We’ve been discussing in our blog about how to write a strong subject lines that will make your recipients open your email before. But what are the words you should avoid to make sure that your message will be taken seriously – what are those email stop words you shouldn’t use in your emails?
As much as you might wish it were, email is not dead. If it were dead, email wouldn’t take up 28% of our work week, and we wouldn’t be interrupted by the “ding” of new messages around 60 times a day.
And yet, so much of the email we spend so much time writing is ignored, forgotten, or deleted.
While it’s very true that spam filters are an issue and we should absolutely pay attention to spam triggering words, we’ve become pretty adept at making sure that the well-crafted emails we put so much time into writing aren’t automatically trashed.
We also know that, professional signatures, and videos help boost our email open rates.
But getting into an inbox is only part of the battle. There’s one more filter to defeat, and it’s the strongest filter of all.
And that’s the human eye.
21% of people mark email as spam “just because,” and only about 13.7% of the messages that find their way into our inboxes each day.
— Adslot (@Adslot) September 21, 2015
Luckily, with only a few tweaks to your messages, you can increase your chances of being heard and remembered.
Whether you’re sending a marketing email, writing to a potential employer, or writing to a colleague, take a close look at your word choices.
By avoiding the following fifteen words and phrases, you’ll create email messages that reflect your professionalism and receive the response they deserve.
The words you should avoid in your email
1. Words that Seem Rude or Condescending
We all know that one of the biggest problems with email is its inability to convey tone. This is especially true for short emails that are written in a hurry.
Fortunately, email has been around long enough for us to know which words can be taken as rude even if the intention of the sender is anything but.
“Is it okay if I take two more days to finish the report.”
Even if you mean, “that’s fine / go ahead / no problem,” fine has negative connotations. With the same number of letters, you can type “okay” or “sure.”
“No, it’s on the 5th floor.”
If someone writes to you and asks if your meeting is on the 3rd floor, and it’s not, you can simply say, “It’s on the 5th floor.”
There’s no need for the “no.”
“I need you to have this done by Friday.”
Ouch. Doesn’t that make you feel a bit like a servant?
“Please finish this by Friday.”
The same message is conveyed but the wording makes the request it easier to swallow.
Why, because it’s not all about you.
“Here are some important instructions for the new copy machine.”
We can determine the importance of an email for ourselves, thank you very much.
“I’ll come in early tomorrow to help set up for the presentation.”
As minor as this sounds, taking the time to actually type out “thank you” instead of thanks is more important than you might think. There’s something dismissive about a quickly written “thanks.”
It’s not an issue of formality. It’s an issue of respect and showing proper gratitude.
Tip: Keep your email messages as positive as you can. Write your emails in a way that encourages people to brainstorm and share ideas.
2. Words that Imply That You Lack Confidence
Before you send an email, remember that:
- You are capable and qualified.
- Your opinions, to which you have a right, are based on fact, knowledge, and prior experience.
- You’re strong enough write without “crutch words.”
“I’m sorry. I’m just wondering if you know where the training is going to be.”
Is not knowing where a training is really a reason to be sorry?
If you’ve done something that truly requires an apology, pick up the phone or better yet, apologize in person. But more often than not, we’re tempted to apologize even when we’ve done nothing wrong.
If somebody wants to meet on Tuesday at 3, but you’re in another meeting then, do you really need to feel sorry? If a person asks you if you know where to find one of your colleagues and you don’t know the answer, is it your fault?
Let’s let Pantene (yes, the shampoo company) give us some other examples:
“I just wanted to ask you a quick question.”
If you want to ask a question, ask it. The word “just” often makes you appear timid.
Look at the difference.
- “If it’s possible, I just need to come in an hour later tomorrow.”
- “I’d like to come in an hour later tomorrow.”
“Actually, you should cut down on your use of the word ‘actually.'”
When used correctly, the word “actually” has purpose and meaning and signals a change in thought or a correction to a previous statement.
“I told you her name is Sarah, but that was a mistake. Actually, her name is Stacey.”
But all too often, it’s used as a filler and might will kill your credibility.
And be particularly careful about your use of “actually” when mentioning an accomplishment. You don’t want to downgrade yourself or sound defensive.
“My post actually got a lot of retweets.”
Why be surprised? It was a good tweet. Right?
d. Kind Of
“Let’s meet next week to kind of go over next month’s calendar.”
Kind of? Well? Are you or aren’t you going to go over the calendar?
You know the answer.
“Hopefully, I’ll have it done by Monday.”
You’ll hopefully have it done by Monday? You’re a confident, capable person.
You’re a confident, capable person.
You will have it done by Monday.
If there’s a danger of another task getting in the way, or something else that may get in your way, say so without downgrading yourself.
Tip: To help you avoid words that will detract from your credibility, use the "Just Not Sorry" plugin.
It’ll help you improve your sales in “five seconds flat.”
You won’t be “sorry!”
3. Words that Waste People’s Time
The average adult has an attention span of 8 seconds, so it’s no surprise that we read email quickly – on average in about 15 or 20 seconds. If your email is too long, it may be read quickly or not at all.
Know what you want to say, and say it quickly and politely without hiding your point in a soup of meaningless words.
How many times have you rushed through an email and missed something?
Statistically, seven out of ten of our users contact customer support within two days of downloading the app.”
If you’re citing a statistic, the word “statistically” is implied.
“What was your favorite part of the book?”
So, I liked the part about the new management methods.”
The word “so” has recently become a filler and is being used to buy time while people think. Nobody reading your email needs to “watch” you think. Make your point, and sign off.
c. As you know
As you know, the event will be held outside. Dress warmly.”
If your email recipient already knows something, why repeat it?
If you must repeat something that’s already known, you can replace “as you know” with “since” or “because.”
Basically, the party is to show appreciation to our new clients.”
You can be concise without announcing that you’re being concise.
e. Pretty much
Pretty much, we have meetings on Tuesday mornings.
If you can delete “pretty much” from a sentence without changing the meaning, go for it.
If you can’t, try replacing the phrase with “almost” or “usually.”
Tip: This list is the tip of the iceberg. Before you hit send, reread your email and delete as many “wasteful” words as you can.
Divide long sections of texts into short paragraphs to make skimming easier.
4. Also Watch out For. . .
You’re a professional. Sound like one. Enough said.
Announcing that your product is “innovative” or “the best” isn’t going to get you very far. Let your product speak for itself. Show that it’s “revolutionary” or “amazing” (a word that has almost lost meaning).
Watch out for unnecessary punctuation, especially gratuitous exclamation points.
A photo posted by Stick Or Twist (@stickortwistws) on Sep 1, 2016 at 5:30am PDT
They save time, they convey a lot of meaning, and they’re cute. No wonder 76% of people report using emojis at work. Why not use them?
Well, you can. Just be careful. Avoid using emojis with people you don’t know well, especially customers. Also remember that emojis aren’t universal. The looks and meanings can differ based on culture and operating system.
— NPR (@NPR) April 12, 2016
The word has taken on a life of its own. It’s true that the meaning has changed, and that’s okay. But nobody can deny that the word has become overused. If you must use it, strongly consider the context and the audience.
Tip: Keep an eye on your grammar. Yes, people will judge you. 40% of email recipients claim poor grammar as a pet peeve.
So, basically, I need you to just kind of using these words in your email messages.
Actually. . .
Wait. Let’s try that again.
Avoid these words in your email messages and you’ll see an improvement in your open rates and the quality of your responses.
Your email inbox is a bit like a Las Vegas roulette machine. You know, you just check it and check it, and every once in a while there’s some juicy little tidbit of reward, like the three-quarters that pop down on a one-armed bandit. And that keeps you coming back for more.
Write the way you’d like to be written to, and your messages will have a higher chance of making it through and staying in today’s overfilled “roulette machine” like inboxes.
Which words do you try to avoid in your email messages? Why?