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Error in an Ezine to 11,192 People

I published my monthly e-newsletter Better Writing at Work and sent it to more than 11,000 subscribers. One of them, proofreader and copyeditor Geoff Pope, found an error in the title of the newsletter and lead article. Can you find it?

“Hot Button Language to Avoid—and Words You Must Include”



















Title: “Hot Button Language to Avoid—and Words You Must Include”

Did you find the error?

Do you like your button language hot?

The title needs a hyphen between the words hot and button!

Here is an explanation: I was not writing about “hot language” or “button language.” I meant hot-button language. I needed the hyphen to connect the two parts of the compound word.

I know the rule, of course. I just overlooked the phrase.

Sometimes when people write to me, they admit they are nervous about communicating with a business writing expert. They don’t want to make an error with me as their reader.

I tell them to relax and imagine how I feel when I make an error in a message to more than 11,000 readers–and in the title, no less.

Geoff, thanks for the correction, which you delivered with humor and style. I won’t make that mistake again!


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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.

9 comments on “Error in an Ezine to 11,192 People”

  • Even without hyphens, compund words in English are not easy. For example, why is “postman” one word, but “post office” is two words? Or why is “data bank” two words, whereas “database” is one word?

    In German, compound words are always written as one word, like the blessed term “Einhandmotorkettensägenführerlehrgangsteil- nahmebestätigung”, which is a “confirmation of participation in a course in operating a one-hand chain saw”).

  • Oops, sorry about the final closing bracket. Bad proofreading (which for some reason isn’t spelled “proof reading”) on my part.

  • Hi, Lynn. What a surprise! A friend of mine, Joyce Staples (from Bellevue College), sent me an email about your having acknowledged my little “hot-button” edit. I agree with what Susan Hammond wrote here among the comments: “You are so gracious under fire! Something for us all to learn from.” And guess what Joyce typed as her subject line to me: “Editing Fame”! : )

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