in person, or virtually to talk through your differences. Thirty minutes of meeting can replace hours of reading, writing, revising, and stewing over email counterattacks.  </p> <p><strong>3. Schedule a meeting when the topic is complicated. </strong>If you use email for complex discussions, the threads can go on forever, roping dozens of people into a sticky web of communication and miscommunication. Why not meet instead, in person, by phone, or virtually? A one-hour meeting with a specific agenda and outcome can save you hours of teasing through knotted email threads.</p> <p><strong>4. Use a calendar system and meeting requests—not email—to schedule meetings and events. </strong>Don't go back and forth with emails that you and others have to type or drag into your calendars. And remember: You do not need to send email reminders (and receive replies) for an event on people's calendars. </p> <p><strong>5. Use instant messaging (IM) for quick immediate questions</strong>. Don't email when you need a near-instant answer. If you do, you will find yourself glued to your screen, waiting for a reply that doesn't appear—and then emailing again.  </p> <p><strong>6. Use SharePoint or groupware to post information </strong>rather than emailing to everyone. If you email, people will reply, often needlessly. Post information such as meeting notes, updates, and copies of materials. Get people in the habit of using your intranet rather than emailing you for information. </p> <p><strong> </strong></p> <p><span style="font-size: 12pt; color: #800000;"><strong>7-10. Limit your output.  </strong></span></p> <p><strong>7. Ask yourself "Is this email necessary?" before sending anything, including replies. </strong>Examples: It may not be necessary to email someone you are going to see tomorrow. Your manager may not need an update on a routine project. Your staff may already receive messages you forward to them. Remember: Any email you send may lead to a response. That response puts you in a deeper pile of email.</p> <p><strong>8. Send a request or question to only one person—not to an entire group. </strong>Otherwise, the entire group may respond, sinking you in unnecessary replies. For example, if you can't find contact information for a client, write to the person who is most likely to have the information—not the 12 people who might have it.  </p> <p><strong>9. Ask yourself "Can these emails be consolidated?"</strong> <strong>if you email someone throughout the day.</strong> Although it's a bad idea to send emails with several topics, it's efficient to send one email rather than three or four on the same topic. For example, if you and a coworker are working on holiday greeting cards, do not send one email with a list of printers, another with the name of a printer your manager suggests, and a third with printer fees. Combine those messages. Similarly, if you often have several questions about a project, keep a OneNote notebook or a document open to list your questions. Then send them in one email rather than firing off a series of emails. You will get fewer emails in reply. </p> <p><strong>10. Send thank-yous only when they are necessary—</strong>that is, to confirm that you have received an <em>important</em> message or to communicate sincere appreciation. Don't send thanks to respond to every message or nearly every one—you may get pointless "you're welcome" replies. Worse yet, you may be encouraging a culture of mindless courtesies that fill everyone's inbox. Instead, why not set a standard with your group, a standard of not sending unnecessary thanks and acknowledgments?</p> <p><strong> </strong></p> <p><span style="color: #800000; font-size: 12pt;"><strong>11-14. Think. Then act. </strong></span></p> <p><strong>11. Think before you choose Reply to All, and don't reply to all unless everyone really needs your reply.</strong> When you reduce your replies to all, you reduce the number of replies you receive. Also, you save others from having to read unnecessary email. </p> <p><strong>12.</strong> <strong>Anticipate your readers' questions and provide answers in your email. </strong>Then you will not have to reply to follow-up questions—and your readers won't have to ask them. Imagine that you are sitting down to discuss the topic with your email readers: Which questions would they ask you? Answer those questions in your first (and only) message.</p> <p><strong>13. Let important messages you write sit awhile before you send them. </strong>Take a break from the message; then reread it to see if it says what you intend. Ask for a second opinion from a colleague when a message is very important. Only when you are certain your email communicates your message, send it. Investing this time upfront will save you from having to send "Oops" messages, clarifications, and apologies.</p> <p><strong>14. When you have fixed a problem, think about who needs to know. Then inform them. </strong>You will eliminate the "Is it fixed yet?" messages. If you email, include "No reply is necessary" in your message.</p> <p><strong> </strong></p> <p><span style="color: #800000; font-size: 12pt;"><strong>15-20. Ask for what you need. </strong></span></p> <p><strong>15. Make it clear what kind of response you want—or don't want.</strong> For example, ask someone to send you a meeting request rather than an email. Include "No response is necessary" when you do not need a reply. Tell team members "Let's discuss this at the meeting" to discourage unnecessary email exchanges.</p> <p><strong>16. When you initiate a message to a group, ask them to reply to you rather than to the entire group—unless everyone needs the replies. </strong>This step reduces email threads that can take off, roping in you and others.</p> <p><strong>17. If you manage people, encourage them not to copy you on their email</strong> unless it is essential that you have the information. Give them as much authority and training as possible,<strong> </strong>so they don't email you continually asking for your approval and guidance.</p> <p><strong>18. Ask to have your name removed from distribution lists. </strong>If you regularly receive company information that has nothing to do with you or your understanding of the organization, ask the list manager to remove your name and email address. But remember that you will not receive any emails sent to the list.</p> <p><strong>19.</strong> <strong>Unsubscribe from recurring email from outside the company. </strong>Ask vendors to remove you from their lists if you are not interested in their products. You will quickly notice a drop in email.</p> <p><strong>20. Let coworkers know when they are sending you messages you don't need. </strong>People may think you want copies of meeting minutes emailed to you, when you prefer to read them online. They may believe it is efficient to confirm that they received your messages, so tell them you will ask for confirmation when you need it. Less pointless email = less work for everyone.  </p> <p><strong> </strong></p> <p><span style="color: #800000; font-size: 12pt;"><strong>21. Make the most of your email program. </strong></span></p> <p><strong>21. Have Outlook or your email client sort messages rather than leaving them to hit your inbox randomly. </strong>Have messages from certain people or with certain subjects automatically sent to special folders. For example, have blog posts from this site sent to a "Business Writing" folder to read at your leisure. Have messages you are copied on sent to a CC folder. Make sure low-priority messages don't distract you from high-value projects. Have no-priority messages automatically deleted.</p> <p> </p> <p><strong>You <em>can</em></strong> <strong>zap the email monster.</strong> Follow the suggestions above, and send them to your team. Then watch your inbox shrink.</p> <p>A version of "21 Ways to Shrink the Email Monster" originally appeared in <em><a href="" target="_self" title="Subscribe">Better Writing at Work</a></em>.</p> <p>If you liked this piece, you might like "<a href="" target="_self" title="Find out more">110 Tips for Sending Email That Gets Read—and Gets Results</a>," email tips to have handy on your desktop or bookshelf. </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">October 28, 2015 in <a href="">Email</a>, <a href="">Etiquette</a>, <a href="">Tips on Microsoft Office</a> </span> <span class="separator">|</span> <a class="permalink" href="">Permalink</a> <span class="separator">|</span> <a class="entry-comments" href="">Comments (0)</a> </p> <!-- technorati tags --> <!-- post footer links --> </div> </div> </div> <h2 class="date-header">October 23, 2015</h2> <div class="entry-category-email entry-category-etiquette entry-author-lynn_gaertnerjohnston entry-type-post entry" id="entry-6a00d8341c02a553ef01b8d16be578970c"> <div class="entry-inner"> <h3 class="entry-header"><a href="">To Cc or Not to Cc? That Is the Question</a></h3> <div class="entry-content"> <input type="hidden" name="zemanta-related" val="" /> <div class="entry-body"> <p>Do you know when to copy people on the emails you send? Or do you cc a bunch of people and hope to offend no one? This post will reduce your cc doubts.  </p> <p>Should you cc or not? To answer that question, remember that your purpose in including others on the Cc line is to inform individuals who must or should have the information you are sending. These individuals do not need to DO anything in response to the email. They only need to know about it. Only include people on the Cc line who need to be in the know.</p> <p>But wait—there’s more to think about. Before you include your supervisor and your team members—who may want to be in the information loop—recognize that ccing them on the email is likely to cause anyone who replies to your email to cc them too. Do your supervisor and team members need all those emails? If not, don’t tie them into the email conversation.</p> <p>Below are frequently asked questions, with suggestions.</p> <p><strong>Question 1: If I don’t cc my supervisor or team members, how can I keep them informed?</strong> <br />Answer: Think about how much information those people need. Let’s say your email thread will cover bugs in a new software release. If your supervisor does not need all the back-and-forth emailing, just send him a summary email or periodic updates. The same goes for your team members: If they will want the hundred emails that may attach to this thread, cc them. Otherwise, just choose to update them as needed.</p> <p><strong>Question 2: If I receive an email on which people are copied, should I reply to all?</strong> <br />Answer: If you know the other people and you understand why they are included, do cc them, of course. But if you do not know the people or the reason they are included, feel free not to cc them (unless your organization’s email protocol is different). The individual who sent the original message can forward your email if necessary.</p> <p>It is not your job to reply blindly to strangers. The person who initiates the email should say either “Please reply to all” or “Please respond to me only.” The writer should also explain why people are on the Cc line or are being added to it. For example, “I am ccing Bill Davis because he has joined the group. Please copy him on your reply.”</p> <p><strong>Question 3: If I want my director to know that I have handled a situation, shouldn’t I copy her on my email? But then how do I stop others from replying to her too?</strong> <br />Answer: Include your director on the Bcc line, and others will not be able to reply to her. If you are concerned that she (receiving a bcc) may mistakenly reply to all and wrap herself into the conversation, simply forward your email to her with a one-sentence explanation.</p> <h4 style="padding-left: 30px;"><span style="color: #0000bf;"><strong>This article first appeared in <em>Better Writing at Work, </em>Syntax Training's newsletter. <a href="" target="_self">Subscribe</a> to get an article and an "Error Quest" proofreading puzzler each month, along with occasional discount codes. <br /></strong></span></h4> <p><strong>Question 4: If I cannot get action from someone, should I cc our managers to show that I am ready to take the issue to the next level?<br /></strong>Answer: Ccing your managers IS taking the issue to the next level. Rather than taking that step, which may feel like blame or pressure to the other person, ask for information first: What is causing the delay? When can you expect action? How can you help the other person take action? Eventually you may need to let the individual know that your next step could be to turn to your bosses. However, emphasize that you would prefer to resolve the situation together.</p> <p><strong>Question 5: My boss wants to be copied on every email I send to clients. Is this a standard practice? It seems awkward.<br /></strong>Answer: It is not a standard practice, and the behavior has several disadvantages: It can suggest to clients that you are a junior employee who must be closely supervised; make clients feel they should address him rather than you; rope him into even the smallest, least important exchanges; and encourage him to micromanage your client interactions.</p> <p>Ask your boss whether sending him client updates will meet his needs. Another option is to forward any important emails to him, so he will be aware of what is going on.</p> <p><strong>Question 6: Are there obvious circumstances when I should NOT cc?</strong> <br />Answer: Remember this essential rule: Only cc people when they must have or should have the information. Routine emails that should not typically include ccs are thank-yous, straightforward yes or no answers (unless everyone must know your answer), brief compliments, and “I don’t know” replies. Also, do not copy people on constructive feedback, denials, or reminders—messages that could embarrass the individual whose name appears on the To line.</p> <p><strong>Question 7: I am buried in copies of emails I do not need. How can I encourage people to copy me less often without making them think I don’t care what they are working on?</strong> <br />Answer: If the emails are from people in your work group, why not have a group meeting to discuss your email standards? Together you may be able to identify great ways to be more efficient about ccs.</p> <p>With people outside your work group, check to see whether you can remove yourself from email lists you don’t need to be on. For example, maybe you are receiving copies of all the safety incidents, when safety is not your current job focus. Or maybe you are included in duplicate lists. Beyond that, you might send an email in which you reply to all this way: “Thanks for including me. At this point, I do not need to be involved in the ongoing discussion. Can you please remove me from the cc list but inform me of the group’s decision?” If you are dealing with one person, write, “I don’t need to be copied on these routine communications. But if you feel I need to know about a specific situation, do cc me.”</p> <p>To cc or not to cc? What are your questions and suggestions?</p> <p>Learn guidelines for bccs in the blog post "<a href="" target="_self">Bcc: Use With Caution</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> <p> </p> </div> <!-- SIGNATURE --> </div> <div class="entry-footer"> <p class="entry-footer-info"> <span class="post-footers">October 23, 2015 in <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 (0)</a> </p> <!-- technorati tags --> <!-- post footer links --> </div> </div> </div> <h2 class="date-header">October 21, 2015</h2> <div class="entry-category-teaching_business_writing entry-category-writing_tips entry-author-lynn_gaertnerjohnston entry-type-post entry" id="entry-6a00d8341c02a553ef01bb08848ad5970d"> <div class="entry-inner"> <h3 class="entry-header"><a href="">Focus on Value So Others Don't Fix on Costs</a></h3> <div class="entry-content"> <input type="hidden" name="zemanta-related" val="" /> <div class="entry-body"> <p>The other day in the supermarket I picked up a box of reclosable sandwich bags. Its cost: $3.59. Then another brand caught my eye: $2.39. A smart shopper, I checked the number of bags: both 50. And the bag dimensions were the same.</p> <p>How could the Natural Value brand cost 50 percent more than the Western Family brand--for a seemingly identical product? Neither brand was on sale. Why would I pay more? </p> <p>Natural Value did not make it easy for me to answer that question. As you can see, the front of their box gives no indication of why theirs is worth more than the cheaper brand. Neither do the other two other sides of the box. </p> <p><a class="asset-img-link" href="" style="display: inline;"><img alt="Sandich bags" border="0" class="asset asset-image at-xid-6a00d8341c02a553ef01b8d16a898e970c image-full img-responsive" height="427" src="" title="Sandich bags" width="544" /></a></p> <p> </p> <p>Do your readers have to work hard to understand your value or the value of your products, services, and ideas? Do you leave them guessing about why to say yes? Why should they invest--or invest more--in you?</p> <p>When you communicate in recommendations, business proposals, white papers, product descriptions, press releases, and other business messages, be sure to communicate value. You cannot assume that readers already know the value, especially if they are pass-it-on readers at work who don't know you, your reputation, or your product (just as I was not familiar with the Natural Value brand). Consider these areas of possible value to your readers:  </p> <ul> <li><strong>Results.</strong> Focus on the excellent results your product or service achieves. Use testimonials, before-and-after measurements, rankings, and other documentation. Results may be all that matter to the customer. In a resume or professional bio, your years of experience suggest value. But the results you have achieved will be more persuasive. </li> <li><strong>Time savings.</strong> If implementing your proposal or buying your product can save time and effort, show how. Perhaps your approach reduces the number of steps required or eliminates duplication.  </li> <li><strong>Convenience.</strong> If it is easier to buy and benefit from your product, be sure your readers know that. Instant downloads, fast delivery, convenient locations, free parking, 24-7 access, multiple platforms, seamless integration, simple installation--convenience has great value. </li> <li><strong>High-quality materials.</strong> Superior materials should perform well and last longer. Prove their value with a guarantee.</li> <li><strong><strong>Low risk. </strong><span style="font-weight: normal;">Explain your money-back guarantee, free trial, or introductory offer. Share any customer reviews and experts' endorsements. </span></strong></li> <li><strong>Luxury.</strong> Describe and show luxury buyers how your product or service feels, tastes, looks, etc. </li> <li><strong>Environmental impact. </strong>If your product is good for the environment, don't just say so. Show how.  </li> </ul> <p>That last value proposition--positive environmental impact--was the reason for the higher price of the Natural Value sandwich bags. This information appeared on the back of the box: </p> <p style="padding-left: 30px;">LIVE WELL. SPEND LESS.</p> <p style="padding-left: 30px;">At Natural Value, we are dedicated to making natural, organic, and planet-friendly products more affordable for everyone. We are passionate about bringing you the best products available as efficiently and economically as possible. </p> <p style="padding-left: 30px;">So, what's so natural about plastic bags? Although originally conceived primarily as a convenience for the natural foods shopper, our plastic products really do offer an environmentally friendly alternative. </p> <p style="padding-left: 30px;">All of our plastic products are PVC and plasticizer-free and are packaged in materials made from recycled paper. Additionally, NV Plastic Wrap, Sandwich Bags and Food Storage Bags are all certified Kosher. </p> <p>Those paragraphs state what is different and valuable about the product that would appeal to environmentally conscious shoppers. I might suggest edits (below) to shorten and focus the text so it gets read. I would also add "PVC and Plasticizer-Free" to all sides of the box so readers don't have to search for the reason to spend more. </p> <p style="padding-left: 30px;"><span style="text-decoration: line-through;">LIVE WELL. SPEND LESS.</span> OUR COMMITMENT TO THE PLANET </p> <p style="padding-left: 30px;">At Natural Value, we are dedicated to making natural, organic, and planet-friendly products <span style="text-decoration: line-through;">more affordable for everyone. We are passionate about bringing you the best products</span> available as efficiently and economically as possible.</p> <p style="padding-left: 30px;"><span style="text-decoration: line-through;">So, what's so natural about plastic bags? Although originally conceived primarily as a convenience for the natural foods shopper,</span> Our plastic products really do offer an environmentally friendly alternative.<span style="text-decoration: line-through;"> All of our plastic products</span> They are PVC and plasticizer-free and are packaged in materials made from recycled paper. Additionally, NV Plastic Wrap, Sandwich Bags and Food Storage Bags are all certified Kosher.</p> <p> </p> <p>When I teach <a href="" target="_self" title="Learn about the class">Better Business Writing</a>, I ask course attendees to shout out the positive words they have included in their recommendations, proposals, announcements, and requests. Sometimes individuals cannot find one positive word in their pieces. But how can they be persuasive without using words such as <em>value, benefits, increases, savings, opportunity, results, convenience--</em>and <em>planet friendly? </em></p> <p>When you write, focus on the value to your readers. Think about what is important to them. Then show how you can provide it. </p> <p>Find out how you can enhance your business writing in my live online class <a href="" target="_self" title="Read the details in this PDF">Writing Tune-Up for Peak Performance</a>. The next session takes place on November 4 and 6. You can always learn about <a href="" target="_self">upcoming public classes</a> on our website.  </p> <p>Have you had to make a brand choice recently? Which qualities--other than price--helped you decide? </p> <p><em><span style="color: #0000bf;">Lynn </span></em><br /><a href="" 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">October 21, 2015 in <a href="">Teaching Business Writing</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 (6)</a> </p> <!-- technorati tags --> <!-- post footer links --> </div> </div> </div> <h2 class="date-header">October 13, 2015</h2> <div class="entry-category-frequently_asked_questions entry-category-grammar_and_usage entry-category-teaching_business_writing entry-author-lynn_gaertnerjohnston entry-type-post entry" id="entry-6a00d8341c02a553ef01b7c7dcd050970b"> <div class="entry-inner"> <h3 class="entry-header"><a href="">Should a Company Be "It" or "We"? </a></h3> <div class="entry-content"> <input type="hidden" name="zemanta-related" val="" /> <div class="entry-body"> <p>In the past week, two clients have written to ask whether they should refer to their company or division using the singular <em>it </em>or a plural pronoun. Below are their examples, slightly disguised. The underlining indicates the pronoun they doubted.</p> <p style="padding-left: 30px;">Company X wishes to express <span style="text-decoration: underline;">our</span> sincere appreciation for Company Y’s continued support. </p> <p style="padding-left: 30px;">Human Resources is welcoming a new member to <span style="text-decoration: underline;">our</span> department.</p> <p>What do you think? Can Company X take the pronoun <em>our</em>? Or would <em>its be </em>correct? Can Human Resources call itself "our department" or is "its department" a better choice? How do you respond to questions like these? Think about your answer before scrolling down to read my response. </p> <p> </p> <p> </p> <p> </p> <p> </p> <p> </p> <p> </p> <p> </p> <p> </p> <p>The problem with both examples is not the plural pronoun. The use of plural pronouns to represent collective nouns—such as <em>company, team, division, department,</em> or <em>unit</em>—works fine to emphasize the individuals in the organization.</p> <p>What's wrong is the use of the singular verbs <em>wishes </em>and <em>is</em>. If you want to use plural pronouns such as <em>we, our,</em> and <em>ours, </em>you need to use plural verbs. </p> <p>These examples are consistent, with all the plural parts underlined:</p> <p style="padding-left: 30px;"><span style="text-decoration: underline;">We</span> at Company X <span style="text-decoration: underline;">wish</span> to express <span style="text-decoration: underline;">our</span> sincere appreciation for Company Y’s continued support.  </p> <p style="padding-left: 30px;"><span style="text-decoration: underline;">We</span> in Human Resources <span style="text-decoration: underline;">are</span> welcoming a new member to <span style="text-decoration: underline;">our</span> department.</p> <p>No doubt both clients used a singular verb because it sounds—and is—correct. "Company X wishes" and "Human Resources is welcoming" both sound natural.</p> <p>But if the sentence parts are to hang together consistently, the word choices must all be plural or all be singular. The <span style="text-decoration: underline;">We</span> solutions above use plurals: They add "we" at the beginning of the sentence and use a plural verb and pronoun.</p> <p>Yet making the forms singular leads to more concise writing: </p> <p style="padding-left: 30px;">Company X wishes to express sincere appreciation for Company Y’s continued support. </p> <p style="padding-left: 30px;">Human Resources is welcoming a new member to the department. </p> <p>What do the style manuals recommend? They generally agree that collective nouns can be singular or plural and that consistency is essential. </p> <p><em><strong>The Gregg Reference Manual</strong> offers this </em>advice:</p> <p style="padding-left: 30px;">Organizational names may be treated as either singular or plural. Ordinarily, treat the name as singular unless you wish to emphasize the individuals who make up the organization; in that case, use the plural. . . .  Use the singular or plural form consistently within the same context. </p> <p><em>Gregg </em>provides these correct examples:</p> <p style="padding-left: 30px;">Brooks & Rice has lost its lease. It is now looking for a new location. </p> <p style="padding-left: 30px;">Brooks & Rice have lost their lease. They are now looking for a new location. </p> <p> </p> <p><strong><em>The Chicago Manual of Style </em></strong>does not deal specifically with organizational names and the use of pronouns, but it offers this guidance on collective nouns: </p> <p style="padding-left: 30px;">A collective noun takes a singular pronoun if the members are treated as a unit {the audience showed its appreciation} but as a plural if they act individually {the audience rushed back to their seats}. </p> <p><em>Chicago</em>'s examples would be more helpful with present tense verbs: </p> <p style="padding-left: 30px;">The audience shows its appreciation. (singular)</p> <p style="padding-left: 30px;">The audience rush back to their seats. (plural)</p> <p> </p> <p><strong><em>Garner's Modern American Usage</em></strong> offers a lot of guidance on collective nouns, subjective-verb agreement, pronoun-antecedent agreement, and related topics, but it does not mention organizational units such as <em>company, division</em>, etc. (at least not that I can find). <em>Garner </em>does say that "Apart from the desire for consistency, there is little 'right' and 'wrong' on this subject: collective nouns sometimes take a singular verb and sometimes a plural one."  </p> <p> </p> <p><em><strong>The Associated Press Stylebook</strong> </em>touches on the topic, saying, "Nouns that denote a unit take singular verbs and pronouns." It points out that team names typically take plural verbs; for example, "The Yankees are in first place" and "The Miami Heat are battling for third place."</p> <p> </p> <p>So should a company be <em>it</em> or <em>we</em>? It's your choice. Just be consistent about using the singular pronoun <em>it </em>with singular verbs—and the plural <em>we </em>with plural verbs. </p> <p>How do you handle references to your company or team?</p> <p>Note: We have scheduled our public business writing classes through March 2016. Check our <a href="" target="_self" title="Upcoming public classes">Upcoming Classes page</a> to learn about online and in-person classes.  </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">October 13, 2015 in <a href="">Frequently Asked Questions</a>, <a href="">Grammar and Usage</a>, <a href="">Teaching Business Writing</a> </span> <span class="separator">|</span> <a class="permalink" href="">Permalink</a> <span class="separator">|</span> <a class="entry-comments" href="">Comments (4)</a> </p> <!-- technorati tags --> <!-- post footer links --> </div> </div> </div> <h2 class="date-header">September 22, 2015</h2> <div class="entry-category-frequently_asked_questions entry-category-proofreading entry-category-punctuation_pointers entry-category-tips_on_microsoft_office entry-author-lynn_gaertnerjohnston entry-type-post entry" id="entry-6a00d8341c02a553ef01bb0874a486970d"> <div class="entry-inner"> <h3 class="entry-header"><a href="">Understanding Dashes and Hyphens </a></h3> <div class="entry-content"> <input type="hidden" name="zemanta-related" val="" /> <div class="entry-body"> <p>Do you know the difference between a dash and a hyphen? Do you recognize where to use en dashes and em dashes?</p> <p>If you do, then pass this post on to someone else. Or read it to be sure of your knowledge.</p> <p>In business writing classes, people regularly call hyphens “dashes.” They will ask, “Does <em>follow up </em>need a dash?” No, <em>follow up </em>never needs a dash. It needs a hyphen—sometimes (when it’s an adjective or a noun). </p> <p>Below you will find the essentials of hyphens and dashes.</p> <p><strong>Appearance</strong></p> <p>The hyphen is the baby; the en dash, the big brother or sister; and the em dash, the parent. The en dash is the size of a letter <em>n. </em>The em dash is the size of the letter <em>m. </em>Thus, their names. </p> <p>   <a class="asset-img-link" href="" style="display: inline;"><img alt="Dash and hyphen" border="0" class="asset asset-image at-xid-6a00d8341c02a553ef01bb0874d2d2970d img-responsive" height="262" src="" title="Dash and hyphen" width="293" /></a><br /><br /></p> <p><strong>How to Type It</strong></p> <p><strong>Hyphen: </strong>Just type the hyphen key on your keyboard.</p> <p><strong>En dash:</strong> Insert the en dash as a symbol. In Microsoft Office, click <strong>Insert</strong>, then <strong>Symbol</strong>, then the en dash. Or use a shortcut: Click (and hold) <strong>CTRL</strong> and the minus sign in the numeric keypad. </p> <p style="padding-left: 30px;">Update:<br />Reader Paul Kelly noted another easy way to insert an en dash in Microsoft Office: Type a space, a hyphen, a space, and then another word. Your hyphen will change to an en dash (unless you have changed the default settings). If you do not want the spaces, you will need to delete them manually. </p> <p><strong>Em dash: </strong>Type two hyphens, and your software will likely convert them to an em dash. Otherwise, in Microsoft Office, click <strong>Insert</strong>, then <strong>Symbol, </strong>then the em dash. Or use a shortcut: Click (and hold) <strong>ALT</strong>, <strong>CTRL</strong> and the minus sign in the keypad. </p> <p><strong>Spacing with en dashes and em dashes:</strong> Do not space before or after hyphens and en dashes. Use a space before and after the em dash if you follow <em>The Associated Press Stylebook.</em> <em>Garner's Modern American Usage </em>recommends that you "consider putting a letter space before and after an em-dash." <strong><br /></strong></p> <p style="padding-left: 30px;"> </p> <p><strong>How to Use It </strong></p> <p><strong>Hyphen: Use it to connect. </strong></p> <p style="padding-left: 30px;">Use a hyphen to connect two or more words to make a compound word. Examples: </p> <p style="padding-left: 60px;">decision-making skills (In this phrase you are not referring to decision skills or making skills. The hyphen tells readers to connect the two words. It helps them instantly understand your meaning.) <br /><br />two-day programs (These are not two programs or day programs. The hyphen tells readers to connect the two words for a new idea.) <br /><br />a scaled-down proposal (This isn't actually a scaled proposal or a down proposal. The hyphen connects the two words to make the meaning "scaled-down" clear.) <br /><br />She is a know-it-all. (She isn't a <em>know</em>, an <em>it</em>, or an <em>all</em>. The words must be connected to make sense.) </p> <p style="padding-left: 30px;">Expressions such as <em>decision-making </em>and <em>scaled-down </em>do not need hyphens when they come after the word they describe. The hyphens are not necessary to make the meaning clear. "Your skills in decision making" and "The proposal has been scaled down" make perfect sense. </p> <p style="padding-left: 30px;">Expressions often evolve from hyphenated to closed (that is, one word) as readers become familiar with them. <em>Micro-wave </em>is now <em>microwave.</em> No one looks at <em>microwave </em>and thinks of a crow. <em>Email </em>has lost its hyphen in some style guides because we no longer need the hyphen to recognize the word immediately. Because of these gradual changes, it's essential to check a current style manual or dictionary to determine whether your expression needs a hyphen. (I used <em>Merriam-Webster's </em>when I reviewed this post, and I learned that the compound <em>first-rate </em>is always hyphenated.) </p> <p style="padding-left: 30px;">Also use hyphens to connect these kinds of expressions:</p> <ul> <li>Spelled out compound numbers between 21 and 99: forty-seven, sixty-one, ninety-nine.</li> <li>Combined titles: secretary-treasurer, singer-songwriter, actor-producer.</li> <li>Fractions: one-half, two-thirds, three-fourths.</li> <li>Certain prefixes (check your style guide): co-owner, self-help, mid-January, great-aunt.</li> </ul> <p style="padding-left: 30px;">Insert a hyphen to tell readers to connect the end of one line with the beginning of the next line for word division, like this:</p> <p style="padding-left: 60px;">Punctuation for Professionals covers <br />commas, semicolons, colons, apostro-<br />phes, dashes, hyphens, quotation<strong><strong><strong> <br /></strong></strong></strong>marks, italics, and periods.  </p> <p style="padding-left: 30px;">To make your text look appealing, avoid using a hyphen at the end of the first line of text and the last full line. Also, try not to end two consecutive lines with hyphens. </p> <p><strong> </strong></p> <p><strong><strong>En dash: Use it to replace the word <em>to </em>(or <em>through</em>)<em> </em>in a range. </strong></strong></p> <p style="padding-left: 30px;">   <a class="asset-img-link" href="" style="display: inline;"><img alt="En dashes" border="0" class="asset asset-image at-xid-6a00d8341c02a553ef01b8d15bfb6d970c img-responsive" height="109" src="" title="En dashes" width="81" /></a><br /> <br />When you use the en dash for the word <em>to, </em>do not use the word <em>from </em>before the expression. For example, these phrases are incorrect: "from 9 a.m.-5" and "from $600-$725." If you want to use the word <em>from, </em>use <em>to </em>rather than the en dash. </p> <p style="padding-left: 30px;">Also use the en dash for the word <em>to </em>in expressions like these:</p> <p style="padding-left: 30px;">   <a class="asset-img-link" href="" style="display: inline;"><img alt="Hyphen" border="0" class="asset asset-image at-xid-6a00d8341c02a553ef01b7c7d22ef8970b img-responsive" height="44" src="" title="Hyphen" width="126" /></a></p> <p style="padding-left: 30px;">For informal communication, you will typically use a hyphen rather than an en dash because the hyphen is faster to type. However, in brochures, conference programs, annual reports, and other important pieces, take the time to get it right—use the en dash. </p> <p style="padding-left: 30px;">Note:<em> The Associated Press Stylebook </em>does not mention the en dash. It uses hyphens for the situations above. </p> <p style="padding-left: 30px;"> </p> <p><strong><strong>Em dash: Use it for a strong break. </strong></strong></p> <p style="padding-left: 30px;">Use the em dash to create an emphatic break between the parts of your sentence. Examples:</p> <p style="padding-left: 60px;">David—not Dawn—wrote the press release. <br />The food is spicy—extremely spicy. <br />His daughter—she is all he lives for. <br />The pricing—especially the volume discounts—sold me on the proposal. </p> <p style="padding-left: 30px;">Use em dashes to set off a series in the middle of a sentence. </p> <p style="padding-left: 60px;">Van's order—the glasses, cups, and silverware—will be delivered today. <br />All our products—books, journals, and calendars—are on sale this week.</p> <p style="padding-left: 30px;">Also use em dashes—sparingly—to break a compound sentence in an energetic way. This use replaces a comma and a conjunction, a period, or a semicolon. Examples: </p> <p style="padding-left: 60px;">I'm excited about my new job—it's everything I wanted! <br />Atul is the strongest person on the team—and you know it. <br />Prepare now—winter storms will soon hit our region. </p> <p style="padding-left: 30px;"> </p> <p>Master the rules of punctuation. Take <a href="" target="_self" title="Read the class flyer, take a test, and register.">Punctuation for Professionals</a> on December 8 and 15. Find out about upcoming classes on our mobile-compatible <a href="" target="_self" title="Visit the website for more information. ">website</a>. </p> <p>I used these sources for the information above: <em>The Chicago Manual of Style, The Associated Press Stylebook, The Gregg Reference Manual, </em>and <em>Garner's Modern American Usage</em>. (Mr. Garner hyphenates <em>em dash </em>and <em>en dash, </em>but the other guides do not.) </p> <p>Do you have rules or examples to add? Please do! </p> <p><em><span style="color: #0000bf;">Lynn</span></em><br /><a href="" target="_self" title="Visit the website">Syntax Training </a></p> </div> <!-- SIGNATURE --> </div> <div class="entry-footer"> <p class="entry-footer-info"> <span class="post-footers">September 22, 2015 in <a href="">Frequently Asked Questions</a>, <a href="">Proofreading</a>, <a href="">Punctuation Pointers</a>, <a href="">Tips on Microsoft Office</a> </span> <span class="separator">|</span> <a class="permalink" href="">Permalink</a> <span class="separator">|</span> <a class="entry-comments" href="">Comments (9)</a> </p> <!-- technorati tags --> <!-- post footer links --> </div> </div> </div> <h2 class="date-header">September 08, 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-6a00d8341c02a553ef01bb086eb421970d"> <div class="entry-inner"> <h3 class="entry-header"><a href="">Are You Overcommunicating? </a></h3> <div class="entry-content"> <input type="hidden" name="zemanta-related" val="" /> <div class="entry-body"> <p>With all the business messages we send and receive, communicating from our screens can eat up several hours in the workday. But sometimes we make it more difficult than it needs to be by overcommunicating or by requiring others to overcommunicate. Consider the questions below.</p> <p style="padding-left: 30px;"><span style="color: #0000bf;"><strong><strong>(This article originally appeared in our monthly e-newsletter, <em>Better Writing at Work. </em><a href="" target="_self" title="Subscribe here"><span style="color: #0000bf;">Subscribe</span></a>.)</strong></strong></span></p> <p><strong>1. When you are copied on an email that is sent directly to other people, do you reply to it?</strong> <br />You can save valuable time by realizing that people on the<strong> Copy to</strong> or <strong>Cc</strong> line are not expected to reply, and often their replies are not welcome. Many people in writing classes have complained about having to waste time replying to people who should not have replied in the first place.</p> <p>If your comment is essential and you feel you must reply, then do. But make that behavior an exception.</p> <p style="padding-left: 30px;"><strong>Key point: </strong>A Cc message is for your information--not for your reply.</p> <p> </p> <p><strong>2. When you delegate a project or an assignment, do you require the person who has taken on the work to copy you on his or her emails?</strong></p> <p style="padding-left: 30px;"><img alt="Inbox" border="0" class="asset asset-image at-xid-6a00d8341c02a553ef01b7c7ca6752970b img-responsive" src="" title="Inbox" /></p> <p>You can save yourself plenty of unnecessary reading if you ask for regular updates rather than copies of every communication. The size of the project and its urgency can help you decide whether you need daily, weekly, or monthly updates.</p> <p>Besides wasting <em>your</em> time, copying you on everything can make other people feel you are constantly checking their work. Also, your name on the <strong>Cc</strong> line can undermine their control of the project: Seeing your name, people receiving the messages may view you as the person managing the project and may communicate directly with you.</p> <p style="padding-left: 30px;"><strong>Key point:</strong> Insisting on copies of every communication wastes time and suggests a lack of trust.</p> <p> </p> <p><strong>3. Do you send out reminders before something is due?<br /></strong>Stop making work for yourself and others. Writing reminders and replying to them take time. When you ask for information or work to be completed, agree on a deadline. Then do not send out a reminder unless the due date or hour has passed. (Build some wiggle room into your original deadline so that you do not need to worry about late work.)</p> <p>Caution: Reminders may cause people to rely on your reminders rather than their own task lists.</p> <p style="padding-left: 30px;"><strong>Key point:</strong> Reading your reminder takes time away from finishing the project.<br /><br /></p> <p><strong>4. Do you email or upload information between meetings when you are going to share the same information at the next meeting?<br /></strong>If you meet regularly with an individual or a group, cut down on messages between meetings. The exceptions occur when you need people to review information before the next meeting or the information is urgent.</p> <p>If you agree at the weekly project meeting to complete a task before the next meeting, do not email the team to let everyone know you have done it--unless people are waiting for that information. Your unnecessary message could trigger a long, needless email thread.</p> <p style="padding-left: 30px;"><strong>Key point:</strong> Communicate routine information once, not twice.</p> <p> </p> <p><strong>5. Do you start discussions in email between meetings?</strong> <br />You can save time and hundreds of email replies if you wait until the next meeting or you comment in a virtual discussion space that eliminates the need for back-and-forth emails.</p> <p>Discussions in email diminish efficiency when people do not read the entire bottom-up thread and therefore make irrelevant comments. Also, people waste time emailing "I agree" to 20 others, who then have to figure out what the person agrees with.</p> <p>At a team meeting, decide how and when you will handle discussions between meetings. Don't have this discussion in email!</p> <p style="padding-left: 30px;"><strong>Key point:</strong> Email is rarely an efficient place for discussions.</p> <p> </p> <p><strong>6. When an individual sends you a brief message thanking you for information or acknowledging it, do you reply with "You're welcome" or "Thank <em>you</em>"?</strong> <br />You may be overcommunicating. One thanks is typically enough although situations differ. If you would not pick up the phone to communicate the same message, your email reply may be a waste of your time and the other person's.</p> <p style="padding-left: 30px;"><strong>Key point:</strong> Sometimes it is best to let someone else have the last polite word.</p> <p> </p> <p><strong>7. When you receive a request for information, do you tell everything you know in your reply?</strong> <br />If you don't censor the amount you share, you are overcommunicating. For example, I ask people who plan to attend a business writing class to share briefly what they would like to do more effectively in their writing. Some people email two or three sentences in reply. Others attach an entire page (and frequently submit it late). If we were starting a coaching relationship, a page might be appropriate, but for a half-day class, I do not need that much information.</p> <p>If you are straining to figure out how not to share an entire page or several screens, consider first emailing a brief summary and asking your readers whether they need more information.</p> <p style="padding-left: 30px;"><strong>Key point:</strong> More is more. It is not necessarily more helpful.</p> <p> </p> <p><strong>8. When communicating with others, do you consider how much information your readers need <em>now</em>?<br /></strong>If you do not package your information in need-to-know-now emails, you are overcommunicating. For example, when you announce the fall schedule of training programs, your readers probably do not need to know about the winter and spring calendars. They definitely do not need to know about how to register for next year's programs.  </p> <p style="padding-left: 30px;"><strong>Key point:</strong> If it is not important now, your readers do not need or want it now.</p> <p><br />Do you endure other people's overcommunication at work? Please share your examples. You may change someone's behavior!  </p> <p><span style="color: #0000bf;"><em>Lynn</em></span><br /><a href="" target="_self" title="Visit our mobile-compatible company website">Syntax Training</a></p> </div> <!-- SIGNATURE --> </div> <div class="entry-footer"> <p class="entry-footer-info"> <span class="post-footers">September 08, 2015 in <a href="">Email</a>, <a href="">Teaching Business Writing</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 (6)</a> </p> <!-- technorati tags --> <!-- post footer links --> </div> </div> </div> <h2 class="date-header">August 25, 2015</h2> <div class="entry-category-courteous_writing entry-category-email entry-category-etiquette entry-author-lynn_gaertnerjohnston entry-type-post entry" id="entry-6a00d8341c02a553ef01b8d14e3a7a970c"> <div class="entry-inner"> <h3 class="entry-header"><a href="">Caution: Read the Thread Before You Send</a></h3> <div class="entry-content"> <input type="hidden" name="zemanta-related" val="" /> <div class="entry-body"> <p>Forwarded emails can threaten professional relationships and reputations. And they often communicate the dangerous content where we don't readily see it--lower down the thread, in a previous screen. The three examples below will remind you to scroll and check content before clicking <strong>Send. </strong></p> <p>1.  I was searching for someone to help promote a book for a client, and a marketing specialist responded to my group email. His message presented him well, but I laughed when I happened to scroll down and noticed that his mother had forwarded my message to him. She had instructed him in what to include to sell himself and how much to charge. He had followed his mother's guidance.</p> <p>At first I thought "Thanks, Mom. You made your son look silly." But his mother wasn't to blame. <em>He</em> had not edited his mother's message when he emailed me. </p> <p>2. I wrote to a friend asking her for brief information about a mutual acquaintance. Rather than replying to my question, she forwarded my email to our acquaintance.</p> <p>Normally, that forwarding could be efficient rather than unfortunate. But I had referred to the acquaintance as "the other Lynn" (rather than using her full name), and it was clear from my message that I didn't remember things about her that I probably should have.</p> <p>The purpose of my original message was to be reminded of things so that I could approach our acquaintance in a more friendly way. Instead, I felt embarrassed that my friend had inadvertently revealed my ignorance. I wish she had considered the thread before clicking <strong>Send</strong>. </p> <p>3. An attendee at one of my business writing classes told the story of a hurtful forwarding. As an accounting clerk, she often had to persist in asking for receipts to document expenses. In that context, she found herself referred to as the "accounting nazi" in an email thread. When she read that label, she was angry with the person who wrote it <em>and</em> the person who forwarded it. </p> <p>Remember: Potential danger lurks beneath the first screen in threads and forwarded messages. Scroll down and remove any unprofessional, hurtful, or negative content before you click <strong>Send</strong>. </p> <p>Have you experienced thoughtless forwards or threads? Please share your examples. </p> <p>You might enjoy the chapter "Protect Your Relationships by Avoiding Bad Email Behaviors" in my book, <em><a href="" target="_self" title="Get an autographed copy from Syntax Training">Business Writing With Heart: How to Build Great Work Relationships One Message at a Time</a>. </em></p> <p><em><span style="color: #0000bf;">Lynn</span></em><br /><a href="" target="_self" title="Visit Lynn's mobile-compatible website">Syntax Training</a></p> </div> <!-- SIGNATURE --> </div> <div class="entry-footer"> <p class="entry-footer-info"> <span class="post-footers">August 25, 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 (5)</a> </p> <!-- technorati tags --> <!-- post footer links --> </div> </div> </div> <h2 class="date-header">August 19, 2015</h2> <div class="entry-category-frequently_asked_questions entry-category-teaching_business_writing entry-author-lynn_gaertnerjohnston entry-type-post entry" id="entry-6a00d8341c02a553ef01b7c7c16f99970b"> <div class="entry-inner"> <h3 class="entry-header"><a href="">Ignore These 10 Always-Never Rules </a></h3> <div class="entry-content"> <input type="hidden" name="zemanta-related" val="" /> <div class="entry-body"> <p>In a recent <a href="" target="_self" title="Find out about the class and test your punctuation knowledge">Punctuation for Professionals</a> online class, an attendee said she had learned this rule: to always use a comma before <em>because. </em></p> <p>That "rule" makes no sense. We need a comma before <em>because </em>only rarely. Most commas before <em>because</em> appear for another reason having nothing to do with the word <em>because.</em></p> <p>Examples:</p> <ul> <li>We chose Monday, July 6, because it’s the best date for everyone. (The comma before <em>because </em>is necessary because of the date following the day of the week.)</li> <li>The event will take place in Chicago, Illinois, because of its central location. (Commas should surround a state, province, or country when one of its cities precedes it.)</li> <li>Martha said she liked peach pie, because she wanted to please her mother-in-law. (The comma prevents running together "She liked peach pie because she wanted to please her mother-in-law.")</li> <li>I told my supervisor I was late, because I assumed he would hear about it anyway. (The comma prevents the confusing “I was late because I assumed he would hear about it anyway.")</li> </ul> <p>Sometimes we remember rules incorrectly, adding <em>always</em> or <em>never</em> to them. But sometimes rules just make no sense.</p> <p><strong>Ignore these <em>always </em></strong><strong>and <em>n</em></strong><strong><em>ever</em></strong><strong><em> </em>"rules":</strong></p> <p>1. "Never use a comma before <em>and." </em>This rule wins for craziness. Many sentence constructions require a comma before <em>and. </em>Read my blog post <a href="" target="_self" title="Read about commas with "and"">"Commas With <em>And</em>"</a> to recognize them. </p> <p>2. "Always use a comma before quotation marks." Sometimes, yes. But not always. A comma would be wrong in these sentences, for instance:</p> <ul> <li>I read Maya Angelou's poem "Still I Rise" yesterday. </li> <li>The phrase "bleeding edge" confuses many people and bothers others. </li> </ul> <p>3. "Always spell out numbers that are less than 10." Nope--it's not that simple. Consider these correct sentences: </p> <ul> <li>This blouse is a size 8. </li> <li>Page 5 has a typo. </li> <li>The price rose 6 percent. </li> <li>See you at 2 p.m. </li> </ul> <p>4. "Never start a sentence with <em>because." </em>Not a rule! You can start a sentence with any word you choose (including <em>and </em>and <em>but</em>). </p> <p>5. "Never end a sentence with a preposition." Go right ahead. These sentences work just fine:</p> <ul> <li>Type the name you want to search for. </li> <li>Where is Saman from? </li> </ul> <p>6. "Never split an infinitive." For the right emphasis in your sentence, do it. These split infinitives work:</p> <ul> <li>I have been taught to always capitalize proper nouns. </li> <li>Her goal is to eventually start her own business. </li> </ul> <p>7. "Always include the other person's name before using <em>me." </em>Always? No. When you are the preferred choice, use <em>me </em>first. </p> <ul> <li>Please call me or John Cavanaugh, my associate. </li> </ul> <p>8. "Never start a sentence with <em>I </em>in business writing." Don't believe it! Here's what one individual who asked me about this "rule" wrote: "It has always been taught to me that a sentence should not begin with <em>I." </em>Following that nutty rule had contorted his sentence, which could have been simply "I learned that a sentence should not begin with <em>I</em>." Remember: A sentence can start with any word you want.</p> <p>9. "Never use a contraction in business writing." Would not you hate to have to follow that rule?</p> <p>10. "When using bullet points, always have at least two." No, not necessarily so. Although one item doesn't make a list, you can make one point and bullet it. Notice how Number 7 above has just one bulleted example. </p> <p>Can you add to my list of always-never rules? Please do. </p> <p><em>Lynn</em><br /><a href="" target="_self" title="The site is now mobile compatible.">Syntax Training</a></p> </div> <!-- SIGNATURE --> </div> <div class="entry-footer"> <p class="entry-footer-info"> <span class="post-footers">August 19, 2015 in <a href="">Frequently Asked Questions</a>, <a href="">Teaching Business Writing</a> </span> <span class="separator">|</span> <a class="permalink" href="">Permalink</a> <span class="separator">|</span> <a class="entry-comments" href="">Comments (20)</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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