We think that writing an email is the simplest possible job to do in a business, and despite that, the number of seemingly small errors we make is simply alarming. Writing business emails – any email, come to that – is apparently not as straightforward and simple as we would like to think. One small unintentional error can quickly take things south. Good email etiquette is a lot more important than you think.
Since email is a written form of communication, your readers are free to make a number of assumptions about you based on your writing because they don’t have the luxury of meeting you in person, reading your expressions, body language, and tone.
That is why you have to be extra, extra careful when pitching on an email as opposed to when pitching in person or on phone.
Here are some archaic or inappropriate phrases we use frequently when writing emails:
‘Don’t hesitate to contact me’
An overused cliched phrase which really doesn’t mean anything at all. This in a way is being over polite which is completely unnecessary and can even sound phony.
People are aware that they can approach you for further clarifications and information, you don’t have to overemphasize it. Additionally, using this phrase may encourage readers to contact you for just about anything without thinking things through and wasting your time.
Alternative: you can just say, ‘You can contact me for further clarifications’, this doesn’t so over the top and conveys the point well enough.
This phrase is a no-no not just in emails but in any form of communication. We use the word ‘Think’ as a safety net, just in case things don’t go as you said they would.
For a reader, this word not only represents unwelcome uncertainty but also shows your lack of confidence. Especially in emails, where people cannot see you or read your expressions, this phrase will not convey a positive impression.
Alternative: Make a strong assertive statement and stop using ‘I think…’, ‘I guess…’ as an escape route.
An obsolete phrase which no longer has any meaning. You just use it for the sake of using it and it may have been appealing a couple of decades back, but is purely archaic now.
It can again seem like you are trying to somehow please the reader rather too obviously! So as sincere as your words may be, it can seem a little too personal and overly deep for a business email.
Alternative: Instead end the email with a phrase like, ‘Would love to hear what you think’ – it’s simple, neat, and professional.
‘I hope you’re well’
This phrase is a pure filler and a reader knows that. You are saying it for the sake of saying it, and that makes it a hollow statement. Although there is nothing wrong with it and it is indeed a commonly used phrase to open an email, it is a pure waste of space.
Alternative: Instead, start your email with something a little less intense such as ‘Hope you are having a good day’ or just skip the small talk and go straight to the point after giving your salutations.
‘To be honest…’
Absolutely unnecessary! You already are saying honest things (hopefully) throughout your email. You don’t have to specifically say that you are about to be ‘honest’ now.
Another phrase used so often that we don’t stop to think why we are using it.
Alternative: Skip the phrase and get straight to the point.
The word fine can be interpreted in many ways. It could mean fine, as in we just have to work with that or as in this is top notch. It is quite an ambiguous phrase and it’s best to avoid it.
Alternative: Use phrases which clearly convey your message; for instance, say, ‘I think we can work with this for now’ instead of ‘it’s fine’ and if you want to compliment someone just say ‘Good work’ instead of fine.
You may think it sounds warm and friendly, but there are high chances that the reader may find it a little too informal and you must definitely avoid giving that impression in business emails.
Alternative: Instead of using a random phrase like this one, start your email with a simple ‘Hello’ or ‘Hi’ or with the reader’s name.
‘I don’t know’
There is, perhaps, no other phrase that conveys lack of professionalism as much as this one. When you say ‘I don’t know’, you are attempting to somehow deflect the question, and that is very obvious. It doesn’t give the right impression at all to the reader.
Alternative: If you don’t know the answer, a more ideal phrase would be ‘Allow me to get back to you on that one’.
It is more professional and you are not escaping the question either. You are certainly not expected to know everything, but do give reassurance to the reader that you will put effort into finding the answer instead of bluntly saying, ‘I don’t know’ and leaving it at that.
‘Will that be okay?’
This phrase is quite an unprofessional way to seek validation in a business email. Often we say, ‘I am planning to do …. Is that okay?’ and we might assume that it is a polite way to get the other person’s opinion, but it conveys a level of sloppiness and uncertainty on the writer’s part.
Alternative: A good alternative statement would be ‘Let me know if you have different opinion’, ‘Would appreciate your input, if any’ etc. This is more professional and direct way of asking for an opinion or a confirmation.
‘I am the [insert title] of this company’
Never start your email with this statement. You may indeed want to mention your title to give more gravity to your email but doing so in the very first line of the email can seem arrogant and authoritative.
And if you are a junior level employee, you don’t need to say ‘I am a junior level manager’ etc. in the email. By mentioning that you are encouraging the reader to qualify your email based on the title.
Alternative: Skip such phrases in the first line of the email and include them in your signature instead.