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January 20, 2010


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Jason Sherrill


I agree with your opinion of the writer's overall message. What is your opinion about the greeting?

Should all letters be capitalized?

Should there have been a comma before your name, too?



Joel Harding

Thank you for this very helpful blog. I discovered your blog today and read nonstop for one hour. What you write here is what I have been trying to teach our staff for years. Your latest blog, comparing a good and a bad message, was especially pertinent. I need to share this with my staff, I wonder which way is best?

Darn, it's difficult to write knowing this message will surely be dissected!


Tale of the Two Emails is very interesting like of Cities. I completely agree with what you said. Infect the need is to understand that E-mail is not just a typed message. This is a formal message which conways your company's philosophy and overall attitude, and as well as how important this reader is for you.


Should all letters be capitalized?

Not necessary unless you want to put an excitement in your message.

Should there have been a comma before your name, too?

I do but some people do not.
(These are my personal statements)

@Lynn, Am I right? It's very good to read your post.



Thanks for sharing Katie's email! You made a great observation about the time-sensitive nature of Katie's message. There's a tendency, I think, to want to give people CHOICE, particularly when we're not in a position of authority. I love that she didn't burden you with having to come up with a convenient date and time to meet. All you had to do was check one date on your calendar. Katie made your life easier by giving you LESS CHOICE.

Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Thanks, everyone, for your comments. Isn't it fun to talk about an example?

Jason and Waqas, the standard capitalization for the greeting is:

Good afternoon, Lynn.

As you can see, I added the comma before my name, which is also standard. However, I have noticed that many experienced writers are dropping the comma in the greeting. I guess because "Hi Lynn" has replaced "Dear Lynn" in email, they have adopted the no-comma style. I still use the comma because I regard "Hi, Lynn" as direct address.

Joel, I am delighted you discovered this site. Why not tell your staff about your find and give them the URL? You and they may also be interested in my free monthly e-newsletter, "Better Writing at Work," which covers the same kinds of business writing topics in more depth. You can subscribe at

And, Joel, don't worry about having your writing analyzed here. I simply appreciate people's input, and I don't look for perfection (which, by the way, is NOT attainable).

JJB, I am glad you pointed out the effective limited choice Katie gave me. The way she phrased it, it would have been rude of me not to respond to her specific request.

Again, thanks to all for taking the time to share your ideas.


Val S.

Did the second emailer ever tell you clearly what he was offering? A Nigerian bank account, perhaps?

Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Hi, Val. Good question! I figured out that he was offering his services as a consultant and trainer in a variety of subjects. I wish him well.


Michael Gladkoff

Hi, Lynn.

Thank you for the interesting post.

Good sales letters usually address the reader as 'you'(in second person). The same goes for websites, brochures and other promotional formats. The letter above includes 'you' and 'your' many times. Some writers make the mistake of writing 'our customers' when they could write 'you'.

Best regards,

Michael Gladkoff

Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Yes, "you" is essential if we want to talk to our readers.


Liz Tucker

I think the first email was generally good, but the one thing I don't like is that Katie is relying on you to respond. Personally, I feel if somebody is trying to sell me goods or services, they need to be the one who makes the effort to contact me.

So having sent the first email, I think Katie should have followed up with a phone call to check that you were happy to meet her, rather than expecting you to email her back.

Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Liz, thanks for your view. I often judge writing on whether it works, and Katie's message worked with me.

You're right--typically the follow-up step belongs to the seller, not the buyer.



Method was very effective. I did test it out with my colleague and get the email response within 5 min with a calendar invitation on the date I wanted, this almost never happened before.

Thanks, please keep them coming.

Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Hi, Romeo. Congratulations on your success!


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