Skip to content

I Am Not a Machine and Neither Are You

No, we aren't machines, and neither are the people who write to us. So how do we explain a message like the one I just received (below)?

In fact, I received two identical messages. They came from a wireless Internet service I subscribed to temporarily. They began with this unusual subject line:

Subject: TEST Ad Hoc Template, Lynn

And here is the first two-thirds of the message, exactly as I received it, with two small changes. I changed the name of the company to XXXXX and my account number and user name to ZZZZZ.

Dear Lynn,

It’s official!


Access Pass Number:

Account Closed Date:

Account Creation Date: 03/11/2010

Account Number: ZZZZZ

Account Status: ACTIVE

CC Decline Balance:

CC Decline Charge Date:

CC Decline Charge Date Description:

Connects During Billing Cycle: 0

CC Expiration Date: 05/01/2011

Currency: USD

EOC Day of Month: 11

First Name: Lynn

Language: EN

Laptop Client Version:

Laptop OS Version:

Last Name: Gaertner-Johnston

Lifetime Connects: 0

Monthly Subscription Charge: 0.00

Plan Type: Hourly

Premium Connects During Billing Cycle:

Receipt Charge Amount:

Receipt Payment Date:

Receipt POID:

Receipt Product Use Date:

Registered XXXXXX: Yes

Sales Channel Code: BW1205


Username: ZZZZZ

The rest of the message went on to tell me about a change in my service and about pricing. It ended with a thank you for my business and was signed by the director of customer care.

We are not machines. So how do we send and receive such messages?

Syntax Training

Posted by Avatar photo
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.