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Imagine Just One Reader

For my monthly e-newsletter, Better Writing at Work, I have about 2000 subscribers. When I write each month, I imagine Barbara in Seattle, Wanda in Federal Way, Ray in New Orleans, Marjorie in Vancouver, Steve in Johannesburg, and other readers around the globe.

When I finished the February issue on Friday, I almost published it with an error in how I addressed the reader. In my final proofreading, I caught myself having written:

For those of you who are interested in. . . .

No reader is “Those of you.” Each reader is “you.” I changed the sentence to read:

If you are interested in. . . .

If you too publish a newsletter, your subscribers understand that when you write “Dear Nguyen” you are writing to many other people and addressing them by name too. Nevertheless, each reader is an individual. Each reader is “you” rather than “all of you” and “some of you.”

I will continue to think happily of individuals around the world reading my newsletter. And when I address each one of them, I will try to remember to use “you.”

If you are not a subscriber and would like to receive my free newsletter, please subscribe here. This month’s issue focuses on how to change your writing style.


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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.