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Word Power: Being Partners

I recently taught the Writing Tune-Up for Peak Performance at Recreational Equipment, Inc. (REI), one of my long-standing clients. When attendees sent me the answers to prework questions, I was struck by the words they used to describe their readers:

Vendor partners
IT partners
Industry partners
Grantees and other community partners

The word partners came up repeatedly in the prework answers. Individuals don’t write to just vendors–they write to vendor partners. They don’t email people in IT. They email their IT partners. They send grants to community partners. They share data with industry partners.

The word partner conveys mutual respect, collaboration, communication, common interests, and interdependence. To have partners, you must be a partner.

REI has been on Fortune magazine’s list of the 100 best companies to work for every year since Fortune began the list in 1998. This year it celebrated 70 years in business. Last month it announced 2007 sales of $1.3 billion, up 13.5 percent from 2006.

Based on the company’s success, my guess is that REI employees not only use the word partner–they live it.

As someone who believes in the power of language, I recommend following REI’s example. Why not try adding the word partner to the key relationships in your business? Then see whether it changes your attitude and your behavior toward any groups or individuals:

employee partners
customer partners
client partners
executive partners
legislative partners
citizen partners
student partners
sales partners
consultant partners
designer partners

Maybe if we use the word partners, with all its positive feelings of support and connection, we will become true partners. And through being partners, perhaps we will experience longevity and success like REI’s.


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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.

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