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Business Writing: <body class="layout-three-column"> <div id="container"> <div id="container-inner" class="pkg"> <!-- banner - rev2 --> <div id="banner"> <div id="banner-inner" class="pkg"> <h1 id="banner-header"><a href="http://www.syntaxtraining.com" accesskey="1">Business Writing</a></h1> <h2 id="banner-description"></h2> </div> </div> <div id="pagebody"> <div id="pagebody-inner" class="pkg"> <div id="alpha"> <div id="alpha-inner" class="pkg"> <!-- sidebar1 --> <!-- user photo --> <table border="0" align="center" cellpadding="0" cellspacing="0" id="about"> <tr> <td valign="top" class="photo"><a href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/about.html"><img src="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/.a/6a00d8341c02a553ef01a3fa91debe970b-pi" alt="Lynn Gaertner-Johnston" border="0" title="Lynn Gaertner-Johnston"/></a></td> <td width="80" valign="top"><ul class="aboutus"> <li><a href="http://syntaxtraining.com/">Visit Lynn's Website</a></li> <li><a href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/about.html">About Lynn</a></li> <li><a href="http://syntaxtraining.com/contact_us.html">Contact Lynn</a></li> </ul> <strong>Subscribe</strong> <ul class="subscriber"> <li class="email"><a href="http://www.feedburner.com/fb/a/emailverifySubmit?feedId=2863746&loc=en_US" title="Receive a link to the latest post in your inbox.">Email</a></li> <li class="rss"><a href="http://feeds.feedburner.com/businesswritingblog/BwB09" title="Receive the latest post to your favorite newsreader or Outlook.">RSS</a></li> </ul> </td> </tr> </table> <!-- about page link --> <div id="syntax_training" class="module-typelist module"> <h2 class="module-header">Syntax Training</h2> <div class="module-content"> <ul class="module-list"> <li class="module-list-item"><a title="Read about upcoming public classes, both online and in person. 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"href="http://www.typingtest.com">TypingTest.com </a></li> <li class="module-list-item"><a title="Words with different meanings in British, Canadian, and American English"href="http://www3.telus.net/linguisticsissues/britishcanadianamericanvocab.html">Vocabulary: British, Canadian, American</a></li> <li class="module-list-item"><a title="A list that allows you to search by misspellings--not correct spellings"href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:List_of_common_misspellings">Wikipedia: List of Common Misspellings </a></li> <li class="module-list-item"><a title="New words defined, a great resource"href="http://www.wordspy.com">Word Spy</a></li> <li class="module-list-item"><a title="A search engine to hundreds of online dictionaries, and much more"href="http://www.yourdictionary.com">YourDictionary.com</a></li> </ul> </div> </div> </div> </div> <div id="beta"> <div id="beta-inner" class="pkg"> <div id="sharethis" style="text-align:right;"> <span class='st_twitter' displayText='Tweet'></span> <span class='st_facebook' displayText='Facebook'></span> <span class='st_linkedin' displayText='LinkedIn'></span> <span class='st_pinterest' displayText='Pinterest'></span> <span class='st_sharethis' displayText='ShareThis'></span> <span class='st_email' displayText='Email'></span> </div> <script type="text/javascript"> window.ZemantaBlogSettings = ""; </script> <script type="text/javascript" src="http://content.zemanta.com/static/typepad/js/recommend.js"></script> <!-- entries --> <h2 class="date-header">October 31, 2014</h2> <div class="entry-category-punctuation_pointers entry-author-lynn_gaertnerjohnston entry-type-post entry" id="entry-6a00d8341c02a553ef01b7c6fe16fd970b"> <div class="entry-inner"> <h3 class="entry-header"><a href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/2014/10/trick-or-treat-punctuation-.html">Trick or Treat Punctuation! </a></h3> <div class="entry-content"> <input type="hidden" name="zemanta-related" val="" /> <div class="entry-body"> <p>Nothing scary for you today--just a quick punctuation challenge.</p> <p>Which punctuation marks would you add to these two questions?</p> <p style="padding-left: 30px;">Who shouted, “Trick or treat”</p> <p style="padding-left: 30px;">Did the ghoul ask, “Where is the monster ball” <br /><br /></p> <p>Think it over before comparing your punctuation to mine below. No peeking! </p> <p><a class="asset-img-link" href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/.a/6a00d8341c02a553ef01b7c6fe13d2970b-pi" style="display: inline;"><img alt="Friendly Halloween photo" border="0" class="asset asset-image at-xid-6a00d8341c02a553ef01b7c6fe13d2970b image-full img-responsive" src="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/.a/6a00d8341c02a553ef01b7c6fe13d2970b-800wi" title="Friendly Halloween photo" /></a></p> <p> </p> <p>1. Who shouted, “Trick or treat”</p> <p style="padding-left: 30px;"><em>The Chicago Manual of Style </em>would punctuate this way:</p> <p style="padding-left: 60px;">Who shouted, "Trick or treat!"? </p> <p style="padding-left: 30px;"><em>The Gregg Reference Manual </em>would choose this:</p> <p style="padding-left: 60px;">Who shouted, "Trick or treat"? </p> <p>I like <em>Chicago'</em>s approach, which incorporates both the exclamation and the question. Which do you prefer? </p> <p> </p> <p>2. Both style manuals recommend:</p> <p style="padding-left: 30px;">Did the ghoul ask, "Where is the monster ball?" </p> <p>A double question mark (?"?) would probably be overkill, but I like the idea of it.  </p> <p>Happy Halloween!!!!!!!</p> <p><em><span style="color: #0000bf;">Lynn</span></em><br /><a href="http://syntaxtraining.com" target="_self" title="Visit Lynn's company website">Syntax Training</a></p> </div> <!-- SIGNATURE --> </div> <div class="entry-footer"> <p class="entry-footer-info"> <span class="post-footers">October 31, 2014 in <a href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/punctuation_pointers/">Punctuation Pointers</a> </span> <span class="separator">|</span> <a class="permalink" href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/2014/10/trick-or-treat-punctuation-.html">Permalink</a> <span class="separator">|</span> <a class="entry-comments" href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/2014/10/trick-or-treat-punctuation-.html#comments">Comments (2)</a> <span class="separator">|</span> <a class="entry-trackbacks" href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/2014/10/trick-or-treat-punctuation-.html#trackback">TrackBack (0)</a> </p> <!-- technorati tags --> <!-- post footer links --> </div> </div> </div> <h2 class="date-header">October 23, 2014</h2> <div class="entry-category-teaching_business_writing entry-category-writing_tips entry-author-lynn_gaertnerjohnston entry-type-post entry" id="entry-6a00d8341c02a553ef01b8d082bdfe970c"> <div class="entry-inner"> <h3 class="entry-header"><a href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/2014/10/would-you-fix-this-systems-failure-.html">Would You Fix This Systems Failure? </a></h3> <div class="entry-content"> <input type="hidden" name="zemanta-related" val="" /> <div class="entry-body"> <p>I was waiting at Baggage Carousel 1 at Raleigh-Durham International Airport, when a man in a vest told the crowd of us to move to Carousel 2. We eyed him suspiciously. After all, the electronic sign said the luggage from Chicago would arrive at Carousel 1. Who was more believable, the official or the official-looking sign? </p> <p>He repeatedly barked that we should move to Carousel 2. But Carousel 2 was dead, luggage was pouring into Carousel 1, and the electronic sign continued to tell us Carousel 1 was a winner for us. </p> <p>In frustration, the man yelled, "If you came from Chicago, move to Carousel 2!" and most of our herd reluctantly moved toward the empty carousel. </p> <p>I gently said to our vested friend, "It would probably be helpful if the sign said the same thing you are saying." </p> <p>"This happens all the time!" he responded. "I can't fix the sign! That's the airport." </p> <p>What we have here is a system failure. </p> <p>If it "happens all the time," why hasn't someone fixed the system? Why do weary travelers regularly have to be prodded to move, when a sign tells them to stay put? </p> <p>How do your systems frustrate your customers, readers, and yourself? </p> <ul> <li>If customers repeatedly complain that they were unaware of a charge, find out where your communication breaks down. </li> <li>If email readers do not respond to your questions, examine how you are asking. How can you write differently? </li> <li>If you continually rewrite an employee's work, stop! (Unless you want to do the employee's job <strong>and</strong> your own.) Analyze the problem (a lack of training, awareness, or discipline?), and help the employee solve it. </li> </ul> <p>When you have systems that regularly fail someone, compare the resources (time, energy, etc.) it would take to fix the problem with the resources, good will, and confidence drained day after day by the failure.</p> <p>The airline official was correct, of course: Our long-awaited bags spilled from Carousel 2 like kids bursting out the school door.</p> <p>Do you have systems problems that better writing would fix? </p> <p>If writing is part of the problem, take our online class <a href="http://syntaxtraining.com/PDF/Writing_Tune-Up_Dec_4_and_5_2014.pdf" target="_self" title="Learn about the class">Writing Tune-Up for Peak Performance</a> on December 4 and 5. I would love to work with you. </p> <p><em><span style="color: #0000bf;">Lynn</span></em><br /><a href="http://syntaxtraining.com" target="_self" title="Visit Lynn's company website">Syntax Training</a></p> </div> <!-- SIGNATURE --> </div> <div class="entry-footer"> <p class="entry-footer-info"> <span class="post-footers">October 23, 2014 in <a href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/teaching_business_writing/">Teaching Business Writing</a>, <a href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/writing_tips/">Writing Tips</a> </span> <span class="separator">|</span> <a class="permalink" href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/2014/10/would-you-fix-this-systems-failure-.html">Permalink</a> <span class="separator">|</span> <a class="entry-comments" href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/2014/10/would-you-fix-this-systems-failure-.html#comments">Comments (5)</a> <span class="separator">|</span> <a class="entry-trackbacks" href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/2014/10/would-you-fix-this-systems-failure-.html#trackback">TrackBack (0)</a> </p> <!-- technorati tags --> <!-- post footer links --> </div> </div> </div> <h2 class="date-header">October 15, 2014</h2> <div class="entry-category-courteous_writing entry-category-email entry-category-etiquette entry-author-lynn_gaertnerjohnston entry-type-post entry" id="entry-6a00d8341c02a553ef01b7c6f4501a970b"> <div class="entry-inner"> <h3 class="entry-header"><a href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/2014/10/what-is-a-salutation-its-not-a-close-.html">What Is a Salutation? It's Not a Close! </a></h3> <div class="entry-content"> <input type="hidden" name="zemanta-related" val="" /> <div class="entry-body"> <p>People often write to me asking for help with salutations. But when I read their questions, I find that they deal with "Best regards" or "Sincerely yours." Those are complimentary closes.</p> <p>Let's look at the differences. </p> <p><strong>A salutation</strong> <strong>is a greeting</strong> we use at the beginning of an email, a letter, or a note. Even a text or an online comment can begin with a salutation.</p> <p>In a letter, salutations nearly always begin with "Dear":</p> <p style="padding-left: 30px;">Dear Rosalie, <br />(We use a comma after the greeting in a <em>personal</em> letter in the U.S. and Canada. In other countries the punctuation is often omitted.)</p> <p style="padding-left: 30px;">Dear Dr. Gomez: <br />(We use a colon after the greeting in a <em>business</em> letter in the U.S. and Canada. Other countries often leave it out.)</p> <p>Salutations in emails can begin with "Dear" if the message is formal. Otherwise, they are more likely to be one of these:</p> <p style="padding-left: 30px;">Hi Jeff,</p> <p style="padding-left: 30px;">Hello Professor,</p> <p style="padding-left: 30px;">Hello to all,</p> <p style="padding-left: 30px;">Greetings, everybody!</p> <p>A comma normally sets off an individual's name in direct address (for example, "Thank you, Margo"), but most people leave it out these days in greetings. (I am trying hard to let go of that comma, but I still write things like "Hello, John.")</p> <p><strong>A complimentary close or closing</strong> is a polite ending to a message. In letters, these are common closes:</p> <p style="padding-left: 30px;">Best regards, (We use the comma in the U.S. and Canada; other countries may leave it out.)</p> <p style="padding-left: 30px;">Regards,</p> <p style="padding-left: 30px;">Sincerely,</p> <p style="padding-left: 30px;">Best wishes,</p> <p>A complimentary close is not a must in email, but it warms up the end of the message. People usually end an email with a complimentary close if they open it with a greeting. Examples:</p> <p style="padding-left: 30px;">Regards, </p> <p style="padding-left: 30px;">All the best,</p> <p style="padding-left: 30px;">Cheers,</p> <p style="padding-left: 30px;">Thanks, </p> <p>As a traditionalist, I like to use "Thanks" sincerely in a sentence ending with a period. Example: "Thanks again for helping me finish this project." But "Thanks" alone has become a popular close. </p> <p>Maybe the expression "greetings and salutations" has led people to believe that the greeting starts a message and the salutation ends it. But that just isn't so. </p> <p>Do you have questions about salutations or closes? Just type your search phrase in the box at top right. I have covered salutations for married couples, doctors, etc., along with complimentary closes for all kinds of situations. </p> <p><em><span style="color: #0000bf;">Lynn</span></em><br /><a href="http://syntaxtraining.com" target="_self" title="Visit Lynn's company website">Syntax Training</a></p> <p>P.S. For ways to build relationships in business messages, get my book <em><a href="http://syntaxtraining.com/heart.html" target="_self" title="Learn more about Lynn's book">Business Writing With Heart: How to Build Great Work Relationships One Message at a Time</a>. </em>It covers salutations, closes, and a whole lot more.</p> </div> <!-- SIGNATURE --> </div> <div class="entry-footer"> <p class="entry-footer-info"> <span class="post-footers">October 15, 2014 in <a href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/courteous_writing/">Courteous Writing</a>, <a href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/email/">Email</a>, <a href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/etiquette/">Etiquette</a> </span> <span class="separator">|</span> <a class="permalink" href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/2014/10/what-is-a-salutation-its-not-a-close-.html">Permalink</a> <span class="separator">|</span> <a class="entry-comments" href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/2014/10/what-is-a-salutation-its-not-a-close-.html#comments">Comments (5)</a> <span class="separator">|</span> <a class="entry-trackbacks" href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/2014/10/what-is-a-salutation-its-not-a-close-.html#trackback">TrackBack (0)</a> </p> <!-- technorati tags --> <!-- post footer links --> </div> </div> </div> <h2 class="date-header">October 10, 2014</h2> <div class="entry-category-email entry-category-punctuation_pointers entry-author-lynn_gaertnerjohnston entry-type-post entry" id="entry-6a00d8341c02a553ef01b8d07b242d970c"> <div class="entry-inner"> <h3 class="entry-header"><a href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/2014/10/stop-these-creeping-commas-.html">Stop These Creeping Commas! </a></h3> <div class="entry-content"> <input type="hidden" name="zemanta-related" val="" /> <div class="entry-body"> <p>In the last 10 days, I have repeatedly seen examples of a crazy comma use. Each one appeared at the end of an email. All these examples are real and wrong:</p> <p style="padding-left: 30px;">Thank you for your request,</p> <p style="padding-left: 30px;">I'll see you then,</p> <p style="padding-left: 30px;">Thank you for your time and patience in this matter,</p> <p style="padding-left: 30px;">Let me know if you have any questions, </p> <p style="padding-left: 30px;">Please write if you have any questions, </p> <p style="padding-left: 30px;">Thank you again, </p> <p>These are sentences! Sentences end with a period (full stop)--not a comma.</p> <p>I attribute this creeping comma on the widespread use of "Thanks" as a complimentary close in emails. People have been following "Thanks" with a comma. I don't recommend a comma after "Thanks" (I use a period), but its use is too popular to argue with. (In truth, I always offer specific thanks, as in "Thank you for your help" or "Thank you again for your order.")</p> <p>Despite the use of "Thanks" followed by a comma as a complimentary close, can we please stop using commas after closing sentences? </p> <p>Are you with me on this one? </p> <p><em><span style="color: #0000bf;">Lynn</span></em><br /><a href="Visit%20Lynn's website" target="_self" title="http://syntaxtraining.com">Syntax Training </a></p> <p>P.S. <a href="http://syntaxtraining.com/PDF/BBW_Seattle_Oct_20_2014.pdf" target="_self" title="Learn about the class on this PDF">Better Business Writing</a> and <a href="http://syntaxtraining.com/PDF/Writing_Tune-Up_Dec_4_and_5_2014.pdf" target="_self" title="Learn about the class">Writing Tune-Up for Peak Performance</a> are excellent public writing classes for learning what you are doing well--and wrong--in your business writing. </p> </div> <!-- SIGNATURE --> </div> <div class="entry-footer"> <p class="entry-footer-info"> <span class="post-footers">October 10, 2014 in <a href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/email/">Email</a>, <a href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/punctuation_pointers/">Punctuation Pointers</a> </span> <span class="separator">|</span> <a class="permalink" href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/2014/10/stop-these-creeping-commas-.html">Permalink</a> <span class="separator">|</span> <a class="entry-comments" href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/2014/10/stop-these-creeping-commas-.html#comments">Comments (9)</a> <span class="separator">|</span> <a class="entry-trackbacks" href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/2014/10/stop-these-creeping-commas-.html#trackback">TrackBack (0)</a> </p> <!-- technorati tags --> <!-- post footer links --> </div> </div> </div> <h2 class="date-header">October 06, 2014</h2> <div class="entry-category-courteous_writing entry-category-email entry-category-etiquette entry-author-lynn_gaertnerjohnston entry-type-post entry" id="entry-6a00d8341c02a553ef01bb0793a2db970d"> <div class="entry-inner"> <h3 class="entry-header"><a href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/2014/10/write-to-the-dead-dont.html">Write to the Dead--Don't!</a></h3> <div class="entry-content"> <input type="hidden" name="zemanta-related" val="" /> <div class="entry-body"> <p>In response to last week's post, <a href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/2014/10/when-messaging-is-mindless-.html" target="_self" title="Read the post">"When Messaging Is Mindless,"</a> Arjay shared this comment:</p> <p style="padding-left: 30px;">After the death of a family member, we had to work out some insurance issues related to the end-of-life care. We received multiple letters from the insurance company, addressed directly to the deceased person, with the complimentary close of "We wish you good health!" I know it's just a form letter, but it was somewhat jarring to say the least. </p> <p>Can you imagine how Arjay and Arjay's family felt when they read the closing "We wish you good health," written to their dead relative?</p> <p>Like Arjay, I have received letters to a deceased family member, even though I have informed the organization in writing of his passing. I still receive them. I feel a pang when I receive letters to my father, who died 21 months ago. </p> <p>I also received a rather stern reminder from our city agency that we had not renewed our dog's license. Meanwhile, the poor dog had died months earlier at 14 years of age. We had told the city agency--again, in writing--that Chica had died. </p> <p>Why do organizations not pay special attention when death touches a customer's family? Simple mistakes like addressing the wrong person or sending the wrong message cause pain when they involve death and loss. </p> <p>We send our free monthly e-newsletter, <em><a href="http://syntaxtraining.com/signup.html" target="_self" title="Subscribe">Better Writing at Work</a>, </em>to more than 19,000 readers--automatically, of course. When we learn that a reader has died, we immediately delete their subscription from our records, and we send a sympathy message if we have contact information. </p> <p>Are you in a business that communicates with customers through form letters or automatic messages? If so, how do you avoid writing to someone who has died? And--as in the situation with my deceased dog--how do you avoid irritating people who have experienced the death of a loved one? </p> <p>Please share your examples or thoughts. </p> <p><em><span style="color: #0000bf;">Lynn</span></em><br /><a href="http://syntaxtraining.com" target="_self" title="Visit Lynn's company website ">Syntax Training</a></p> </div> <!-- SIGNATURE --> </div> <div class="entry-footer"> <p class="entry-footer-info"> <span class="post-footers">October 06, 2014 in <a href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/courteous_writing/">Courteous Writing</a>, <a href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/email/">Email</a>, <a href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/etiquette/">Etiquette</a> </span> <span class="separator">|</span> <a class="permalink" href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/2014/10/write-to-the-dead-dont.html">Permalink</a> <span class="separator">|</span> <a class="entry-comments" href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/2014/10/write-to-the-dead-dont.html#comments">Comments (5)</a> <span class="separator">|</span> <a class="entry-trackbacks" href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/2014/10/write-to-the-dead-dont.html#trackback">TrackBack (0)</a> </p> <!-- technorati tags --> <!-- post footer links --> </div> </div> </div> <h2 class="date-header">October 03, 2014</h2> <div class="entry-category-courteous_writing entry-category-email entry-category-etiquette entry-author-lynn_gaertnerjohnston entry-type-post entry" id="entry-6a00d8341c02a553ef01bb0791ce41970d"> <div class="entry-inner"> <h3 class="entry-header"><a href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/2014/10/when-messaging-is-mindless-.html">When Messaging Is Mindless </a></h3> <div class="entry-content"> <input type="hidden" name="zemanta-related" val="" /> <div class="entry-body"> <p>The customer service representatives at XYZ Company include the sentence "Thank you for giving us the opportunity to serve you" at the end of every email--at least on every email they send externally. </p> <p>When Ashlee, one of XYZ's customer service reps, writes to me for feedback on her business writing, her message always ends "Thank you for giving us the opportunity to serve you." (Note: All names used here are fictitious.) When I asked Ashlee about the closing sentence, she said, "Our senior executive requires us to include it on every email." </p> <p>No doubt the executive wants the reps to communicate a consistent customer service message. But when does repetition become mindless rather than meaningful? After all, when Ashlee writes to me for feedback, I am providing a service to her--not the other way around. </p> <p>What if the senior executive directed the service reps to include that closing sentence only on messages to customers? Would that change make the sentence more sincere? </p> <p>I don't think that step is enough. </p> <p>If "Thank you for giving us the opportunity . . . " appears at the end of every email to customers, it may litter an email thread unnecessarily. Also, the obvious repetition would reveal the sentence as automatic rather than authentic.</p> <p>If "Thank you for giving us the opportunity . . . " appears at the end of an email in which the service rep could not meet the customer's need, it may come across as ironic--or even sarcastic. It may encourage the customer to deny the "opportunity" next time. </p> <p>When sentences like "Thank you for giving us the opportunity to serve you" appear constantly, they detract from a company's efforts to make customers feel special and important. They ring hollow, like the infamous voicemail message "We are unable to answer your call, which is important to us." </p> <p>I recommend having customer service agents end their emails a variety of ways, choosing the way that suits the individual message. To reduce the time it takes to compose a sentence, service reps may have a menu of closing auto-messages to choose from. Here are just 10 possibilities: </p> <ol> <li>Thank you for the opportunity to resolve this situation for you. </li> <li>Thanks for the opportunity to help. </li> <li>I am [or We are] always happy to help. </li> <li>It was a pleasure to help you. </li> <li>It is a pleasure to serve you. </li> <li>Please let me [us] know if you have any other questions. </li> <li>Please let me [us] know if you need anything else. </li> <li>We value your business and are always happy to serve you. </li> <li>It was a pleasure working with you. </li> <li>We are available 24 hours a day if you have any other questions.</li> </ol> <p>Any of the examples above can include the customer's name, followed by a comma, at the beginning of the sentence; for example, "Dr. Adams, I am glad we were able to solve this problem for you." </p> <p>What do you think about repetition in customer service messages, as either a customer or a service provider? </p> <p>If you would like to assess and improve your writing skills, I am teaching a business writing course in Seattle on <a href="http://www.syntaxtraining.com/PDF/BBW_Seattle_Oct_20_2014.pdf" target="_self" title="Learn more about Better Business Writing">October 20</a> and online on <a href="http://www.syntaxtraining.com/PDF/Writing_Tune-Up_Dec_4_and_5_2014.pdf" target="_self" title="Learn about Writing Tune-Up">December 4 and 5</a>. I would appreciate the opportunity to serve you. (I intend just a hint of irony in that closing sentence.) </p> <p><em><span style="color: #0000bf;">Lynn</span></em><br /><a href="http://syntaxtraining.com%20" 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 03, 2014 in <a href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/courteous_writing/">Courteous Writing</a>, <a href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/email/">Email</a>, <a href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/etiquette/">Etiquette</a> </span> <span class="separator">|</span> <a class="permalink" href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/2014/10/when-messaging-is-mindless-.html">Permalink</a> <span class="separator">|</span> <a class="entry-comments" href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/2014/10/when-messaging-is-mindless-.html#comments">Comments (8)</a> <span class="separator">|</span> <a class="entry-trackbacks" href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/2014/10/when-messaging-is-mindless-.html#trackback">TrackBack (0)</a> </p> <!-- technorati tags --> <!-- post footer links --> </div> </div> </div> <h2 class="date-header">September 24, 2014</h2> <div class="entry-category-punctuation_pointers entry-author-lynn_gaertnerjohnston entry-type-post entry" id="entry-6a00d8341c02a553ef01b8d070e3c6970c"> <div class="entry-inner"> <h3 class="entry-header"><a href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/2014/09/national-punctuation-day-test-.html">National Punctuation Day Test </a></h3> <div class="entry-content"> <input type="hidden" name="zemanta-related" val="" /> <div class="entry-body"> <p>Do you think you are a punctuation pro? Take this 10-item test, which contains the most common punctuation errors I see in business writing classes. </p> <p>Each item is either correct or has one punctuation error. Find and correct the errors. </p> <ol> <li>Thank you Lynn, for taking the time to review my report. </li> <li>I spoke to Jonathan, however, I did not see him. </li> <li>The kitchen renovation is scheduled for January and the bathroom project will take place in March. </li> <li>Jim is the project manager for the new six story condominium project. </li> <li>Mark wants you to send those memo's to ABC Company this week. </li> <li>Rainfall has increased substantially over the past 10 years (see Table 7.)</li> <li>The plan includes: goals, timelines, a budget, and specific roles and responsibilities. </li> <li>The project in Beaverton, Oregon is going beautifully. </li> <li>This hotel is known for it's huge buffet breakfasts. </li> <li>Give me a weeks notice if you want me to fill in for you. </li> </ol> <p> </p> <p>Did you recognize the errors? Each sentence has one. My grammar and spelling checker caught six of them. </p> <p>Below are the corrected sentences.</p> <p> </p> <p> </p> <p> </p> <p> </p> <p> </p> <p> </p> <ol> <li>Thank you<strong>,</strong> Lynn, for taking the time to review my report. </li> <li>I spoke to Jonathan<strong>;</strong> however, I did not see him. </li> <li>The kitchen renovation is scheduled for January<strong>,</strong> and the bathroom project will take place in March. </li> <li>Jim is the project manager for the new six<strong>-</strong>story condominium project. </li> <li>Mark wants you to send those memos to ABC Company this week. </li> <li>Rainfall has increased substantially over the past 10 years (see Table 7)<strong>.</strong></li> <li>The plan includes goals, timelines, a budget, and specific roles and responsibilities. </li> <li>The project in Beaverton, Oregon<strong>,</strong> is going beautifully. </li> <li>This hotel is known for its huge buffet breakfasts. </li> <li>Give me a week's notice if you want me to fill in for you.</li> </ol> <p>Which punctuation errors do you see most often in people's writing? </p> <p>Happy National Punctuation Day!</p> <p><span style="color: #0000bf; background-color: #ffffff;"><em>Lynn</em></span><br /><a href="http:syntaxtraining.com" target="_self" title="Visit Lynn's company website">Syntax Training </a></p> </div> <!-- SIGNATURE --> </div> <div class="entry-footer"> <p class="entry-footer-info"> <span class="post-footers">September 24, 2014 in <a href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/punctuation_pointers/">Punctuation Pointers</a> </span> <span class="separator">|</span> <a class="permalink" href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/2014/09/national-punctuation-day-test-.html">Permalink</a> <span class="separator">|</span> <a class="entry-comments" href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/2014/09/national-punctuation-day-test-.html#comments">Comments (8)</a> <span class="separator">|</span> <a class="entry-trackbacks" href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/2014/09/national-punctuation-day-test-.html#trackback">TrackBack (0)</a> </p> <!-- technorati tags --> <!-- post footer links --> </div> </div> </div> <h2 class="date-header">September 23, 2014</h2> <div class="entry-category-best_picks_ entry-category-books entry-category-gems_of_language entry-category-teaching_business_writing entry-author-lynn_gaertnerjohnston entry-type-post entry" id="entry-6a00d8341c02a553ef01b7c6e63de5970b"> <div class="entry-inner"> <h3 class="entry-header"><a href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/2014/09/book-review-fresh-thoughts-on-clich%C3%A9s.html">Book Review: Fresh Thoughts on Clichés</a></h3> <div class="entry-content"> <input type="hidden" name="zemanta-related" val="" /> <div class="entry-body"> <p>Before you discount all clich<strong>é</strong>s as weak, lazy writing, consider a few ideas from Orin Hargraves' new book, <em>It's Been Said Before: A Guide to the Use and Abuse of Clichés </em>(Oxford University Press, 229 pages, $24.95 in hardcover). I recommend the book for writers, editors, and others who care about words. </p> <p>To get us on the same page (a cliché!), here are two definitions of <em>cliché </em>that Hargraves quotes:</p> <ol> <li>"a phrase or opinion that is overused and betrays a lack of original thought" </li> <li>"a trite phrase or expression"</li> </ol> <p>But beyond those definitions, Hargraves, a linguist and author of language reference books, suggests that to be a <em>bad</em> cliché, an expression must be both overused <em>and</em> ineffective. Some expressions are used often by everyone--and thus overused--yet they remain effective. Other clich<strong>é</strong>s, although ineffective in a report or a formal communication, may work well in speeches and informal writing to create a bond or set the right tone with the audience.  </p> <p>For instance, Hargraves defends the expressions below--and many more--as effective clichés. I've included brief versions of his views. </p> <ul> <li>"Shed light on" -- three one-syllable words that concisely communicate "make known certain facts about." </li> <li>"Breath of fresh air" -- a clear idea communicated in a few crisp words, but adjectives such as <em>welcome </em>and <em>much needed </em>weaken it, says Hargraves.</li> <li>"Needle in a haystack" -- an apt description of something that is very hard to find. </li> <li>"In a nutshell" -- "an agreeable and popular way of packaging a summary," as long as what follows is short.</li> <li>"Deliver the goods" -- a concise way of saying "provide what is promised or expected." </li> <li>"Face the music"-- three short words that crisply say "take responsibility for." </li> <li>"Grind to a halt"-- a useful expression when applied to a huge enterprise that stops working. </li> <li>"Damn someone with faint praise"-- a powerful expression when used correctly. </li> </ul> <p>He also likes these concise, energetic clichés when used properly:</p> <ul> <li>blow someone's cover</li> <li>drive home a point</li> <li>tie the knot</li> <li>rubber stamp</li> <li>take a back seat</li> </ul> <p>I agree with most of Hargraves' decisions about clichés. But he does defend some that frustrate me. His point, though, is that as readers, <em>we </em>decide whether a phrase is trite or just right. Hargraves believes the following clichés are effective when used certain ways, but they leave me guessing what they mean: </p> <ul> <li>dyed-in-the-wool</li> <li>beyond the pale </li> <li>with bated breath</li> <li>toe the line </li> </ul> <p>Like me with those expressions, your international readers may have to guess or work too hard to figure out many clichés. </p> <p>Hargraves lists these everyday expressions, among many others, as clichés we can easily edit: </p> <ul> <li><span style="text-decoration: line-through;">very</span> real</li> <li><span style="text-decoration: line-through;">absolutely</span> nothing</li> <li><span style="text-decoration: line-through;">generally</span> tend</li> <li><span style="text-decoration: line-through;">entirely</span> possible</li> <li><span style="text-decoration: line-through;">perfectly</span> normal</li> <li><span style="text-decoration: line-through;">general</span> consensus</li> <li><span style="text-decoration: line-through;">freely</span> admit</li> <li><span style="text-decoration: line-through;">distinct</span> advantage</li> <li>close <span style="text-decoration: line-through;">proximity</span></li> <li><span style="text-decoration: line-through;">abundantly</span> clear</li> <li><span style="text-decoration: line-through;">abject</span> failure</li> <li>in <span style="text-decoration: line-through;">actual</span> fact</li> <li>the fact<span style="text-decoration: line-through;"> of the matter</span> is </li> <li>know<span style="text-decoration: line-through;"> for a fact</span></li> <li>know<span style="text-decoration: line-through;"> full well</span></li> <li><span style="text-decoration: line-through;">fully</span> intend</li> <li>a <span style="text-decoration: line-through;">world of</span> difference</li> <li>a <span style="text-decoration: line-through;">palpable</span> sense</li> <li><span style="text-decoration: line-through;">proven</span> track record</li> <li>in any way,<span style="text-decoration: line-through;"> shape, or form</span></li> <li>as a <span style="text-decoration: line-through;">general</span> rule <span style="text-decoration: line-through;">of thumb</span></li> <li><span style="text-decoration: line-through;">more</span> often <span style="text-decoration: line-through;">than not</span></li> </ul> <p>I liked <em>It's Been Said Before </em>most when I learned something new or got a fresh take on an old phrase. For example, Hargraves discussed "double down," whose constant use by television journalists has been driving me nuts. I hear the expression so often that I did not realize, as Hargraves explained, that "double down" means "engage in risky behavior when there is already danger present." The term apparently comes from the game blackjack. </p> <p>Hargraves attacked many expressions I love to hate, among them:</p> <ul> <li>best-kept secret (Who is keeping the secret? And why are you revealing it?) </li> <li>chicken with its head cut off (Ick!) </li> <li>mists of time (Was it more humid long ago?)</li> <li>sick to death of (Why haven't you died?) </li> <li>defies description (Oh, come on--try!) </li> </ul> <p>The author dealt with "play the race card," a cliché I hate. He believes it is an apt phrase when it means "use the matter of race to gain unfair advantage." Fair enough, but these days it's nearly always thrown out in response to a person who simply mentions the issue of race or racial inequality. </p> <p>Hargraves repeatedly emphasizes that his book is not exhaustive, but I kept hoping he would write about "boots on the ground." Although once fresh and visual (as many clichés originally were), it is used so often that it minimizes the idea of human beings--not just boots--in war zones. </p> <p>When deciding whether to use a cliché<em>, </em>ask yourself Hargraves' questions:</p> <ul> <li>Does it really say what you mean to say?</li> <li>Can you commandeer words from the vast store of English to do the job for you more effectively? </li> </ul> <p>If you are considering <em>It's Been Said Before </em>for your writer's toolbox, do not be put off by Chapter 1 and the Afterthoughts chapter, which are available for preview online. Although interesting and useful, they offer few examples of clichés and are more academic than the rest of the book.</p> <p>Although I have now read virtually all of <em>It's Been Said Before,</em> I will find a spot for it on my bookshelf. It's a practical, smart book that I'll consult again. </p> <p>By the way, which clichés drive you crazy? </p> <p><span style="color: #0000bf;"><em>Lynn</em></span><br /><a href="http://syntaxtraining.com" 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">September 23, 2014 in <a href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/best_picks/">Best Picks </a>, <a href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/books/">Books</a>, <a href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/gems_of_language/">Gems of Language</a>, <a href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/teaching_business_writing/">Teaching Business Writing</a> </span> <span class="separator">|</span> <a class="permalink" href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/2014/09/book-review-fresh-thoughts-on-clich%C3%A9s.html">Permalink</a> <span class="separator">|</span> <a class="entry-comments" href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/2014/09/book-review-fresh-thoughts-on-clich%C3%A9s.html#comments">Comments (12)</a> <span class="separator">|</span> <a class="entry-trackbacks" href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/2014/09/book-review-fresh-thoughts-on-clich%C3%A9s.html#trackback">TrackBack (0)</a> </p> <!-- technorati tags --> <!-- post footer links --> </div> </div> </div> <h2 class="date-header">September 15, 2014</h2> <div class="entry-category-email entry-category-etiquette entry-author-lynn_gaertnerjohnston entry-type-post entry" id="entry-6a00d8341c02a553ef01a73e16eb12970d"> <div class="entry-inner"> <h3 class="entry-header"><a href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/2014/09/does-this-email-require-a-reply-.html">Does This Email Require a Reply? </a></h3> <div class="entry-content"> <input type="hidden" name="zemanta-related" val="" /> <div class="entry-body"> <p>A reader asked whether she needed to reply to an email. She had written to her professor, he had responded, and now she wondered whether a response was required or unnecessary. Read her email and the professor's reply. What would you advise? (Note: I have changed all names.) </p> <p style="padding-left: 30px;">Subject: Textbook for Psychology 104</p> <p style="padding-left: 30px;">Hello, Professor Rogers. </p> <p style="padding-left: 30px;">I am enrolled in your Psychology 104 class this semester. I see that "Introduction to Psychology" by Marks is the required textbook. I have the third edition instead of the fourth. Would the third edition still be adequate for this class? </p> <p style="padding-left: 30px;">I look forward to the class. </p> <p style="padding-left: 30px;">Claire Kwon</p> <p> </p> <p>Professor Rogers replied:</p> <p style="padding-left: 30px;">The 3rd edition is not optimal for following along in class or completing assignments, because the page numbers are different. I list specific page numbers in the syllabus schedule, homework assignments, and lectures to make using the book and learning the material easier.  </p> <p style="padding-left: 30px;">If you decide to use the 3rd, I ask that you not interrupt the class to ask for help finding pages. </p> <p style="padding-left: 30px;">See you next week. </p> <p style="padding-left: 30px;">John Rogers </p> <p> </p> <p>After reading Professor Rogers' reply, Claire decided to invest in the fourth edition of the textbook, but she did not know whether she needed to respond to the professor. Was "Thank you" the right response or something else? </p> <p>Tomorrow evening I will share my advice for Claire. But feel free to jump in ahead of me! </p> <p><em><span style="color: #0000bf;">Lynn</span></em><br /><a href="http://syntaxtraining.com" target="_self" title="Visit Lynn's company website">Syntax Training</a> </p> </div> <!-- SIGNATURE --> </div> <div class="entry-footer"> <p class="entry-footer-info"> <span class="post-footers">September 15, 2014 in <a href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/email/">Email</a>, <a href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/etiquette/">Etiquette</a> </span> <span class="separator">|</span> <a class="permalink" href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/2014/09/does-this-email-require-a-reply-.html">Permalink</a> <span class="separator">|</span> <a class="entry-comments" href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/2014/09/does-this-email-require-a-reply-.html#comments">Comments (17)</a> <span class="separator">|</span> <a class="entry-trackbacks" href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/2014/09/does-this-email-require-a-reply-.html#trackback">TrackBack (0)</a> </p> <!-- technorati tags --> <!-- post footer links --> </div> </div> </div> <h2 class="date-header">August 22, 2014</h2> <div class="entry-author-lynn_gaertnerjohnston entry-type-post entry" id="entry-6a00d8341c02a553ef01a73e06be8f970d"> <div class="entry-inner"> <h3 class="entry-header"><a href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/2014/08/offices-closed-until-monday-sept-8.html">Offices Closed for Vacation</a></h3> <div class="entry-content"> <input type="hidden" name="zemanta-related" val="" /> <div class="entry-body"> <p>We are traveling in beautiful Italy: Venice, Varenna, Milan, Cinque Terre, Florence, Assisi, and Rome. Although our offices are closed, you may register for <a href="http://syntaxtraining.com/upcomingclasses.html" target="_self" title="Learn about upcoming classes">classes</a> and purchase Syntax Training <a href="http://syntaxtraining.com/our_products.html" target="_self" title="Writing resources ">materials</a>. Our virtual assistant will be happy to send out class confirmations and products. </p> <p>Ciao! </p> <p><em><span style="color: #0000bf;">Lynn</span></em><br /><a href="http://syntaxtraining.com" target="_self" title="Visit our company website">Syntax Training</a></p> </div> <!-- SIGNATURE --> </div> <div class="entry-footer"> <p class="entry-footer-info"> <span class="post-footers">August 22, 2014 </span> <span class="separator">|</span> <a class="permalink" href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/2014/08/offices-closed-until-monday-sept-8.html">Permalink</a> <span class="separator">|</span> <a class="entry-comments" href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/2014/08/offices-closed-until-monday-sept-8.html#comments">Comments (5)</a> <span class="separator">|</span> <a class="entry-trackbacks" href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/2014/08/offices-closed-until-monday-sept-8.html#trackback">TrackBack (0)</a> </p> <!-- technorati tags --> <!-- post footer links --> </div> </div> </div> <div class="pager-bottom pager-entries pager content-nav"> <div class="pager-inner"> <span class="pager-right"> <a href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/page/2/"><span class="pager-label">Next</span> <span class="chevron">»</span></a> </span> </div> </div> </div> </div> <div id="gamma"> <div id="gamma-inner" class="pkg"> <!-- sidebar2 --> <!-- Google Search --> <script type = "text/javascript"> function clickFocus(input){ input.className = 'focus'; if (input.value == input.defaultValue){ input.value = ''; } } function unFocus(input){ input.className = 'entered'; if (input.value == ''){ input.value = input.defaultValue; input.className = 'normal'; } } </script> <form method="get" action="http://www.google.com/search"> <div class="googlebox"> <input type="hidden" name="ie" value="UTF-8" /> <input type="hidden" name="oe" value="UTF-8" /> <div align="center"><input type="text" name="q" size="14" maxlength="255" value="Search This Blog" class="searchbox" onfocus="clickFocus(this)" onblur="unFocus(this)" /> <input type="submit" name="btnG" value="Go" style="padding:0; margin:0; text-align:center; width:28px; font-family:Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-weight:bold; font-size:11px;" /></div> <span style="font-size:0px;"> <input type="hidden" name="domains" value="www.businesswritingblog.com" /> <input type="hidden" name="sitesearch" value="www.businesswritingblog.com" /> </span> <div align="center"> <a href="http://www.google.com/"><img src="http://www.google.com/logos/Logo_40wht.gif" alt="Google" width="128" height="53" border="0" /></a> </div> </div> </form> <!-- end Search --> <!-- photo adspot --> <a href="http://syntaxtraining.com/heart.html"><img src="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/assets/images/business-writing-with-heart.png" alt="Business Writing with Heart - How to Build Great Work Relationships One Message at a Time" width="177" height="292" style="margin-left:8px;" title="Learn about Lynn’s award-winning book"/></a> <!-- End photo adspot --> <!-- rss / bookmarking --> <div class="subscribebox"><h2>Subscribe</h2> <!-- social subscribe --> <div id="followthis" style="text-align:center; padding:10px 0;"> <span class='st_twitterfollow' displayText='Twitter Follow' st_username='SyntaxLynn'></span> <iframe src="https://www.facebook.com/plugins/likebox.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2Fsyntaxtraining&width=180&height=270&colorscheme=light&show_faces=true&header=true&stream=false&show_border=false&appId=649758471713658" scrolling="no" frameborder="0" style="padding:0; border:none; overflow:hidden; width:180px; height:270px;" allowTransparency="true"></iframe> </div> <!-- end social --> <div class="module-syndicate module" style="padding:0px; margin:0px;"> <div class="module-content" style="padding:4px 0px 0px 0px; margin:0px; border-bottom:0px #C4D4E5 solid;"> <strong style="font-size:13px;">By Email</strong><br /> <a href="http://www.feedburner.com/fb/a/emailverifySubmit?feedId=2863746&loc=en_US" target="_blank"><span style="font-size:12px; line-height:14px;">Have the latest posts delivered to your inbox!</span></a> <p> <strong style="font-size:13px;">By RSS Feed</strong><br /> <a href="http://feeds.feedburner.com/businesswritingblog/BwB09" title="Works with all email clients such as Outlook, Yahoo! 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