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Find the Missing Word: You

The other day someone who is starting a new business sent me a piece of writing to review. It was a marketing piece to introduce his consulting services. It ran about 350 words.

The piece needed a lot of revisions to be something people would read. Big paragraphs needed to be carved into concise bullet points. Attractive formatting needed to dress up the document. Stale words like integrated and diverse cried out for fresh synonyms and similes. The writing needed some numbers too–something specific to focus on.

But more than any of those needs, the piece needed one word–just three letters:


Nowhere in 350+ words did you appear. But who is the audience for our marketing if not you? Who is the customer for our businesses if not you? How can we stay in business without you?

Why not take a few minutes to find the word you in your marketing pieces? It should appear in the first 10 words, then throughout the message.

Proposals need you too. Don’t begin with a description of your services. Begin with a discussion of how you will help your reader, your you. You comes first. (Please don’t worry about my subject-verb agreement. I mean the word you comes first.)

Thanks for reading my blog. I appreciate you.


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.