Words and Phrases to Stop Using in Emails

Whether you’re communicating with your boss, a client or a company you hope will someday hire you, having a strong voice in your emails can help you stand out from the crowd. Because it can be difficult to tell your tone, inflection and intentions with a text email, there are some words you may want to avoid in your correspondence.

To help put your best foot forward, here are 11 words or phrases you should stop using in your emails.

1. Sorry to Bother You

When we’re sending an email the recipient isn’t expecting, it may feel natural to apologize for infringing on their time. However, when you apologize for bothering someone, you’re automatically coming off as meek and nervous.

No matter the reason for emailing someone, do it confidently. If you’re going to take the time out of someone’s day to send them a message, make sure they know it is important and that you wouldn’t be sending them a note if you thought otherwise. Get straight to the point and avoid apologizing if you don’t have anything to apologize for.

2. Sincerely Yours

It can get a bit awkward when you’re signing off an email, but using an overly formal phrase like sincerely yours can make it uncomfortable for both you and the recipient. Phrases like sincerely yours or yours truly sound dated and even a bit romantic.

Stick to something a bit more professional. Even something as simple as thanks can be enough to sign off your email.

3. I Thought I Should Reach Out

When you say you thought you should do something, it appears as if you’re unsure of yourself. You’re not presenting yourself confidently, which automatically makes the recipient question your authority.

If you’re going to reach out to someone, let them know why. Be direct about what information you need or what you’d like to share.

4. Actually

The word actually insinuates that something in a previous email was wrong. When you use actually in your email correspondence, you’re pointing out a mistake or misconception the other individual had.

While there is nothing wrong with addressing errors or fixing mistakes, you don’t want to do so in an aggressive way. Instead, use terms like great point, definitely or understandable before transitioning into a description of the correction.

5. Can I Pick Your Brain?

When you’re trying to make a connection with a potential mentor or employee of your dream company, you may be looking for the OK to ask questions or for advice. While there is nothing wrong with trying to expand your network, asking to pick their brain is incredibly one-sized.

Some people will love the feeling of being asked for help, but that is typically people new to these kinds of emails. Employees higher up the chain may not see the benefit in responding to an email like this. Instead, try to find a way to make the conversation beneficial for the individual, not for you.

6. Hopefully

When you’re hoping for something to happen, you don’t appear that confident that it will actually come true. Hoping, praying and wishing all portray that you aren’t in control over whether or not something happens. It makes it seem like you’re waiting around for things to get done.

Instead of using hopefully, let them know the steps you’re taking to help achieve the task. If something is out of your control, frame the situation so it seems like you have some power or that you’re prepared to take the necessary steps to get the answer you’re looking for.

7. To Whom It May Concern

Starting an email with to whom it may concern is a classic filler for when you’re not really sure who you’re reaching out to. While there are some settings where this phrase may be appropriate, it typically isn’t in day-to-day business.

If you’re sending out an email, take some time to find out who will be on the other end. If you’re sending to a general email without a name or position attached, see if you can find a more specific address to send your message. If you’re hitting dead end after dead end, address it to the department or position you’d like to reach.

8. Kind Of

Kind of is another phrase that lacks confidence, but it also seems juvenile. If you’re sending a professional email, you want to be sure you’re using professional language.

Instead of saying kind of, use an alternative like slightly, fairly or quite. These can all make you appear more professional.

9. I Hope You’re Well

While there is nothing wrong with your well wishes, saying I hope you’re well seems extremely impersonal. This kind of message lacks the personal connection needed to build a strong relationship.

Instead of general well wishes, draw on a conversation you had the last time you spoke. Asking about something specific, addressing a previous conversation or just acknowledging you’re putting some time into building the relationship can do wonders for your connection with the client or employer.

10. Quickly

When you’re hoping to get something done, you may ask for it to be completed quickly. Unfortunately, everyone has different expectations for what quickly actually is.

Instead of using vague words like this, get specific about the timeline you’re looking for. Do you need it within the next hour, the next day or the next week? Instead of letting the recipient determine how much time they have, define it for them.

11. Me or I

Using me or I in an email may not seem like a big deal, but if you’re focusing on yourself and not the recipient, it can make it difficult for them to connect with the content. If you’re only talking about yourself, they may wonder why they should care.

Instead, frame your email so it appeals directly to the person reading the message. This is especially true if you’re trying to pitch a product, service or even yourself to a new employer. Instead of talking about yourself, talk about what benefit you can bring them.


We may not think about the impression we’re making in an email, but the language we use is crucial for the connections we make. If you’re hoping to develop your connections and expand your network through email, make sure you’re avoiding these 11 words and phrases.

What words or phrases do you hate seeing in emails? Let us know in the comments below! For more career advice, subscribe to Punched Clocks.

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Sarah Landrum is the founder of Punched Clocks.

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