by Andrew Wise
Social media has seen an unprecedented adoption by consumers. For businesses, however, email remains the most dominant form of communication.
As per Boomerang’s analysis of 5 million emails, an average user spends two-and-a-half hours tending to emails every day, and by the end of 2017, 132 billion business emails are estimated to be sent and received per day.
If you’re a business owner, the data indicates the need for your emails to be direct and crisp.
Even if you use just one spam triggering word in your subject line, you've ensured that your email will skip the recipients’ inbox and land directly in the spam box.
So, every word in your message must be carefully chosen to add meaning, and also not cause complete destruction of your efforts.
Here are 12 words that you need to avoid at all costs while writing. Plus, we included replacements that are better.
1. Hey/Hello there
Sales trainer Babette Ten Haken believes that both “hey” and “hello there” are generic salutations.
Are you talking to your peers or to prospective customers? “Hello There” and “Hey” don’t cut it https://t.co/uEUxt6fZIq— Babette Ten Haken (@babettetenhaken) November 11, 2014
They may even come across as disrespectful in many professional contexts and are bad business etiquette. Don’t hamper your brand with such casual language in your business endeavors.
Alternative: It’s OK if you skip the salutation or directly address the person by their name followed by a comma.
If you start your sentences with phrases like “I honestly feel…”, then you come out as insincere. It’s a weak word that can make you sound unconfident.
If you’re writing an email, it should be obvious that you’re being honest. You don’t need to announce it.
Alternative: Get to the point and tell the truth. Your prospects will respect you for saving their time by skipping the fluff.
These two overused words devoid your writing of its power. They don’t add any value to your message and make the reading more painful for your prospect. Editing them out will make your emails shorter, more precise, and easier to understand.
Alternative: Eliminate these modifier words and find a word that includes “very” or “really” already in its meaning. Use thesaurus.com if your vocabulary is limited.
Example: “antiquated” instead of “really old.”
You have probably noticed an increase in the usage of this word in emails. The intention is to soften a request, or when delegating orders, to not come across as too harsh.
For instance, “Just following up on my call...”
But “just” makes your message unclear. Don’t let it rob your credibility and undermine your actions.
Alternative: Cut it out. It won’t make a difference to your message.
Remember how I told you an average email user is bombarded with irrelevant messages every day?
These two lazy words demand extra attention and energy from your prospect. And if you’re vague, the additional burden will only result in your email getting trashed immediately.
Also, the informality of these words does not suit a business environment.
Alternative: You can use specific words like issues/principles/reasons depending on the context.
Benjen Stark from “Game of Thrones” had got it right: “Nothing someone says before the word ‘but’ really counts.”
The negative conjunction mostly comes across as a warm-up for bad news that lies ahead—or a soft way of discounting your prospect’s idea.
Alternative: Don’t undermine your message’s intent. You can substitute the word “but” with “and,” or completely get rid of it like Carolyn from Buffer.
Image Source: https://open.buffer.com/customer-service-emails-words/
Corporate jargon isn’t going to impress your prospect. The extra syllables in “utilize” draw attention, and cause your prospect to become distracted, just as I suspect you got, looking at the word “utilize.” So, there’s little use of highlighting the word in a sentence.
Similarly, “ROI” and “innovative” are also buzzwords that add unnecessary abstraction. ROI is the gross profit that your business makes on an investment. And, innovative is an overused marketing word that’s only used to sell a product.
Stick with simpler and more specific options below.
Alternative: “Use” will always fit sentences where you’ve put utilize.
And don’t make empty noises about your product being innovative and giving a great ROI. Talk numbers and data about the specific results your previous clients have derived from it.
These are vague deadlines that are meant to convey urgency in a polite way. You’ll sometimes even see these words along with the word “please.” For instance: “Please send me the article ASAP...”
The problem is that if the prospect gets four such “ASAP emails,” he does not know the most urgent one. Isn’t it difficult to prioritize such vague requests?
In his book “Rework,” Jason Fried calls ASAP poison. Similarly, the word “quickly” is also nonspecific and may leave your email’s recipient confused.
Alternative: Leave no room for interpretation. Get crystal clear with the deadline by explicitly specifying the exact time. Like, “Please send me the article by Monday 6 p.m.”
Remember how your customers think. They are focused on themselves and only care about “what's in it for them.”
So, if you’re pitching your product, you need to get to the specific benefits for the customer—not talk about your product.
Even in internal company communication, you need to get rid of these two words. They focus on you and your contributions. Rather, talk about how your collective teamwork contributes to the mission of your company.
Alternative: “You” and “your” are powerful substitutes. A Yale study named “you” the most influential word in English. In internal communications, you can also use “our,” “we,”and“us.”
10. Irrelevant emojis
Emojis are the fastest growing language in the history of the UK. They make your communication friendlier and expressive. A formal business email with plain text may seem cold and unfriendly.
Forty percent of office workers say that, due to stress, they don’t have time to be civil in the workplace. So you can :) your co-worker occasionally to maintain a cheerful work environment.
But if you’re considering using emojis in client communication, definitely don't use them when you’re sending a proposal to a prospect or if you want to be taken seriously.
Alternative: 76 percent of American workers use emoticons at work. So, sprinkle them occasionally in your positive messages to coworkers or clients you have a relationship with. Or, use them on your about me page as a way to showcase your personality that’s one layer deeper than your email.
You might be apologizing in situations that don’t merit it—like when you have a differing opinion in an email discussion. Or, even when you have missed a point.
“Sorry” oozes low confidence. And, it’s frequently used by women at the workplace. Pantene even launched a video titled “Not Sorry”—it encouraged women to stop with unnecessary apologies at the workplace.
Alternative: Directly state your point skipping the word “sorry” altogether. Don’t let your prospect doubt your abilities.
If you’ve messed up, you can use “I apologize.” It carries more weight and comes across as genuine. You can also add a sentence on how you plan to not repeat the same mistake again in the future.
Suppose Mark (your dedicated employee) enthusiastically plans your next marketing campaign. He then mails you the campaign details, right down to how you’ll implement it at every step.
You’re happy with the Mark’s effort. But, your mail reply is a single word—“Noted.”
You’ve left room for Mark to draw his conclusions. He can assume you’re happy. But, it might also mean that you’re disappointed.
If Mark doesn’t know your style of communication, then the negative scenario is more likely—just like the mail encounter between a consultant and a client below.
Alternative: Instead of negative or neutral phrases, stick with using positive ones. Like in the above scenario, you could have used “Thank you.”
If you receive a huge volume of emails and prefer short responses, then you can specify this in your signature, like Neil Patel. Your email recipients will understand the issue and respect your time.
2 tools to help you send effective emails
1. Just not sorry: This Gmail plugin ensures that you don’t undermine your message. It points out the self-deprecating words in your email and helps you communicate assertively.
2. HemingwayApp: The app checks grammar and points out unnecessary words that blur your message. It’ll also points out long and complicated sentences that need fixing to tighten up your prose.
Image Credits: https://www.sitepoint.com/hemingway-editor-2-review/
You cannot afford to lose your credibility with unspecific and fluffy emails. Respect your recipient's time by being direct and editing every unnecessary word out of your message. The 12 words and two tools I listed will help in delivering your message effectively.
Andrew Wise is a serial entrepreneur whose sites generate $1-plus million in revenue and receive 2.6-plus million uniques per year. On his blog, Wise Startup Blog, he shares actionable advice on how you can build massive, passive income streams, designed for the complete newbie. Follow him on Twitter @WiseStartupBlog.