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Use Positive Words in Recommendations

In a Better Business Writing class I led yesterday, many participants chose to write recommendations for their in-class writing practice. One recommended a new policy, for example, another recommended a process improvement, and another argued for the involvement of senior managers in a program.

When we worked on editing their drafts, I asked participants to tell us the positive words they had included in their recommendations. I stood ready to write their words on a white board.

No positive words came.

I clarified my request, asking, “Which positive words did you use to justify your recommendations?”

One participant called out the word “improved.” Another mentioned “successful.” But mostly they were silent, surprised to realize they had not done a good job of selling their ideas.

When you write a recommendation for a new process, policy, program, budget, etc., be sure to explain why your idea will benefit the organization. If you have data, include numbers to support your proposal. And include positive words and phrases to communicate the reasons for moving forward with your recommendation, things like these:

  • efficiency
  • value
  • lower costs
  • shorter lead time
  • faster deliveries
  • enhanced reputation
  • improved morale
  • more reliable data
  • better benefits
  • less rework
  • greater (or less) exposure
  • greater yield
  • beauty
  • productivity
  • increased retention

As the person making a recommendation, you must have good reasons to back it up. Include your rationale in your email, memo, slide deck, article, proposal, letter, blog post, or whatever communication medium you choose. Emphasize the information that will be most persuasive for your readers.

If you do not present your ideas positively, why would anyone agree with them?

How do you sell the ideas in your recommendations? If your role is to approve recommendations, what makes you say yes? I welcome your comments.


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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.

8 comments on “Use Positive Words in Recommendations”

  • A useful list of positive words — thanks! I guess “useful” is also a good positive word, and “positive” also can be useful. “Help” and “helpful” as well. Other words that come to mind from recommendations I’ve written are “profit’ and ‘profitable” and words related to clarity and coperation.

  • I love your blog, but I have to share that I feel the word “transparency”‘is one of he most overused of the past number of years. For me, it is so overused as to have lost most its impact! I literally cringe when I read it.

  • Hi, Heidi. Interesting! I do not come across the word “transparency” in the business documents I read. Nevertheless, I do not want to make you cringe. I will remove the “transparency” example in a moment.

    Thanks for letting me know.


  • Hi Lynn.

    Thank you, but I do not wish to speak for the masses!
    Perhaps it is a personal hot button. However I see and hear it so much that it seems to have lost it’s impact of meaning, if that makes sense.

    Your kind consideration is very much appreciated.


  • Selling your ideas is a whole science. Your students are not the only people who have encountered this problem. Each of us in life at least once had to convince someone or sell something. Of course, your words in the examples of “efficiency, value, lower costs, shorter lead time, faster deliveries” are good. But if you just say that it’s effective, they will not believe you. You need to be convincing enough to be believed. You also need to have a good knowledge of information about which you build your beliefs. Here are excellent articles on this matter –,

  • Hi Lynn,

    I am looking for an online app that can help me write all of my memos, Emails, and reports alike is there such a thing possible.

    I normally get about 30 daily emails request form the board directors, that requires an immediate response is there any help.



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