The thing about email is that there’s so much of it.
This means that you are confronted on a daily basis with more and more words and phrases than you ever were before. It also means that those words and phrases that truly aggravate are thrust at you with excessive regularity.
Until you really don’t feel very good about the person who wrote them.
So, in order to allow you to be as lovable a professional as you truly are, here’s a short list of words that should be hexed from your business communication. (Well, at least I think they should.)
Honestly, why do people do this? It’s like those who begin sentences with “Honestly.” You know they’re writing it precisely because they don’t mean it. They want you to believe that they’re sincere, when they have all the sincerity of “I love you” during sex on a first date. I know you want to sound as if you mean it. So sound as if you mean it. Don’t use words that are fake. I mean it.
2. “Catching Up”
Oh, we’ve all done this. I know we have. But you’re not catching up. You want something. You want something badly and the person you’re writing to (for the third time) hasn’t replied. “Catching up” is like your supermarket checkout man saying: “Hi! How are you?” He doesn’t care. He just wants you to transact and scram. Perhaps, instead of “catching up,” you might try “hurry up!” and see how that goes.
3. “Hope This Finds You Well”
Why shouldn’t I be well? Have you heard that I’m not? Do I have a reputation for instability? If I’ve got a cold, is this going to mess with whatever it is you’re pestering me about? It’s always people who don’t know me who want me to be well. People who know me know that I never will be. They just get on with it, or at least find an original joke/quip/picture/insult that somehow makes the communication go, well, sincerely.
4. “Happy Monday/Tuesday/Wednesday”
Show me one person on earth who’s happy on a Monday and I’ll show you a chef de cuisine who’s finally got a day off. Why do people need to remind me what day it is? I know (well, usually). And why do they associate the word “happy” with the early days of the week? Yes, I can grasp that people want me to be happy, but how can I be happy when you’ve just reminded me that it’s Monday?
5. “Circle Back”
This is like “catching up,” but without the merest tinge of humanity. Who on Earth, in a world in which they have a choice, would want to go back in circles? The thought of someone circling me reminds me of hawks outside my window that are desperate for a lunchtime ratburger. You didn’t get what you want, so you’re going to hover overhead like a police drone until you do. Please don’t.
6. “You’re Going to Love This”
I see this phrase quite a bit when people are trying to sell me something in an email. It’s uncanny, their access to my love compartment. It truly is. I know that when sommeliers are trying to sell you wine, they want to tell you what you’re about to taste, so that you, weak-willed human that you are, are going to taste exactly those things or look a touch silly. But in business this doesn’t work. It just makes you sound like a sleazy car dealer. (Yes, there are other kinds.)
7. “I’d Like to Pick Your Brain”
At what point will those who write dictionaries simply translate this as “I want you to give me your thinking for free?” Every time I read that someone wants to pick my brain, I know I’d rather pick the nostrils of a herd of cattle, rather than reply to the email.
I am conscious that I may have sounded a touch irascible in this column.
You see, I had this nightmare. My brain had been picked to such a degree that the remaining elements of it housed only the collected works of the Stranglers. Scores of people simultaneously hoped I was well with such vehemence that it made me infirm. People I didn’t know told me I’d feel love and all I got was a throbbing eyeball. I felt as if people were chasing me, but never quite catching up. There were people circling backward over my head.
Still, tomorrow will be a Happy Thursday. Sincerely.
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