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Your Untethered Reader

Earlier this week I got a good email tip from a participant in the Writing Tune-Up. When I asked for additional rules for email etiquette and efficiency, Tom offered this one:

If you have a deadline within a few days, don’t just communicate it in email. Pick up the phone to be sure the person gets your message.

Tom had a specific reason for his suggestion. Unlike much of the business world, he is not tethered to a computer or a BlackBerry. He works out of doors, and he may check his email only once a week. Not once an hour, not even once a day–once a week!

Do you write to someone like Tom? If so, adjust your expectations and your behavior. If you have a deadline on Friday, don’t even think of emailing him or her your request on Friday morning or Thursday afternoon. Pick up the phone to be sure you get through, and try that a few days earlier. (Of course, this is always good advice when you have a deadline looming.)

It all gets back to understanding your audience, including those untethered readers.

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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.