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A Quick Example of Positive Language

The other day I sent out a reminder to people who would attend the public Better Business Writing class yesterday. In it, I wrote:

Class begins at 8:30 sharp.

The sentence felt too schoolmarmish–as though I would give a detention to anyone who arrived late, and maybe whack them with a ruler. At the same time, I wanted people to know we would start at 8:30 a.m.–not any later, even if they weren't there.

I changed to this sentence:

We will begin promptly at 8:30.

"We" signaled inclusion. "Promptly" said we would be efficient. No detentions, no stings.

I thought you might appreciate the example.

Syntax Training

Posted by Lynn Gaertner Johnson
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. She grew up in suburban Chicago, Illinois.

10 comments on “A Quick Example of Positive Language”

  • That’s an excellent example of why it’s always good to reread before sending an email. Even the simplest sentences can sometimes be made so much better!

  • This is such a nice post about positive language.I am so impressed with your example of positive language and yes I do appreciate your example.There is clear different in that sentence.

  • Hi,

    I am a Chinese. Happenly come to this website via google search. I think this is a very good example. I will take a note. Thanks.

    Emily Sun

  • Hi,
    I love writing English and I really love your site. I never thought of positive language seriously, especially the greeting and ending of the message when I traded lots of emails with my colleagues during my routine work. I’ll be more considerate.
    Thanks so much for the tips.


  • Preeyawat, thank you for taking the time to comment here and for subscribing to my newsletter. I am pleased that you enjoy writing in English and reading about it.

    Best wishes,


  • Simple, yet significantly superior! I deal with the same time travails for my training sessions & this sentence is just the right one for a corporate, adult-learner audience. I do appreciate it!

  • I’m so pleased to read your note on positive language and the example really drives the point home. I too belong to the teaching fraternity and do make efforts to consciously use positive language.
    I’ll look forward to reading your further posts on positive language.

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