Thomas Transcript

What two points in the Thomas transcript impress you as being most significant in guiding email communication? Why?

Since we’re in the online world uh, obviously you’re going

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to write a lot of emails. There’s a tendency, a temptation to

get sloppy about it uh, to, to just kind of whip it off. You

should use the same standards when you’re writing an email,

particularly to a boss or a client or a customer, you should use

the same standards you would use writing a letter. In other

words, obey all the rules that we’ve been talking about. Write

clearly and simply, but write properly. Use proper English.

Don’t abbreviate a lot. Uh, make sure you capitalize letters.

Treat it just as if you were writing a letter, a formal letter,

say a job application and don’t get sloppy and lazy. Because

uh, it can come back to haunt you if you don’t think through a

problem or you’re uh, have too much attitude or maybe you say

something that’s insulting or offensive boy that can come back

and bite you. And there’s a temptation to do it because when

you write your emails to your friends you’re writing in a breezy

way. When you’re in business write like a business person,

write professionally.


A couple of other points about word choice and the words

you actually use. Use active verbs. Don’t use passive verbs.

He ran the race. Not, the race was run by him. It’s stronger.

It’s more muscular. It’s more direct. Has more action, more

energy if you use active verbs. So whenever you can nick out



those passive verbs and use the active, use active muscular uh,

verbs. Uh, readers will appreciate it uh, it will give a life

to your uh, uh, to your memo or to your piece that would be lost

if it’s all feels sort of passive and, and slow moving.

Uh, by the same token be very careful of jargon and

uh, what I would call uh, uh, three syllable words that don’t

really mean anything, that a one syllable word, a simpler uh,

word wouldn’t — where a simple word wouldn’t suffice. There’s

a writer I mentioned earlier, William Zinzer who is an expert

uh, in this area and I’m just going to read you a paragraph that

he’s written about uh, the tendency to use jargon and to use uh,

complex words where simple words will suffice.

This is uh, I’m quoting here from On Writing Well by William

Zinzer. I could go on quoting examples from various fields, Zinzer

writes. Every profession has its growing arsenal of jargon to throw

dust in the eyes of the populace, but the list would be tedious. The

point of raising it now is to serve notice that clutter is the enemy.

Beware then of the long word that’s no better than the short word;

assistance, help, numerous, many, facilitate, ease, individual, man or

woman, remainder, rest, initial, first, implement, due, sufficient,

enough, attempt, try, referred to as, called, and hundreds more.

Beware of all the slippery new fad words; paradigm and parameter,

prioritize and potentialize. They are all weeds that will smother

what you write. Don’t dialog with someone you can talk to. Don’t

interface with anybody.

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