Skip to content

How to Scare Away Customers

A friend emailed me a follow-up message a sales representative had sent her. I have typed it below. What is your impression of the writer?

thank you for the rapid response I am grateful for the follow up. as far as information, I sending you an up coming schedule of class’s we are offering but let me tell you this, I would like to purpose a special offer of 15% off for all your employee’s, plus multi enrollment discounts and periodic specials like buy 2 get one free on select class’s. thank you for your time should you need more information please let me know. I look forward to doing some business with you.

My friend is very gracious and has responded cordially to the sales rep. However, she told me she would like to have responded this way:

Thank you for your kind though grammatically abysmal offer. If your attention to detail is as poor as your punctuation and spelling, I think we would be taking quite a risk to do business with you. Please take your solicitation to someone who doesn’t notice sloppy writing. How did you ever graduate from high school?

Ouch! It is painful to imagine that any of our readers would be thinking that way about our work–especially potential customers upon whom we rely for future income.

The rep’s message contains 17 errors, not counting the absence of paragraph breaks. If you can’t find all 17, read this error-free version I have posted in a PDF on my website. Don’t rely on your grammar and spelling checker to find the gaffes. My Microsoft software flagged only the lowercase word thank at the beginning of two sentences.

One error is understandable and forgivable. With the high volume of work we produce, we will make an error or two in an occasional message. But 17 mistakes in one email?

Would you do business with the sales rep who sent that message? Please share your view.

Posted by Avatar photo
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.

5 comments on “How to Scare Away Customers”

  • I hope your friend never sent out her response letter. Grammatically, her letter is good. Although I have questions about the correct usage of the word: abysmal since the grammatical errors in the letter are measurable.

    Your friend’s letter is written with emotions. The last two sentences could have been formulated differently. She is drawing conclusions and those emotional sentences can be as damaging as writing letters with grammatical errors.

  • Patrick, you are right, which is the reason my friend responded cordially to the sales rep and did NOT send the unkind message. It is merely what she was thinking.

    I liked her figurative use of the word “abysmal.” To me, it is much more colorful than “poor” or “error-filled.” I even like the sound of it, don’t you?

  • I’d consider the usage of “abysmal” in this case to be an example of hyperbole, and not literal. No need to carp about it.

    But back to the original letter: Holy Moley! Not only is that sort of sloppiness unprofessional, it’s inconsiderate, to boot.

  • My first thought: English is not the first language of the sales representative. Also, I daresay written by a young person who didn’t pay attention during English class. That is one of the main ways I can tell spam email — typos and grammatical errors.

  • Sharlene, you may be right about the person who sent the message. When I talk with my friend who sent it to me, I will ask her what she knows about the writer.

Comments are closed.