Benjamine Knight is the COO of Pro Rhetoric, LLC—the company that houses Vital Speeches of the Day and the Professional Speechwriters Association.
Among many other rare skills, Benjamine is—and I don't use this term lightly—an exquisite correspondent with our customers, our partners and our vendors. We've worked together for years and I still marvel (stop, read and marvel) at the diplomacy, clarity, pitch-perfection and economy of her routine emails. They get across the emotion and the message with warmth, politeness and just the right sense of urgency. And unlike the paragraph you are reading, Benjamine's communications are not one single word longer than they need to be.
Benjamine is the best professional correspondent I have ever worked with.
But she's not a professional writer, and there's a difference. A couple of times over the years, Benjamine has read Writing Boots pieces or other Murray correspondence to fellow writers that make fun of some of the things she does in writing.
She's profligate with exclamation points, for instance.
It's possible that she occasionally begins sentences with "Hopefully."
She frequently follows a request with, "Thanks in advance."
And—mostly in exchanges with our closest colleagues—Benjamine is an emotiqueen.
She has occasionally wondered if I wish she would stop committing what I clearly think are sins of writing.
I've had to think about that, and I finally came up with the answer to why I don't want her to go changing a single punctuation mark:
The sins she commits are sins only professional writers care about.
But wait—all of our customers are professional writers.
Yes—but these are sins that writers will despise only when they're committed by other professional writers. (A speechwriter once wrote me, "Oh my God, David Murray just sent me a winky-face.")
And in fact if a non-professional writer communicated with a professional writer without the exclamation points and the other standard-issue e-geegaws, I fear the professional writer would feel the correspondence was cold.
And as Benjamine demonstrates, "When I write 'thanks, in advance' I really mean it! And when I use an exclamation point it's because I'm the enthusiastically friendly and approachable COO ;)"
But writer: Do two standards exist in your head for communicating—one with professional writers, and one with non-professional writers, however much you respect them? And assuming you do—and we'll keep this right here—do you ever break your own professional-writer standards, and throw in an exclamation mark or some crazy ALL-CAPS to a non-writer, where you wouldn't use them with me?
I SOMETIMES DO!