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Business Writing Priorities and Promises

The other day I was talking with the managing editor of a popular subscription website that is rich in content. The editor introduced me to the site and wanted to know whether I would like to write regularly for it.

I responded something like this: “I’d like some time to think about it. I need to decide how writing for you fits into my priorities.”

Her response surprised me: “I’m so glad to hear that. So often people commit right away. Then a month later they realize they can’t do it.”

Do you think before you commit to writing on a deadline? Or to a particular deadline?

Just today I caught myself telling a new client that I would send her a letter of agreement on Friday. Before I clicked Send, I realized that the client would not care when she received the letter of agreement. I changed “on Friday” to “in a few days,” which fits better with my schedule yet keeps us moving forward.

I recall an email exchange that I began with these words: “As promised, here is the . . . .” My colleague replied, “Thanks so much for your email and for doing what you said you’d do when you said you’d do it. How refreshing!”

Be refreshing. Think before you commit–especially when no one has asked for your work by a particular date.

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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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