12 Words That You Should Never Use in B2B Emails (and Their Replacements)
March 29, 2016 Andrew Wise
Social Media has seen unprecedented adoption by consumers, but for businesses, email remains the most dominant form of communication.
As per Boomerang’s analysis of 5 million emails, the average person spends 2.5 hours tending to emails each day, and by the end of 2017, 132 billion business emails are estimated to be sent and received every 24 hours.
If you’re a business owner, the data underlines 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 their spam folder.
Every word in your message needs to be carefully chosen to add meaning and avoid the potential destruction of your efforts.
To help with this, here are twelve words that you might need to re-consider when composing your e-mail messages, along with some potential ideas for replacements to help you better focus your communications.
1. Hey/Hello there
Sales trainer Babette Ten Haken believes that both “hey” and “hello there” are generic salutations.
They may even come across as disrespectful in some professional contexts. Don’t hamper your brand with such casual language in your business endeavors.
Alternative: It’s okay to even skip the salutation and/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 could come across as insincere. It can weaken your message and make you sound less confident in what you're presenting.
If you’re writing an email, it should be obvious that you’re being honest – you don’t need to announce it.
Alternative: Get direct to the point and tell the truth, your prospects will respect you for saving their time by skipping the fluff.
These are another two overused words that can reduce the power and impact of your writing. They often don’t add any value to your message and can make 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 – example: “antiquated” instead of “really old.”
You've probably noticed an increase in the usage of this word in emails. The intention is normally to soften a request and avoid coming across as too harsh.
For example, “Just following up on my call…”
The problem is, ‘just’ can also make your message unclear and lessen its impact as a result.
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 normally doesn't suit a business environment.
Alternative: You can use specific words like issues/principles/reasons depending on the context.
Benjen Stark from GOT 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 even completely get rid of it like, this example from Buffer.
It depends on your audience, of course, but corporate jargon probably isn’t going to impress many of your prospects. The extra syllables in a word like ‘utilize’ might sound impressive, but they can also cause distraction, thus taking away from your core message.
'ROI' and 'Innovative' are also buzzwords that can add unnecessary abstraction – 'ROI' is the gross profit that your business makes on an investment and 'innovative' is an overused marketing word that’s normally only used to sell a product.
Stick with simpler and more specific options below.
Alternative: 'Use' will pretty much 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' (example: “Please send me the article ASAP”).
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. Example – “Please send me the article by Monday 6 PM”.
Remember how your customers think…
They're generally focused on themselves and their problems, they're, logically, looking for what's in it for them.
When you’re pitching your product, you need to get to the specific benefits for the customer – not talk about yourself.
Even in internal company communication, you need to get rid of these two words – they can put undue focus on you and your contributions rather than about how your collective teamwork contributes to the mission of your company.
Alternative: 'You' and 'your' are powerful substitutes. Indeed, a Yale study named ‘you’ the most influential word in English. In internal communications, you can also use 'our', 'we' and 'us'.
10. Irrelevant Emoji
Emoji are the fastest growing form of language in the history of the UK. They can make your communication more friendly and expressive – it's actually getting to the point where formal business email with plain text can seem somewhat cold and unfriendly.
For example, 40% of officer workers say that, due to stress, they don’t have time to be civil in the workplace. A simple 🙂 in you e-mails can help maintain a cheerful work environment.
But if you’re considering using emoji 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% 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 when you've missed a point.
While apologizing is necessary when warranted, overusing the word can be seen as a signal of low confidence. Pantene even launched a video titled “Not Sorry” encouraging women to stop unnecessary apologizing in the workplace.
Alternative: Directly state your point, skipping the word ‘sorry’ altogether. Don’t let your prospects doubt your abilities.
If you’ve messed up, the word “apologize” carries more weight and can come across as more 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, 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”.
Ah! You’ve left room for Mark to draw his conclusions. He can assume you’re happy, but then again, 'noted' might also mean you’re disappointed.
If your style of communication isn’t known to Mark, then the negative scenario is more likely – have a look at this e-mail exchange between a consultant and a client below.
Alternative: Instead of negative or neutral phrases, stick with using positive ones. Like in the above scenario, Jill could have used “Thank you” instead to clarify.
If you receive a huge volume of emails and prefer short responses, then you can specify this in your signature, as Neil Patel does. Your email recipients will understand the issue and respect your time.
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 more assertively.
2. HemingwayApp – The app checks grammar and points out unnecessary words that blur your message. It’ll also point out long and complicated sentences that need fixing to tighten up your prose.
You can't 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 2 tools listed will help in delivering your message effectively.
Main image via: https://www.marketingtechblog.com/email-infographic/
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