Skip to content

A Warning for Writers

Two weeks ago I took my laptop and went away to an inn to work on a book I am writing. At the end of a long weekend, I was excited to have finished two more chapters totaling around 7,500 words.

Ten days ago my laptop was stolen. Those 7,500 words were on it.

I would have been sick at heart if my days of work had disappeared with the computer. Luckily I had saved the chapters on a flash drive in case I wanted to work on them on my desktop computer too.

A new laptop from Dell is on its way. But that weekend of inspired work would have been irreplaceable. I am so happy I saved my chapters to another piece of equipment, taking a step I often don't think about.

In a business writing class I was teaching this past week, an attendee mentioned that her laptop had just been stolen too.

So please don't think it doesn't happen. Back up your documents on flash drives and external hard drives. Good writing requires too much effort to have it taken from you.

Do it soon, if not now.

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.

13 comments on “A Warning for Writers”

  • This is why Dropbox is so good. Constant mirroring to its servers and to your other PCs. Lose a laptop? change the password.

  • I’m sorry to hear about your laptop being taken! Yes, it happens. One of my students had her laptop stolen from her house two weeks ago. I’m glad to hear that you didn’t lose your work.

    If I have internet access, I back up my work by emailing it to myself.

    I make sure to include a few keywords in the subject line or in the text in case I need to search for it.

    And online storage space won’t be a problem any time soon. I’ve used just 42 MB of the 7057 that gmail allows. 🙂

    By the way, what is your book about?

  • Excellent advice — and I’d like to add that bloggers should be sure their blogs are backed up, too. I’ve discovered that even though I use two B/U services my IT consultant found that there were some technical issues with my host company and my blogs were not being backed up properly. Like a car, your blog or website needs a periodic tuneup by an IT pro. So, beware.

  • Lynn, so sorry to hear about your laptop! What a relief that you had a backup.

    I learned my lesson a few weeks ago when an external hard drive took a fatal fall from the desk to the floor. Fortunately I only had a few months worth of data on it, but it was definitely a cautionary tale.

    Now my files are backed up automatically using the online service Mozy (, which runs in the background and updates the backup files whenever I make changes. Easy peasy. Highly recommend.

    AND I back up to an external hard drive, just in case.

  • Sorry to hear about the theft – it happens all the time. A few words of advice:
    * Don’t leave your laptop in a car or any other place, even in your house, where an onlooker can see it and make a quick smash-and-snatch through a window or door.
    * Use Google Docs or another Internet service such as Evernote to write or back up your work. You can e-mail documents to your service for storage anytime, instead of relying on thumb drives, which also may be stolen or misplaced.

  • Hi, everyone. Thank you for your sympathy and excellent suggestions. I hope other writers will heed your advice. I am going to take advantage of an online service because of your suggestions.

    Alfredo, thank you for asking about my book. You will not be surprised that it is on a business writing theme. I am keeping the specific topic a secret until the book is ready for people to preorder it. I look forward to the day when I can tell you about it!


  • I think Google Docs is incredible because you can access your documents on any computer anywhere at no charge. I have lost my documents before but thankfully this has mitigated that problem.

  • You’re completely right but backing up all your documents is something you start doing only after getting burned 🙂 No matter how many times people told me to back up my files, I would dismiss them with a smile, until my laptop died and with it all the seminar papers I’v wrote and had to submit in a short time after. I though I’m going to kill myself, I almost thought about giving up and staying at uni another year! Thank god it didn’t happen and I manage to finish everything on time, but since, I never save files on my laptop without backing them up on a different device as well!

Comments are closed.