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A Gentle Way to Point Out a Mistake

Over the weekend a reader Susan from Queensland, Australia, let me know about a mistake I had made on my most recent blog post. Here is Susan's email message:

Hi, Lynn.

I just visited your fabulous business writing blog and noticed a minor typo. As a professional writer, I thought you might like to know. Here it is:

"Made to Sick: Why Some Ideas Die and Others Survive"

Best regards


Did you notice what Susan did to make her comment welcome?

Yes, she began with a one-word compliment: fabulous. That one word made it easy for me to take in the message.

Wasn't that easy and effective?

Syntax Training

P.S. I corrected the error so it now reads "Made to Stick."

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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.

13 comments on “A Gentle Way to Point Out a Mistake”

  • Hello Lynn,

    This is very good that you shared this experiance instead of just telling about the mistake. This is why we all really like to come at this blog. Cheers from Pakistan. 🙂

    For Susan,

    You wrote really well and helped us all to learn. Thanks for doing this all. It’s very good to find you.


  • It still doesn’t seem to be correct. Shouldn’t it be “Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Die and Others Survive” instead of “Others and Survive”?

  • Waqas, thanks for your enthusiasm. Hello to Pakistan!

    R.Selvaraju, you caught yet another error. I will fix it. Then I will stop typing the name of that book, since I do not seem to be able to type it without making a mistake.


  • Hi Lynn,

    It’s my first time to visit your blog. I found it when I was searching some websites of business writing.
    I just want to let you know how exciting when I found your blog. It’s great and very useful for me since I’m not an english speaker (so my english is not good) but I know I will learn so much from your blog.
    Thanks for your sharing.


  • Lynn,

    Thank you for encouraging people to write correctly. One of the things that bothers me is the pomposity that some people adopt while writing. For example, using “utilize” in the place of “use” or using “granularity” in the place of “detail” and so on. Use of abbreviations or acronyms instead of just plain English also puts me off.

  • I totally agree. My department deals with very smart people who make terrible mistakes when writing. We always try to start out by complimenting the authors on something – their analysis, examples, stats – before we get into the things that need correcting. And then we say something like “This piece would be more impactful if we do XYZ.”

  • I am sorry, I am not trying to pick on anyone, but “impactful”?
    Won’t “effective” be a better word?

  • R., several words are better than “impactful” with the same meaning: effective, powerful, influential, persuasive. I am guessing Diane used the word because it is part of her company’s jargon.


  • Hello Lynn,
    The website and in particular this post is extremely helpful to me (as I feel lack of sense for business writing for self).
    I often take offense via emails when I find something wrong within the business processes and it resulted into the scathe in the professional relations although the offense is truly addressed for the betterment.
    Here I found a very unique way of pointing out a mistake which is more gentle who practice humanity.

    Thanks for posting it.

  • “”This piece would be more impactful if we do XYZ.””–I thought she was making a joke.

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