Winner of the Revise the “Office Plants” E-mail Contest

by | Mar 2, 2010 | Writing Matters Blog | 6 comments

Thanks to everyone who submitted an entry in our Revise the “Office Plants” E-Mail Contest.

You bold people took one of the most tortured samples of workplace e-mail and reworked it into a direct, practical piece.  You fixed the oblique subject line Individual Office Plants and even smoothed out lumpy sentences such as During a recent Office of Environmental Safety courtesy walk through,
plants located in several individual offices are apparently not being
well cared for or properly maintained
. I am impressed!

But, a contest can only have one winner or, in this case, two. So, without further ado, I hereby announce the winners of our Revise the “Office Plants” E-Mail Contest.

  • First Place goes to David Kay for his excellent rewrite. David made the e-mail shorter, used lots of personal pronouns, and linked to an list of acceptable plants. He wrote in a friendly, plain language style, but his e-mail didn’t abandon the task of enforcing the rules. Great writing, David.
  • Second Place goes to Margaret Elwood for her rewrite. About her limerick, she says “I just had to get it out of my system.”

Please heed these official rants:

Take better care of your plants!

        You shouldn’t ought ‘ter

        Over water,

And we’re sick of those bugs, pests and ants.

Each winner will receive a copy of our Clear, Correct, Concise E-Mail workbook.

Many thanks to all who entered. If you read each contest entry, as I did, you’ll get a handy tutorial on how to do e-mail right:

  • Brinda Moody wrote no-nonsense instructions but kept the writing friendly.
  • Missy Curry engaged in a bit of word play and wrote clear instructions on plant care.
  • Colleen Blessing used bullets to keep her e-mail short and sweet but was still able to work in the word ambience.
  • Genie Smith demonstrated that she’s no pushover when she wrote: “If you do not or cannot move your sick, infested, or dead plants, we will.”
  • Claudia Cooper revised sentences deeply, looking for plain language substitutes for confusing or bureaucratic language.
  • Connie Raab cut every bit of fat. Her version = 74 words. The original e-mail = 267 words.
  • EInspiration gave it to plant owners straight: keep those plants healthy or they’re outta here.
  • Bonnie Wahiba used a direct tone and exactly three exclamation points to drive the point home.
  • Anonymous trimmed wordiness, cut verbiage, and trimmed some more.
  • Naomi Allen streamlined the original and made the message much clearer.

— Leslie O’Flahavan

Tags: Contest, E-mail


  1. Thanks for the good words — I can’t WAIT to read the book. But I do feel Margaret one-upped me. In the clear light of day, I’ll try to distill it to Haiku.
    I’m looking forward to reading all of the rewrites.

  2. Thanks, David and Leslie. For the record, I’m not particularly PROUD of my doggerel; I just said that I had to get it out of my system. Your Haiku will be more succinct and honorable, I’m sure.
    I suffer from Limerick’s disease.
    I’m helpless; I’m down on my knees.
    These words in my brain
    Will drive me insane —
    Just shoot me, won’t somebody please?

  3. Sorry, Margaret. We’re enjoying you too much to shoot you.

  4. Margaret’s entry is cute and all, but doesn’t rewarding it send a message counter to the goals of your work? You’re not really suggesting that as an acceptable office e-mail, right? I probably sound like a grouch, but I’ve worked in many offices where people choose the silly over the clear, which leads many office mates to hit the delete button rather than open up another e-mail that can’t just say what it means. I’m surprised you would choose this entry.

  5. For the record, I submitted this rhyme just for fun and certainly would never send a silly rhyme in a business setting. I was surprised and delighted at the response I got, but agree that David and the others did the hard and honorable work required to rewrite the email.

  6. Congratulations to the winners.
    I will keep visiting this blog very often.

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Subscribe to our Newsletter

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Upcoming Events

Recent Posts

Writing Workbook