College instructors sometimes ask me to recommend a text to use in their business writing classes.
I'm pleased to announce a complete new communications curriculum for college instructors. One of my many favorite learning activities from the curriculum involves revising relationship-busting statements. If you are a college instructor, you can find about more about the free curriculum and how to receive it. If you are not a college instructor but want to try your hand at revising the statement above, please do! If you are holding back, thinking Well, it depends, you are with The Gregg Reference Manual.
Good proofreaders catch errors that would embarrass, torment, and diminish us if those errors appeared in print or online.
If you have made certain style decisions on your own—for instance, you use Canadian spelling because you have Canadian clients—let your proofreaders know that.
If you are an expert in your field or industry, you have probably learned a lot of jargon--and you've earned the right to use it. Abbreviations (including acronyms) without definitions or spelled-out versions: CRM, OD, EOM, OFA, ERISA, JCAHO. To recognize whether a term you want to use is jargon, ask yourself: Do our potential customers or clients, new employees and interns, and senior leaders use this term? Unless you define or explain it, do not use jargon in any communications outside your expert peer groups: reports to senior management, recommendations to the board, letters to customers, web sites, marketing packets, annual reports, newsletters, grant proposals, user manuals, etc. When writing to a mixed audience, avoid jargon in the subject line, title, or first sentences. Why it’s bad: Telling customers or other individuals that you disagree with your manager diminishes your manager—and the entire company. Why it’s bad: Similar to Number 1, criticizing a department like legal, information technology, or human resources belittles the company. Why it’s bad: Although admitting inexperience can inspire empathy, it can also diminish your readers’ regard for your company and you.
Why it’s bad: Details about your internal processes, especially when processes plod along not focused on customers’ or others’ needs, do nothing to satisfy readers.
Why it’s bad: Personal information can embarrass readers and make them feel awkward about how and whether they should respond. Why it’s bad: Pointing out someone’s typo, inconsequential error, or minor imperfection wins no friends. Why it’s bad: It’s impossible to ask such a question in email without endangering a relationship.
Why it’s bad—sometimes: The statement is bad if you will struggle to meet that deadline and may even miss it. Instead, ask about the reader’s degree of urgency: “I will be happy to get this information.


Can you think of times when you have not read an email closely and ended up writing a nonsensical or an unnecessary reply? Both instructors and students can benefit from the tips on completing the assignment--tips about the purpose of the message, its audience, the communication strategy, and content.
Students first recognize why the instructor statements below are relationship busters. Don’t be the person about whom the proofreader says, “He insists it be this way despite what the dictionary and style manuals say.” And if you don’t understand a change your proofreader has made, ask questions to understand the correction rather than automatically reject it. Make proofreading a priority.Proofreading is as essential as planning, writing, formatting, editing, and printing.
But I knew that Nordstrom had been open a few days earlier because my daughter told me she had stopped in.
Nordstrom did not intend to turn away business from the many travelers who did not know about the old Nordstrom location. They record too much information--information that no one wants or needs beyond that moment in the meeting. By the time the notes get distributed, none of the information is likely to be relevant. If your readers get lost at the start of your message, it's you who have lost them--and lost the chance to communicate with them. This list of 10 examples will alert you to statements that can weaken your messages and your business relationships. For instance, if legal takes “forever,” it is either understaffed, incompetent, or uncooperative rather than nimble, competent, and responsive. It can make readers wonder why your company did not train you before having you do the job, or why you did not learn from your training.
In fact, they make readers doubt your company’s efficiency: Can’t anyone besides your assistant complete a check request? Unless you have a close relationship with your readers, personal details such as health concerns, legal problems, and small or grown children’s struggles do not belong in your communications. And the cold words on the screen can suggest that you enjoy letting people know about their lost opportunity. Readers appreciate neither the assumption that they know certain things nor the questioning of their motives. That means they will not be able to focus on what they do need, and you won’t get the results you seek. Making yourself struggle and potentially missing the deadline are both bad—if the other person never communicated a required time limit. Tina got upset when she saw that the new leader had placed a certain older, very experienced person, Jerome, in a junior role on the team. Assignments cover explanations, requests, bad-news messages, inquiries, solicitations, messages saying no, complaint resolutions, a range of job-search messages, and other pieces. Instructors can never be sure where students may go wrong with a writing assignment that requires them to imagine themselves communicating on the job.


The course, Business Writing That Builds Relationships, developed out of my long-standing interest in diplomatic, relationship-building messages at work. Proofreading is finding and correcting errors and inconsistencies in documents that are virtual final drafts. Know that occasionally something will slip by even after several editors and proofreaders have reviewed a document. Readers are wondering not only Why are the doors locked? They want to know Can I shop today? Yet not providing more information caused readers to assume that they could not shop on a busy Saturday when they were ready to spend money. Jargon is any specialist's language that non-specialists do not use and probably do not understand. When you must write the same message to specialists and non-specialists (including people in your field who are not yet experts), use jargon. The information might make readers wonder whether you are able to give their needs sufficient attention. Her interest in our work stems from her experiences working with immigrants on the Mexican border, when she attended college in Las Cruces, New Mexico. Reserve your jargon for use with people who understand and appreciate it--that is, your professional, industry, and company peer groups who are also specialists.
However, define it, explain it, spell it out, give examples, and provide visual illustrations.
Justifying a delay by explaining that you are very busy at a particular time of year does not reassure readers either. Avoid calling, pinging, emailing, or standing over your proofreaders while they work—and dissuade others from interrupting them. Because I cringe when I see the phrase “thanks-you notes” in my book Business Writing With Heart, knowing that two proofreaders (including me) carefully reviewed it. Even a symbol as simple as $$$ must be defined for people who are not your regular readers or specialists in your area. If you are a supervisor who is coaching an employee on eliminating errors, that’s a different story.
Before you give a piece to a proofreader for a final review, make sure it has already gone through its rounds of revisions, if necessary. After all, if you aren’t going to defer to their knowledge of grammar, punctuation, and usage, why use them at all?
If you want people to find you on the Internet, use both jargon and general terms so that both experts and non-experts can find you.
You only have to control it if you want to communicate with potential clients and customers, investors, sponsors, citizens, senior executives, and others who can help you achieve your goals.



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