With a whopping 28 percent of the average workday spent reading and answering emails, you want to be sure you’re not just adding to the noise. It’s crucial that you’re writing in such a way that properly conveys your needs and your professionalism. That means sounding like you know what’s going on around you (even if you’re not 100 percent sure). If you think you need to be more confident at work, start by taking a look at your email’s sent folder.
“Several words and phrases often used in emails function as filler words or qualifiers,” says Alyssa Gelbard, founder and president of Resume Strategists, a career consulting and personal branding firm based in New York City. “They can weaken your message and make you sound tentative.”
Avoid the following words when using email, and your perceived confidence and competence levels at work will skyrocket. Oh, and you’ll very likely get more of the answers you want to hear.
Example: “I just wanted to check if you have any feedback on the copy I sent over.”
Similar words: only, simply
Why it doesn’t work: “‘Just’ down-plays the importance of the task or work item being discussed; it implies the item should not be prioritized or doesn’t require significant skill, time or attention,” notes Kate Gremillion CEO and founder of Mavenly + Co., a New Orleans-based resource for millennial women.
Use this instead: “Do you have feedback on the copy I sent over? I need it by the end of the day.”
Example: “I can probably send a mission statement by noon.”
Similar words: perhaps, hopefully, ideally, maybe, possible, should
Why it doesn’t work: “Probably” implies uncertainty. If you are hesitant about something, provide a more realistic alternative.
Use this instead: “I won’t be able to send the mission statement by noon because I need to finish the website copy. I can send it by the end of the day.”
Example: “I’ll try to edit the article you sent to me.”
Similar word: attempt
Why it doesn’t work: It says to people that you’re not confident in your ability to execute. There’s nothing wrong with asking for help, which tells people you are concerned about doing something correctly.
Use this instead: “I will edit the article now. I have a few questions before I start editing; do you have time to meet for five minutes?”
Example: “I think we should check the patient’s white blood cell count.”
Similar words: in my opinion, personally, I’m not sure but, I feel like
Why it doesn’t work: It gives people license to dismiss what you’re about to say. Be confident in the validity of your recommendation.
Use this instead: “Let’s check the patient’s white blood cell count.”
Example: “I saw the client’s complaint about whatever. I’ll offer them a discount or whatever.”
Similar words: something, some such
Why it doesn’t work: Not only does “whatever” sound dismissive, but it also implies you’re not concerned with accuracy—both of which do a big disservice to your professionalism.
Use this instead: “I saw the client’s complaint about yesterday’s late delivery. I’ll offer them a discount on their next order.”
Example: “Maybe we should write a chapter about why we started the company. Maybe I can go to the conference in March.”
Similar words: perhaps, I guess
Why it doesn’t work: “Maybe” makes you sound ambivalent and apprehensive.
Use this instead: “Let’s write a chapter about why we started the company. I can go to the conference in March!”
Example: “I’m sorry, I have a meeting at 1 p.m., but would 2 p.m. work?”
Similar words: apologies, my bad
Why it doesn’t work: It’s completely unnecessary and diminishes the value of your voice. Make statements and ask for what you need without apologizing first.
Use this instead: “I have a meeting at 1 p.m. Are you available at 2 p.m.?”
If you need to know how to be confident in the face of job stress, co-workers and customer demands, you’re not alone. No matter what level you’re at in your career, if you’re not empowered, you’re not going to do your best work. The more informed you are, the more at ease you’ll feel.