Business Writing

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Syntax Training | Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

August 08, 2018

Do You Give Readers the "Why" They Need?

The other night I was traveling from Boston to my home, Seattle. When I arrived at my connection city, Denver, at 7:15 p.m. I received this text message:

Your Flight ___ on August 6 from DEN now departs at 11:55 p.m. We're sorry for the delay. Please visit [website]. 

The website gave only the new departure time, no additional information. 

But I wanted more information. Why was the plane going to take off 90 minutes late? 

No one was available at the gate to tell me the reason for the delay. I learned much later from a gate attendant, whom I approached, that the reason for the delay was severe weather in a connecting city. 

Weather is something an airline cannot affect, yet not knowing the reason for the delay, and not having a way to find out, made me blame the airline. I felt taken for granted. Instead of getting me to Seattle just after midnight, they'd get me there around 2 a.m.--with no explanation. 

A simple addition to the text message (and one deletion) would have satisfied me:

Your Flight ___ on August 6 from DEN now departs at 11:55 p.m. because of severe weather conditions. We're sorry for the delay. Please visit [website]. [Don't send me to a website unless it has more information.]

That brief explanation--that why--would have made all the difference. 


Do you include the why that your readers need? 

  • When you cancel or postpone a meeting, do you include why? People who planned to attend will want to know.
  • When you inform customers of a price increase, do you explain why? If you don't, they may think you are simply greedy. 
  • When you make a change in procedure or policy, do you tell why? Readers may see you as unpredictable or secretive if you don't explain. 
  • When you want feedback, do you mention why? For example, do you tell readers what you will do with the feedback? Otherwise, why should they take the time to share it?
  • When you hire a new employee, do you tell why you chose him or her? Readers won't know the value of the new hire unless you communicate it. 

Whenever you write, be sure to consider the reader's need to know why. Ask yourself, Have I included enough why to satisfy my readers? 


Do you have an example of a missing why and how it affected you or others? If so, please share it. 

Take my Business Writing Tune-Up. Why? To learn ways to take your writing skills to a higher level. 

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