In recent years, there has been a tendency to communicate via email in a lazy and unprofessional way. Informal communication between two friends is one thing, but addressing the CEO of your company with ‘Hey Mr. Jones’ will leave Mr. Jones with the impression that you’re sloppy. When promotion time comes around and your name is brought up, do you want Mr. Jones to immediately think ‘sloppy’?
‘Thanks in advance!’ is another common email etiquette faux pas. You might believe that it has become so common that it is accepted, but I’m here to tell you that it definitely is not.
Thanking someone in advance for something that hasn’t even been agreed upon or discussed isn’t just bad manners–it’s silly! You are expressing gratitude for something that hasn’t even occurred yet. You’re preceding an expected action with a thank you.
To put it into a real world perspective, using ‘Thanks in advance!’ could go something like this:
You have just picked out the perfect wedding gift at Saks Fifth Avenue, even paying the additional $25 for expert gift wrapping. You get to the wedding reception and are greeted by the picture perfect newlyweds. You congratulate them and hand them their gift. The wedding reception is spectacular. The following day you receive a text message from the newlyweds thanking you for the gift. You suddenly feel deflated and a lump rises in your throat. A text message? Was my gift not good enough? The sting of such a thoughtless, lazy expression of gratitude is just too much. You are not happy.
Or, perhaps this:
You’re on a romantic first date at an Italian restaurant and everything is going perfectly. You start speculating whether or not this person could be the one. You’re waiting for the main course to arrive and gazing into each other’s eyes. Then, suddenly, the budding romance goes from smoking red hot to a pile of smoldering ashes. Your perfect date thanked you for footing the bill!
In both scenarios you feel blindsided and angry!
When using ‘Thanks in advance’ in an email, you’re essentially combining your request and your thank you into one email.
When you thank in advance, the email recipient may start asking negative questions or making assumptions about you. Will you thank them again after they do what you’re asking? Perhaps you’re too lazy to write a request and a thank you? Maybe the request isn’t that important to you?
Instead of closing an email with ‘Thanks in advance!’, there are other phrases that would be much more appropriate, such as:
- I respect your time and I would be appreciative of any help you might be able to offer.
- Thank you for considering my request.
- I would be very grateful for any support you can provide.
- Thank you for taking the time to think over my request.
With the multitude of choices available, it should be relatively painless to swap out ‘Thanks in advance!’ with a more suitable replacement.
“Thanks in advance” isn’t the only commonly seen faux pas in email etiquette. There are other missteps to avoid when communicating via email. Let’s go through several email faux pas we see on a daily basis.
Hey, Hi, Hello, or To Whom?
When you begin an email exchange with a client, potential client, or business associate, how do you address it?
The general rule of thumb is if you know the person’s name, or have the capabilities to find it out (e.g. Google search), ‘Dear Mark Zuckerberg’ or even ‘Dear Mark’ is acceptable in most cases.
If you do not know the person’s name and are unable to find it, address it ‘To Whom it May Concern’.
Never address an initial email message with ‘Hey Mark Zuckerberg’ or ‘Hi Mark’ unless you are in the friend zone. ‘Hey’ and ‘Hi’ are much too casual for formal or business-related communication.
“[I]t is nouns and verbs, not their assistants, that give good writing its toughness and color.” – William Strunk, Jr. author of The Elements of Style
You want what you write to have an impact, so you use intensifiers to punch up your words. Nothing wrong with that…or is there?
Your writing style falls under the umbrella of etiquette. Do you want to convey authority or sound passive and apologetic? With incorrect style and the misuse of intensifiers, you could be leading people to see you as being apprehensive or timid.
In addition to looking weak, too many intensifiers can make your work appear cluttered and elementary. Instead of pairing every verb and adjective with an intensifier, try strengthening your verbs and adjectives. This would decrease the need for intensifiers.
What are some of the most overused intensifiers? Honestly, the most totally, awesome, overused intensifiers are absolutely unbelievable. Now, really think about how many of these words you use and how many times you use them when you’re writing. Are you guilty of overusing intensifiers?
Saving the best for last, the Award for the Most Overused Intensifier in the English language goes to very. Using very before every other adjective can come across as lazy or make you appear to have a very limited vocabulary.
Here are some creative ways to avoid using the word ‘very’:
Do, or Do Not: the Emoticon
If you use emoticons in every other sentence, you need to stop now. Emoticons are fun to use when having light-hearted conversations with friends or coworkers, but that’s where they need to stay.
It’s common for miscommunication to happen over email and text messages. A recipient mistakes the sender’s tone of voice or doesn’t understand something that was meant to be a joke. Adding emoticons into the mix will make miscommunications even more likely to occur. Using them can come across as you being sarcastic or immature. Definitely not the impression you want to leave with a business associate or client.
It’s best to err on the side of caution and only use emoticons when conversing with friends or coworkers about non-business related matters. If you want to come across as cheerful and upbeat you can use word connotations or fun adjectives to brighten things up a bit. Make sure you know your audience before inserting any word that isn’t meant to be taken literally. Not everyone attaches the same connotation to a word!
For example, saying something like “Thank you for being so talkative during the meeting today!” could be taken as “You were really loud and obnoxious during the meeting today!”.
Ending an email with “Best Regards” or “Kind Regards” is generally a fail-safe way to leave the recipient with a positive feeling. “Yours Truly” could be seen as a little too personal and “Thanks!” could be construed as being presumptuous.
Wut R U Up 4 2nite?
The first text message was sent in 1992 and it opened up a whole new world of communication. It has quickly become one of the primary methods of communication in our culture.
Unfortunately, with the invention of the text message came texting lingo. Texting lingo is also known as texting jargon or shorthand texting. English professors and writers everywhere consider texting lingo to be a great injustice to the beauty of words and language.
Texting lingo has spilled over from being limited to text messaging to being used in everyday email communication. Using texting lingo in your email conversations is lazy and almost vulgar.
There are very few, if any, instances where the use of texting lingo could be considered appropriate.
I frequently refer to an article by Forbes staff writer, Susan Adams. She tackled the challenging subject of sign-offs in September 2013 and the article is the most comprehensive one I’ve found on the subject. 57 Ways to Sign Off On An Email includes such sign-offs as these:
- “Thanks for your consideration – A tad stilted with a note of servility, this can work in the business context, though it’s almost asking for a rejection. Steer clear of this when writing a note related to seeking employment.”
- “Yours Truly – I don’t like this. It makes me feel like I’m ten years old and getting a note from a pen pal in Sweden.”
Think Before You Send
When you finish writing an email, there are four things you should think about before hitting ‘Send’. These four things could mean the difference between a potential client seeing you as a snot-nosed child or as a professional, long-term business partner.
- Don’t thank someone in advance. If you wouldn’t say it in person do not say it in an email.
- Use appropriate salutations. (e.g. Dear Mark Zuckerberg)
- Get rid of clutter—if you honestly see any of these totally awesome words in your email, you literally really need to throw it in the trash because it is very bad.
- Just say no to texting lingo! There should be no Gr8s or B4s anywhere in your email.
If all else fails, remember that it’s always better to show up at an event overdressed rather than underdressed. Meaning, you will never fail if you take the formal route.