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Correcting With Kindness

Last Thursday I published a blog post in which I had missed a silly error. I typed reader's instead of readers. Of course, I know where apostrophes belong, but I typed the apostrophe and then overlooked it during several rounds of proofreading.

You will not find that error in last Thursday's blog post because a thoughtful reader named Randy emailed me shortly after I posted the piece. This is his message:

Subject: Rare typo in one of your articles

Your most recent blog entry contains the sentence below. The plural of reader should not have an apostrophe.

(He included the offending sentence.)

I want to commend Randy's action as a model of correcting with kindness.

First, he acted quickly to save me the embarrassment of a public error.

Second, instead of pointing out the error in a comment that everyone could read, Randy emailed me privately to let me know about it.

Third, his language ("Rare typo") maintained my self-esteem.

Fourth, he was specific about the error, so I had no problem finding and correcting it.

I love to find examples of thoughtful business communication, and I wanted to share Randy's with you.

Do your associates correct with kindness? Please share your experiences.

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.

6 comments on “Correcting With Kindness”

  • I always cringe when one of my teammates emails me back with an obvious error. They usually start with a compliment and then say what needs to be corrected.

    “Your comments are great, however less is better to help the sales rep.”

  • Hi, Robin. Glad to hear from you. Thanks for your example. Wouldn’t it be nice if the person told you why your comments were great? Often people who give feedback are vague about what is good but specific about what is wrong.


  • I had a similar email, Lynn, and also found it refreshing. A reader used humor and a compliment of my blog content to point out a pronoun blunder. I appreciated the way he handled it.

    Professional and pleasing. 🙂

  • Hi, Cathy. “Refreshing” is a good word to describe that kind behavior.

    Someone once told me about an error in my blog but first used the phrase “your excellent blog.” After reading those words, I was ready for the constructive feedback.

    Thanks for stopping by.


  • These days when writers tend to work alone, without the editorial support we had in the past, it’s all-too-easy to let a typo or other mistake slip through.

    As a commissioner as well as a writer of words, I accept that it’s difficult to proofread your own work, and try not to take a pop at the poor writer if something slips through.

    It’s a fact of life that I try to educate my clients in.

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