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10 Ways to Earn More Valentines

Where I live, bright red signs of Valentine’s Day are everywhere–hearts, flowers, candies, cupids, and sugary cookies. You can buy a special valentine for almost anyone: sweetheart, lover, wife, husband, mother, someone like a mother, friend, child, sister, brother, grandpa, nana, teacher, boss, etc.

If you would like to earn more valentines at work–in other words, to be liked and appreciated more by coworkers and others–try these business writing tips:

  1. When you send an email or a text, greet your reader by name, just as you would in person or on the phone. Use Hi, Hello, Good morning, or another greeting. Diving into the message without a greeting ignores the fact that your reader is human.
  2. Take time to double-check the spelling of people’s names. Kathryn will not feel appreciated if your message calls her Catherine. At least once or twice each week, someone addresses me as Lynne rather than my name, Lynn.
  3. Use positive phrases such as glad to, happy to, and look forward to communicate warmth and helpfulness.
  4. Use please and thank you even in routine messages. Begin most of your replies with a thank-you, for example, “Thank you for letting me know,” “Thanks for reaching out,” or “Thank you for asking.”
  5. Keep yourself on a first-name basis with your reader. Include your first name at the end of an email—not just your signature block. Using your first name helps you come across as a person rather than a position.
  6. Avoid abrupt one- and two-word messages that confuse people and damage relationships. Curb any desire to go crazy with punctuation. Writing “Why??!!!!!” or “Why NOT?!!!!” boots you off the Nice list.
  7. Reply quickly whenever you can. Don’t leave coworkers, employees, and customers watching the clock and waiting for your message.
  8. Take time to write thoughtful messages such as thank-yous, congratulations, sympathy notes, and positive feedback. If you invest in people with these messages, you’ll be forgiven an occasional gaffe.
  9. Avoid replying to all or copying others on an email in which you blame the reader or even hint at a criticism. Public shaming can earn you a permanent bad reputation.
  10. Even though you want to warm up a relationship, avoid words like hon and sweetie, which are too sticky sweet for business messages. Instead, use the person’s name–and spell it correctly.

For detailed advice on the challenging relationship side of writing, get my award-winning book Business Writing With Heart. It can be a thoughtful gift for someone you like (including yourself). The e-book is available from Amazon around the world.

Do you have relationship-building communication tips to share? I would love to read them.

Happy Valentine’s Day! 



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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 “10 Ways to Earn More Valentines”

  • Unfortunately, every one of those tips are not followed in my current place of employment. It makes for very bad feelings among co-workers and a dysfunctional working environment.

    My personal pet peeve, spelling my name as “Theresa” although my name is shown in its correct spelling.

  • Hello Teresa,

    I am so sorry about your work environment.

    Would it help to get a copy of my book for your employer? The first chapter is free on my website at
    (just scroll down to the heading “Receive Chapter 1 Free”). It covers the essentials of communicating to build relationships. You could distribute it widely, and a helpful discussion might arise.

    I wish you well!


  • Great tips. May I add another one? We all receive far too many emails. While the subject line of an email is important, it sometimes can’t convey a clear overview or purpose. Whenever appropriate, I write a one sentence statement sort of summarizing the email’s purpose before the greeting. I also keep emails as brief and succinct as possible without, of course, being rude. People have told me they greatly appreciate this.


    Regarding the gap analysis and industry trend information you requested at last week’s team meeting…

    Hi Joan,

    Attached is the most current information I found. If this isn’t what you are looking for, please don’t hesitate to contact me so we can discuss other possible sources.

  • Hi Kathy,

    Interesting! I have never seen this approach before. I am glad you are getting a positive response to it.

    My method is to pack most of that information into the subject line, for example:

    Gap Analysis & Trend Information You Requested

    Thanks for sharing your idea.


  • Thanks Lynn, these are great tips.

    Your 1st tip reminds me of somewhere I worked a few years ago. A couple of my colleagues interstate were in the habit of sending emails (out of the blue) with no greeting. Not only that, but they sometimes opened with quite a blunt question, so the whole email came across as rude, even if that wasn’t intended.

    More recently, I learnt a valuable lesson through my own email gaffe: Having given someone feedback that he took personally, he told me what I should have done to avoid the issue I’d come across with his work. So he began a sentence with “You should have…”.

    When I replied, at the end I said “By the way, starting any sentence with “You should” isn’t usually a good idea, because it’s telling the other person what to do.” Unfortunately, my comment only made the problem worse, which in hindsight I can understand.

    Ironically, I’d been avoiding using personal pronouns (“I” and “you”) to try to take the heat out of the situation. The lesson I took away is that if you feel offended by something in an email, it can help to be clear about that in your reply. So I could have written “When you wrote “You should have…”, I felt offended because it seemed you were telling me what I should do. And, it was something I had in fact done.”

    I haven’t yet needed to use wording like that, but I hope I’ve learnt now that I should when necessary!

  • I really appreciate point #6 regarding short one-word messages and excessive punctuation, and I would also add that the use of all capital letters can come across rudely. Even if it is intended to be used solely for emphasis, it can come across as yelling. In fact, I find that as I read an email in my head, I always subconsciously end up reading capital letters as if the person is yelling at me! That doesn’t inspire me to have a positive attitude toward the writer.

    However, I do understand that some situations are serious and require a strong tone to communicate that. Lynn, I wonder if you might have any suggestions for how to communicate the seriousness of a negative situation in a way that still fosters good relationships. I’d love to know your thoughts!

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