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September 26, 2010


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Cathy Miller

Hi Lynn. When I heard the story, my immediate reaction was that Steve Jobs has someone screening his email for him.

You hope he did not reply like that. If it was an administrative assistant that underscores the importance of employing someone who knows how to respond professionally.

With the rise of social media, many businesses are experiencing the ramifications of someone representing their company, their brand, in a less than professional manner.

Matt Charles

Hi, Lynn. I think the take-away lessons you identified are excellent. I found the student's email, which was lengthy and focused on the benefits that Apple's reply would provide to her (a good grade), rather than identifying any compelling reason for Apple to provide the requested quote.

I think the student's e-mail is a good counter-example to previous advice you have given on how to write effective e-mails. How might the student have improved her e-mail to get a more favorable response? Your input on this would be helpful to those of us who need to catch the eye of busy execs. Thanks!

Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Hi, Cathy. The media seemed to assume that Steve Jobs himself wrote those messages. I believe they made that assumption because he is known to reply to random emails.

Do you think an admin. would reply as Steve Jobs? That approach certainly would require that the admin present the executive well!

Whatever took place, it bombed.

I like your point about the ramifications of social media. The problems with social media are the same as the age-old problems of the telephone, increased exponentially.

Thanks for sharing!


Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Hi, Matt. Thanks for bringing up the relative effectiveness of the student's emails. I have not read her initial emails to media relations. If I can track them down easily, I will make recommendations.



Thank you, Lynn.

This is certainly a wake up call to all dealing with Customers. A thoughtless line in a single email can ruin the image a company has built throughout years.

I find Mr. Job’s answers absolutely inappropriate for a company like Apple. I will not be able to look at them in the same way I used to. This annoying student could be the CEO of their best customer later on. Who knows?


Thanks for the great blog, Lynn.

Just a tip — I believe your title should read "Email Replies: A Hard Lesson at Steve Jobs's Expense" since the word Jobs here is his surname, not a plural noun.


It should be e-mail. You know in your heart if should be, even if it's easier to leave out the hyphen.

Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Hi, Claudia. I love your suggestion that the student is a potential future CEO of Apple's best customer. That would be a nice irony.

I still think positively about Apple products. But I am taking Steve Jobs off a pedestal. He has reminded us of his humanness.


Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Hi, Rob. I purposefully chose the possessive form "Steve Jobs' Expense." I pronounce it as one syllable, so I chose the "Associated Press (AP) Stylebook" style.

Other examples from "AP" are:

Achilles' heel
Jesus' life
Descartes' theories

I normally use the s's form, but I found it awkward with the name Jobs.

Now I guess I am putting Steve Jobs in the same class as a mythic Greek hero, a prophet, and a philosopher!

Thanks for raising the issue.


Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Hi, Diane. Actually I know in my heart it should be "email." The hyphen is just not necessary.

You are right that virtually all stylebooks promote "e-mail." But "The Gregg Reference Manual" accepts "email," as does "Garner's Modern American Usage."

One day the hyphen will be gone from that word. Then I won't have to update all my publications.

Thanks for commenting!


Darleen Witmer

I enjoyed this post very much, and agree with your suggestions. Also it is great to see you commenting, with excellent responses to all comments. It is often difficult to keep up with comments!


Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Hi, Darleen. Thanks for taking the time to comment.

When I am traveling or have too many deadlines, I don't have the opportunity to comment frequently or address each writer. But when I do have time, I like to communicate with each person.


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