Nowadays, many people spend a significant part of their workday reading and replying to emails. Considering the time spent on this task, why is so much email correspondence so poorly written and laden with passive-aggressive phrases?
You’re in the workforce because you’re an adult, right? Well, if you’re not doing so yet, you should start writing like one! Eliminate these six email phrases and replace them with power phrases, and watch your productivity and reputation improve.
1. “Well, actually…”
A popular internet meme going around reads, “Where does a mansplainer get his water? From a well, actually.” Regardless of your gender, eliminate the word “actually” from your workplace email lexicon. It comes off as sounding condescending, and no one likes their intelligence insulted.
Instead, if you need to improve something, do so the way a caring teacher would correct a student. Praise what a coworker did well, for example, and then say, “I have a suggestion to make this even better.” Then inform them of how to better their work without talking down to them.
2. “I hope this email finds you well.”
Seriously, have you ever opened an email with this opening line and thought, “Wow, they must genuinely care about how I feel?” Chances are the answer is no, because you’ve seen the same opening line in roughly a million other emails. It has all the sincerity of a form letter — largely because it’s often used in them.
Instead, either get right to the point or start with a genuine pleasantry such as asking a coworker who recently returned from Paris how her trip was, or asking someone you’re marketing to how their day is going. Then get to the meat of the issue. People are social by nature, but we come to the office to work, not hang out with friends. Show your respect for others’ time by eliminating trite phrases.
3. “Happy Monday!”
Yes, maintaining a positive attitude at work is important, but few people roll into the office on Monday singing “Zippity Doo Dah” like a Disney character. Many are lamenting the fact the weekend lasts only two days when the grind lasts for five!
Instead of a fake email subject like this one, use the subject line to grab the readers’ interest by telling them what they need to know. A simple, “I’d love to have you join this conference call at 10 a.m.,” goes over better on a Monday or any day (except maybe Friday) than sounding like a chickadee.
4. “Ultimate!” “Fantabulous!” “Stellar!” Hyperbole
It’s probably safe to say the lunchtime meeting will be productive. However, it’s disingenuous to bill it as “the most valuable 30-minute meeting of your life!” Those breakroom doughnuts Barb in accounting brought in may be divine, but there’s no need to alert staff the World’s Greatest Culinary Creation awaits them down the hall.
This holds particularly true if you write marketing emails. Recipients know not every webinar is going to rock their world — nor will any bottle of multi-cleaning solution make them look forward to scrubbing the porcelain throne. And while emojis are fine in certain correspondences, stick to the most common ones and use them sparingly, if at all.
5. “Per my last email…”
If you’re looking to low-key burn your colleagues and online acquaintances, go ahead and use this phrase. But if you prefer to maintain positive office and online relationships, quit saying this expression, stat. It sounds rude in the extreme, and it implies the reader is incapable of basic literacy. In one survey, 13% of people reported that this is their absolute most hated email phrase in existence!
Instead, express what you need to say without condemnation and judgment. Ruining someone else’s day with an insult is a great way to crush their productivity and make an enemy, but it accomplishes nothing of value.
6. Negative Nancy anything
Truly bad news, such as a company merger that will result in layoffs, deserves to be delivered in person. Just as you fly into a panic when your beau texts you, “We need to talk,” even implying that any sort of life-altering stuff is about to go down via electronic correspondence is a no-no in the workplace.
If you must have a negative conversation, such as letting an under-performing employee go, do so in person and in private. And if it’s an outside contact your company is working with, who you need to deliver some bad news to, ask if you can hop on a call.
If possible, wait until Friday afternoon to deliver bad news. The weekend gives those impacted time to reflect.
Keeping email professional and positive
Who likes having their intelligence insulted or their time wasted? Sending powerful, direct email communication in the workplace helps you to improve your own productivity and that of those around you. Eliminate hurtful, trite phrases today, and replace them with better ones to get more done and improve your rep when reaching out to online acquaintances and coworkers.