No, we aren't machines, and neither are the people who write to us. So how do we explain a message like the one I just received (below)? In fact, I received two identical messages. They came from a wireless Internet service I subscribed to temporarily. They began with this unusual subject line:...
I laughed at myself today, and the situation reminded me of bad business writing. Here it is: We have a high school exchange student from the Middle East living with us this semester. Her household chore is to empty the dishwasher and put the dishes away when they are clean. Today I...
In a Writing Tune-Up for Peak Performance class, a young African-American man (I'll call him Edward) told us he was having trouble developing his writing "brand." I wondered what he meant, and guessed (silently) that Edward was trying to figure out how to express himself professionally while incorporating the language...
To whoever writes the customer letters for "Deposit Operations" at our large bank: Please stop writing letters that contain: Requests for documentation without saying what the necessary documentation is (especially when the customer has already provided documentation). 24/7 phone numbers to call, at which the service representatives do not know how to handle the issue. Expressions...
I was teaching a business writing workshop recently when someone teased another participant about being a Southerner (someone from the Southern part of the United States). The seemingly good-natured wisecracks were about Southern food and language. I stopped the comments politely by bringing us back to the business writing skill we...
Yesterday I received two solicitations by email. One succeeded with me; the other failed. Notice what works in this message, whose writer gave me permission to share it with you: Subject: Visit Request   Good Afternoon Lynn,   On behalf of the Holiday Inn Seattle & Holiday Inn Express and Suites, I would like...
I received a survey from my health plan this week. It looks as though it will take me about 10-15 minutes to complete and mail back to the corporate office. Usually, I am happy to complete surveys for my health plan, and I will probably do this one because I...
Near the end of the year, I read a Danny Westneat column in The Seattle Times, "Offline Deserves a Right On." I read the newspaper at my breakfast table, but you can read the column online.  Westneat mentioned that a column he had written had inspired 700 emails and online comments in response--and one handwritten...
I am grateful for Tiger Woods' admission of guilt and his apology to his family. Since the reporting of his car accident days ago, the Internet has been full of speculation about the accident and about his possible infidelity. People have been arguing, taking sides, and worrying about their golf...
Update on April 4, 2013 When I wrote this post in 2009, I was reacting to the sales messages and email requests I was receiving that were addressed to "Dear Sir or Madam." That greeting instantly told me that the writers were strangers who did not care enough about their communication with...