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Revealed: the 9 most annoying email phrases

2-minute read

Sam Bromley

24 September 2018

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Recent research has uncovered the nine most annoying phrases people use in their professional emails. Have you ever been irritated by any of these – or do you use them yourself?

While email has revolutionised the way we talk professionally, it can sometimes be an awkward way to communicate.

Replying to all, sending an email to the wrong person, an overuse of punctuation – they’re all common faux pas to avoid.

And even the phrases we use in emails need some thought, because it can be tricky to find a balance between politeness and professionalism.

New research uncovers some of the most hated phrases

Adobe recently polled 1,000 workers to find out which email phrases they hate the most. Each of the nine phrases have something in common – they all imply that the recipient hasn’t replied to a previous email.

While asking for updates in person can take the edge off any bluntness, over email it can morph into passive aggression if you’re not careful.

At the top of the list is ‘not sure if you saw my last email,’ which was hated by 25 per cent of people. If that one sets you off, you’ll definitely be familiar with the rest.

The 9 most annoying email phrases – ranked

Annoying phraseMost hated by
Not sure if you saw my last email...25%
Per my last email…13%
Per our conversation…11%
Any updates on this?11%
Sorry for the double email.10%
Please advise.9%
As previously stated…9%
As discussed…6%
Re-attaching for convenience.6%

Efficiency can come at the expense of nuance

Adobe’s director of email solutions, Kristen Naragon, tells CNBC: "Emotion and intent are sometimes hard to convey via email, so [some phrases] can negatively impact productivity and culture."

She says that projects can be put at risk if there are flaws in the way people talk over email, especially if the words come across as judgmental or passive aggressive.

Naragon goes on to say: "Your colleagues could choose not to respond out of frustration...this can damage relationships and ultimately, morale.”

So, knowing which phrases are emotionally charged could help projects progress a bit more smoothly. You can avoid them yourself, and be more prepared to deal with them if they end up coming your way.

How to deal with emotional emails

Whether it’s a terse email from a client or a fraught email from a colleague, knowing how to handle them can make all the difference. Here are some of our top tips:

  • Take time – one of the beautiful things about email is you don’t need to respond straight away. If you’re not sure how to reply, sitting on it for a few minutes can make all the difference. Clear your head by getting away from your computer or laptop and come back with a fresh perspective.
  • Don’t overcomplicate it – written conversation can be misinterpreted, given the time we have to stew over words. So only respond to what you need to – for example, if you’re being chased for work, let them know when it’ll be done rather than explain why it’s not been completed yet. You might be inferring something that isn’t necessarily there.
  • Read your email out loud – it’s easy for tone to get lost in email conversation. But the simple act of reading your reply out loud can make it easier to spot emotion you didn’t intend. If you catch something that sounds angrier that you meant it to, it might be a good idea to revise.

Do you have any tips for handling email conversation? Let us know in the comments below.

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We create this content for general information purposes and it should not be taken as advice. Always take professional advice. Read our full disclaimer

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