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What Apple Can Teach Us Writers

Last week we made a purchase at the Apple store, a new desktop Mac–our first Mac ever. Apple made the entire experience easy, and easy experiences always inspire me to think of ways to make life easier for my readers.

Here is what Apple did and how it applies to us as writers:

  1. On their web site and in advertisements, Apple invited us to make an appointment with a salesperson (no doubt they have a different title from "salesperson," but I don’t remember what it is).
    How that made life easy: We knew that when we got to the busy Apple store, we would not have to struggle to get a salesperson’s attention.
    What we writers can do: Make it easy for readers by getting to the point, being concise, and providing easy next steps such as "click here." 
  2. When we arrived at the store, we were greeted by a man with a clipboard, who confirmed our appointment.
    How that made life easy: Our expectations were met. Our confidence in doing business with Apple increased.
    What we writers can do: Do what we say we will do, or do more. Meet our deadlines.
  3. Our young salesperson dealt comfortably with us as older PC users. He answered all our questions in language we could understand. He demonstrated relevant features, and he took time to help us compare the notebook with the desktop.
    How that made life easy: We didn’t feel foolish or ignorant even for a moment.
    What we writers can do: Speak our readers’ language. Keep their needs in mind.
  4. After we made our purchase, we were handed a receipt, and it was also emailed to us. Not only that–we were given an extra printed receipt to use for our rebate.
    How that made life easy: We could review the invoice in our hands to be sure it was correct, yet we didn’t have to worry about losing our receipt in the excitement of getting the equipment to the car; we knew we would have one in our inbox back at the office. Also, we didn’t need to copy the receipt for our rebate.
    What we writers can do: Give readers information in the various formats they need: checklists, email, booklets, podcasts, etc.
  5. The Apple people told us we could return the computer within 30 days if we were not happy with it.
    How that made life easy: We relaxed, knowing we were not going to be stuck with something we might not like.
    What we writers can do:  Let readers have a taste of our work (in a summary, sidebar, or quick introduction) before they read the entire document. Offer guarantees whenever applicable.

Thanks, Apple, for your good example.


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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.

One comment on “What Apple Can Teach Us Writers”

  • I LOVE this article. It’s great when someone is able to write about excellent customer service, while making the story interesting.

    Thank you Lynn.

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