Business Writing

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Syntax Training | Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

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March 12, 2019



Good one. I think I too have this issue. :-)
Will look forward to your version.

Paul O

Hello Lynn,

Below is my version. I am looking forward to reading your version, soon.

Kind regards


Dear Ms. Gaertner-Johnston,

I came across your website while reading ESL articles as English is my second language. I have spent most of my morning browsing at websites for ESL students. There are thousands of them. I do a lot of writing in my job (Facebook posts, email, procedures, etc.) and my greatest downfall is that I write like I talk!

I checked out your website, but you list a lot of book recommendations, and I do not know which to buy or which best suits my needs. Can you recommend a book/s for someone like me who speaks English as a second language? I'm leaning towards HBR Guide to Better Business Writing and Business Writing with Heart. I want something easy to read as well, not a lot of fancy words. I hope you can assist with a great book suggestion.

Usually I can understand the context, and I am not opposed to lifting my fingers to look up a definition on Google. Despite having a college degree, I continue to struggle with English grammar. I feel incompetent doing my job when I have to ask my peers to edit my grammar when posting or responding to emails. The worst part is at times asking junior staff to edit a simple post on FB. I think my email is long enough that with your trained eye you spotted several grammar dilemmas I have been struggling with. I try not to think too much as I am writing this, but I cannot help myself.

Looking forward to hearing from you. Your time reading this is GREATLY appreciated.



Michele W.

Dear Mrs. Gaertner-Johnston:

My name is Nia, and English is my second language. I do a lot of writing in my job, e.g., Facebook posts, email, etc., but struggle with English grammar. The biggest problem is that I write like I talk. I feel incompetent in my job when I have to ask my peers, sometimes even junior staff, to edit my grammar.

I came across your website while reading some ESL articles. You list a lot of book recommendations for those like me who speak English as a second language. I need one that is easy to read and follow without a lot of fancy words. I am leaning towards HBR Guide to Better Business Writing and Business Writing with Heart, but I believe you would be the best person to recommend the right book for someone in my situation.

Thank you in advance for your help. I really look forward to hearing from you.



(Lynn, I tried to underline or italicize the book titles but couldn't get it work.)

Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Hi Paul,

Thank you for taking on the challenge. I like your second paragraph, which holds together well. You might consider adding the first sentence in your third paragraph to the end of the second paragraph. I think that connection is logical.

I added my version at the end of the blog post. You will see that I decided to have Nia come to the point in the first sentence. I made that change because her original message kept me guessing until the sixth sentence--much too late in an email. That start may seem a bit direct, but I could insert a complimentary remark at the beginning.

I hope you enjoyed the challenge.


Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Hi Michele,

Nice job! You did a lot of cutting, which makes sense. When I offered this task to readers, I didn't want to make conciseness a requirement--in order not to muddy the paragraphing focus--but you handled the task beautifully.

You can see my revision at the end of the blog post. I did not work on conciseness--only paragraphing.

I believe that italics are impossible in the comments here, without using HTML. When you need to set off a book title in an environment where you can't italicize, use quotation marks.

Thanks for taking the challenge!


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