12 Business Email Phrases to Avoid
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When it comes to email communication, there can be no room for error. Using a word or phrase that’s difficult to understand, easy to misinterpret, or downright confusing is likely to get in the way of your original message and leave the recipient unable to appropriately action your message.
Unfortunately, this is often the case, and many emails are riddled with business cliches, unclear business email phrases, and overly formal email vocabulary that hinder helpful communications.
To help you steer clear of such scenarios, we’ve compiled a list of business email phrases to avoid so you can guarantee your emails are received loud and clear.
12 business phrases to leave out of your emails
“The problem is…”
Using the word problem in any context is, well, problematic. In the business world, people want answers, not questions. Identifying a challenge as a problem suggests you don’t have the answers they’re looking for.
And that may well be the case, but it’s best to frame it in a way that lets the recipient know that, despite any challenges, you are still confident and in control. Rather than say, “the problem is,” say, “we’re working on a solution.”
Nobody likes a micromanager, but that’s likely the impression being created if you’re telling the person you’re emailing that they “should” do anything.
Either you are telling the person to do something, in which case the word “should” is a little weak, and you should be direct in your instruction. Or you’re providing advice or recommendations, so saying they “should” do something can be interpreted as too pushy or controlling. Either way, it’s not suitable for clear email communication.
“Let’s touch base”
Up there with the most overused and utterly meaningless business email phrases, asking someone to touch base is a far too vague way of asking for some future communication or collaboration. When will you touch base? Where?
Don’t beat around the bush – be direct in arranging exactly when, where, and why you want to meet up with the person you’re emailing. Your willingness to be more transparent will be appreciated.
“Sorry to bother you”
While you might include this business email phrase to appear considerate or polite, the reality is that opening with it is likely to undermine your standing with the recipient.
Besides how they may interpret it – and you – the crux of the matter is that this is a filler phrase that only serves to delay getting to the actual point and should therefore be avoided.
“To be honest with you”
This business email phrase is common when speaking – formally or informally – and has somehow made its way into email conversations as a result. While it may work as a flyaway comment in the breakout room, the problem with declaring honesty in written form is that it suggests that you have perhaps not been honest up until this point.
At the end of the day, your recipient likely assumes you’re being honest with them at all times – and why wouldn’t they? With that in mind, avoid using this filler phrase and say what you mean.
“I hope you’re well”
Another empty business email phrase in business communications, “I hope you’re well,” has stood the test of time as an impersonal bit of small talk that precedes your actual point, so much so that most of us know to ignore the remark altogether.
If that’s the case, it’s probably best to leave this business email phrase in the past. Instead, if you know the person you’re emailing, you should try and be more personal by asking them about their weekend or the activity you know they had planned. You should consider ditching the small talk altogether if you don’t know enough to ask them personal questions.
Replying with “no problem” to an action or instruction is another automatic response that passes without thought. The essence of what’s being said is, “don’t feel bad about asking me to do this.” You’re trying to reassure them that you haven’t been inconvenienced. In reality, you probably need to reassure them that you’re going to undertake their instruction. If you’re asked to do something via email, it’s best to be direct in saying that you understand the assignment and can complete it correctly and on time.
So, next time you want to write a short and snappy “no problem” response, take a few extra moments to tell the person that you understand what they’re asking of you. Doing so will remove the risk of miscommunication and assure the recipient that you’re on it.
“I’ll try to…”
Here’s another business email phrase that’s all about misplaced reassurance. You may think you’re instilling confidence in the person you’re communicating with that you shall do your best to get something done. But by saying, “I’ll try,” you’re more likely to undermine any confidence they have in you.
Instead, say “I will” – that way, they know that you will do it and won’t be worrying about you trying and failing at it, as your original message may have suggested. Think of “try” as best endeavors and “will” as a cast-iron contract. Which would you be more reassured by?
This phrase can precede – and undermine – most other terms on this list, somehow making them even worse than they already are.
As is often the case with well-intentioned but unhelpful business email phrases, “just” is a polite way of softening an upcoming blow:
- I’m just checking in
- I’m just touching base
- I’m just CC’ing Mandy from HR
It may sound cutesy to you, but there’s no need to include it. It’s a crutch, an unnecessary habit – like an overreliance on exclamation marks. Using “just” too much suggests you’re uncomfortable sticking to your convictions, which is never a good look.
“As per my previous email”
Over the years, this business email phrase has become the polite, or at least most acceptable, way of passive-aggressively telling someone they already have the information they need or have failed to read a previous message properly.
While it is certainly better than being outrightly aggressive in your frustration, it’s not a particularly nice or helpful phrase to use. Instead of highlighting that they may have missed something, it’s better to reshare what they’re asking for in the following email – without alluding to having shared it before. After all, it makes no difference to you but could do wonders for your relationship moving forward.
This passive-aggressive business email phrase has become a staple of email communications. Rather than chasing someone on an overdue deadline or reminding them that they have that all-important call this afternoon, most of us favor sending a seemingly polite “checking in” email.
Just like “as per my previous email,” this phrase is indirect, unclear, and very obviously a chase without calling itself a chase. In the future, you’re better off ditching this business email phrase and outrightly chasing or reminding people of important issues. They’ll have more respect for your forthrightness than they ever did for your (lack of) subtlety.
There are a million and one ways to sign off an email, and unless you’re writing to someone dear to your heart or undertaking an English exam, “sincerely” isn’t one of them.
Unlike other often misinterpreted terms on this list, how you sign off is unique to you, your relationship with the person you’re emailing, and the context of your conversation. Find a business email phrase that works for you, but for the sake of your professional image, don’t let it be “sincerely.”
Email communications aren’t going away anytime soon. So, if you are to rely on them as a backbone of our day-to-day communications with colleagues and customers alike, you should be more conscious of what you’re saying and do so with confidence and clarity.
By avoiding the business email phrases identified in this list, your email communications and professional relationships will improve significantly.
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