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Tip: When it comes to e-mail, they mean business

You m ay remember the 1969 song "Take a Letter, Maria." The song's title refers to a businessman asking his secretary to write a letter. But in these days of downsizing, many executives and business owners are forced to peck out their own letters and e-mails. With no one knowledgeable to "take a letter," they may be taking chances.

"It used to be possible to hide the fact that you couldn't write well," says business-writing expert Natalie Canavor. "Before e-mail, before Web sites, before everything got so democratic, not everybody had to write." Canavor, with a background in magazines and corporate communications, runs C&M Business Writing Services ( with Claire Meirowitz, an author and editor. The two also have co-written a book, "The Truth About the New Rules of Business Writing."

Canavor and Meirowitz help their clients avoid potential missteps. For example, Meirowitz helps newbie writers avert a trap that could cost them business: writing ponderous and pretentious letters and presentations. "They shouldn't be using $50 words when they're dealing with a mass audience," Meirowitz advises.

Canavor tells her clients to avoid sounding flippant or overly informal in their e-mails. She says many people mistakenly assume their e-mail will be read and deleted, but it may stay in your recipient's inbox or on the company's server for years. "E-mail is more permanent than any other kind of writing we ever did," Canavor says. And when you write an e-mail to business associates or customers, do not show how hip you are by using smiley-face "emoticons" or abbreviations such as "LOL," for "laughing out loud."

"A friend of mine . . . put 'LOL' in an e-mail she sent to an important client," Canavor says. "The next time she saw him, he said, 'Why are you sending me lots of love?' "

If you want to get some tips from the experts, Canavor and Meirowitz are conducting a free workshop, "Writing to Succeed: How to Craft E-mails, Letters, Resumes, Proposals and More" at the Book Revue in Huntington, 631-271-1442. The workshop is Tuesday at 7 p.m.


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