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Getting Serious About Writing

One of my client companies is serious about safety. Whenever I teach a writing class for them, I must begin the session with a brief safety meeting. In this meeting we review the exits and where to meet if we have to exit in an emergency, the location of the fire extinguisher and first aid equipment, the correct telephone number to call in an emergency, and what to do if the building starts shaking. The people who are certified in CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) identify themselves. Then we begin the business writing class.

When the company first hired me as a business writing teacher, I was required to complete a safety tutorial and pass an accompanying test. My contract with them stipulates that I must observe safety regulations while on company property.

Other companies may say they are serious about safety, but unless they take the kind of steps my client does, I won’t believe them.

What about your business writing? If people observed how you approach your writing, would they believe you take it seriously? Would they see you planning your message, writing, revising, consulting a style guide, revising again, checking the grammar and spelling, and proofreading (preferably with time between some of the steps)?  Would they see tangible evidence of your seriousness in the form of writing books, online guides, and classes you have taken?

Are you serious about writing?

If you want to think more about this topic, read my March newsletter, Better Writing at Work. It includes a test on “writing seriousness” and suggestions for writers and managers. Subscribe here to receive a monthly newsletter filled with ideas about business writing–no more, no less. I’m serious.


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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.