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Bring a Smile to Your Reader

Yesterday both my husband and I were away from our home office all day. We were in Bremerton, Washington, at the spring conference of the West Sound Human Resources Management Association. We are rarely both out all day, and when we are, a pet sitter named Allison, founder of Pet Ciao, comes by during the day to visit and walk our English cocker spaniel named Chica.

When we returned in the evening, we found Allison’s “report” on her visit. She wrote:

Positively grand seeing Chica again. She always surprises me–remembers me immediately and doesn’t miss a beat before she rolls over for belly rubs!

This brief handwritten note from Allison came on her special form, which has as its heading “Walks & Playtime Notes.”

The language and image made us smile. From Positively grand to belly rubs, Allison gave us exactly what we needed as her reader-customers.

She might have left just an invoice for us. She might have simply scribbled a note saying she had come by at 11:30 in the morning. She might have left nothing at all. In that case, we would have known that she had visited only because Chica had not soiled the rug.

Instead, Allison made us smile. I am guessing that, through experience or intuition, she has learned what her readers need to know when they return at the end of a long day: that in their absence, their pets were visited, loved, and cared for.

Allison’s smart, thoughtful note has made me think about ways I might make my readers smile. It has made me consider opportunities in my writing to spread joy, encourage, inspire, and–in business language–create value.

How about you? Do you make your readers smile? Do you write the things that bring them comfort, confidence, and ease? Or do you just send an invoice, perhaps with a brief description of your services?

Let’s learn from Allison: It’s positively grand seeing Chica again.

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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.