Corie Hengst

Corie Hengst

by Samantha Dunne

To Whom It May Concern...

...this is how a profile might start if you haven't taken a class with Gotham Business Writing teacher Corie Hengst.

You don’t want to dress your messages up too formally–it’s a day in the office, not a night at the opera.

"The overall thing is: How can you make your writing more human and not sound like AI or a robot?" Corie says. “Sounding human is especially important in today's remote working world when we have to rely on words rather than people's facial expressions. It helps to form connections.”

Crafting a good message is the difference between “OK” and “OK, sounds good!” The sender goes from sounding annoyed to agreeable.

"Just one word could make a tone different in your virtual communication," Corie says. “By adding a couple other words, the tone can change drastically.”

As the production editor at Adweek, she's fluent in the nuances of business vernacular, whether she's revising an article about the history of a brand or editing copy on an agency's culture or just responding to a Slack message.

When communicating in a professional setting, she says it's important to ask certain questions, like:

"What's the most effective way that I could deliver bad news, or overall, how can I improve my tone or connect with somebody that I'm trying to get a job with, or I'm trying to sell something to?"

But Corie wasn't always mixing and mingling with email etiquette and succinct delivery in the corporate world.

She knew she wanted to be a writer from the time she was 8 years old. Corie would pen short stories in crayon on the porch of her childhood home and then give them to her third-grade teacher, who read them aloud to the class.

"It's funny because my daughter is now the age that I was when I remember doing that," Corie says. "And she takes my computer all the time and types them, so they're not handwritten anymore, but she's doing the same thing that I used to do whenever I was a kid."

Corie’s since moved away from her creative writing roots and into “the black and white of editing.”

She spent time after college teaching English outside Paris, back when she moved places on a whim. Through that experience, Corie gained a new appreciation for the rules of the language, diving deeper into grammar.

“It was interesting because especially the adults would ask me, ‘Well, why does that phrase exist?’ Or ‘why is it like that?’” Corie says. “And it kind of makes you think about the English language in a different way… The rules of English are pretty wild.”

After stumbling upon an iconic Gotham Writers yellow box she continued her writing journey first as a student at Gotham, then as a member of the office staff, and eventually, as a teacher.

“Being a student myself at Gotham (way back in the day) helped get me out of my comfort zone and meet fellow writers,” she says. “We formed writing groups after classes ended and continued to workshop our creative writing.”

But once a student, always a student.

"I'm still to this day, pretty much every day, learning something new. Teaching has definitely helped me sharpen my own writing and editing skills. Students' thought-provoking questions lead to more discovery and learning.”