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Lynn Gaertner-Johnston
I'm Lynn Gaertner-Johnston, founder of Syntax Training in Seattle, Washington, and a fan of business writing.
Recent Activity
Maureen, interesting! That's one solution.
The line-break style makes sense. I just have to get used to it! Thanks, Rebecca.
Hi Rebecca, Thanks for commenting. I appreciate your point of view as a signage designer. I would suggest that hyphens such as the one in DEEP-FRIED, and apostrophes like the one in WOMEN'S are integral parts of the word. I would never leave them out. A hyphen doesn't even take any additional space. For the comma between CONGRATULATIONS and GRADUATES, I can see your point. Still, a comma takes up so little room that I would lobby for inserting it and being correct. I do hear you, and I am glad you shared your opinion. I'll be watching for signs that present your point of view. Lynn
Hi JBS, Thanks for responding to the proofreading challenge. I agree with your comma between the words CONGRATULATIONS and GRADUATES. It's necessary because the message is directly addressing the graduates. And I agree with your apostrophe for WOMEN'S. It's perfect for a plural noun that does not end in "s." I would not use a comma between UPSCALE and WOMEN'S. In my mind, the adjectives are not equal. I think it's a women's boutique that happens to be upscale. To test for the need for a comma, ask yourself whether you could insert "and" between the adjectives and have the phrase sound right. "Upscale and women's boutique"? No, probably not. Therefore, no comma. I agree with your hyphens for the deep-fried food. I'm still trying to imagine what it tastes like! Again, thanks for weighing in. Lynn
Interesting, Deborah! I like your thinking, and I believe we can get a lot from your story. One point is to ask people, privately or publicly, which language they prefer. Doing it publicly gives the advantage that the audience gets to hear and understand the exchange. If the presenter had introduced the man as blind, the audience might have wondered why he was not using the more delicate expression. Also, I think about the fact that the man was born blind--he has always been blind and has--I assume--been hearing that word since childhood. So "not-seeing person" seems silly to him. In the United States, we typically use the expression "visually impaired." It's especially apt for people who have difficulty seeing but are not totally blind. Both "blind" and "visually impaired" are adjectives (although we can say "the blind," making it a noun). With either adjective, we can use the word "people," that is, "people who are blind," "people who are visually impaired." With that phrasing, we are still acknowledging their humanity rather than only their condition. Thanks for exploring this topic. Lynn
Hi Lionel, You are a thoughtful person, and I am going to assume that your intent is not to offend. But intent doesn't matter if a person is indeed offended by certain language. If someone tells me he does not like being called a "subordinate" (or if I notice that the first definition of the word in my dictionary is "belonging to a lower or inferior class"), I am not going to use the word "subordinate" because of what it communicates or could communicate. I do not choose to offend. If people who are descended from slaves tell me that they prefer the term "enslaved people" rather than "slaves" because it describes who they were more accurately, I am going to use the language they prefer. I want to be heard and received, so I will use the language that reaches my audience most effectively. I do not choose to offend. You said that political correctness "forces everyone to be careful with their words so as not to offend, even when no offense is intended." I'm not sure about the forcing part, but I do believe that all of us will be more successful and happier if we are careful with our words. If I ran into you while cycling, I wouldn't have intended to knock you down and hurt you, but I would hurt you nevertheless. If I use language that hurts you, it hurts you whether I intended to hurt you or not. And if I keep using that language, then I DO intend to hurt you--because now I know better. Thank you for sharing your thoughts. Lynn
Hi Deborah, Thank you for taking the time to share Fromm's ideas about language. Now I am thinking about the Spanish that I study, for example, "Tengo sueño" ("I have dream") for "I am sleepy." Interesting! I haven't read the link information yet, but I look forward to it. Lynn
Camilla, Laura, Chris, and Virginia, thank you all for responding! Camilla, I appreciate your thoughtful comment. Laura, thanks for sharing the link! I am glad you liked the post. Chris, thank you for telling us about People First language. Inspired by your information, I quickly found this site, which has many examples that people can learn from: Virginia, I appreciate your excellent example and your helpful anecdote. Thank you for taking the time to comment. Lynn
Hi Emma, I am sorry for the delay in responding to you. The answer appears above in the section Answers to Frequently Asked Questions: 2. If the person I am writing to uses two last names, do I use both or only one of them in the greeting? You use both names in the greeting. Example: Dear Mr. Garcia Lopez, Again, I apologize for the delay. I was on vacation. Lynn
Hi Katy, A post on "till" is a good idea. Thanks. Lynn
Hi Alex, I can understand how "come away" would seem strange in translation. Try substituting "leave with." What we want to come away with or leave with is our goal. Lynn
Hi Jane, Yes, it's correct both ways. That's something I was hoping to get across. Thanks for noticing! Lynn
Hello Jane, Senna, Christie, Kasumi, and L.G., Thank you for participating in this challenge. Wasn't it surprising that a short portion of the invitation included so many errors? Jane was the first to respond and corrected all the errors. Great work, Jane! I will write about each correction, and you can use my explanation and compare your version with Jane's. 1. A name needs to follow the greeting "Dear." Using just "Dear" followed by a comma shows that the writer's database is incomplete. If you send mass emails like this one, find out how to handle recipients whose first names you do not have. 2. Jane, I too would keep the friendly comma after the greeting. 3. Although the abbreviation "WA" is not incorrect, it is a good idea to spell it out as "Washington." The abbreviation is acceptable in headlines and subject lines as long as the spelled-out version follows soon after. 4. "Bill signing" is a compound adjective when it comes before a noun such as "ceremony." It needs to be hyphenated: "bill-signing ceremony." 5. Unless "bill-signing ceremony" is the proper name of the event, the words should be lower case rather than capitalized. Indeed, they are lower case later in the message. 6. The date should be rendered this way: Tuesday, May 7 Whenever you use a day of the week and date in a sentence, surround the date with commas (unless the sentence structure requires a period or a semicolon). 7. Virtually all style manuals dictate the use of cardinal numbers in dates. That means May 7 is correct--not May 7th. "The New Yorker" magazine uses ordinal numbers such as 7th for dates, but other publications do not. 8. The time should be rendered this way: 3 p.m. There should be a space between the number and p.m. Also, p.m. requires periods. I will empathize with you if you think the periods are no longer necessary in our fast-paced world of communication. But all style manuals that I know of still recommend them. 9. The name of one of the acts is "Clean Buildings for Washington"--not "Clean Buildings for WA." The state name should be spelled out. 10. "Climate related" is a compound adjective before the word "bills." It requires a hyphen: climate-related. 11. "RSVP for" makes more sense than "RSVP to." One can RSVP FOR an event or TO an invitation, but not to an event. 12. Again, "bill-signing ceremony" needs that hyphen. 13. The final sentence is a run-on--that is, it is two sentences fused without a conjunction. It makes sense to separate them like this: RSVP for the bill-signing ceremony today. You won’t want to miss this groundbreaking signing! It is also fine to use a dash between the two sentences, as Christie did, or to insert a conjunction between them, as Kasumi did. L.G., you made some interesting edits to the message. I was focused on correcting it, but your conciseness make sense. Please let me know, everyone, if I missed a point you were wondering about. Thanks again for participating! Lynn
Thanks, Kathryn! Lynn
Chanakavp, that's a great question. Because this card expresses very positive emotions, I believe the two exclamation points are appropriate. "Thank You, Teacher" and "You're Great" may seem a bit flat without the exclamation points, especially with the exuberant design. Lynn
Toggle Commented May 6, 2019 on Error or No Error? at Business Writing
Thank you, Gilda. I appreciate your passing this information on. It's surprising how many people--including students--don't think about this step in the hiring process. Lynn
Thank you, everyone, for weighing in on the quiz. I have corrected the card in an image above. Are you surprised at the need for a comma? Yes, directly addressing the reader in a sentence requires one or two commas. The first sentence in my comment here required two because the word "everyone" appeared in the middle of the sentence. Holly, you're right--the card needed a comma. Bart, I think the capitalization is fine for a card. We would want to use traditional capitalization in an email or another work communication. Jane, you got the comma right! Thanks for elaborating on the capitalization question. I agree with you. Kls, thanks for your generous spirit--and your perfectly correct comment. You made me curious about 10-inch rulers--I found them online. Larry, I'm going to insist on that comma. You may have heard of the "Let's eat Grandma" example. We need punctuation! Peter, how do you feel about the corrected version of the image? That comma is important to me and the proofreaders of the world. Patti, "thank you" does not need a hyphen in this context. However, it does when the phrase is used as an adjective (thank-you card) and as a noun (He wrote a thank-you). Deborah, I'm with you. However, I'd let "Great" stand as is since it's an exuberant message. Cassie, interesting catch! I think it's just a handwriting issue. Patty, thanks for your positive attitude. I like your thinking that the cards is perfect as is. Wouldn't it be wonderful if we all regularly received such thank-yous? Again, thank you, everyone! I appreciate your input. Lynn
Toggle Commented May 2, 2019 on Error or No Error? at Business Writing
Keith, thanks for sharing your "fair warning" idea. I like it. Lynn
Toggle Commented Apr 26, 2019 on Acronyms and SMEs--Help! at Business Writing
Hasan, you are welcome. Lynn
Hi Bart, Good point. Normally a colon follows the salutation in a business letter. For thank-you notes, however, the tone is different, and the relationship-building purpose merits the comma, which is friendlier. A colon would be correct, but it would be more formal, as you said. "Hi" and "Hello" as greetings are also relationship builders. I've written a lot about greetings here: Nice to hear from you, as always. Lynn
Camilla, thanks for your thoughtful comment. You are welcome! Lynn
Hello Sankar, Generally, you would not copy the employees of someone you are addressing. If you wanted the employees to know about the topic, you would ask the supervisor to forward the message to them. However, in different situations, you might develop a different agreement with the supervisor. I am sorry for the delay in responding to your comment. Lynn
Cristie, that is an excellent approach to making email more efficient in an organization. Thanks for sharing it. Lynn
Jacqueline, you are correct. Thanks for that helpful reminder. Lynn
Hi Charley, Take the free preview of my online course Meeting Notes Made Easy: Also click on the links in the blog post above to read more. You'll get a lot of free information. Then if you want to invest in your skills, take the entire Meeting Notes Made Easy course. Perhaps you have an employer who might pay for it. Good luck! Lynn