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What’s Missing From This Reminder?

My husband, Michael, is planning to participate in an event on Saturday. Below is the entire content of the reminder email he received today. Can you identify what’s missing?

Subject: Three More Days Until the Run!

We hope you are getting excited about participating in Saturday’s group run/walk! A few things to remember:

  1. Please plan on arriving early to find parking.
  2. Bring a food donation for the University Food Bank (optional).
  3. We are meeting at the basketball courts (if you look to the east, you can see Starbucks).
  4. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to contact us at (425) 610-XXXX.
  5. Please LIKE us on Facebook:

If you were sending this reminder to people who had registered for the event, what essential information would you also include?

Proofreading is not just identifying errors. Sometimes it involves recognizing what isn’t there. If you would like to increase your proofreading skills and confidence, take our Proofreading Like a Pro class online. 


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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.

11 comments on “What’s Missing From This Reminder?”

  • “The run” in the subject matter might not be definitive enough. As an aside, it would tell me the email isn’t for me because I don’t run. But for the runner, this is missing general context. Which run is this?

    As an executive, I often deal with dozens of various subjects in a single day (or hour). Various employees and vendors diligently immerse themselves in the specific subject that they are working on. When they provide me an update I have to get “in their world” by knowing which initiative or subject they are working on at the moment. I need the general context – please identify the subject matter first.

    I don’t think I’m more forgetful than others are, but I don’t like trying to pretend I know the subject; if I do that, I might miss the important points they’re trying to make because I’m grasping for clues to get me grounded again. Therefore, I’m likely to interrupt (kindly, I hope) and ask them to start over, this time with the context first.

    Example: “Our project schedule is in jeopardy because we can’t get the vendor to commit.” With this information, I might be scrambling because at any time we could have about 10 projects under way with 4 project managers (so I might not even be able to pinpoint the project based on project manager).

    Now try it this way: “Regarding the WiFi expansion project, our schedule is in jeopardy because we can’t get the vendor to commit.” I’m immediately focused and can evaluate the impact of a delay and provide the sort of helpful input the person is seeking.

    Always lead with the general subject, please.

    But… the MOST essential thing is in that email, which is “GO SEAHAWKS!!!”

  • Thank you, Valerie, Randy, Irene, and Nidhi, for stopping by. How right you all are!

    Randy, thank you for taking the time to talk about context. I am often asked a detail question before I am made aware of the subject. As in your situation, I then have to ask for the context: Which product, writing class, or client are we talking about?

    You also mentioned “run” in the subject. Good catch! It’s actually a run-walk (by participant preference), and the subject needs to reflect that to meet the needs of non-runners like you.

    Yes, go Seahawks!!! But when people read this blog post months or years from now, they will need context too, so let me provide it: American football Superbowl, 2015. Dare I pronounce the Seahawks champions?


  • Good comments all:)

    I often tell my students the subject is the only thing you 100% know people will read, so make it count!

    Perhaps: Run/Walk 1/31, 8am, Silverbrook School

    By the way, I really do like the style and organization of the email.

    Jeremy,Stuart Mill English

  • I would never specify the number of days from now, especially not in the subject. You cannot assume people will read the email the day it is sent. If they read it a day later, they may be confused… three days from when?

  • Phil, I like your point. Three days may not be helpful information.

    Sometimes a countdown can be useful. On the day of an online class, I send a reminder email with a subject like this:

    Proofreading Class Starts in Less Than 45 Minutes

    I show the number of minutes to get attendees’ attention. I hope they see the message, which provides their login information (for the second time) exactly when they need it.


  • Good ideas, Daria. I believe the writer left off the salutation because the message was to a group. But it could have begun with a general greeting.

    The message ended with the name of the organization, which I left out on purpose.


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