Writing professional and formal emails isn’t as easy and straightforward as it seems. It can sometimes go horribly wrong. Many people don’t realise that the phrases they use can take on different, sometimes unintended, meanings in the workplace, especially when interacting with crucial clients and senior people in the company. Having a professional bearing is good, but having professional communicative skills is far more important.
Here are some phrases you should avoid using in your emails, unless you want to come across as unprofessional, and perhaps even rude, to the recipient:
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“I don’t know”
The phrase ‘I don’t know’ is the pinnacle of unprofessionalism as it conveys that the writer is bluntly washing their hands away from the work at hand and is not even willing to find a solution to it. The ideal phrase should be: “I will get back to you on that subject matter/issue/topic” or “That is exactly what we are looking to resolve/find out/figure out.”
You are certainly not expected to know everything, but reassure the other person over the mail that you will find out what is needed or that you are working towards finding out what you don’t know. Doing this helps you come across as an efficient and hardworking professional.
“Is that okay?”
When you have to follow up, discuss or enquire about a particular issue that you don’t know about, you certainly need the time to do so. Asking the person if “that is okay” can put them off. If the person replies that it’s not okay, it will make the conversation unproductive and it heads nowhere. Not only does it make you look unprofessional, but it also makes it seem like you are sloppy at your job.
When you know that a particular matter will not be possible or needs time, it’s right to form a crisp reply and end it there without any further words. If the person is not comfortable with the decision, then run it though your boss and respond accordingly.
“I am the *designation title*”
Whether you have a junior-level title or a senior-level title, it’s arrogant to start an email with such a sentence. If you have a junior-level designation, it is better not to include it at all because it comes across as brash and superficial to potential clients and higher management.
Never begin an email with the word ‘hey’. It is far too casual for a professional setting and gives the reader the impression that you are a random person who has appeared form nowhere.
A better way to introduce yourself is by saying “Hello” or “I am *name* from *name of department *.” It inspires more confidence and gives the impression that you were invited to be included in this conversation.
Anything less than a ‘Thank you’ is righteously believed to be either sarcastic or flippant. The word ‘thanks’ is slightly harsh as well. Refrain from using it even verbally in the office environment.
‘Fine’ is a word that can be interpreted in many ways. It could mean fine in the manner of quality, or it could mean the work is average and not better. So, instead of confusing the reader with a colloquial term, it is better and more professional to be specific in all the words you use. Instead of “fine”, say “that is/was a good effort” or “that is/was not up to the mark.”
Saying “I’m sorry” sounds offhand and almost like you don’t mean it at all. Always keep in mind that when you need to apologise, it is better done in person. However, if you have to type it out in an email before that, say something like “My sincere apologies for the inconvenience, let us make it up to you by *doing something else*.” Always apologise and follow it up with a small service that you can extend to the other party with a genuine intention.
“Extremely”, “Enormously”, and “Exceptionally”
Avoid using adverbs like these in professional emails should be fact-based and not express emotion or emphasise a feeling. For instance, when you want to say “I’m extremely busy this week,” instead say, “I have a tight schedule this week.”
While we all know you are bound to get tired after working long hours, saying it in an email is like telling people that you can’t manage your work life. Successful people know how to work hard and work smart.
Exclamation points will be the death of your professional image in a work environment. Do not use or overuse them at all if you can help it. It looks very childlike, and using them could send mixed signs to the receiver. Exclamation points are used when you want to tone up your virtual voice or say something in an authoritative manner.
While you may think that you sound like a proactive and efficient individual, it just may happen that you come across as pompous and rude. Mean well, write smart and sound sincere, and things will work in your favour.