Emails are the currency of business communication in today's world. And although there are screens and wires between senders and receivers, maintaining proper courtesy and etiquette is still important. Rambling on and on or typing irrelevant phrases is just as bad as verbally spouting out gibberish in front of clients or managers. Improving your communications skills in this way is essential if you want to succeed in business.
Over 100 billion emails are sent each day, and the average time spent reading each one is 15-20 seconds. Keep it short, especially since 65 percent of all email is opened first on a smaller mobile screen. One way to ensure your message is received--and that your reputation isn't compromised in the process--is to eliminate these 10 meaningless phrases from your emails immediately.
1. "Please be advised ..."
This phrase is often used because it sounds professional, but it is always unnecessary. Instead, be direct and concise. If you're taking the time to write an email, the recipient already knows that your intent is to inform them of something. Telling them you're going to do so is subconsciously insulting their intelligence.
2. "Please do not hesitate to contact me ..."
When you use this phrase, you're once again stating the obvious. People will contact you if they're interested in what you sent, or if they have a question regarding your message. Since they can exercise their digital freedom of speech on their own, they don't need to you to invite them or grant them access to respond.
3. "I just ..."
Recently, Ellen Leanse, founder of Karmahacks, ruffled a few feathers when she called out women's overuse of the word "just" in professional communications. In a post on LinkedIn, Leanse argues against the word--which she claims women use three to four times more frequently than men--saying:
I began to notice that "just" wasn't about being polite: it was a subtle message of subordination, of deference. Sometimes it was self-effacing. Sometimes even duplicitous. As I started really listening, I realized that striking it from a phrase almost always clarified and strengthened the message.
Whether you agree with her conclusions or not (and several other prominent voices disagree), her discussion of "just" as a "child" word, according to the Transactional Analysis model published by Eric Berne, deserves some exploration. In the meantime, steer away from this phrase and choose more definitive language instead.
4. "I think ..."
Senders often include "I think ..." to minimize the potential blow of future rejection, but in using this phrase, you're telling the recipient that you aren't sure of yourself. Whenever you're communicating--in emails or in real life--you need to appear confident with your message. If you don't, you risk the recipient's disregarding your opinion and moving forward with a different idea. Portraying confidence in the workplace is a key to success.
5. "Enclosed please find …" or "Attached please find …"
It may seem minor, but nothing can actually be enclosed in an email. Files can be attached, but nothing can be actually placed within an email. In using either of these phrases, the writer avoids using the pronoun "I," but it makes the sentence sound archaic. Simply inform the reader, "I have attached..."
6. "I hope you are well ..."
This phrase is usually written on two occasions. In one instance, it appears right before you hit the recipient with something that's undesirable. The other is when you want to feign a close relationship with or genuine interest in someone when there is none. If you're genuinely interested in someone's well-being, talk about it directly rather than using this filler phrase.
7. "I thought I would reach out ..."
I don't know about you, but this phrase makes me picture a toddler grasping at something out of reach from the restraints of a car seat. It also seems very timid and portrays insecurity. Instead, simply write out your message or question and be direct. Rather than saying "I thought I would reach out," say "I'd like to treat you to lunch to discuss my business idea." Beating around the bush does nobody any favors. Instead, make your intent clear for the recipient to see.
8. "Can I pick your brain?"
This basically tells whomever you're sending a message to that you want to take up his or her time without offering anything of value in return. Instead, make a point to share an interesting or helpful insight with the recipient, letting that person know that you desire a two-way street of collaboration between the two of you in the future.
When I line up speaking engagements, I found that this blunt approach worked best--resulting in a 52 percent success rate at getting a follow-up message, compared with a 20-27 percent response rate with the other methods I tried.
9. "To Whom It May Concern ..."
There are a few scenarios where this phrase is appropriate, but they're few and far between. If you know whom your message concerns, address that person directly instead of hiding behind this introduction. Using the above phrase instead of naming the individual makes you seem unconfident and unnecessarily formal. Hit the delete button before you send an email that includes these words.
10. "Sincerely Yours ..."
In the past, this phrase was a popular shortening of more affected closings, but in today's email communication, it sounds very formal and insincere. Generally, you can close an email with a simple "Thank you" or just your name. "Cheers" is another fun option that conveys well-wishes without coming across as stuffy or stuck up. These days, we all understand when a message has ended. There's no need to go to great lengths with a formal closing.
Step up to the plate and write better email. Your colleagues will appreciate the brevity of your messages, and you'll get a better response when your requests are clearer. There's no need for fluff and filler in email. Simply say what you mean. The results will speak for themselves.
What phrases annoy you the most in email? Share your biggest email pet peeves in the comments below.