Over last weekend, I’ll bet many of you, like me, were busy packing away ornaments, deciding which candles can be used again, and trying to find a youth organization to give our retired trees to for recycling. Or at least, again, like me – thinking about it!

And now it’s serious back-to-work time. Time to try something new. I’m not quite ready for 2014 yet – what happened to 2010, anyway? So, with a final salute, let’s wrap up 2013 with the Best of the Blog – a short collection of my top nineteen posts of that year, as judged by the number of “likes” each garnered. An “e-book” for want of a better name, and the first e-book I’ve ever done. Please email me (gail@gailtycer.com), and I’ll send you the free link.

I’d like to give this compilation to you as a thought-starter. A new way of thinking about your writing. Or maybe as a way to address a New Year’s resolution to strengthen your on-the-job writing, making it faster, easier, and more effective. Totally free. No advertising, no name collecting, no strings. Please email me (gail@gailtycer.com), and I’ll send you the free link.

We’ll talk about:

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How Important is a Thank You Note – Really?

Thank You Card

Take just a moment to think about that person in your life who always sends you a thank you note.  In our family, Cousin Harriet comes to mind. Her thank you notes are gifts in themselves. They make you feel good. Happy about whatever small service or gift, and eager to see her “next time.”

Can your thank you note do this for your friend or family member? Of course. And what a privilege it is to write that note, knowing you are brightening the day for Aunt Minnie or Uncle George, who spent hours online, or at the Mall, finding just the right thing to brighten your holiday.

A hand-written note – on paper and through the U.S. Mail – is often the best. A hand-written note, on paper, has a more lasting quality. In some cases, an email, a text message, or even a quick phone call of thanks may be more appropriate. What is important is to let that person who has done you a service, or sent you a gift, know that you sincerely appreciate his or her effort.

Is this equally true in business?

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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

Published in: on December 30, 2013 at 1:34 pm  Leave a Comment  
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A Heartfelt Thank You, and More About Email

HappyHoliday240May 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 post:

“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!

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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 aworkshop 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

Published in: on December 23, 2013 at 12:17 pm  Leave a Comment  
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The Write Gift – Beyond Price, Yet It Costs Nothing

youngBoyWriting200Almost always these posts are dedicated to business writing strategies, tips, and tactics to help you write less, say more – and get results on the job.

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.

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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

Published in: on December 2, 2013 at 12:05 pm  Comments Off on The Write Gift – Beyond Price, Yet It Costs Nothing  
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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?

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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. 

Published in: on November 12, 2013 at 1:40 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Five Tips to Get Your Email Read and Answered

by Alan Taylor, Guest Blogger

TwoBusinessPeopleEmail today is both a blessing and a curse. While it is a quick and effective way to communicate, it can also be a huge burden when used to avoid personal contact or when used excessively. If you work for a mid- to large-sized company, chances are you deal with well over 100 email messages a day – a majority of which are either unnecessary or unnecessarily long. Chances are also – big company or small – that you don’t respond to every email that needs responding to – even with the best of intentions. With that in mind, here are some tips to help you get your email read and an answer to your email faster:

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Published in: on July 24, 2013 at 9:36 am  Leave a Comment  
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Business Writing Tip of the Week: How to Offend, Anger, or Frustrate Without Realizing It

Do you wake up on a workday morning and say to yourself, “I wonder how many of our customers/clients/contacts I can offend/anger/frustrate today?”

Of course not! And yet, it’s so easy to do just that, and never even realize it – perhaps until it’s too late.

Here’s one: How many times, with the best of intentions, have you ended a letter with, “Please feel free to call on us if we can be of further assistance”? If you’re like most of us, you’ve used that phrase as a “curtain line” hundreds of times. We’ve all done it. Somewhere in the distant past, we may even have been taught that this is a standard business phrase to be used at the end of most correspondence.

Let’s talk about this.

To begin with, you never need a “curtain line” to end your correspondence. There are actually four customary ways to finish writing: a summary, a conclusion, a “nicety” (a word I made up to describe this type of an ending), or – and this one is too often overlooked – just plain quit when you have said what you have to say.

 Well, if it’s acceptable to “just plain quit” when you’ve said what you have to say, why do you need a “nicety” at all? And if you do, when should you use it?

A “nicety” is a tool of tone. Remember that tone is the relationship the writer sets up, or reinforces with the reader. Think about what you want that relationship to be: Helpful? Knowledgeable? Respectful? Friendly? Cooperative?

So the only time you will use, and the only purpose of a “nicety,” is to build or reinforce that relationship. And if you are not looking to do that, “just plain quit” can be a great option.

Now let’s look at the wording of that “nicety,” beginning with the phrase, “Please feel free.” You do not have to give your client, customer, or contact permission to call on you! Of course he or she should “feel free” and your telling that reader so may well sound a bit patronizing. Or at least it could, if your reader paid any attention to your “nicety.”

So here’s the good news: That phrase is so trite your reader is more likely not to read or even notice it at all. So why bother?

And then there’s that phrase, “further assistance.” We may have just informed the reader that he or she did not get the job, does not get the extension, or will not get the expected refund. Now we are essentially telling that reader, “If there’s anything else we can do for you….”

It’s wise to be sure you have done something of assistance before claiming you have. Better yet, avoid that concept altogether. Let your reader tell you if you have been helpful!

Let’s clarify a point here: The idea of offering help is a good one. Just be careful how you word it, and personalize your “nicety” to your specific reader, and the specific situation.

The same thing goes for the words and phrases we use. Most of them, as well, are carry-overs from what we learned in school. (Bless our English teachers – where would we be without them?) Just remember that formal, or academic writing, can be very different from practical business writing, and generally is.

For example, can you think of three ways to say  “about”? Well, to start with we could say  “about,” or “regarding,” or “with regard to.” Now, which one is the most formal?  Which is the least formal? Which one is down the middle?

It’s helpful to decide how formal, or how informal you want your writing to be before you begin to write. Consider the level of formality that will best support the tone, or relationship you will be establishing or reinforcing with your reader. Oh, and by the way, “about” is the least formal, while “with regard to” is the most formal. “Regarding” is somewhere down the middle, perhaps leaning a bit toward the formal side.

This week, please give particular thought to the words, phrases, and even paragraphs you use habitually. The throwaway ones. The ones we never think about, but just use without much thought.

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We appreciate your recommending a Gail Tycer business writing workshop for your workplace or a shorter presentation for an upcoming professional meeting. Thank you.

Published in: on June 3, 2013 at 10:00 am  Comments (2)  
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Business Writing Tip of the Week: How to Write a Business Thank You Note

I could tell it was something pretty special the moment I removed the envelope from the post office box. Something important. Something that mattered. The envelope was notecard size, the address was handwritten. And it had a stamp on it!Thank You Card

Very special indeed. It was a handwritten thank you note. How long has it been since you’ve seen one of those in the business situation? Right. And that is precisely why it’s such a good idea. Because no one does it any more, any handwritten note, and particularly a handwritten thank you note, will make you stand out against your competition for, say, a job. A contract. An advocate.

Now in the business situation, there are layers – bottom layer is ignoring the thank you altogether. Not a good plan.

Next up – a spoken thank you. Depending on what the thanker is thanking the thankee for, this level of informality may be appropriate. In any case, it would certainly be preferable to saying nothing!

And then, how about a text? Or an email that could even be a bit longer. Well, still better than nothing, and it may be an appropriate tone and level of informality.

But how about that handwritten paper thank you note. Now that’s special. There is just something about holding that paper in your hand…

When to write a thank you note?

“Thank,” according to my Webster’s, means to show appreciation. You already do this, in a variety of ways, several times every day for kindnesses shown you by others.  But when do you write your thanks in the business situation? For those special kindnesses, as you would define special – the introduction; the special tip or suggestion that worked so well; the referral.

Timing is important. Write that note right away, and get it in the mail.

How do you make it easier to get started?

We could make this really hard. We could suggest visiting your stationer to select the appropriate notepaper and fountain pen. If you have the time, that is a good idea. But formal, dedicated stationers are harder and harder to find these days. The point really is that many stores carry good quality notepaper, and any pen that does not leave blotches or write only when it feels like it, will work just fine. Let’s not get bogged down with the details.

In the business situation, you will probably choose a neutral color, good quality stock with very understated, or no design. Some organizations have their own notepaper, and may use their own colors or design to echo or reinforce their brand.

When we were talking about thank you notes the other day, a friend shared a great tip from a friend of hers: Pre-stamp, and pre-return address several envelopes, and slip the blank notepaper inside each. When the occasion arises, all you have left to do is to use the same pen to write the note and address the envelope.

What goes into a handwritten thank you note?

1. Sincerity.

Sincerity, a sincere appreciation for a kindness done you by another is also number two and number three on this list. Your reader has a built-in radar that can detect one of those I-don’t-really-mean-it-but-have-to-write-it messages from 10,000 feet! This is the same radar that can detect the difference between a sales message disguised as a thank you, and the real thing. If you don’t mean it, you have no reason to write it.

4. The type of message that calls for a handwritten thank you note may very well be short, but should never be rushed. Take a few minutes to think about that kindness, and about the person you are thanking (you can do this while pouring your coffee, or brushing your teeth) before you write it.

A sincere thank you is always appropriate. A sincere written thank you is a very special thing.

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We appreciate your referrals of a Gail Tycer business writing workshop for your workplace, or for a shorter presentation at an upcoming professional meeting. Thank you.

Published in: on April 8, 2013 at 1:52 pm  Comments (4)  
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Thank Your Favorite English Teacher!

I hope everyone reading today’s entry will take a moment to drop a note or call to thank your favorite English teacher. Without him or her none of us would be where we are today. So bless that English teacher for giving us the sound, solid basic writing skills that have helped us so very much so far. The skills that allow us to build from them to move forward and take the next step. The skills that allow us to prove our professionalism and demonstrate our credibility.

In my business writing workshops, I often hear stories about a participant’s favorite English teacher. For example:

We were discussing prepositions one day, and how the last word of a prepositional phrase may cause confusion, resulting in a plural verb with a singular subject. This can happen because the last word of the prepositional phrase, often located next to the subject it describes, was plural, while the subject of the sentence was actually singular. One of the class members said, “My English teacher told us that ‘a preposition is a word that describes any way a bird can fly.’”

While this is not strictly true, it is fairly accurate, and is somewhat easier than memorizing the entire list of prepositions in the English language, which is not a bad idea either. (If you would like to take a look at the list of prepositions, visit my BusinessWritingZone.com website.)

It’s amazing how much can be learned from class members! I hope you will share your favorite teacher story, too. Just comment, or e-mail me. Thanks, I’ll look forward to hearing from you.

© 2013 Gail Tycer • www.GailTycer.com

Advice for Bloggers – Rule #5: Be patient, but active.

This week, we’re welcoming back blogger Marilyn Tycer. Marilyn is a graphic designer and blogger, and we’ve asked her to share some of her tips for bloggers. (Click for Rule #1, Rule #2, Rule #3 and Rule#4).

Advice for Bloggers: Rule #5

Be patient, but be active.
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