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Look Out Below!

Today as I was reading samples of writing for two upcoming classes, I noticed that two people from two different companies had used the word below incorrectly. Based on this experience, I decided to provide the lowdown (the truth) on below.

Here are the problem sentences:

  1. The below is a good example of what we discussed on the telephone.
  2. I need additional information about your request in the below email.

What is wrong with these sentences? The problem is that the word below should be used as an adverb telling where. But in Sentence 1, below is used as a noun, a thing. In Sentence 2, it is used as an adjective, answering the question which one?

Here are corrected versions of the two sentences.

  1. Below is a good example of what we discussed on the telephone.  [Below answers the question where?]
  2. I need additional information about your request in the email below. [Below answers the question where?]

Both sentences required just a tiny change so that the word below would play the correct role in the sentence–answering the question where?

Look out–where?–below!


Posted by Lynn Gaertner Johnson
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. She grew up in suburban Chicago, Illinois.