Business Writing

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Syntax Training | Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

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July 21, 2014


kolade orilowo

Thanks lynn,

This is very helpful, at my Job communication reaches as many as 1,000 staffs at once, there are instances when it appears "top management" are passing the buck other times it feels like we are all a team.
Use of words and understanding hypernyms and hyponyms would be very helpful to graduates.


Now that I think about it, my literature students (and a lot of academic writing) would benefit from several of these points, especially the recommendations about simpler, shorter sentence structures and straightforward, unembellished vocabulary.

Gilda Bonanno

Thanks for another great article! I am sharing it with a few grads I know and those hiring grads!

Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Kolade, thank you for your interesting comment. For those who may not recognize the linguistic terms "hyponym" and "hypernym," let me give two examples:

"Dog" is a hyponym of "animal," whereas "animal" is a hypernym of "dog."

"Rose" is a hyponym of "flower," and "flower" is a hypernym of "rose."


Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Alfredo, I am glad to read your comment. I had thought literature teachers were encouraging such writing. Apparently I was wrong.

Thanks for stopping by.


Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Thanks, Gilda, for spreading the word!



Lynn, I don't think you were wrong about long words and sentences being encouraged in college.

They are encouraged, sometimes appropriately and sometimes not (but less often). They are appropriately encouraged when they fit the intended meaning. When academic writing calls for more precision of meaning, it will inevitably require less familiar terms and more complex structures to fit that more specific meaning. Even so, we can almost always simplify the first draft of a complex sentence.

Unfortunately, some students (and my literature students are on the freshman and sophomore levels) sometimes impose artificially complicated expression on fairly simple ideas. (In their journal articles, professors are also sometimes guilty of forced academese.)

Your article helpfully reminds graduates that the workplace audience is diverse and that most ideas can be expressed more simply. Yet even with a professor as an audience and even with more abstract topics, my students would do well to follow several of the points in your article.

Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Alfredo, I appreciate your helpful comments. Thanks for taking the time to elaborate.


Yolanda Kirk

Thanks for this article, Lynn. We are placing more emphasis on writing in our accounting classes this coming fall semester. And, your tips will be at the top of my list when the teaching begins. I'll also be requiring my students to subscribe to your site. We want our students to be market ready when they begin applying for internships and having excellent writing skills are always at the top of any employer's list. As one of my mentors used to say..."your boss won't hire you to write for you." So true! Yolanda

Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Yolanda, I am delighted that you are helping your accounting students write better. In their careers, they will need to convey very technical information. Communicating it clearly and concisely will be essential to their success.

Thank you for requiring your students to subscribe to this site. I hope you will also have them subscribe to my monthly newsletter, "Better Writing at Work." Each monthly issue covers a specific writing topic. To subscribe, visit: .

Keep up your important work!



I'd add an item about the need to put your ego aside in business writing. Personal writing exists for self-expression, and academic writing exists to show how learned the writer is. Audiences for business writing, however, don't care about who the writer is personally. These readers just care about the message and how they can use it on the job. Put this idea into action by thinking about what the reader needs to know, not just what you want to say.

Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Excellent point, Diane. Thanks for making it.


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