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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://books.guardian.co.uk/quiz/questions/0,5957,1303707,00.html">Tough Spelling Test</a></li> <li class="module-list-item"><a title="Take a free typing test. Available in English, Spanish, German, French, Italian, Portuguese, Dutch, Swedish, and Finnish. "href="http://www.typingtest.com">TypingTest.com </a></li> <li class="module-list-item"><a title="Words with different meanings in British, Canadian, and American English"href="http://www3.telus.net/linguisticsissues/britishcanadianamericanvocab.html">Vocabulary: British, Canadian, American</a></li> <li class="module-list-item"><a title="A list that allows you to search by misspellings--not correct spellings"href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:List_of_common_misspellings">Wikipedia: List of Common Misspellings </a></li> <li class="module-list-item"><a title="New words defined, a great resource"href="http://www.wordspy.com">Word Spy</a></li> <li class="module-list-item"><a title="A search engine to hundreds of online dictionaries, and much more"href="http://www.yourdictionary.com">YourDictionary.com</a></li> </ul> </div> </div> </div> </div> <div id="beta"> <div id="beta-inner" class="pkg"> <div id="sharethis" style="text-align:right;"> <span class='st_twitter' displayText='Tweet'></span> <span class='st_facebook' displayText='Facebook'></span> <span class='st_linkedin' displayText='LinkedIn'></span> <span class='st_pinterest' displayText='Pinterest'></span> <span class='st_sharethis' displayText='ShareThis'></span> <span class='st_email' displayText='Email'></span> </div> <script type="text/javascript"> window.ZemantaBlogSettings = ""; </script> <script type="text/javascript" src="http://content.zemanta.com/static/typepad/js/recommend.js"></script> <!-- entries --> <h2 class="date-header">May 13, 2015</h2> <div class="entry-category-email entry-category-etiquette entry-category-teaching_business_writing entry-author-lynn_gaertnerjohnston entry-type-post entry" id="entry-6a00d8341c02a553ef01bb082d976a970d"> <div class="entry-inner"> <h3 class="entry-header"><a href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/2015/05/10-wrong-ways-to-start-your-emails.html">10 Wrong Ways to Start Your Emails</a></h3> <div class="entry-content"> <input type="hidden" name="zemanta-related" val="" /> <div class="entry-body"> <p>Do you want your email readers to delete your messages immediately? Of course you don't. Who would? Then you must avoid these 10 bad ways of starting emails.  ​ </p> <p>1. Spell the reader’s name wrong, use a nickname rather than the reader’s preferred name, or get the gender wrong. Examples:</p> <p style="padding-left: 30px;">Hi Suzanne, (for Susannah) <br />Hello Denny, (for Dennis)      <br />Dear Sir: (for a woman) </p> <p style="padding-left: 30px;"> </p> <p>2. Use an old subject line that has nothing to do with your current subject. Example:</p> <p style="padding-left: 30px;">Subject: Re: Cancelling today’s weekly meeting </p> <p style="padding-left: 30px;">Rita Clarke was admitted to Central Hospital this morning after she fainted on the job. Would you please order flowers for her?</p> <p> </p> <p>3. Dive right into what you need without a greeting or courteous language. </p> <p style="padding-left: 30px;">  I need this proposal proofread by 4 p.m. </p> <p><br /> 4. Spend at least a paragraph on fluff.  </p> <p style="padding-left: 30px;">Thanks, everybody, for your whole-hearted participation in last week’s retreat. Not only were the pastries for breakfast and the pasta for lunch sweet treats, but the treats you also gave each other in terms of focused attention and feedback were great—and contained no calories! Wouldn’t it be nice if food worked that way, too? Now, on to the meat of this message (no pun intended).  </p> <p><br /> 5. Give background first rather than the purpose of your message.  </p> <p style="padding-left: 30px;">I was talking with Greta Marks yesterday about the new customer portal, and Greta offered some suggestions for issues I have had with customer training and communications. In her experience, the situation . . . </p> <p><br /> 6. Begin with a long, complex sentence.  </p> <p style="padding-left: 30px;">Following up on our conversation this morning in which we discussed the initial costs of Phase 2 implementation, and your question about whether the scheduled dates are firm and realistic, I talked with Michael Amato in Creative Services to benefit from his wisdom and creativity. [45 words]</p> <p style="padding-left: 30px;"> </p> <p>7. Immediately talk about yourself and your company rather than your readers and their needs. </p> <p style="padding-left: 30px;">My name is Henry Wu. My company, XYZ, has worked with well-known brands including Coca-Cola, Nestlé, and Nike. We have been in the brand-enhancement business for 7 years. We are launching a new service that . . . </p> <p><br /> 8. In a marketing message, pretend you have analyzed your reader’s situation, but don’t bother to do the necessary research.  </p> <p style="padding-left: 30px;">I thought you might like to know some of the key points that you need to address as priorities on your website, syntax.com [wrong URL]. These can be the reason you are not getting the desired position out of continued SEO efforts. [Followed by irrelevant points.]</p> <p><br /> 9. Begin negatively.  </p> <p style="padding-left: 30px;">I am responding to your complaint about how your refund was mishandled. </p> <p><br /> 10. Focus on your apology rather than on what your reader has asked for. </p> <p style="padding-left: 30px;">Bryan, I am so sorry I did not get this information to you sooner! I had thought I would be at work on Friday, but my toddler was sick and I could not send him to daycare. </p> <p> </p> <p>Bonus bad way: Begin by having your readers click to show that they have received your message.  </p> <p><br />Not sure how to begin effectively? Just do the opposite:<br /> <br /> 1. Spell the reader's name correctly, use the name he or she prefers, and if you use a gender-based courtesy title, get it right. <br /> <br /> 2. Use a fresh, accurate subject.<br /> <br /> 3. Greet your reader and use "Please" when requesting or directing. <br /> <br /> 4. Spend no more than a brief sentence or two on relationship building, such as "Thanks for your whole-hearted participation in last week's retreat." <br /> <br /> 5. Communicate the purpose of your message before giving background. <br /> <br /> 6. Begin with a clear, simple sentence. <br /> <br /> 7. Start by focusing on your readers and their needs.<br /> <br /> 8. Do the research necessary to engage your readers. <br /> <br /> 9. Begin positively. For instance, write "Thank you for letting us know how we handled your refund."<br /> <br /> 10. Give the reader the requested information; then apologize briefly, if necessary.<br /> <br /> Bonus tip: Avoid using read receipts unless you <em>must </em>have evidence that your readers have opened your email. Read receipts shift the focus away from the message purpose and onto your need for documentation. </p> <p>Have you been the victim of other bad email beginnings? Please share them. <br /> <br />If you would like to learn <a href="http://syntaxtraining.com/PDF/How_to_Write_Email_June_18_2015.pdf" target="_self" title="Learn about the class on this PDF.">How to Write Email That Gets Results</a>, take my live online class on June 18.</p> <p>I borrowed this article from my monthly newsletter, <em>Better Writing at Work. </em><a href="http://syntaxtraining.com/signup.html" target="_self" title="Subscribe">Subscribe </a>for free.</p> <p><em><span style="color: #0000bf;">Lynn</span></em><br /><a href="http://syntaxtraining.com" target="_self" title="Visit my website!">Syntax Training</a></p> </div> <!-- SIGNATURE --> </div> <div class="entry-footer"> <p class="entry-footer-info"> <span class="post-footers">May 13, 2015 in <a href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/email/">Email</a>, <a href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/etiquette/">Etiquette</a>, <a href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/teaching_business_writing/">Teaching Business Writing</a> </span> <span class="separator">|</span> <a class="permalink" href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/2015/05/10-wrong-ways-to-start-your-emails.html">Permalink</a> <span class="separator">|</span> <a class="entry-comments" href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/2015/05/10-wrong-ways-to-start-your-emails.html#comments">Comments (4)</a> <span class="separator">|</span> <a class="entry-trackbacks" href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/2015/05/10-wrong-ways-to-start-your-emails.html#trackback">TrackBack (0)</a> </p> <!-- technorati tags --> <!-- post footer links --> </div> </div> </div> <h2 class="date-header">April 30, 2015</h2> <div class="entry-category-best_picks_ entry-category-books entry-category-gems_of_language entry-category-punctuation_pointers entry-category-teaching_business_writing entry-author-lynn_gaertnerjohnston entry-type-post entry" id="entry-6a00d8341c02a553ef01b7c782cbaf970b"> <div class="entry-inner"> <h3 class="entry-header"><a href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/2015/04/book-review-confessions-of-a-comma-queen.html">Book Review: Confessions of a Comma Queen</a></h3> <div class="entry-content"> <input type="hidden" name="zemanta-related" val="" /> <div class="entry-body"> <p>There is a lot to like in Mary Norris’s <em>Between You & Me: Confessions of a Comma Queen.</em> If you live and breathe the world of publishing, writing, or editing, you will enjoy Norris’s stories about the quirky way things are at <em>The New Yorker,</em> where she has copyedited and proofread for many years. And you will like the anecdotes and tales of how she has chosen apostrophes, hyphens, swear words, and pencils in her work. I liked it all.</p> <p>This 240-page book isn’t a primer or a practical guide—it’s much more a memoir and a collection of essays for people who care about publishing and language. But in it, Norris makes many engaging yet useful points you can smile at and learn from. </p> <p>In Chapter 1, “Spelling Is for Weirdos,” the author shares information about dictionaries, their history, and their strengths. According to Norris, when <em>New Yorker</em> copyeditors need a dictionary to referee a spelling or word choice (after checking the house style guide), they begin with <em>Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary</em>. If <em>M-W</em> doesn’t solve the problem, they turn to <em>Webster’s New International Dictionary</em>, unabridged. <em>Random House Unabridged Dictionary</em> stands in as backup. Norris sometimes goes to <em>RH</em> immediately if a word seems recent.</p> <p>Although she reveres printed dictionaries, Norris doesn’t scorn the online versions. Her list of words she now pronounces correctly—some with the help of an online dictionary—includes <em>uxorious, elegiac, chimaera</em>, and <em>spurious</em>. If you aren’t sure how to pronounce those, try an online dictionary (or get <em>Between You & Me</em>—Norris indicates the correct pronunciation of each one). Here's one for you: <em>Spurious </em>has the same <em>u</em> sound as <em>curious</em>. </p> <p>In that rich first chapter, Norris also reminds us of some tricky homophones whose differences copyeditors need to recognize: <em>peddle/pedal, hoard/horde, cannon/canon, roomy/roomie/ Rumi/rheumy, what ever/whatever,</em> and <em>overall/over all.</em> Does that list open your eyes to a homophone you had forgotten? Norris tells an early-career<em> New Yorker</em> story of catching a homophone error, which prompted a note of thanks, the kind we would all like to receive:</p> <blockquote> <p>“I thank you, the writer thanks you . . . the proofreader thanks you, the fact checker thanks you, we all thank you for doing what we in all our numbers could not do: catching the <em>flower</em> for <em>flour</em> in the Christmas list on food.”</p> </blockquote> <p>You can guess what Norris covers in Chapter 2, “That Witch.” Among a china shop of topics, she riffs on <em>that/which</em> decisions, illustrating the gray areas with examples from the poet Dylan Thomas and the Lord’s Prayer. Confession: This chapter taught me that “chaise lounge” is actually “chaise longue.” Who knew? (Let me know if you did, and you will earn my admiration.) And how about the difference between <em>terrine </em>and<em> tureen</em>? You should know it if you write about serving dishes.</p> <p>Norris believes that sometimes letting a participle dangle in a sentence makes more sense than forcing it into correct structure. She offers this example from the novelist Edward St. Aubyn: “Walking down the long, easily washed corridors of his grandmother’s nursing home, the squeak of the nurse’s rubber soles made his family’s silence seem more hysterical than it was.” We know the squeak wasn’t walking (as the sentence suggests), but Norris left the phrase to dangle. She explains:</p> <blockquote> <p>Sometimes it’s easier to reconcile oneself to the dangler than it is to fix it. In this instance, maybe the queasiness created by the dangler, that sense of imbalance, whether or not one knows the reason for it, helps convey the sensation of walking down the corridor of the dreaded nursing home.</p> </blockquote> <p>That must be a copyediting difference between fiction and business writing. When I find a dangler, I have to reel it back into a solid place in the sentence. But Norris copyedited the likes of John McPhee, Nora Ephron, and Pauline Kael, and she has learned restraint.</p> <p>Norris tells of catching a misuse of <em>garnish</em> for <em>garnishee</em> in fiction by George Saunders. One of Saunders’ characters had used the wrong term. In response to a query about the mistake, Saunders kept the error, commenting, “I don’t think this guy [the fictional character] should know more than I do.” Norris rounds out the story with an homage, I believe, to Saunders’ style of writing:</p> <blockquote> <p>Fair enough. Garnishee my wages. Anyway, spelling not point. Point is words—right words in right order, for devastating effect. Job of copy editor is to spell words right: put hyphen in, take hyphen out. Repeat. Respect other meaning of spell: spell writer weaves.</p> </blockquote> <p>The chapter “The Problem of Heesh” is a lovely essay on gender in language. It begins with the author’s youthful resistance to considering a table feminine when learning French (<em>la table</em>). It ends with Norris breaking through her resistance and lifelong habits to use a feminine pronoun to refer to her transsexual sibling. In between those stories, Norris takes on pronouns and gender issues. She firmly rejects the use of <em>their</em> as a singular (as in “the owner and their dog”), complaining:</p> <blockquote> <p>An antecedent that is in the singular cannot take a plural pronoun. And yet it does, all the time—certainly in speech. It’s not fair. Why should a lowly common-gender plural pronoun trump our singular feminine and masculine pronouns, our kings and queens and jacks?</p> </blockquote> <p>I’m on Norris’s side of that issue. I will rewrite endlessly before I will allow <em>their</em> to stand in for a singular noun.</p> <p>The chapter “Between You and Me” covers people’s struggles and strivings with subject and object pronouns. Norris gives a satisfying account of why the song “The Girl From Ipanema” has the flawed lyric “She looks straight ahead—not at <em>he</em>.” (The correct pronoun would be <em>him</em>.) The author of the English version, Norman Gimbel (the original version is Portuguese), wrote “not at <em>me</em>.” But when Astrud Gilberto sang it, she substituted <em>he</em> to make the story fit her feminine perspective. I am glad to finally know how that irritating error came to life.</p> <p>Norris does a fine job of explaining why phrases such as “between you and me” are correct. (But if you are reading her book, you probably know already.) She suggests that people who struggle with that phrase should practice like singers: “between you and mi-mi-mi-mi-mi.” If that works for you or the people you know, terrific.</p> <p>Four generous chapters cover punctuation: “Comma Comma Comma Comma, Chameleon,” “Who Put the Hyphen in <em>Moby-Dick</em>?” (it was a copyeditor—not Herman Melville), “A Dash, a Semicolon, and a Colon Walk into a Bar,” and “What’s Up with the Apostrophe?” I don’t recommend these chapters as straightforward resources for learning punctuation, but they are great fun for punctuation enthusiasts.</p> <p>I like Norris’s advice on punctuating a sentence that is both a question and an exclamation. She uses “What the devil” as an example:</p> <blockquote> <p>People are sometimes tempted to use both a question mark and an exclamation point, but this is a bad idea. Word order will take care of the interrogative, while the bold exclamation point trumps the hesitant question mark every time.</p> </blockquote> <p>In my business writing classes, people often ask for help understanding how to use a dash. Norris illustrates ways to use it, among them:</p> <blockquote> <p>—It can stand at the head of a line to indicate an item in a list.<br />—It can be deployed like a colon—it introduces an amplification of what has come before.<br />—It can be employed in pairs within a sentence—like the comma—and is subject to some of the same rules as the comma.<br />—It can create a sense of drama—false drama.<br />—It can be used within dialogue in place of a semicolon, and it is actually more realistic—most people don’t think in semicolons.</p> </blockquote> <p>Here are other punctuation quips and anecdotes you may appreciate:</p> <blockquote> <p>“There is no mark of punctuation so upper-crust as the semicolon.”</p> <p>“A colon is a very controlling gesture. It says, ‘Right this way,’ like a proper butler." </p> <p>To show the plural possessive of <em>McDonald’s</em> (the fast-food restaurant), <em>The New Yorker</em> pushed to the epitome of conservative correctness: They used <em>McDonald’ses’</em>.</p> <p>The company Lands’ End took its name from Land’s End, the tip of Cornwall. The name changed to Lands’ End because of a typo on the first catalog, which the company could not afford to reprint.</p> </blockquote> <p>The chapter “Ballad of a Pencil Junkie” shows Mary Norris to be my soul sister. She loves all things pencils, as long as they are the softer, darker No. 1s. That love carried her to the Paul A. Johnson Pencil Sharpener Museum in Logan, Ohio. And her chapter has carried me to the online catalog featuring <a href="http://calcedar.com/blackwing" target="_self" title="See the beautiful pencils">Cal Cedar’s Blackwing pencils</a>, whose praises Norris sings.</p> <p>The not-so-naughty chapter “F*ck This Sh*t” (those are Norris’s asterisks) takes a measured look at profanity in print. Norris sums up her current view:</p> <blockquote> <p>. . . no one wants to be pummeled constantly by four-letter words. If we are going to use them, let’s use them right. Profanity ought to be fun. I love the title of this chapter and thought I should spell out those words. . . . But I like it even better with the blessed euphemism: the asterisks standing in for the vowels are interior punctuation, little fireworks inside the words.</p> </blockquote> <p>W.W. Norton & Company published <em>Between You & Me: Confessions of a Comma Queen</em> this month. It retails for $24.95 and includes an excellent index and a list of recommended books. I recommend this one to you if you care about writing, editing, and language. Does it sound like a book you would enjoy? </p> <p><em><span style="color: #0000bf;">Lynn</span></em><br /><a href="http://syntaxtraining.com" target="_self" title="Visit Lynn's company website">Syntax Training</a></p> </div> <!-- SIGNATURE --> </div> <div class="entry-footer"> <p class="entry-footer-info"> <span class="post-footers">April 30, 2015 in <a href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/best_picks/">Best Picks </a>, <a href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/books/">Books</a>, <a href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/gems_of_language/">Gems of Language</a>, <a href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/punctuation_pointers/">Punctuation Pointers</a>, <a href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/teaching_business_writing/">Teaching Business Writing</a> </span> <span class="separator">|</span> <a class="permalink" href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/2015/04/book-review-confessions-of-a-comma-queen.html">Permalink</a> <span class="separator">|</span> <a class="entry-comments" href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/2015/04/book-review-confessions-of-a-comma-queen.html#comments">Comments (4)</a> <span class="separator">|</span> <a class="entry-trackbacks" href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/2015/04/book-review-confessions-of-a-comma-queen.html#trackback">TrackBack (0)</a> </p> <!-- technorati tags --> <!-- post footer links --> </div> </div> </div> <h2 class="date-header">April 21, 2015</h2> <div class="entry-category-etiquette entry-category-meeting_minutes entry-category-meeting_notes_and_minutes entry-author-lynn_gaertnerjohnston entry-type-post entry" id="entry-6a00d8341c02a553ef01b8d106f012970c"> <div class="entry-inner"> <h3 class="entry-header"><a href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/2015/04/when-someone-lies-in-meeting-notes-.html">When Someone Lies in Meeting Notes </a></h3> <div class="entry-content"> <input type="hidden" name="zemanta-related" val="" /> <div class="entry-body"> <p>James (not his real name), a contract manager at a public agency, wrote to me about a delicate situation. His job includes recording the minutes of the meetings his team has with the contractor’s team. James submits the meeting notes to the contractor for review and approval. </p> <p>According to James, the contractor has tried to change meeting notes into notes for a meeting he wishes had happened, adding topics that he never brought up at the meeting. In the past, James has wisely told the contractor that meeting notes should include only what has occurred at the meeting. James informed him that if the contractor wanted to cover additional topics, he could add them to the agenda of a future meeting. Or he could email everyone and have a "discussion" by email. </p> <p>James thought the contractor had finally understood the role of meeting notes. Yet for the latest minutes, the contractor has again added topics that he did not bring up at the meeting--or at any meeting. Confronted by James, the contractor insists that he did make the statements, and he wants James to include the statements in the minutes. </p> <p>What should James do? How should he handle these meeting minutes and the contractor's statements? What can he do to prevent this situation in the future?</p> <p>Please share your advice for James, especially if you have experienced a similar dilemma. I am traveling all day tomorrow, but I hope to share my suggestions and comment on yours on Thursday. </p> <p>If you would like insights, tips, strategies, and templates for taking meeting notes and minutes, take <a href="http://syntaxtraining.com/PDF/Meeting_Notes_Made_Easy_Apr_29_2015.pdf" target="_self" title="Review the class flyer in PDF">Meeting Notes Made Easy</a> online on Wednesday, April 29. <em><br /></em></p> <p><em><span style="color: #0000bf;">Lynn</span></em><br /><a href="http://syntaxtraining.com" target="_self" title="Visit Lynn's company website">Syntax Training</a></p> </div> <!-- SIGNATURE --> </div> <div class="entry-footer"> <p class="entry-footer-info"> <span class="post-footers">April 21, 2015 in <a href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/etiquette/">Etiquette</a>, <a href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/meeting-minutes/">Meeting minutes</a>, <a href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/meeting-notes-and-minutes/">Meeting Notes and Minutes</a> </span> <span class="separator">|</span> <a class="permalink" href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/2015/04/when-someone-lies-in-meeting-notes-.html">Permalink</a> <span class="separator">|</span> <a class="entry-comments" href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/2015/04/when-someone-lies-in-meeting-notes-.html#comments">Comments (9)</a> <span class="separator">|</span> <a class="entry-trackbacks" href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/2015/04/when-someone-lies-in-meeting-notes-.html#trackback">TrackBack (0)</a> </p> <!-- technorati tags --> <!-- post footer links --> </div> </div> </div> <h2 class="date-header">April 09, 2015</h2> <div class="entry-category-proofreading entry-category-teaching_business_writing entry-category-writing_tips entry-author-lynn_gaertnerjohnston entry-type-post entry" id="entry-6a00d8341c02a553ef01b8d0ff9a07970c"> <div class="entry-inner"> <h3 class="entry-header"><a href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/2015/04/dont-get-lost-in-long-sentences-.html">Don't Get Lost in Long Sentences! </a></h3> <div class="entry-content"> <input type="hidden" name="zemanta-related" val="" /> <div class="entry-body"> <p>When strangers write to me asking for help with their writing, the most common problem I see is long, complicated sentences. </p> <p>Example: Lynn, please help me with my writing because I need to improve so I can advance to a supervisor position, which I would like to do but my writing is not professional enough yet and it is holding me back. </p> <p>Long sentences are like labyrinths for readers. They challenge readers to use their wits to find their way to the end. </p> <p>Yes, when reading essays, books, and novels, many people enjoy traveling through long, complex sentences with twists and turns that lead to a satisfying end. But in business writing, readers want a short, clear path to understanding.</p> <p>Follow the tips below to break up long sentences so your readers do not get lost--and you don't lose them. Then test your editing skills on four complicated sentences at the end of this post. </p> <p><strong>1. Include just one idea per sentence.</strong> <br />When sentences have several ideas, readers need to figure out the relationship between the ideas. They need to suspend their understanding until they get to the period (full stop). In contrast, readers can quickly grasp each one-idea sentence and move on to the next.</p> <p>Although the punctuation makes it easy to recognize the three ideas, this sentence packs in too much:  </p> <p style="padding-left: 30px;">I hope you will be able to attend, and if you need more information, please call or email me, and I will be glad to help you.</p> <p>This revision shows that each idea can be a crisp sentence:</p> <p style="padding-left: 30px;">I hope you will be able to attend. If you need more information, please call or email me. I will be glad to help you.</p> <p><strong>2. Begin with the subject, not the windup. <br /></strong>In baseball, the windup is the pitcher's actions before releasing the ball. Although important to the pitcher, the windup can distract the batter. The same is true of readers: If you begin a sentence with a fancy windup, you may lose your readers before releasing your main idea. Instead, start with your subject.</p> <p>This sentence has a dizzying windup, which makes it too long and complicated:</p> <p style="padding-left: 30px;">With over a decade of experience with programming, network security, reverse engineering, cryptography design and cryptanalysis, and attacking protocols, and significant expertise in information security, Lance James provides consultation to businesses ranging from small startups to governments, Fortune 500s, and top financial institutions. </p> <p>If the sentence began with the subject, Lance James, rather than the long windup, it would be two clearer sentences: </p> <p style="padding-left: 30px;">Lance James has over a decade of experience with programming, network security, reverse engineering, cryptography design and cryptanalysis, and attacking protocols, and significant expertise in information security. He provides consultation to businesses ranging from small startups to governments, Fortune 500s, and top financial institutions.</p> <p><strong>3. When a sentence is long or has more than one idea, try replacing the word <em>and </em>with a period (full stop).</strong> <br />Sometimes your sentences will ramble on because you have forgotten to take a breath and give your reader one. Replacing <em>and</em> with a period may help, as it would in this sentence: </p> <p style="padding-left: 30px;">Thanks for your cooperation on this project and we look forward to meeting with you to discuss the items above.</p> <p>This revision communicates in two powerful sentences:</p> <p style="padding-left: 30px;">Thanks for your cooperation. We look forward to meeting with you to discuss the items above.</p> <p>Sometimes replacing <em>and</em> with a period requires the addition of a word. In the sentence below, which word would you use to replace <em>and</em>?</p> <p style="padding-left: 30px;">The navigation panel on the left side of the screen is the same for all contractors and helps them navigate through the site to find what they need quickly.</p> <p>Your revision might look like mine:</p> <p style="padding-left: 30px;">The navigation panel on the left side of the screen is the same for all contractors. It helps them navigate through the site to find what they need quickly.</p> <p><strong>4. Do not let a long list transform your sentence into a solid wall of text.</strong> <br />Often you need to include a list in your writing. But a sentence burdened with a long list can become a blur to your reader. If that happens, your reader will not see any of the important information in your list. The solution is to break up the long, heavy sentence into bullet points or short sentences that keep your reader's attention.</p> <p>How would you revise this list-heavy sentence?</p> <p style="padding-left: 30px;">Your daily work will include counseling managers on issues ranging from major incidents to employee communications and community relations, representing the company with various groups, supporting the needs of individual plants, managing strategic media opportunities and crisis communications, placing community advertising, and publicizing company efforts in environmental stewardship.</p> <p>This revision helps each point stand out for the reader:</p> <p style="padding-left: 30px;">Your daily work will include: </p> <ul> <li>Counseling managers on issues ranging from major incidents to employee communications and community relations.</li> <li>Representing the company with various groups. </li> <li>Supporting the needs of individual plants.</li> <li>Managing strategic media opportunities and crisis communications. </li> <li>Placing community advertising. </li> <li>Publicizing company efforts in environmental stewardship. </li> </ul> <p><br /><strong>Test Yourself</strong></p> <p>Follow the tips above to revise each of these complicated sentences. My answers appear at the end. No peeking until you try!</p> <ol> <li>Our credit department has requested that you provide a copy of your exempt sales tax document and that you fill out the top and signature portion of the credit application just for assurance that we have the pertinent contact information correct. <br /><br /></li> <li>By keeping the three critical success factors in mind and talking with your unit manager or your peer coach whenever you find yourself struggling with an employee issue, you should have the greatest opportunity for success as a new supervisor.<br /><br /></li> <li>Recently there have been several calls and emails from individuals who are using an MS Excel version dated earlier than 2007 and are not able to save their changes based on the instructions provided in the guidelines.<br /><br /></li> <li>If new information concerning the case should come to your attention, if you should leave the area for more than a few days, or if you should change your address or telephone number, please advise Marie Smith or your insurance agent immediately. </li> </ol> <p> </p> <p>How long is too long? Sometimes long sentences are not difficult to understand. But a document filled with long, complex sentences will slow down readers and could lose them. Strive for an average of no more than 20 words per sentence--15 is better. Also, do not allow yourself to include sentences of more than 35 words in your final draft. If a sentence gets that long, break it in two (or three) or cut words. </p> <p> </p> <p> </p> <p> </p> <p> </p> <p>Solution 1:<br />Our credit department has requested that you provide a copy of your exempt sales tax document. Also, please fill out the top and signature portion of the credit application. This step is just for assurance that we have the pertinent contact information correct.</p> <p>Solution 2: <br />You should have the greatest opportunity for success as a new supervisor if you do these two things: Keep the three critical success factors in mind. Talk with your unit manager or your peer coach whenever you find yourself struggling with an employee issue.<br /><br />Solution 3:<br />Recently there have been several calls and emails from individuals who are using an MS Excel version dated earlier than 2007. They are not able to save their changes based on the instructions provided in the guidelines.<br /><br />Solution 4: <br />Please immediately advise Marie Smith or your insurance agent if any of these occurs: </p> <ul> <li>New information concerning the case comes to your attention.</li> <li>You leave the area for more than a few days.</li> <li>You change your address or telephone number.</li> </ul> <p> </p> <p>Are you lost in a long sentence? Please share it in the comments, and we can try to untangle it together.</p> <p>If you feel lost as a writer, take one of the five <a href="http://syntaxtraining.com/upcomingclasses.html" target="_self" title="Learn about upcoming classes">upcoming public classes</a> I will teach online and in person from now through June. </p> <p>The article above appeared in slightly different form in this month's <em>Better Writing at Work. </em><a href="http://syntaxtraining.com/signup.html" target="_self" title="Subscribe to the newsletter">Subscribe </a>to my free e-newsletter. </p> <p><span style="color: #0000bf;"><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">April 09, 2015 in <a href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/proofreading/">Proofreading</a>, <a href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/teaching_business_writing/">Teaching Business Writing</a>, <a href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/writing_tips/">Writing Tips</a> </span> <span class="separator">|</span> <a class="permalink" href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/2015/04/dont-get-lost-in-long-sentences-.html">Permalink</a> <span class="separator">|</span> <a class="entry-comments" href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/2015/04/dont-get-lost-in-long-sentences-.html#comments">Comments (4)</a> <span class="separator">|</span> <a class="entry-trackbacks" href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/2015/04/dont-get-lost-in-long-sentences-.html#trackback">TrackBack (0)</a> </p> <!-- technorati tags --> <!-- post footer links --> </div> </div> </div> <h2 class="date-header">April 01, 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-6a00d8341c02a553ef01bb08144bba970d"> <div class="entry-inner"> <h3 class="entry-header"><a href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/2015/04/can-i-fool-you-10-business-writing-rules.html">Can I Fool You? 10 Business Writing Rules</a></h3> <div class="entry-content"> <input type="hidden" name="zemanta-related" val="" /> <div class="entry-body"> <p>For April Fools' Day, here is a list of 10 rules for effective business writing. Two of them are phony rules. Can I fool you? </p> <p style="text-align: left;">Rule 1. Always think of your reader while planning your message or document.</p> <p>Rule 2. Limit your sentences to an average length of 20 words or less--less is better. </p> <p>Rule 3. Avoid writing paragraphs of just one sentence. Use a minimum of 2-3 sentences for good flow. </p> <p>Rule 4. In group emails, reply to all when you briefly thank an individual. </p> <p>Rule 5. When you write a bulleted list, structure your bullet points the same way (for example, all sentences or all clauses). </p> <p>Rule 6. Never use a comma before the word <em>and. </em></p> <p>Rule 7. In thank-yous, be specific about what you are grateful for.  </p> <p>Rule 8. Spell out acronyms and other abbreviations before you use the abbreviated form. </p> <p>Rule 9. Use all capital letters (CAPS LOCK) for messages when you need to grab your readers' attention. </p> <p>Rule 10. In email, always insert a subject on the subject line. </p> <p style="text-align: center;">**********</p> <p>Which two are not rules of business writing? Did I fool you? I will share my answer in the comments later. </p> <p><em><span style="color: #0000bf;">Lynn</span></em><br /><a href="http://syntaxtraining.com" target="_self" title="Visit Lynn's company website">Syntax Training </a></p> </div> <!-- SIGNATURE --> </div> <div class="entry-footer"> <p class="entry-footer-info"> <span class="post-footers">April 01, 2015 in <a href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/email/">Email</a>, <a href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/teaching_business_writing/">Teaching Business Writing</a>, <a href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/writing_tips/">Writing Tips</a> </span> <span class="separator">|</span> <a class="permalink" href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/2015/04/can-i-fool-you-10-business-writing-rules.html">Permalink</a> <span class="separator">|</span> <a class="entry-comments" href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/2015/04/can-i-fool-you-10-business-writing-rules.html#comments">Comments (11)</a> <span class="separator">|</span> <a class="entry-trackbacks" href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/2015/04/can-i-fool-you-10-business-writing-rules.html#trackback">TrackBack (0)</a> </p> <!-- technorati tags --> <!-- post footer links --> </div> </div> </div> <h2 class="date-header">March 28, 2015</h2> <div class="entry-category-courteous_writing entry-category-email entry-category-etiquette entry-author-lynn_gaertnerjohnston entry-type-post entry" id="entry-6a00d8341c02a553ef01bb0810e98b970d"> <div class="entry-inner"> <h3 class="entry-header"><a href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/2015/03/how-i-left-out-negative-feelings.html">How I Left Out Negative Feelings</a></h3> <div class="entry-content"> <input type="hidden" name="zemanta-related" val="" /> <div class="entry-body"> <p>This week I received a frustrating email. It was from a professional organization telling me that my proposal to present a program had been rejected.</p> <p>Usually such messages carry no emotion for me. As part of doing business, they are as neutral as oatmeal. </p> <p>But this message did frustrate me: The organization had accepted the same proposal last summer. Since then, its representatives had exchanged several meaty phone calls and long strings of emails with me about choosing a day, time, place, and price for the program. Because the organization had volunteer turnover, I was introduced to a new contact twice, and both times I needed to explain the proposal. Then, this week, an email informed me that the organization's programming was going in a new direction that my proposal did not match. </p> <p>Aaargh! (I'm not sure of the spelling, but those letters communicate my feelings.) </p> <p>It was not a bad email. In fact, the email shone with politeness and professionalism. What irked me was the entire time-wasting experience.</p> <p>Do you sometimes receive emails whose news exasperates you? </p> <p>I had to reply because the message needed acknowledgment. And I wanted to express my frustration about having my time wasted for months. </p> <p>But I decided to follow the advice I give business writing students all the time: I thought about my purpose in writing.</p> <p>So: </p> <p>Was my purpose to lash out at the person who sent the email? No, that would be silly and immature. Besides, it was a well-written message. </p> <p>Was my purpose to express my frustration? No, what good would that do? </p> <p>Was my purpose to acknowledge the message? Yes.</p> <p>Was my purpose to present myself as a professional? Yes.</p> <p>Here's what I wrote, disguised slightly:</p> <p style="padding-left: 30px;">Hi Chris,</p> <p style="padding-left: 30px;">Thanks for your message. I regret not being able to present, especially since I received enthusiastic approvals of the program from the association last year. But if the program doesn’t match current programming, I agree that dropping it makes sense.</p> <p style="padding-left: 30px;">Best wishes for your continued success,</p> <p style="padding-left: 30px;">Lynn</p> <p>You can see that I left out my frustration and touched only slightly on my disappointment. </p> <p>One of my friends doesn't see the benefit of leaving out the negative stuff. She would say, "If you feel that they treated you badly, why not tell them so? Don't they need to hear it?" But I always go back to the question, What is my purpose? If I want to complain, I can yell at my computer.</p> <p>Do you think I communicated appropriately? What would you have done? How do you handle irritating news that arrives in your email inbox? Feel free to rant here--as long as you do it politely and professionally. (Smile.) </p> <p>For tips on relationship-building writing, get my <a href="http://syntaxtraining.com/heart.html" target="_self" title="Learn more here">book</a> <em>Business Writing With Heart: How to Build Great Work Relationships One Message at a Time. </em></p> <p><span style="color: #0000bf;"><em>Lynn</em></span><br /><a href="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">March 28, 2015 in <a href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/courteous_writing/">Courteous Writing</a>, <a href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/email/">Email</a>, <a href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/etiquette/">Etiquette</a> </span> <span class="separator">|</span> <a class="permalink" href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/2015/03/how-i-left-out-negative-feelings.html">Permalink</a> <span class="separator">|</span> <a class="entry-comments" href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/2015/03/how-i-left-out-negative-feelings.html#comments">Comments (16)</a> <span class="separator">|</span> <a class="entry-trackbacks" href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/2015/03/how-i-left-out-negative-feelings.html#trackback">TrackBack (0)</a> </p> <!-- technorati tags --> <!-- post footer links --> </div> </div> </div> <h2 class="date-header">March 19, 2015</h2> <div class="entry-category-frequently_asked_questions entry-category-grammar_and_usage entry-category-proofreading entry-author-lynn_gaertnerjohnston entry-type-post entry" id="entry-6a00d8341c02a553ef01b7c766dbc4970b"> <div class="entry-inner"> <h3 class="entry-header"><a href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/2015/03/challenge-capitalizing-job-titles-and-units.html">Challenge: Capitalizing Job Titles and Units</a></h3> <div class="entry-content"> <input type="hidden" name="zemanta-related" val="" /> <div class="entry-body"> <p>A reader named Michelle sent me an excellent capitalization challenge. She received a brief article (indented below) to publish in a magazine, and she wants to follow standard capitalization rules. </p> <p>Which categories of capitalization would you change in Michelle's example? Would you change job titles, divisions, or anything else? (I have fictionalized the details.) </p> <p>Decide on changes before you read the rules below. </p> <p style="padding-left: 30px;">Detective John Harris began his Law Enforcement career as a Reserve at the Clover Ridge Police Department in 1997. He moved to Greenville and became a Reserve for the Harrison Police Department in 1999. After testing, John became a full-time Police Officer for the Harrison PD in 2000.</p> <p style="padding-left: 30px;">John joined the Marion County Sheriff’s Office in 2002 as a Sheriff’s Deputy and was promoted to Detective in 2012. He has worked in Property Crimes, Financial Crimes, and Auto Theft before arriving in Family Violence. We are delighted to add John to our unit, but we are heavy hearted about saying goodbye to Detective Dale Estes.</p> <p> </p> <p>These rules can help you capitalize correctly in challenging writing samples like Michelle's:</p> <p>1. Avoid unnecessary capitalization. Only capitalize something when you have a good reason to do so. Liking the way a word looks does not pass as a good reason.</p> <p>2. Capitalize proper nouns. Proper nouns are the unique names of specific people, places, and things. For instance, if "Clover Ridge Police Department" is the proper name of the police department, it deserves capitalization. </p> <p>3. Don't capitalize common nouns. A common noun is a label but not a specific, unique name. "Law Enforcement" is not a specific name in Michelle's piece--it is a career. That's why it should be lower case rather than capitalized. The same goes for "Reserve" and "Detective" when they do not come before an individual's name. They are generic rather than proper names. </p> <p>4. Capitalize a title when it comes directly before a person's name, not separated from the name even by punctuation. "Detective Dale Estes" is correctly capitalized. In contrast, "our retiring detective, Dale Estes" would have a lower case title. </p> <p>Those rules resolve most of the challenges in Michelle's piece. One that remains involves Property Crimes, Financial Crimes, Auto Theft, and Family Violence. What would you want to know about those terms before you capitalized them? </p> <p>I will post my revision tomorrow. In the meantime, feel free to comment or post yours. </p> <p>Do you see rampant capitalization in the pieces you read or edit? </p> <p> </p> <p> </p> <p><strong><span style="color: #111111;">March 20 update: </span></strong><span style="color: #111111;">Below is my revision. It assumes that the names of the police departments, sheriff's office, and work units are official. </span><span style="color: #111111;"><br /></span></p> <p style="padding-left: 30px;">Detective John Harris began his law enforcement career as a reserve at the Clover Ridge Police Department in 1997. He moved to Greenville and became a reserve for the Harrison Police Department in 1999. After testing, John became a full-time police officer for the Harrison PD in 2000.</p> <p style="padding-left: 30px;">John joined the Marion County Sheriff’s Office in 2002 as a sheriff’s deputy and was promoted to detective in 2012. He has worked in Property Crimes, Financial Crimes, and Auto Theft before arriving in Family Violence. We are delighted to add John to our unit, but we are heavy hearted about saying goodbye to Detective Dale Estes.</p> <p>Questions? Comments? </p> <p><em><span style="color: #0000bf;">Lynn</span></em><br /><a href="http://syntaxtraining.com" target="_self" title="Visit Lynn's company website">Syntax Training </a></p> <p>P.S. Learn about upcoming <a href="http://syntaxtraining.com/upcomingclasses.html" target="_self" title="Learn about upcoming public classes">business writing classes</a> that may solve your writing challenges. Read more about <a href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/2007/09/sales-departmen.html" target="_self" title="Read another blog post">capitalizing departments</a>. </p> </div> <!-- SIGNATURE --> </div> <div class="entry-footer"> <p class="entry-footer-info"> <span class="post-footers">March 19, 2015 in <a href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/frequently_asked_questions/">Frequently Asked Questions</a>, <a href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/grammar_and_usage/">Grammar and Usage</a>, <a href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/proofreading/">Proofreading</a> </span> <span class="separator">|</span> <a class="permalink" href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/2015/03/challenge-capitalizing-job-titles-and-units.html">Permalink</a> <span class="separator">|</span> <a class="entry-comments" href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/2015/03/challenge-capitalizing-job-titles-and-units.html#comments">Comments (12)</a> <span class="separator">|</span> <a class="entry-trackbacks" href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/2015/03/challenge-capitalizing-job-titles-and-units.html#trackback">TrackBack (0)</a> </p> <!-- technorati tags --> <!-- post footer links --> </div> </div> </div> <h2 class="date-header">March 13, 2015</h2> <div class="entry-category-courteous_writing entry-category-etiquette entry-author-lynn_gaertnerjohnston entry-type-post entry" id="entry-6a00d8341c02a553ef01bb080600e3970d"> <div class="entry-inner"> <h3 class="entry-header"><a href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/2015/03/best-practice-scheduling-thank-yous.html">Best Practice: Scheduling Thank-Yous</a></h3> <div class="entry-content"> <input type="hidden" name="zemanta-related" val="" /> <div class="entry-body"> <p>As one of their volunteers, I just received an email from <a href="http://www.treehouseforkids.org" target="_self" title="Learn about Treehouse">Treehouse</a>, a Seattle-area nonprofit that sponsors programs for kids in foster care. Here is one of the volunteer opportunities listed:</p> <p style="padding-left: 30px;"><strong>Champions Thank-You Note Mailing</strong> <br />Tuesday, March 31, 3:30 p.m. SHARP until 6 p.m. <br />We are looking for enthusiastic volunteers with good handwriting to fill out, hand address, stuff, stamp, and seal donor thank you cards.</p> <p style="padding-left: 30px;">After an inspirational fundraiser, we rush back to the office to prepare thank you cards to over 1000 donors to mail by 6 p.m. so that they receive their tax receipt and thank you note the very next day! There will be snacks and a very fun and celebratory atmosphere. </p> <p>This volunteer listing warms my heart. It shows the care with which Treehouse treats its donors--and its volunteers. And it shares tips for all of us who want to build good work relationships:</p> <ul> <li>Treehouse sets aside time immediately after an event to thank donors. </li> <li>The thank-you notes will be individual, handwritten, hand addressed, and very prompt. </li> <li>The notes will include the item donors need for tax purposes: a receipt. </li> <li>Volunteers will have fun celebrating while they prepare the thank-yous. </li> <li>Volunteers know the time, place (it's listed elsewhere), and the purpose of the activity. It feels well coordinated and inviting. </li> </ul> <p>Can your organization or company learn something from how Treehouse operates? </p> <p>I will be at the <a href="http://www.treehouseforkids.org/get-involved/events/champions-for-foster-kids/" target="_self" title="Learn about the luncheon">Champions for Foster Kids Luncheon</a> on March 31. It feels terrific to support an organization that does good in our community and does it well. </p> <p><em><span style="color: #0000bf;">Lynn</span></em><br /><a href="http://syntaxtraining.com" target="_self" title="Visit Syntax Training website.">Syntax Training</a></p> </div> <!-- SIGNATURE --> </div> <div class="entry-footer"> <p class="entry-footer-info"> <span class="post-footers">March 13, 2015 in <a href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/courteous_writing/">Courteous Writing</a>, <a href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/etiquette/">Etiquette</a> </span> <span class="separator">|</span> <a class="permalink" href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/2015/03/best-practice-scheduling-thank-yous.html">Permalink</a> <span class="separator">|</span> <a class="entry-comments" href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/2015/03/best-practice-scheduling-thank-yous.html#comments">Comments (4)</a> <span class="separator">|</span> <a class="entry-trackbacks" href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/2015/03/best-practice-scheduling-thank-yous.html#trackback">TrackBack (0)</a> </p> <!-- technorati tags --> <!-- post footer links --> </div> </div> </div> <h2 class="date-header">March 11, 2015</h2> <div class="entry-category-courteous_writing entry-category-email entry-category-etiquette entry-category-writing_tips entry-author-lynn_gaertnerjohnston entry-type-post entry" id="entry-6a00d8341c02a553ef01b7c760257a970b"> <div class="entry-inner"> <h3 class="entry-header"><a href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/2015/03/10-questions-to-flag-sensitive-situations.html">10 Questions to Flag Sensitive Situations</a></h3> <div class="entry-content"> <input type="hidden" name="zemanta-related" val="" /> <div class="entry-body"> <p>Sometimes you can recognize instantly that a message will lead to trouble. When you are angry or upset, you know better than to bang out a hostile email. But some sticky circumstances may not be obvious. Ask yourself these 10 questions to recognize potential problems. If you answer yes to any question, think twice or get advice before communicating in email. </p> <p><strong>1. Could this be someone else’s news to share?</strong><br />In your excitement about good news, you may want to broadcast the information quickly. Maybe your company has won the contract, grant, or lawsuit. Maybe the amazing candidate has accepted the job offer. But before you email the news, ask yourself whether it is YOUR news or someone else’s to share. Sharing news that is not yours can deflate other people’s pride and excitement. It can even suggest that you were responsible for the accomplishment. On the job, don’t think of yourself as a newscaster, sharing updates whenever they happen. Let the good news come from those who own it.  <br /><br /><strong>2. Do certain people need to learn this news before others? </strong><br />People who will be most affected by news should receive it first. For instance, if several internal candidates apply for a position, the applicants should learn which one of them got the job before everyone in the company finds out. If a team will move to another city, the people on the team need the information before the entire company requires it. Informing people in advance shows them respect, and it eliminates the embarrassment of their not knowing before others do. Avoid needless problems by thinking about your various audiences before sending one all-company message. <br /><br /><strong>3. Could including others on the Cc line hurt someone’s feelings, relationships, or reputation?</strong><br />It is easy to get in the habit of Ccing the team or replying to all to keep everyone informed. But everyone should NOT be informed when there is any chance that the information will embarrass or harm others. Tasks such as communicating constructive feedback, denying a request, disagreeing—even sending a straightforward reminder to someone who has missed a deadline—can create embarrassment and bad feelings when other people get a copy of the email. In these situations, do not Cc or reply to all. Communicate privately with the individual involved. <br /><br /><strong>4. Do I have feelings of discomfort about sending this message? Is there a small voice warning me not to do this?</strong><br />When you have any doubts about sending an email, listen to them. Doubts and feelings of discomfort are huge signs of likely insensitive communication. Maybe the solution is to wait, not communicate, or ask your manager or your human resources representative for help. It is better to delay communicating than to have to heal a strained relationship or apologize for a serious blunder. <br /><br /><strong>5. Might my manager, my human resources rep, or another professional have advice for me to consider?</strong><br />You may know that you need to communicate, and there is no small voice telling you not to. Yet other people may be able to help you express yourself more diplomatically or appropriately. When you suspect that your email will fall short and may damage relationships, seek advice from a trusted guide. The advice may be to call or meet in person rather than emailing. <br /><br /><strong>6. Would a face-to-face or phone conversation manage this situation more effectively? </strong><br />Sometimes email does not work because it is just crisp words on a screen, not the voice of a human being in conversation. Situations in which email may be insensitive are communicating bad news, denying a request, apologizing, and giving performance feedback. Email isn’t always wrong in these circumstances, but it can be. <br /><br /><strong>7. Could the timing of this communication be unfortunate for any reason? </strong><br />Sometimes a message is right but the timing is wrong. Maybe the timing affects one individual badly, or maybe a whole group will rebel if they receive such a message now. If an employee has just shared with you that his spouse is ill, for instance, he will not welcome a message saying overtime is required until the project is completed. If a team is preparing for a huge implementation, learning that the leader has given two weeks’ notice may cause an uproar. Such delicate situations don’t require that you hide the news but that you communicate it sensitively—maybe individually, maybe in a group meeting—and allow two-way communication. <br /><br /><strong>8. Is it possible that I do not have all the information to understand this situation?</strong><br />Assumptions and incomplete information damage workplace communication every day. You may think that someone is ignoring your email, when you are using an incorrect address. A delay may suggest to you that your boss has rejected your proposal, when she is really taking time to gain approval for it. Do not send email inspired by assumptions, or you risk creating a problem unnecessarily. <br /><br /><strong>9. Could this topic be inappropriate for a workplace communication? </strong><br />In most workplaces, religion, race, politics, sex, sexual orientation, and physical appearance are off-limits as topics. Words, cartoons, and other images on these topics will be hurtful to some people, which is the reason workplaces prohibit them. It is not acceptable to send a message on these topics to even one person because of the necessity of keeping the workplace safe and welcoming for everyone.<br /><br /><strong>10. Could anything about this communication make my company look bad? </strong><br />Your unstated purpose in every communication is to present your organization as positively as possible. Imagine your email featured on a six o’clock evening news program. Would it make your company look like a good corporate citizen and employer? Or could it lead to scandal and embarrassment? If anything about the message might present the organization in a negative light, talk to your human resources and legal departments before moving forward. </p> <p>Do you have any questions to add to these? Have you learned any of these lessons the hard way?</p> <p>(Note: This article was first published in our free monthly ezine, <em>Better Writing at Work,</em> as "How to Recognize Sensitive Situations."<em> </em><a href="http://syntaxtraining.com/signup.html" target="_self" title="Subscribe to the free ezine.">Subscribe</a>.) <br /><br />To continue to build solid work relationships, get my award-winning book, "Business Writing With Heart: How to Build Great Work Relationships One Message at a Time." <a href="http://syntaxtraining.com/heart.html">Learn more and download the first chapter</a>. </p> <p><em>Lynn</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">March 11, 2015 in <a href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/courteous_writing/">Courteous Writing</a>, <a href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/email/">Email</a>, <a href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/etiquette/">Etiquette</a>, <a href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/writing_tips/">Writing Tips</a> </span> <span class="separator">|</span> <a class="permalink" href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/2015/03/10-questions-to-flag-sensitive-situations.html">Permalink</a> <span class="separator">|</span> <a class="entry-comments" href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/2015/03/10-questions-to-flag-sensitive-situations.html#comments">Comments (4)</a> <span class="separator">|</span> <a class="entry-trackbacks" href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/2015/03/10-questions-to-flag-sensitive-situations.html#trackback">TrackBack (0)</a> </p> <!-- technorati tags --> <!-- post footer links --> </div> </div> </div> <h2 class="date-header">February 25, 2015</h2> <div class="entry-category-courteous_writing entry-category-proofreading entry-category-writing_tips entry-author-lynn_gaertnerjohnston entry-type-post entry" id="entry-6a00d8341c02a553ef01b8d0dc58f0970c"> <div class="entry-inner"> <h3 class="entry-header"><a href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/2015/02/how-to-lose-your-readers-trust-.html">How to Lose Your Readers' Trust </a></h3> <div class="entry-content"> <input type="hidden" name="zemanta-related" val="" /> <div class="entry-body"> <p>When I pay for my groceries at the supermarket, the cash register spits out coupons based on what I have bought. Recently I received one with this offer:</p> <p style="padding-left: 30px;">Buy any large [brand name] pizza between 2/23/15 and 3/22/15 and SAVE up to $3.00 on a future order with coupon. </p> <p>Because I occasionally buy frozen pizza, I put the coupon in my pocket, then read it later. Here is the "fine print": </p> <p style="padding-left: 30px;">PURCHASE REQUIREMENTS:</p> <p style="padding-left: 30px;">Buy 2, get $1 OR</p> <p style="padding-left: 30px;">Buy 3, get $2 OR </p> <p style="padding-left: 30px;">But 4 or more, get $3 coupon for your next shopping order.</p> <p>I am annoyed. Can you determine why?</p> <p>"Buy any large pizza" was misleading. <em>Any</em> means "one," yet there was no savings if I bought just one. </p> <p>False or misleading promises erode readers' trust in us as writers. This problem exists even beyond coupons and offers trying to sell products. Whenever we write, we must be sure our messages do not damage our readers' trust and confidence in us.</p> <p>Consider these situations, imagining you are the reader:</p> <ol> <li>A writer provides a link to a web page, noting that it will give you the specific information you need. When you click the link, it takes you to a generic home page, with none of the information you seek. How do you feel? </li> <li>A consultant emails you saying you will receive her proposal by the end of the week. But when you leave on Friday at 6 p.m., you still have not gotten it. Does this delay affect your opinion of the consultant? </li> <li>A meeting agenda says attendees will be able to ask questions about a new program. When you attend the meeting, the entire hour is taken up by the presentation. How do you feel about the meeting organizer? </li> <li>Your new assistant's resume describes him as proficient in Microsoft Office. When you ask him to edit a PowerPoint presentation, he can't seem to make simple changes in it. What is your reaction? </li> <li>Your manager gives you the written go-ahead to update the company's Contact Us page. As soon as you do, he calls you in, upset that you didn't ask his approval on the new content. How does this situation affect your relationship? </li> </ol> <p>All five situations erode trust. And writers can avoid all five if they do one simple thing: ask themselves the question "Is this completely true?" and make changes when the answer is no. </p> <ol> <li>If the writer had asked "Is this true?" and clicked the link to confirm it, it would have been obvious that the page did not provide the information. He or she could have found the correct page and given you that link. </li> <li>If the consultant had questioned herself about the feasibility of her promise, she might have recognized that her week was too hectic and committed herself to a later date. </li> <li>The meeting organizer might have talked with the presenter to be sure the meeting would include time for questions. </li> <li>The new assistant's resume might have said "proficient in Word, Excel, and Outlook" rather than claiming expertise in Microsoft Office. </li> <li>Your manager might have realized that he wanted to approve changes.</li> </ol> <p>And the store coupon I received might have said "Buy large pizzas" rather than "Buy any large pizza."  </p> <p>Ask yourself "Is this completely true?" before you click Send, Publish, or Post. That simple question can help you maintain your readers' trust and confidence. ("Is this true?" may be sufficient, but I add the word <em>completely </em>to push to the heart of the content.) </p> <p>How have business writers diminished your trust in them? </p> <p>Get my guide <em><a href="http://syntaxtraining.com/clarity.html" target="_self" title="Learn more about the guide">Clarity, Conciseness, Zing, and More</a> </em>for 27 articles of tips and strategies for writing well on the job.</p> <p>Learn about <a href="http://syntaxtraining.com/upcomingclasses.html" target="_self" title="Learn more">upcoming public classes</a>, including Proofreading Like a Pro.</p> <p><em><span style="color: #0000bf;">Lynn </span></em><br /><a href="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">February 25, 2015 in <a href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/courteous_writing/">Courteous Writing</a>, <a href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/proofreading/">Proofreading</a>, <a href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/writing_tips/">Writing Tips</a> </span> <span class="separator">|</span> <a class="permalink" href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/2015/02/how-to-lose-your-readers-trust-.html">Permalink</a> <span class="separator">|</span> <a class="entry-comments" href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/2015/02/how-to-lose-your-readers-trust-.html#comments">Comments (4)</a> <span class="separator">|</span> <a class="entry-trackbacks" href="http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/2015/02/how-to-lose-your-readers-trust-.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'; 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