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5 Phrases You Should Never Use in an Email

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It’s way easier to rely on clichés and claptrap in your writing than to expend the energy on an original thought–one reason why the 70 emails you send a day all sound the same.

Is this a bad thing? Not necessarily: It depends on the function on the message. If you’re just communicating with colleagues or friends, there’s no need to find new phrasing–though we’ve been told to please keep it to five sentences, thank you.

1) “I HOPE YOU ARE WELL.”

“This ‘hope’ is always followed by a page of boilerplate,” James says. “In any case, if you don’t know me, don’t pretend you care about me.”

So how can we do better than pretending to care about someone? Maybe by actually caring, actually getting to know the other person. Speaking to a journalist, PR folks that have just asked me to have a cup of coffee with them have been able to form an actual human bond rather than a forced relatedness. So when they holler at me, I holler back.

2) “I THOUGHT I WOULD REACH OUT.”

“That expression–which has suddenly gotten popular–always makes me imagine a baby reaching out of a stroller,” James writes.

And we don’t want to infantalize ourselves. So instead of leaning on this passive, vacuous construction, we can simply say what we mean to say about the topic and how it relates to the recipient. We can dispense with the cloudy and opt for the clear.

To quote E.B. White in the Elements of Style:

[T]he proper correction is likely to be not the replacement of one word or set of words by another but the replacement of a vague generality with a definite statement.

So instead of thinking that you would reach out–which is obvious by your writing the message anyway–just express the action you’re asking the recipient to make. If you want a reply, that is.

Read the rest here.

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This entry was posted on September 9, 2013 by in Uncategorized and tagged , .
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