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Hot Idea for Staying Out of Trouble

I have been teaching business writing for many years. But today is the first time I heard this suggestion from a workshop participant about staying out of trouble with email:

Suggestion: Do not print a confidential email unless you are within 5 feet of the printer and can grab the page as the machine spits it out. Otherwise, that confidential message can become common knowledge.

I have long been advising people not to fax confidential information. It’s one thing when faxing to people who receive the messages through their computer. But when a fax machine churns out pages in an open office space, anyone can pick them up. A consultant friend of mine learned this lesson the hard way when her fees became a topic of discussion throughout a client company after she faxed an invoice to her contact there.

So today’s valuable lesson is this: If you can’t stand by the printer and catch the emerging pages, don’t print a confidential email. And if your contact across town or across the world isn’t standing by the fax machine to dive for that confidential sheet, don’t fax it. It’s just not prudent.

Syntax Training

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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.