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If You Have Always Done It This Way, Think Again

Today I ordered a prescription refill from my health plan through the automated telephone refill line. The line is normally easy and efficient. For nearly every choice, the user has to press the # (pound) key. This is a breeze, just a touch of a key, on a normal digital phone. But on my cell phone, pressing the # key required using two thumbs (for Function and the B key). It was clumsy using two thumbs while trying not to miss any prompts. I messed up twice.

My health plan has always used the 1 and the # key to confirm choices on the phone. But does it make sense now with the widespread use of cell phones even among aging baby boomers? 

If you have always done something a certain way in business communication, it is time to rethink your processes.

I recently revised the sample emails I use in business writing classes, because senior executives in Seattle have told me they would never read them on their BlackBerrys.

I have replaced business letters with business email for writing class clients who tell me they never send letters anymore.

When I teach classes for people who write for the Web, I include research on how people read online, something I never did in the 20th century.

What have you always done the same way in your business communication? Why not slow down for a minute and consider it?

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.

4 comments on “If You Have Always Done It This Way, Think Again”

  • As a Baby Boomer, I totally relate to the problem with Blackberrys and cell phones in general.

    Another suggestion for businesses when it comes to web writing (blogs, website, etc.), use a larger font! So much of the web content is so tiny! It is very difficult to read.

    I routinely keep my monitor screen for the Internet at 125%. I can zoom in on my Blackberry, but it is a pain.

    The baby boomers market is a huge marketing opportunity that smart businesses should think about in their business communication.

  • There are much training for a person to gain knowledge, but it is important to have practical knowledge,
    professional training will help a person to gain practical knowledge.

  • A large problem I’ve noticed in business communications departments is that people get too caught up in doing things the way they did them somewhere else. Communicators need to focus on developing unique solutions for the environment they are currently in. Business communications is more than just writing–it’s strategy. It’s about coming up with better ways to communicate–not just writing articles and sending out press releases.

  • Hi, Cathy. Thanks for mentioning the size of type. Just today I made a plane reservation for my 87-year-old father. The email confirmation came in a tiny font, which I had to rewrite in large handwriting to mail to my father. Otherwise, he would have needed a magnifying glass to read it.

    John, thanks for your input. I agree heartily.


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