Don’t Appraise Your Readers

In a recent Better Business Writing class an attendee wrote a sentence like this one in a letter to a customer:

You may be certain that I will appraise you as soon as I receive the investigator’s report. 

But the reader would want to be apprised–not appraised. Be sure to apprise your readers, like this:

  • I will keep you apprised of the situation.
  • We will apprise you as soon as we hear from the insurance adjustor.
  • Mr. Adan wants to be apprised as soon as the shipment arrives.

Apprise means “to inform or notify.” Appraise means “to put on a value on.”

  • Ms. Grossmann will appraise the contents of grandmother’s house.
  • The appraised value of the property is $200,000.
  • Jessica is waiting for a performance appraisal and bonus.

If you like memory devices to keep words pairs clear in your mind, remember the words that appraise and apprise sound like. The words with similar vowel sounds provide definitions:

Appraise = rate, evaluate
Apprise = notify

To communicate clearly with your reader, why not use the simpler word notify instead of apprise?  But continue to use appraise when you mean “to put a value on.” Appraise is a precise, useful word that should be part of your reader’s vocabulary and your own.

You have now been apprised of the difference between the two words. What is your appraisal of the value of this information?

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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.

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