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High-Risk Language

Nine days ago I went to pick up a batch of newly printed business cards. Unfortunately, the cards had been incorrectly printed and had to be redone. When the printer asked when I needed them, I responded, “No rush. I still have some.”

Because of a business meeting I will attend next week, I phoned the printer today to ask whether the new cards were ready. I was told “We haven’t even started. You said there was no rush.”

“No rush” is a phrase that gets people into trouble. That’s because–like “when you get to it,” “at your earliest convenience,” and even “ASAP”–it means different things to different people.

To me, “no rush” meant “I don’t need them for a few days.” To the printer, the phrase meant “Whenever.”

Since I teach business writing, I should have known better.

Moral: I should always have extra business cards available in case of an emergency.

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By Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Lynn Gaertner-Johnston has helped thousands of employees and managers improve their business writing skills and confidence through her company, Syntax Training. In her corporate training career of more than 20 years, she has worked with executives, engineers, scientists, sales staff, and many other professionals, helping them get their messages across with clarity and tact.

A gifted teacher, Lynn has led writing classes at more than 100 companies and organizations such as MasterCard, Microsoft, Boeing, Nintendo, REI, AARP, Ledcor, and Kaiser Permanente. Near her home in Seattle, Washington, she has taught managerial communications in the MBA programs of the University of Washington and UW Bothell. She has created a communications course, Business Writing That Builds Relationships, and provides the curriculum at no cost to college instructors.

A recognized expert in business writing etiquette, Lynn has been quoted in "The Wall Street Journal," "The Atlantic," "Vanity Fair," and other media.

Lynn sharpened her business writing skills at the University of Notre Dame, where she earned a master's degree in communication, and at Bradley University, with a bachelor's degree in English.

One comment on “High-Risk Language”

  • As a web designer, when someone says to me “no rush,” my first thought is “yahoo, I have lots of extra time.” Yes indeed, in any service-oriented request, I recommend giving a specific date. Otherwise, most of us take the path of least resistance and enjoy the “extended” deadline.

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