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“Why Me?” I Asked

Yesterday I received an email (below, disguised), which gave me an odd feeling. Can you guess why?

Hi. I’m a former Sun reporter who was laid off in May when the paper went online-only. I’m looking for the best fit in the occupational arena for my skills and experience. Lizzie Blake of Weyerhaeuser suggested I talk to you.

I’d like to meet with you for 20-30 minutes, at a time and place of your convenience — coffee, drinks, just talk, whatever. No specific agenda — I just want your perspective.

— John Black [phone number]

Have you guessed what bothered me about the email?
It’s clear, intelligent, concise, but–
It could have been sent to everyone, at least everyone who knows Lizzie Blake.
If the message had not mentioned someone I know, I would have deleted it. Instead I replied, asking, “Why me?”
Today John wrote back and explained:
. . . to draw on my experience as a writer and editor to teach writing, maybe targeting business people who want to learn to write more effectively in a time when they may be called on to write more (emails, blogs, internal web sites, etc.). From a look at your web site, it seems like that’s your field — so I would hope to learn more about it, and the opportunities it presents, from you.
Okay, now I understand! And John and I plan to meet soon. 
If you, like John, are writing to strangers to request a professional favor, be sure to include specific information that helps them understand why the connection makes sense.
It’s not complicated. If John had just greeted me by name and included one flattering sentence about my work, blog, or website, I would have replied, “Yes!” instead of “Why me?”
Do you ever wonder “Why me?”
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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.

2 comments on ““Why Me?” I Asked”

  • Hi, Clare. With his experience, he must have a strong command of language, sharp editing skills, a good smell for a story, and excellent organizing skills. I’m guessing that adopting a business writing mindset will be only a small challenge, IF he chooses that route.

    As always, thanks for commenting.

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