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Why a Curriculum on Writing to Build Relationships?

Why a business writing curriculum on building relationships? Below is an excerpt from the curriculum, an in-class exercise, that shows why.


Written exercise and paired discussion to gain insight into the importance of relationships.

Ask students to each think of a career they want to pursue or one they are considering as an option. Then ask them to list who their coworkers might be and who their internal or external customers might be.

Example: A student wants to be in sales. Her coworkers might be other sales reps and the sales assistants. She would probably have a sales manager and a sales director. Internally, she would probably deal with sales support, marketing, advertising, perhaps manufacturing, and inventory processors or supply chain managers. She would also have external customers.

Ask students to pair up. Their partners should review their lists to see if they can add anyone to the lists. Ask one individual to read his or her list aloud for a shared reference point.

Ask students to reflect on their lists:

  • Which of the people on your list do you need to have a good working relationship with?
  • Are there any people with whom a good relationship is not necessary or beneficial?

Students should experience an aha moment about the importance of relationships.

Point out that the value of relationships is not just their providing a pleasant working experience. It’s their helpfulness in getting information. Read aloud or show the Karen Stephenson quote from her essay “Trafficking in Trust: The Art and Science of Human Knowledge Networks,” p. 10 in the text:

“Knowledge ebbs and flows down hallways, in meetings, and in private conversations inside and outside the office. The key to the way that knowledge travels lies in the relationships that can bypass the standard organization chart. . . . Relationships are the true medium of knowledge exchange.”

Ask students:

As you look at your list of people in your work world, how many of them might provide you with useful information? (Probably anyone on their list could share useful information.)


That exercise takes place on the first day, followed by two ice-breaking exercises that help students build relationships with one another. Then they discuss the introductory chapter of Business Writing With Heart, which covers the ROI of writing with heart.

Yes, I would love to sell more copies of Business Writing With Heart. But even without book sales, if the free 90-page curriculum helps adjuncts or full-time business writing instructors in any way, their success will be my reward.

Please share this information with the business writing instructors you know, especially any who may have just accepted a teaching assignment and are scrambling for a curriculum. They can check out the book’s table of contents, get the free curriculum, and preview the first chapter.

To all who teach, have an excellent start to the academic year!


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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.

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