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My Writing Resolution

In an effort to make it stick, I am announcing my New Year’s resolution for my own business writing:

Before I click Send, I resolve to reread or scan the email I am replying to.

I am motivated by yesterday’s embarrassment. A woman from a huge company emailed me asking for information about my services–specifically about “brown bags.” (Note to readers around the globe: A brown bag is a short presentation or seminar at which participants may eat their lunch–thus the brown [lunch] bags.) To give her the right information, I needed to ask her a few questions, and I needed to do this in email since she did not include her phone number.

Among the four questions I included in my reply was one asking for her location. Only after I clicked Send did I notice that she had mentioned her location in her message–and in her subject line.

My excuse is the head cold I have had this week. But I must admit that all I had to do was glance once more at her message before I sent mine. I would have realized she had already told me her location–twice.

So that’s my resolution. I’m going to reread or scan each original message before I reply.

What are your resolutions for good business writing in 2007? I would love to read them.


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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.

2 comments on “My Writing Resolution”

  • Lynn:

    I think this is a good practice – how many times have I regretted not doing this! In addition, I need to check and makesure the “To” and “CC” lines are the right people. I have gotten red in the face a couple times because I replied to the wrong person in the email chain.

    Happy new year!

  • An excellent idea to start the new year.

    I had this habit of reviewing my reply to the emails atleast thrice before I hit the “send” button. This used to annoy one of my subordinates – only till he goofed up one day sending the email with unreviewed text and spell errors. He was then able to appreciate this valuable habit of reviewing emails multiple times before it is sent.

    “A shot arrow”, “A spoken word” and “A sent email” they say -never come back.

    Happy New Year!

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