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Advice From My Friend Lisa

My friend Lisa has a lot on her plate. (Translation: She is extremely busy.) She has accepted a new job, she is working in the evening to launch her own business, she’s the president of her professional society, and she’s getting to know her new home town of Seattle.

In recent email messages to Lisa, I have extended invitations–to introduce her to an eligible man, to have lunch with me and others, and to connect her with a female friend of mine with whom Lisa has a lot in common.

In response to each of these invitations, Lisa has told me she must use all her free time to focus on achieving her goals. She can’t work in the other things–men, friends, lunches–until the time is ripe. She wants to do things right, one step at a time, to achieve success and personal satisfaction.

Lisa could make other choices. She could cram her life full of a wide range of actitivies. But doing so would not lead her to achieve her dreams.

The reason I decided to write about Lisa is this: She is a model of discipline. She knows how to focus.

We should all write the way Lisa lives–with focus and discipline. For example:

  • When writing to customers and clients, rather than share everything you know about a product, include just what each customer needs. Focus on the answer to a question, a vision of how the product will improve the customer’s life, etc.
  • When applying for a job, focus your resume and cover letter. In both documents, have the discipline to include only what each particular employer needs to know to want to interview you. Do the work to research the job and the company and include exactly the right details.
  • When writing a newsletter article, be disciplined enough to write only what your readers want–not what you think is clever or cute or sophisticated.

Write like Lisa lives–that is, with discipline and focus. I bet that doing so will ultimately bring you the success and happiness you seek.

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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.