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Hello to All!

I was teaching in North Carolina this week, when a participant in the business writing class shared her most embarrassing email mistake.

The mistake was in an email she sent to everyone in the company–about 400 people–in her role as a senior manager of human resources. It involved a typo in her greeting, a typo her grammar and spelling checker did not catch, and neither did she. 

What was the mistake? This simple, enthusiastic greeting:

Hell to all!

How is that for embarrassing? Can you match it? 

Syntax Training

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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.

14 comments on “Hello to All!”

  • What a fun topic!

    Our company once published a report that was sent to several hundred people. The report’s finding was on decreased mortality rates as a result of some drug. Only, instead of “Decreased Mortality Rates” on the cover page, we had “Decreased Morality Rates.”

    Hereโ€™s another one: My dad is a CPA. For a couple of years, the sign on the front of his office indicated that he was a “Certified Pubic Accountant.” No one at the office realized the mistake until a member of the community called about it.

    Finally, one of my most embarrassing typos involves spelling “now” as “not,” and vice-versa. In a press release for a company, I might mean to write, “Company X is now offering convenient free checking,” but the spellcheckers don’t catch it when I actually write, “Company X is *not* offering convenient free checking.”

    I am in North Carolina–any chance you were in the Asheville area? If so, you weren’t too far from me!

  • I cannot resist sharing a mistake made by a friend of mine. He did not carefully review the addressee list before sending.
    He was trying to send a message to his wife. The message was quite personal, having to do with their desire to become parents (is that sanitized enough?). Instead of selecting “Allison” from his contact list, he selected “All (company) users” from the corporate address list. Before he realized what he had done, his extremely personal message had been delivered to over 4,000 people.
    They subsequently had twins so everything worked out eventually.

  • Hi, Nina. I love these! The “decreased morality rates” are my favorite!

    Like you, I have made the now/not mistake, along with your father’s sign mistake.

    I was teaching in Raleigh, and now I am in Winston-Salem with friends. You can’t be far!

    Thanks for the laughs.


  • A classic e-mail gaffe is to receive a mail from Peter, mistakenly click “reply” instead of “forward”, write a comment to Paul about Peter’s mail, and click “send”. If, to make matters worse, Peter sent his message via a group, your comment goes to 800 people.

  • Well, this isnt’ a written gaffe, but a spoken one. I was working in Russia, and Russian is a second language to me–and my Russian was not very good at the time. Anyway, I was talking to my staff about sending some customer service emails. Well, in Russian, the word “to write” is the same as the word “to urinate”–only the stress differentiates the two. I spent the entire meeting telling my staff whom they should piss on and when. “Make certain you piss on your customer after you make a sale in order to thank him.” “Don’t forget to piss on your manager to let him know what’s going on.”

    After a couple of minutes, many were rolling in their chairs. Finally, someone raised his hand and said, “Ummm, I think you mean write.” Yes, yes I did. ๐Ÿ™

  • Hello, George. Thanks for mentioning that gaffe. It is so easy to click Reply rather than Forward.

    A criticism of Peter’s work, intended for Paul’s eyes but sent to Peter by mistake, could kill a business relationship.


  • Once a colleague asked me on the internal chat what was the cost of one of our services so I replied ‘just a sex’ instead of ‘just a sec’. Luckily he had a good sense of humour so we had a good laugh. Since then, just to make sure there is no mistake, I type the entire word ‘second’. Especially when chatting to corporate managers… ๐Ÿ™‚

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