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10 Unprofessional Email Phrases You Might Be Using

January 12, 2021

There’s some content we all know to stay away from in work emails—political conversations, crude jokes, office gossip, etc. Other topics and phrases might be a little less obvious, but are still unprofessional in their own ways.

Whether you’re emailing internally or with clients, you don’t want to ruin your relationship thanks to inappropriate messaging, even by accident. Believe it or not, word gets around! Emotions are running high lately, so you should think about how your message might be perceived, no matter how familiar you are with the recipient. The best emails are informative, yet to the point, without being passive-aggressive or gossipy.

Glassdoor asked 10 HR professionals what phrases you should avoid writing in emails if you want to sound professional, competent, and on top of your workload. Here’s what they had to say:

“Just a heads up, I’m calling in sick tomorrow.”

A lot of people have called in sick for a pre-planned mental health or personal day at some point in their career, but that doesn’t mean you should talk about it over work emailing. Your boss might understand if you explained your need for a day off in person. Unless you’re genuinely sick and have a feeling you won’t be in the next day, you don’t want this message to stick around.

“John really dropped the ball on this one.”

It’s not your place to discuss a co-worker’s performance unless you’re their boss and are discussing it with HR or your boss. It’s also rude.

“I’m feeling …”

It’s best to keep emotions out of work emails. Email communication should be based on facts—sharing information that is required, but not emotional. There’s no tone of voice or inflection to go along with the words in an email, and emotions can be misconstrued. If you can’t keep emotions out of an email, then that’s a conversation you should probably have in person or over the phone.

“Does Tuesday still work for you to return those documents to me, maybe around 3 p.m.? No worries if not.”

Try: “Have you had a chance to review the documents I sent over last week? Please review and return them to me by Tuesday at 3 p.m. so we can stay on track with our project plan.” By communicating assertively and clearly in work emails, you’ll project confidence and competence.

“Here’s a copy of the project I’m working on with my team. I’d love to get your feedback.”

Unless your boss says it’s OK to share a project, keep it to yourself or specific team members working on the assignment. Inadvertently sharing confidential or proprietary information from your company might seem like an innocent mistake, but it can be grounds for dismissal.

“This place really gets me down sometimes.”

You should never say anything negative about your workplace via email—even if you’re writing to your friend in the office after a difficult day. A message to your coworker about how much you despise the work you do can easily make its way to a manager, and even if not, it will just bring your colleague down with you.

“Apologies for the delay.”

While it’s important to take responsibility and apologize from time to time, some people apologize way too often. Women, in particular, have been socialized to apologize, defer and buffer statements with phrases like “this is just my opinion, but …” Constantly apologizing and qualifying your statements could lead to a lack of respect from colleagues. Challenge yourself to take a more direct and concise approach.

“Nice work. Next time, please consider …”

It may be easier to give constructive criticism via email, but it often backfires. The intent of the message is often different than the effect of the message—it’s likely to reach your audience differently than how you meant, and usually negatively. Find time to meet in person, over the phone, or via video call.

“I’m open to other opportunities.”

Don’t tell people you’re looking for a job or that you know of someone looking to leave. Don’t talk to recruiters, check in with clients and competitors about open positions, or chat with coworkers about what’s next.

“As per my last email …”

This sentiment comes in many forms, including “as already noted below …” and “as previously discussed …” You should avoid alliterations. It’s passive aggressive. Instead, just repeat what needs to be repeated and move forward.

Information largely courtesy of Glassdoor.