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How to Avoid Email Disasters?

“Act in haste; repent at leisure” is the operative proverb for email today. How often have you sent an email flying off into cyberspace, only to realize too late that it:

  • Was going to the wrong person
  • Conveyed a negative or angry tone that would damage your relationship with the reader
  • Contained spelling or punctuation errors that would make you look ignorant and unprofessional

The more time I spend training people in how to use email effectively, the more horror stories I hear and the more likely I am to pick up the phone instead of sending an email.

Every email must be able to pass the newspaper test.

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How Punctuation Can Change Your Life

I wish I could offer attribution to these two punctuation parables but alas I received them unsigned. Nevertheless, they illustrate the important function that punctuation plays in telling the reader how to parse the words on the page.

Punctuation both paces and parses, instructing the reader about when to stop (for periods, question marks, and exclamation points), when to pause (for commas and dashes), when to make a longer stop within a sentence (for colons and semicolons) and when to keep barreling ahead (with no punctuation). Adding punctuation is like being an orchestra conductor, setting the pace and rhythm of your sentence.

But in some cases, punctuation can actually change a person’s life. Here’s how:

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Learning from Good Writing: Using Visual Images

Sometimes it’s easier to learn by looking at examples of jobs well done. Here are a few sentences that illustrate a principle we teach in the Worktalk writing trainings: Create visual images. Abstractions do not move people the way images do. The more you can engage your reader’s senses — sight, sound, smell, taste and touch — the more impact your words will have.

But for most public opinion in Europe the war in Iraq was always a stretch too far, and a decade of body bags has blunted the European appetite for expeditionary warfare at America’s side.
The Economist

The image of body bags brings home the reality of war much more than a word like fatality  or casualty.

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Henry Hitchings on Punctuation

On October 22, 2011, Henry Hitchings, author of the upcoming book, The Language Wars: A History of Proper English, wrote a column in The Wall Street Journal titled “Is This the Future of Punctuation?”. In it, he proposes that English is rapidly becoming more oriented toward the spoken language than toward the conventions of written punctuation. He notes that “People fuss about punctuation not only because it clarifies meaning but also because its neglect appears to reflect wider social decline. And while the big social battles seem intractable, smaller battles over the use of the apostrophe feel like they can be won.”

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10 Principles of Effective Email

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Why choose WorkTalk trainings?

  • Taught by a professional writer. +

    These courses are not taught by a general skills trainer who happens to teach writing. Elizabeth Danziger has been published by major publishing houses such as Random House and Harcourt Brace. Her work has appeared in many national magazines. She is an expert writer and editor who brings her knowledge as a resource to participants.
  • Customized. +

    Every Worktalk training is customized to the client's needs. We meet with you, analyze writing samples from your organization, and customize our training to target the specific challenges that employees in your organization face.
  • Energetic and entertaining. +

    With plenty of exercises and opportunities for interaction, the Worktalk trainings move quickly. Subjects that were terrifying in grammar school become fun and interesting in these outstanding programs.
  • Proven results. +

    In trainings all over the country, Ms. Danziger has enabled participants to streamline their organizing process, eliminate persistent errors, and drastically cut their revision time. Clients spend less time on key communications while producing better relationships and results. Sales people get more positive responses from prospects.
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