Writing Great Emails–Making Sure You’re Understood 2



(1) Task: Something you do for work, part of a job

Your task is to summarize these pages before the day is done.

(2) P.S.: Post Script, the sentence you write at the bottom after your name.

Kind regards,


P.S. Say hi to your kids!

(3) Carefully: With attention to detail

You need to carry those glasses carefully. They might break.



1. Which sentences do you know people will read?

a. The closing sentence

b. All of them

c. The first sentence and the P.S.

2. Why shouldn’t you use bold too much?

a. It’s like yelling

b. It’s confusing

c. It doesn’t get people’s attention

3. What is the best way to make sure people understood your email?

a. Write clearly

b. Talk with them about the email later

c. Write short sentences


Writing Great Emails



By Jeremy Schaar

Last week, I presented five ways to make sure people understand your emails. This week, you’ll learn about five more.

(1) If you want people to do something, tell them in the first sentence.

Unfortunately, people don’t read emails carefully. But they will read the first sentence, so make sure you write a good first sentence.

(2) Bold can be your friend–just be careful

Bold is a font choice. It makes the letters a little bigger and darker. People read things that are in bold much more. But, be careful. Using bold is normal for the title of a section, but if you use bold in a regular sentence, it’s like you’re yelling. That can be OK. But don’t yell too much.

(3) People always read the P.S.

People always read the first sentence and they always read the P.S. So the P.S. is a great place to put important information. For example, you might tell them about the deadline.

P.S. We should have this finished by Friday. Is that schedule OK?

(4) Ask them to do something small and easy

One way to make sure people are reading your email is to include a small task in the middle. If they’ve read carefully, they’ll do it right away. If they haven’t read carefully, they’ll miss it. For example, you might ask them to complete a five-second survey. The survey might not be important, but you’ll know that they read your email carefully.

(5) Check back later

And this is the best way. Just stay in contact. We’re all busy people and we all get many emails. Don’t be afraid to ask people how things are going.

Want more practice? Got questions? Comment on the blog, Facebook, or Twitter.


Answers To Today’s Questions

C, A, B


You Can Do It All Yourself But You Dont Have To

Business Strategy Monday–Creating a Value Curve



(1) Dependability: Doing what you said you would do

I prefer this car for its dependability. It might not be the coolest, but I know it will always work.

(2) Comfort: Something that relaxes you, the opposite of stress

This chair is so comfortable! I could sit here all day.

(3) Let’s pretend: We say this before talking about an unreal situation.

Let’s pretend we have an unlimited budget. What will we do?



1. How might a restaurant find a blue ocean?

a. Going to the city center

b. Leaving the city center

c. Doing something different than the competition

2. Which things go on a value curve?

a. Things important to your industry

b. Things customers want or need

c. Things that your competitors aren’t doing, but you can do.

3. Why might an airline not value low ticket prices?

a. They might get revenue in other ways

b. They might create a flight people will pay more for

c. A and B

7 ________________________



airline By Jeremy Schaar

The past two weeks I’ve been writing about blue ocean strategy and value curves. Today, I’ll review what blue ocean strategy and value curves are. Then I’ll write about how you can apply it to your industry.

Blue ocean strategy is when a company tries to move to an area without competition. They do this by changing their value curve. A value curve is a set of things that are important to your industry and how important they are for your company.

For example, a restaurant might have three things on its value curve: price, location, and taste. Which do you think should be important for a restaurant? Which shouldn’t be important? There’s no perfect answer, but imagine a city with many expensive restaurants in the city center. They all serve really great food. It’s a red ocean and everyone is trying to make their food a little bit better to compete. A company could find a blue ocean by charging less money and leaving the city center or sacrificing taste.

What about your industry? How might you find a blue ocean?

The first step is to think about what’s on your value curve. These are things important to your industry. Then you should decide how much you value each thing. Compare this with how much your competitors value each thing. Then redraw your value curve.

Let’s pretend you’re in the airline industry. Airlines have a real red ocean industry, so this is hard. (But no one ever said business was easy.)


The first thing is obviously ticket price. Do you want to try to and offer cheaper tickets or will you try and get customers in another way? For customers, price will often be the most important thing, so you’ll probably want to value price a lot. But maybe price won’t be important to you. You might try and sell fewer tickets at a higher price. Or you might try to convince people your tickets are worth more money. Or you might try and get revenue in other ways.

After that, there’s comfort during the flight. How big are the seats? What other things can you offer to make the flight more comfortable? This will include everything from pillows to the TVs on the backs of seats and good food. If you value this high, maybe you can charge more. If it’s low, you can save on ticket price.

Dependability is another important value for airlines. Are the flights on time? How often do you have delays? Do you lose bags? Increasing speed and reducing errors will mean increasing costs, but it might be worth it. Many people will pay more for a dependable airline.

Customer Service is the final value I’ll mention today. What happens when there are delays? What mileage programs do you offer? Will you value this high and spend money on more customer service employees? Or will you not worry about it?

We might continue to add values, but this should give you an idea of how to create a value curve. Next time, we’ll look at how to change your value curve to beat the competition.

Want to study Business English? Check out the main site for our lessons.

Want to learn more about blue ocean strategy? Click here.

Got questions or comments? How about practicing some new vocabulary and posting your thoughts on the blog, Facebook, or Twitter?


Answers To Today’s Questions

C, A, C


You Can Do It All Yourself But You Dont Have To

Personal Growth Sunday: Goals #2



(1) To keep your mouth shut: To not speak

Keep your mouth shut about the birthday party. I want it to be a surprise.

(2) Conventional wisdom: Normal thinking, popular opinion

The conventional wisdom says you have to go to college if you want a good job.

(3) To hold someone to something: To make someone do what they promise

If you say you can complete the work by June that’s great. But I’m going to hold you to it. Don’t be late.



1. What happens when you tell someone your goals?

a. You’re motivated.

b. You feel good.

c. That’s the first step towards accomplishing them.

2. In the study, which people worked harder?

a. The ones who told their goals.

b. The ones who didn’t tell their goals.

c. The ones with realistic goals.

3. How should you talk about your goals?

a. In ways that make you feel smart.

b. In ways that make you feel energetic.

c. In ways that make you feel bad.


Personal Growth Sunday


By Jeremy Schaar

Personal Growth: Goal Setting #2

Here’s a link to the first lesson on goal setting.

Last week we also talked about making goals. We learned that goals motivate us and that they help us stay focused. We saw that some people think goals should be realistic so that you can achieve them, but others felt goals should be unrealistic so that you can achieve even more.

Today’s video is by Derek Silver. He argues you should not tell people your goals.

In the first part of the video, Derek asks the audience to think of a goal and imagine telling it to someone. He says that just telling the goal feels good.

However, he then surprises us by explaining that that “telling someone your goal makes it less likely to happen.” Telling someone your goal creates a “social reality.” This feels good, but because it feels good already, then you’re less likely to work on the goal. He doesn’t give an example, but let me help.

Imagine you tell someone that you’re going to lose weight–say 5lbs (or 2kg). You’ll need to exercise and eat less, but because you’ve told someone your goal, that means you might not exercise and eat less. That’s why you should keep your mouth shut.

This is surprising, right? We think that we should tell our friends our goals so that they hold us to them. But that’s not right at all. The conventional wisdom is wrong.

In the next part of the video, he explains a study. Basically, scientists had some people say their goals. Those people didn’t work so hard. The scientists also had other people keep their mouths shut about their goals. Those people worked harder.

At the end, he gives some advice. He says, don’t tell people your goals. However, if you do tell them your goals, make sure it’s not satisfying to tell the goal. Talk about how hard it will be so that you feel bad telling it. That’ll make you more likely to succeed.

Want more practice? Got questions? Comment on the blog, Facebook, or Twitter.


Answers To Today’s Questions

B, B, C


You Can Do It All Yourself But You Dont Have To

Saturday Listening Lesson



(1) To drive value: This means to increase the value of the company, basically to help the company increase profits. Other stuff, like number of customers, can also mean value.

I can’t drive long-term value without sacrificing short-term profits. That’s our choice.

(2) Conflict: Disagreement, different people want different things

The marketing and development teams are often in conflict. It’s a big problem. If they can’t work together, we’ll all fail.

(3) To hide behind something: To use something as an excuse, a reason for failure.

Don’t hide behind the economy. Lots of companies are succeeding even though times are hard.



1. He explains two things in this video. What’s challenging about his job and …

a. …what’s boring

b. …how he makes value

c. …what’s exciting

2. Who is he responsible towards?

a. Shareholders, employees, customers

b. Shareholders, suppliers, customers

c. Shareholders, employees, suppliers

3. What doesn’t he like to hide behind?

a. A value-driven economy

b. A bad economy

c. A customer-driven economy


Saturday Listening Lesson


By Jeremy Schaar

Today’s video is about a CEO and why he likes his job. It’s by WOBI and is called: Mark King–What I Enjoy Most About Being CEO. Today, I’ll help you understand that video.

So, in this video he explains two things. He explains what’s challenging, or difficult, about his job. And he explains what’s exciting about his job. Let’s check the most important quotation first. He says:

Being a boss is a challenge because of the responsibility to the shareholders for driving value…responsibility to the workers to provide an environment that’s right for them…and responsibility to the consumer to provide a product that they will really enjoy. A lot of times, the shareholder, the employee, and the consumer; what they want is in conflict. How do you manage the conflict?

His point is that he has three groups that he should make happy. The first are the shareholders–they want value, or profits. Employees want a good working environment. And consumers, of course, want a good product.

He then gives the example of this conflict. If there’s a product that has some problem and you should take it back from the stores, then that’s bad for the shareholders right? For some employees it’ll be bad because that will mean more work and lower bonuses. But for consumers? For consumers it’s great. They won’t have bad products.

So how about you? What would you do in this situation? Do you care more about the shareholders, employees, or consumers? Leave your thoughts in the comments.

The exciting part of the job for him is that the challenge never ends. This means that he likes the conflict. He likes balancing the three groups. For example, he says that you can’t hide behind the economy. This just means that even if the economy is bad, he still has to keep trying. Even with a bad economy, the exciting challenge continues.

As always, if you have any questions or want more practice, comment on the blog, Facebook, or Twitter.


Answers To Today’s Questions

C, A, B


You Can Do It All Yourself But You Dont Have To




(1) To fire someone: To tell them that they don’t work here anymore because they did something bad.

I had to fire John because he was lying about his sales figures.

(2) To layoff (or in the UK, they say to make redundant): To tell someone they don’t work here anymore because the company doesn’t need them anymore.

Sales are terrible these days. We had to layoff 100 factory workers.

(3) Performance Improvement Plan: A plan for an employee to get better.

John has been late and doing bad work, so we’re going to put him on a performance improvement plan. I think he’ll get better.



1. What was Patty McCord’s job at Netflix?

a. CFO

b. CEO

c. CTO

2. Why doesn’t Patty like performance plans?

a. They don’t work if the employee doesn’t have a good skill set

b. They don’t motivate well

c. Employees can’t learn on the job

3. What other company is famous for firing bad employees fast?

a. HBC

b. Amazon

c. GE

7 ________________________

Free Form Friday


fired By Jeremy Schaar

If you’ve been a manager, then at some point you’ve probably had to fire someone. If you haven’t had to fire someone, well, it probably means you’re just getting started in your career.

Today I’ll present some English we use when we need to fire someone. I’ll also tell you about Patty McCord–the former Chief Talent Officer at Netflix. (Netflix is a company that lets you watch movies and TV shows. You can watch them online or get DVDs in the mail.) She has some pretty famous thoughts on firing.

For almost 15 years Patty McCord was the Chief Talent Officer at Netflix. She’s famous in Silicon Valley for her thoughts on hiring, firing, and building a good company culture. Here’s a link to a great article about her. And here’s my favorite quotation from that article. Patty McCord is talking about how she deals with a bad employee:

I did my six months out thing and realized she wasn’t qualified, and I put her on a plan even though it’s not an issue of performance, it’s an issue of skillset.

She’s saying, a performance improvement plan won’t work if the person doesn’t have the right skills.

Instead, I could have told the employee, “here’s what I’m going to need six months from now, and here’s the talent and skills I’ll need.” Then you tell her, “It’s not you. I don’t want you to fail. I don’t want to publicly humiliate you.”

She may not like it, but it’s a hell of a lot better than the other way. People can take it if it’s the truth.

The other option is to just be honest with the employee and fire them right away. Basically, she’s saying to fire people faster. Give them some extra money (a severance package) and help them find another job, but don’t keep them if they’re bad.

The advantage of this system is that you won’t waste time and money on bad people. Bad employees are unproductive and if you fire them quickly, then you can just give them money instead of wasting that money trying to make them better.

And this idea isn’t just from Patty. It’s also a very popular way of thinking at GE. So, what do you think? Is it a good idea? Personally, I’m not so sure. Next week, I’ll present the other end of this debate.

As always, if you have any questions, please post them on the blog, Facebook, or Twitter.


Answers To Today’s Questions

C, A, C


You Can Do It All Yourself But You Dont Have To

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