A Heartfelt Thank You, and More About Email

May you have a truly joyful holiday season! Thank you so much for being a loyal reader of this weekly blog. Your emails and comments mean a great deal.

Now let me share a couple of emails on last week’s postHappyHoliday240:

“That first tip is such a good idea. I got one message from someone I doubt would have sent it if she had taken the time to think it over before sending – and perhaps would have modified the tone. It changed my opinion of her permanently….I think prompt replies are a must, too. Your ideas certainly make for a more civil society.”

Thank you, Carla. Not only is a “civil society” a more pleasant environment to live in, but in the business situation, leads to greater productivity!

“I enjoyed your latest post. I learned Tip #1 the hard way when I inadvertently sent something out prematurely. It wasn’t a disaster, but it conditioned me to the possibility, so any sensitive e-missive gets addressed after it’s finished.”

“I have another email tip….use structure to make your emails easy to absorb….My rule is  ‘aim for one screen’s worth, but spread it out so people can see the whole, note the pieces, and get to your point quickly.’”

Thank you, Harry. I like to say that writing is a visual art. How it looks on the screen (or on paper) can determine how – or if – your reader will “get it,” remember it, and act on it.

Here’s another email tip for today:

There are four types of email: (1) The original email; (2) the reply; (3) the cover letter for an attachment; and (4) the attachment. Each is handled slightly differently.

(1)   In the original email, aim for one paragraph, not more than five lines. This should work for at least half of your emails, if you tell your reader who-what-when-where-how.

(2)   Many times, the reply, like the original you are replying to, can be answered in one paragraph, five lines or less. In no case should either the original, or the reply, be longer than a screen to a screen-and-a-half. If your reply needs to be longer than that, make it an attachment with a cover letter.

(3)   The cover letter will be short. Most of the time it will be that one paragraph, not more than five lines, telling the reader why you are sending the attachment, and what he or she is to do with, or about it, and when.

(4)   The attachment should be concise – that is, as short as you can make it, while still giving all the information needed. It can be printed out for the reader to read more easily. Printing it out reduces the potential irritation caused to the eye, as well as to your message, when there is too much to read comfortably online.

See you next week!

If you like what you’re reading, please subscribe to our blog.

We’ll be happy to bring a Gail Tycer workshop to your organization. To discuss a workshop for your people at your location or ours, or a shorter presentation for an upcoming meeting, call Gail at 503/292-9681, or email gail@gailtycer.com

Facebooktwittergoogle_pluslinkedinrssyoutube

Five Ways to Strengthen Your Email

WomanatComputer175

Have you ever had an email “send” before you were ready to turn it loose? Who hasn’t experienced this awkward moment and its subsequent follow-up? Today, let’s talk about the fail-safe way to avoid this situation, as one of our five ways to strengthen your email.

1. A participant in one of my workshops came up with this tip: To avoid “sending” before you are ready, leave the “to” line blank until you are ready to send. Check your piece over for grammatical, usage, and strategic missteps, and then address and send it.

2. Consistently reply promptly, and you will stand out in a very positive way. One of the most common questions asked is always, “How do I get people to respond to me?” At all. Let alone promptly. If you do not have the answer at your fingertips, or do not have time to provide a lengthy answer right then, answer that email with a reasonable expectation for the reader, e.g., “I will send that information later this afternoon.” Or, “I can have that report for you by Friday.” This is what our reader needs. This is what we need to do.

3. Watch the tone of your email carefully. Texting has become the “short answer” medium. Frequently you’ll see “Yes.” Or “Can’t.” or “Don’t know.” But email has a little more leeway. So, with email, keep your message as short as you possibly can, and still provide the information using the best tone. Any message of more than a screen to a screen-and-a-half should be broken into a “cover letter,” and an attachment. The reader’s eyes have a virtually unconscious reaction to reading on the screen, which may cause irritation – both to the reader’s eyes and to your message!

4. Remember that there are four types of email: (1) the original that you write; (2) your response to someone else’s email; (3) the cover letter for (4) the attachment. Decide which you are writing, especially if it is just a one-paragraph cover letter for the attachment, where the “meat” of your message may be found.

5. Conventional wisdom says limit each email to one subject, and use the subject line only for that subject (as compared against carrying on with the same subject line for a variety of subjects). Good advice. It’s so much easier to find your message if you do this. Where the problem comes in is when you have a lot of different issues to discuss – each of them short, and in total all of them over-populating your reader’s in box. In this case, consider using an umbrella subject line covering the overall purpose of the email, or enumerating the two or three issues the email may deal with.

See you next week!

If you like what you’re reading, please subscribe to our blog.

We’ll be happy to bring a Gail Tycer workshop to your organization. To discuss a workshop for your people at your location or ours, or a shorter presentation for an upcoming meeting, call Gail at 503/292-9681, or email gail@gailtycer.com

Facebooktwittergoogle_pluslinkedinrssyoutube

How Many Common Writing Errors Do You Make?

Gail Tycer wordpress wordle

Let’s talk a bit about grammar and usage errors today. Can you find the errors in the following three sentences?

1. Woodland Caribou: Less than 65 roam America’s mountains and mesas.

2.  As soon as they get the test scores back, her or her assistant will call you.

3.  They thought living in Canada would be a lot different than living in Portland, Oregon.

Here are the answers:

1. The error here is “Less.” When you can count them, it’s “Fewer,” so this sentence should read: Woodland Caribou: Fewer than 65 roam America’s mountains and mesas.  Use “Less” when it’s something you can measure (volume): There is less coffee in the blue cup than in the red one.

If you thought the problem was the capitalized word following the colon, then when do you capitalize the word following a colon? Capitalize the next word after a colon when it is a proper noun, or when it is the first word of a complete sentence. If it is part of a series, and not a complete sentence, it should be lower case.

How about “65”? Numbers nine and lower are spelled out. Numbers 10 and higher are shown in Arabic numerals.

2. This one is easy, but I included it to give you a shortcut. The error, of course, is the first “her,” which should be “she.” The shortcut: When you have a situation like this one, just cover up the first of the two words or phrases in question. Cover up the first “her,” and this part of the sentence reads, “…her assistant will call you.” Sounds fine. But cover up “or her assistant,” and this part of the sentence will read, “…her will call you.” Clearly not fine. You can hear that it should be “…she will call you.” The sentence should read:

As soon as they get the test scores back, she or her assistant will call you.

3. The error here is that things are “different from,” and not “different than.”

And yes, the comma needs to be between Portland, and Oregon

Hope you’ve enjoyed this short quiz. If you’d like to test yourself further, visit our archives by clicking here.

 

If you like what you’re reading, please subscribe to our blog.

We’ll be happy to bring a Gail Tycer workshop to your organization. To discuss a workshop for your people at your location or ours, or a shorter presentation for an upcoming meeting, call Gail at 503/292-9681, or email gail@gailtycer.com

Facebooktwittergoogle_pluslinkedinrssyoutube

The Write Gift – Beyond Price, Yet It Costs Nothing

youngBoyWriting200

This week, I’m feeling that old holiday nostalgia, and would like to digress, and talk a bit about some of the best gifts I’ve ever received. They would not be for everyone, but it may be they’ll spark some ideas for you, and perhaps some wonderful memories for someone special to you.

As a young lieutenant’s family, we lived by the motto, “If the Air Force had wanted you to have children, they’d have issued them to you!” So, if we bought new school coats, or shoes, or sweaters in the fall, we really had a struggle to get them paid for by Christmas.

Enter The Poem!

We wrote poems describing each of the “early Christmas gifts” the children had already received. Much to our astonishment, they loved the poems, and the small gifts and stocking surprises they got on Christmas Day. Of course, that was then, and this is now. Then, most of their friends and classmates were in much the same situation. So it all worked out then.

Now they get regular presents, but the poem tradition remains a high point of our gift giving, closely followed by the stocking free-for-all!

I look at my office wall. There hang three treasures: Grandma’s Garden, a beautiful poem describing Sarah’s thoughts while weeding, planting, and just “being”; Tony’s short descriptive essay starting with a small seed and its nurture, and ending with an emerald green bowl of Garlic Butter Broccoli on the dinner table; and Marilyn’s cherished Picasso-style ink rendering of watering the garden, bringing it all to vibrant life. Treasures indeed.

And then there is Madison’s work. As a third grader, she was assigned to interview a neighbor, and then write his or her biography. I was the fortunate neighbor to be interviewed. Madison received an excellent grade for her fine work, and I received a dear gift in the form of an illustrated biography she had hand written and illustrated for me.

The spoken word can be powerful. Texting is clearly useful, and generally gets a quick response. And we all enjoy Pinterest and YouTube.

But the written word is just as powerful, more durable, and infinitely more memorable.

To receive your Business Writing Trends automatically every week, please subscribe to our blog, or to our newsletter.

We’ll be happy to bring a Gail Tycer workshop to your organization. To discuss a workshop for your people at your location or ours, or a shorter presentation for an upcoming meeting, give us a call at 503/292-9681, or email us at gail@gailtycer.com

Facebooktwittergoogle_pluslinkedinrssyoutube

Get Local With Your SEO

This week’s blog entry is provided by guest blogger Alan Taylor, owner of Alpine Technical Group

There are many, many ways to make sure your website is visible and attractive to Google – meaning that when Google takes a look at your website, it sees information that is relevant and useful to potential visitors to your site. From keywords to citations, meta tags to site indexes, there’s enough to keep a person pretty busy. Even more so, there are tools and features outside of your website that can have a big impact on its visibility. One of those features that is especially important for local and regional businesses is Google Places.

When you perform a search in Google, say “Wallpaper near Walla Walla, Washington,” you get the search results shown below. The Google Places listings in this image are the ones denoted by the teardrop-shaped pointers.

wallpaperSearch

By ensuring your Google Places listing is accurate, you too can be a red point on the map and a listing at the top of the search results (of course not for “wallpaper” but for your own business and location). The process in short:

  • Go to the Google Places page. Either search for “Google Places” or use the URL here: http://www.google.com/business/placesforbusiness/.
  • Sign into Google (or create a new account).
  • Find your business (usually by providing a telephone number).
  • Claim your business and provide information about your business (hours, specials, etc.)
  • Verify your business listing via telephone or postcard.

This process is usually fairly straightforward. If you are one location in a large business office or have an auto answer with a phone tree for your main phone number, your only choice for verification is to have a letter/postcard sent to your mailing address. Sometimes this works, sometimes it doesn’t. If you haven’t received a card in 10 days you can go back into Google Places and request another card. Eventually one will get to you and you can verify your listing.

Also important is to edit your Google Places listing on a regular basis – once every other month or so. Add more information, list a current special or similar. This gives Google new information on your business and helps keep you at the top of the heap.

Our guest blogger, Alan Taylor of Alpine Technical Group, has been providing web presence and marketing consulting for longer than he cares to admit. He loves his job, enjoys his clients and happily keeps abreast of the ever-changing world of web marketing.

Subscribe to our blog – and we’ll see you next week!

To receive your Business Writing Trends automatically every week, please subscribe to our blog, or to our newsletter.

We’ll be happy to come to your organization. To discuss a workshop for your people at your location or ours, or a shorter presentation for an upcoming meeting, email us at gail@gailtycer.com or give us a call at 503/292-9681. 

Facebooktwittergoogle_pluslinkedinrssyoutube

Thanksgiving “Thank You’s”

Thank You Card

This is traditionally the week when the traditional Thanksgiving thank you letters and notes are carefully addressed, and – hopefully – postal mailed to our favorite customers and clients. A good idea?  How are they most likely to be received?

The idea of a Thanksgiving “thank you” is indeed a good one if you are really sincere. If you really mean it to be just that – a genuine thank you to the people who make our businesses possible. Thanksgiving is the time we set aside yearly for each of us to be thankful for the many gifts we enjoy every day. Thanksgiving is indeed the appropriate time to say thank you.

So what can go wrong with that?

To begin with, most readers seem to have an incredible “phony detector.” They can tell.

The first two things that come to mind are, to begin with, those smarmy sales letters, and next, Thanksgiving Sale letters, each carefully disguised as letters of appreciation. These kinds of letters are not worth your time to write, nor the postage to mail them.

To be effective, a sales letter should be just that: a carefully-constructed sales letter, sent to a carefully-selected list of readers, and specifically designed to show those readers how a product or service can solve a knotty problem common to many, if not most of the people on the list.

The function of a Thanksgiving Sale letter is to let an appropriate list of readers know about special pricing, terms, or bonuses available only during this holiday period.

These kinds of letters are often sent as the email equivalent of non-personalized bulk mail. When they are sent by postal mail, they frequently are sent bulk mail, and usually come across that way.

A far cry from a sincere thank you.

This is not to say that a “Happy Thanksgiving” added to an email is not a good idea. It definitely is, so do it. But these kinds of good wishes are quite different from a specific “thank you” message.

A sincere, appreciative thank you should be personalized to each individual reader as much as possible, and certainly should never look like a bulk mail promotion. A card or a letter sent by first-class postal mail, hand addressed, and with a personal hand-written added note will help. This will take a bit of extra time, of course, but if you really mean it, do it!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Subscribe to our blog – and we’ll see you next week!

To receive your Business Writing Trends automatically every week, please subscribe to our blog, or to our newsletter.

We’ll be happy to come to your organization. To discuss a workshop for your people at your location or ours, or a shorter presentation for an upcoming meeting, email us at gail@gailtycer.com or give us a call at 503/292-9681. 

Facebooktwittergoogle_pluslinkedinrssyoutube

Write Faster – Communicate Better!

We are all so very busy, and now we have the holidays coming up, and want some time to enjoy them!ThinkingWoman170

More than ever, holiday time is time to keep those lines of communication open. Not only with friends and family, but especially on the job with our customers and clients. Where are we going to find the time? Let’s begin by taking less time to communicate effectively.

So how can we write faster – and communicate better?

If you’ve been reading this blog for a while now, you know that I have a very definite bias in this area. Here it is: To write faster, you have to begin by knowing what you’re talking about!

First of all, take just a minute or two to ask yourself the big five questions:

Continue reading

Facebooktwittergoogle_pluslinkedinrssyoutube

How to Write Comfortably About Yourself

Among the top challenges in business writing is how to be comfortable writing about yourself. Especially good – no, excellent – no, superlative! things about yourself for that promotional piece, certain portions of that resume (many, these days, are fill-out-the-form), or that requesting-an-interview letter, on paper, or online. Here’s the secret: Don’t focus on yourself. You are only incidental to focusing on the reader, and what you can do to help that reader.

So, as the saying goes, “get over yourself.” And as a client told me years ago, “If I’m not for me, who is? And if not now, when?” But the focus is on your reader!

Continue reading

Facebooktwittergoogle_pluslinkedinrssyoutube

More About the Business Writing Trend: Short!

Last week, we said that “short” is not what we really want, when we are looking for clearer, faster communication; when we want the reader to “get it” and to act on it now. TwoBusinessPeople175

What we are looking for is “concise.” “Short” can cause you a lot of problems, cost you more time, and result in lost productivity. You need to anticipate the questions you must answer for your reader before he or she can do what you are asking him or her to do. “Concise” – providing the information your reader needs, in as short a space as possible – greatly increases the odds that you will get what you need at all, and probably much sooner.

The second part of this is to make your writing faster and easier to read.

We already talked about alternate formats, cover letters, and whether to pass along this information at all. See last week’s post here.

Here are three more things you can do:

Continue reading

Facebooktwittergoogle_pluslinkedinrssyoutube

You May Be Good – But Why Take Your Word for It?

One of the keys to writing less and saying more can be summed up in one word: specificity. Be specific.

ShakingHands175There is too much communication at every level today, and on every subject. How can you stand out, help your reader “get it” quickly, and make every word count? Be specific. Become aware of the words and phrases that are vague, general, and mean nothing. Words and phrases that are used so often, that are so trite your reader reads right past them – or not at all. For example:

What do you mean by

• Highest quality? Who says so? How can you prove it? Everyone says they are, so this phrase gives you no advantage; at best you only become a part of the self-proclaimed “highest quality” group. Where is your competitive edge? Support your claim. Give your reader a reason to believe you.

• Strict quality control?  What steps do you take? What is your process? Your certification? What does that mean in terms of your reader?

• Lowest prices? Compared to what? How do you know? How is the quality affected? How will lower prices today affect productivity in the months and years ahead? What kind of an investment will this be?

• Best (name) on the market today?  Back it up. Prove it. Where are the numbers, the endorsements, the case histories, the detail? And what do you mean by “best”?

Here are some more. You’ve got the idea, so play with these phrases. Apply them to your company, to your service, to a specific product.

• Full service:

• Centrally located:

• Completely equipped:

Vague words and phrases surround us, cluttering our writing, and losing valuable opportunities daily to prove who we are, what we do, and how well we do it in every email, sales piece, or conversation.

Begin by thinking like your reader might think. First priority: benefits to your reader. What will he or she gain, achieve, become? What will he or she avoid, prevent, save? Be specific.

Look for those vague, mean-nothing words and phrases in your own writing.

Think about what you would like your reader to tell his or her purchasing agent, colleague, or friend if asked about you, or about what you have to offer; what you would like him or her to believe (and remember) about you. Think about the level of detail you need for this writing situation. Then give your reader a specific reason to believe you.

See you next week!

To receive your Business Writing Trends automatically every week, please subscribe to our newsletter.

We’ll be happy to come to your organization. To discuss a workshop for your people at your location, or a shorter presentation for an upcoming meeting, email us at gail@gailtycer.com or give us a call at 503/292-9681. 

Facebooktwittergoogle_pluslinkedinrssyoutube