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Give Yourself Credit

In a business writing class I taught recently, a participant shared a performance appraisal he had written about his work during the fourth quarter. He repeatedly included statements like "The deadline was met" instead of "I met the deadline," and "The results pleased the clients" instead of "My results pleased the clients." I had to ask him whether he met the deadline and whether the results were his. It wasn't obvious to me.

In your self-appraisals at work, do you use the pronouns I, me, and my? You should!

After all, it is your work, your results, and your accomplishments you are describing. That means I, me, and my belong in your appraisal. They also belong in your cover letters, job applications, and other places where people are deciding about you.

Don't make your reader guess. If you have been successful, say so. If your team has been successful, give yourself credit for working on or leading the team, with phrases such as "Working on the team, I . . ." or "I led the team's successful effort to. . . ."

Did you notice in the paragraph above that I wrote "my article" and "my post"? If I had used the instead of my, it would not have been clear who had written them–just as in performance appraisals.

My best wishes for the season,

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.

3 comments on “Give Yourself Credit”

  • Hello Lynn,
    You have a very interesting blog. I will mark it as one of my favourites and I do hope to be a regular visitor.
    Seasons greetings. Wishing you and your loved ones a great 2009.
    Warm regards,

  • It’s very common to see this in draft copy written by clients (I’m a copywriter). I almost always have to go through and change ‘The’ and ‘customers’ to ‘I’/’we’ and ‘you’.

    Good post!

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