Beware the Power of Email to Destroy Work Relationships, Warns Author of New Business Writing Book

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In a survey of 686 American adults conducted by the business writing training company Syntax Training, 55 percent said they had received an email that seriously damaged their work relationship with the person who wrote it. In the same survey, 14 percent said this had happened a few times.

Tap out a quick email, click Send without thinking and relationships disintegrate.

“Email has extraordinary power to create animosity, foster mistrust and kill relationships,” says Syntax Training ( founder Lynn Gaertner-Johnston. “Tap out a quick email, click Send without thinking, and relationships disintegrate. It can be as quick and as devastating as that.”

In her new book, "Business Writing With Heart: How to Build Great Work Relationships One Message at a Time" (, Gaertner-Johnston provides a chapter of advice on steps to take that keep email’s destructive power in check. The rest of the book explains how to use everyday and special-occasion business writing to cultivate positive relationships.

Gaertner-Johnston’s guidelines for avoiding disastrous damage with email include:

--Don’t put anything in email you’d be embarrassed to see on the news or on everyone's computer screen.
--Never “cc” others on an email where you criticize someone.
--When you have no time to think, don’t write and send an email.
--Use “please” and “thank you” in email requests.
--In an urgent situation, phone instead of sending demanding emails.
--Avoid sarcasm and be very cautious with jokes.

“Email is not a two-way communication medium, where you get an instant read on the other person’s reaction,” Gaertner-Johnston notes. “So you have to be extra careful about how you word things. And in an awkward situation, it’s best to pick up the phone or meet in person instead of composing emails.”

"Business Writing With Heart: How to Build Great Work Relationships One Message at a Time" offers wide-ranging advice on workplace communication challenges, from expressing condolences to disagreeing respectfully to offering constructive feedback. The 436-page paperback (ISBN 978-0-9778679-0-5) retails for $24.95 and is available through bookstores and Syntax Training ( The e-book (ISBN 978-0-9778679-1-2) costs $9.99 at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

About Lynn Gaertner-Johnston
Lynn Gaertner-Johnston founded Syntax Training in 1990 and has led writing classes at more than 100 companies and organizations, including Microsoft, MasterCard, Lockheed Martin, Organic Valley Family of Farms, AARP and Kaiser Permanente. A recognized expert in business writing etiquette, she has been quoted in "The Wall Street Journal," "The Atlantic" and other media, and her Business Writing blog ( gets more than 400,000 hits monthly. She has taught managerial communications in the MBA programs of the University of Washington and UW Bothell.

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Lynn Gaertner-Johnston
Syntax Training
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