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Avoid “Blessed” and “Bang for the Buck”

In yesterday’s Better Business Writing class, participants shared two examples of language to avoid: “blessed” and “bang for the buck.” I think their cautions are worth passing on.

graphic showing alternatives to "have a blessed day" and "bang for your buck"

In the first example, an employee has been sending email with “Have a blessed day,” and her coworkers have been buzzing about it. That close is wrong in business communication unless the organization is a church or other religious organization. Even then, if the employees of the organization are not all of the same religion, “Have a blessed day” is inappropriate.

What could possibly be wrong with “Have a blessed day?” It’s wrong because individuals should not be subjected to other people’s religion or religious sentiments in business communication–at least not in the United States. Alternatives are “Have a wonderful day,” “Have a great day,” “Have a perfect day,” etc.

Even if the sender is communicating with one person for whom “Have a blessed day” is a welcome sentiment, email is often forwarded. It was a forwarded message that created the stir I heard about in yesterday’s class.

Far from “blessed” on the refinement spectrum is “bang for the buck.” A class participant told us about a colleague who used the expression at a business meeting in France. When he uttered the phrase, people in the room visibly shrank from him in apparent disgust, perhaps because the word bang is vulgar slang for sexual intercourse. The U.S. businessman would have been more successful with “return on our investment,” which is what he intended.

Have a lovely day!

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.