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A Great Letter from My Doctor

With examples of weak writing everywhere, I wanted to share an example of an excellent letter I received from my doctor at Group Health Cooperative. I have included my comments in brackets.

Dear Lynn, [This is right for me. My doctor and I are the same age.]

As your doctor, I want to make sure you have the information and tools you need to help you live a healthier life. [I am glad to know that.] Thanks to Group Health’s new electronic medical records, I’m now able to provide you with this printed overview of specific recommendations based on your age, sex, and personal health information. [I am pleased to know about this personalized service.]

Get your recommended screenings. [This bold heading got my attention and told me what to do.]
Please be sure to get the screening tests on the enclosed summary. You’ll see the date you last had the test (if we have it in our records) and the date you need to have it again. [The information she refers to is on an attractively formatted attachment, and it is correct. That gives me high confidence in her and my health plan.] To arrange these tests, either call my office [the phone number is included] or send me a private email if you’re registered for enhanced access on MyGroupHealth at If you aren’t registered, I encourage you to sign up at If you have any questions about these recommendations or believe that you don’t need a certain test, please let me know. [The use of "you" and "me" communicates a solid personal relationship. Note: She isn’t "selling" the recommended tests. My health plan covers their costs.]

The next paragraph starts with the bold heading Get even more support with the new Health Profile. It then tells me about another online tool I can use to get customized healthcare information.

The letter closes with this short paragraph:

I hope you’ll use the wellness resources available to you at Group Health. [an effective call to action] Working together with these tools, you and I can do more to make your health a priority. [The positive language ends the letter with just the right tone.]

I know this letter was written by someone in member communications–not my doctor. But the message sounds like her, and it communicates caring, competence, and customer service in language I can easily understand. I am impressed and grateful.


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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.