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If you’re like a lot of people, and especially a lot of women, you may have a tendency to be overly accommodating in emails. And this comes from a good place. You know that your thoughts can get lost in translation over email, and you want to make sure you don’t offend or anger anyone. But by being so careful and accommodating, are you holding yourself back from being seen as competent and credible? Before you push the “send” button on your next message, check out these 7 words that make you sound less confident in emails.

1. Just

You may be surprised to see this at the top of our list of words that make you sound less confident in emails. But if you take a look at the emails you’ve sent over the past week, you’ll probably see it popping up everywhere. For example, you may have used it to say something along these lines:

  • “I just wanted to check in about the status of the report.”
  • “I just wanted to ask you a quick question.”

The way “just” is used in these sentences may seem benign. But “just” is one of the key words that make you sound less confident in emails. Why? Because it minimizes the importance of your requests. Someone isn’t doing you a favour by letting you check in on the status of their work. You’re taking the appropriate steps to make sure that a key task gets completed. Own your requests like a boss instead of undermining them.

Alternatives you can use:

  • “Can you tell me the status of the report?”
  • “I have a quick question for you.”

2. Sorry

“Sorry” is also one of those words that make you sound less confident in emails. If “sorry” is one of your linguistic weapons of choice, you might use it like this:

  • “Sorry to bother you, but I wanted to check in about the status of the report.”
  • “Sorry, I have a meeting at 10 a.m. Can we do 11 a.m. instead?”

What’s the deal with “sorry”? “Sorry” is like “just” on steroids – it minimizes the importance of your requests and suggests that you’re inconveniencing someone by asking for something you need or by doing the very tasks you’re responsible for doing.

If you’re asking someone about the status of a report, it’s probably because it’s your job to make sure it gets done or to know when it will be done. And if you can’t attend a meeting because you already have one scheduled at the same time, it’s a legitimate reason to decline an invitation. You aren’t doing anything wrong, so don’t apologize.

And as The Muse writer Lily Herman says, “if you really did do something wrong, you should pick up the phone and say sorry like you mean it.”

Alternatives you can use:

  • “Can you tell me the status of the report?”
  • “I have a meeting at 10 a.m. Could we do 11 a.m. instead?”

3. Probably

You may use “probably” if you’re worried about committing to a request and then not being able to fulfill it. For example, you might use it like this:

  • “I can probably finish the graphics by noon.”
  • “We can probably send the final version to you by next Wednesday.”

Why is “probably” on this list of words that make you sound less confident in emails? Because it makes you seem unsure of your ability to get something done. If you’re a manager or client, do you want to know that someone can probably finish your new website on time or that someone can (without qualification) finish it on time? We’re betting you’d want the latter.

If you really are unsure of when you can have something done, confidently provide a timeline that’s more realistic. Don’t leave people hanging about when they’ll actually get what they need from you. Delete words that make you sound less confident in emails to show people that you have a handle on things.

Alternatives you can use:

  • “I can finish the graphics by noon.”
  • “We won’t be able to send you the final version next Wednesday, but we will send it to you by next Friday.”

4. I think

You may use “I think” to soften your suggestions and seem less “bossy.” For example, you might use it like this:

  • “I think we should send the website copy to a copyeditor.”
  • “I think we should retest the durability of the packaging.”

What’s the problem with “I think”? It’s one of the top words that make you sound less confident in emails because it undermines how valid your thoughts and ideas are. When you use “I think,” you’re giving people a chance to dismiss what you say. Remember, if someone really disagrees with you, they won’t need your help to tell you. Own your ideas by getting rid of one of the key words that make you sound less confident in emails.

Alternatives you can use:

  • “Let’s send the website copy to a copyeditor.”
  • “We should retest the durability of the packaging.”

5. I feel

The phrase “I feel” is the new “I think.” If you use it, you probably do so like this:

  • “I feel that we should send the website copy to a copyeditor.”
  • “I feel that we should retest the durability of the packaging.”

This phrase falls into the category of words that make you sound less confident in emails because it undermines your thoughts and suggestions. When you use “I feel,” you’re allowing people to write off what you say as just a feeling you have.

Express your ideas with confidence by stripping your emails of “I feel” and saving these words for when you really are talking about your emotions. Avoid letting your need to be polite push you to use words that make you sound less confident in emails.

Alternatives you can use:

  • “Let’s send the website copy to a copyeditor.”
  • “We should retest the durability of the packaging.”

6. Does this make sense?

This is a bit of a tricky one, and one that you may use with good intentions. That’s why you may not see it as one of the words that make you sound less confident in emails. If you’re someone who likes to use this phrase, you may use it like this:

  • After providing a detailed description of a service: “Does this make sense?”
  • After explaining why a particular solution won’t work: “Does this make sense? Do you see the problem with this approach?”

Using “does this make sense” may seem like a good way to make sure that someone is following along. So why is this phrase on our list of words that make you sound less confident in emails? Because it can do one of two things. First, it can suggest that you don’t know how to explain things clearly. Second, it can imply that your reader isn’t smart enough to understand you. We’re betting you don’t want to convey either of these in your emails, so cut these words out.

Alternatives you can use:

  • After providing a detailed description of a service: “Do you have any questions about this?”
  • After explaining why a particular solution won’t work: “Do you want additional info about this?”

7. I’m not an expert, but

If you’re discussing a topic that you’re not an expert on, it can be easy to start sentences with “I’m not an expert, but.” You may be especially likely to use it when you’re talking to someone who knows more about the topic than you do and you want to acknowledge the gaps in your knowledge. In a case like this, using words that make you sound less confident in emails may seem entirely appropriate.

For example, it may seem like a good idea to write sentences like these:

  • “I’m not an expert in medical technology, but we could frame this as….”
  • “I’m not an expert in using Twitter, but I’ve developed a strategy for us based on extensive research and the six-month course I took.”

Take a look at the second example in particular. The second part of the sentence (the words after “but”) make the writer sound like someone who has a good handle on how to use Twitter. After all, how many people on Twitter have taken a six-month course on it? But look at what happens once you tack “I’m not an expert, but” onto the beginning. It undermines everything that comes after it.

That’s why “I’m not an expert, but” are words that make you sound less confident in emails. Remove these words from your messages to make sure they don’t chip away at your credibility.

Alternatives you can use:

  • “We could frame this as….What do others think?”
  • “I’ve developed a strategy for us based on extensive research and the six-month course I took.”

Don’t let your words make you sound less confident in emails

It may feel scary to remove these words from your emails. After all, they seem like the padding that softens the impact of your requests, suggestions, and idea.

But remember that your requests, suggestions, and ideas don’t need padding. You’re not doing anything wrong by expressing them, so don’t lead people to think that you are. Banish the words that make you sound less confident in emails, and position yourself as someone who has legitimate things to say. Because you do.
Need some tips on boosting your confidence with clear writing? Download out our ebook “How to Write Clearly.”




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