Want Your Colleague to Answer Your Email? Don’t Use These Phrases

iStock / iStock

Email can be a godsend for getting things done at the office, but it can also be a huge pain. Sorting through and responding to emails eats up a huge chunk of many office workers’ days, and many of the messages may feel more annoying than useful. If you want to make sure your coworkers don’t roll their eyes when they see another one of your emails, there are a few overused phrases you want to avoid, according to a new poll from Adobe spotted by The Guardian.

Adobe’s annual consumer email survey recruited more than 1000 white-collar workers with smartphones, asking them how they use email for both work and their personal life, including how often they check their inboxes, how they feel about the messages they get, and how they prefer to communicate at the office. The survey found that participants spent an average of 3.1 hours a week checking their work email. And it seems some phrases really turn those workers off.

When asked to name the most annoying phrase to read in an email, 25 percent of participants said “Not sure if you saw my last email” enraged them most. That was followed by phrases like “per my last email,” “per our conversation,” and “any update on this?” Apparently, people really don’t like follow-up emails. Some of the other phrases that turned people off included “sorry for the double email,” “please advise,” “as previously stated,” “as discussed,” and “re-attaching for convenience.”

The takeaway seems to be that there’s no passive aggressive email follow-up that won’t annoy the recipient. If someone hasn’t responded to your email yet, it’s probably because they don’t want to, not because they didn’t see your last message. This echoes previous findings on how people read into professional emails. HR professionals interviewed by Glassdoor, for instance, also included “as per my last email” as an example of an unprofessional email message. “It’s passive aggressive and a very thinly-veiled attempt at passing blame for a project that has stalled,” as Jon Brodsky of Finder.com told the site.

This is just the latest survey to find that how you phrase your emails really does matter. Interviewees also recommended nixing tentative filler language like “no worries if not” from work emails. If you want to get ahead, it’s better to be assertive, clear, and direct in your emails, not passive aggressive and wishy-washy.

Oh, and if you’re emailing someone you don’t know, please don’t pull the “to whom it may concern” trick. According to etiquette experts, it comes off as far too formal and impersonal. You don’t want to veer too far toward the informal and launch into a “Yo!”, but you can go ahead and stick to “Hi, [name].”

[h/t The Guardian]