10 words that make you sound less confident in emails

If you’re like a lot of people, you might go to great lengths to soften the tone of your emails and be extra polite. This comes from a good place. You know that your words can get lost in translation over email, and you want to make sure you don’t offend or anger anyone. Makes sense, right?

But by being so careful and polite, you might be unknowingly peppering your emails with filler words and qualifiers. These words don’t just clutter your message. They can also make you seem less confident and competent in the eyes of your email recipients.

So before you hit “send” on your next message, check it for these 10 words and phrases that make you sound less confident in emails.

 

 

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1. Just

You might be surprised to see this at the top of my 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 might 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 most common 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.”

Related: 7 simple ways to sound confident when you write

2. Sorry

“Sorry” is another word that seems innocent enough. But like “just,” it can 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 it 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. Similarly, 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 there’s no need to 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 might 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 client or customer, 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’ll get it to you by next Friday.”

4. Try

“Try” makes you seem less confident in emails because it can sound a lot like “probably.”

Here’s how you might find yourself using it:

  • “I’ll try to find the data.”
  • “I’ll try to weave your story into your about page copy.”

Notice the effect that “try” has? Like with “probably” it suggests that you aren’t confident about your ability to get something done. And if you’re not confident, why should your client or collaborator be confident that you can handle the task?

Of course, you never want to guarantee that you can execute something if you’re not reasonably sure that you can. But it’s always good to be clear so that the people you email know what to expect from you.

Alternatives you can use:

  • “I’ll search for the data and contact Mary Anne for help if I can’t find it.”
  • “I’ll weave your story into your about page copy.”

5. Hopefully

Like a lot of words and phrases on this list, “hopefully” seems innocent enough. But similar to its peers here, it can make you seem less confident, less competent, and even less reliable. And I know that’s not what you want.

Here’s how you might use “hopefully” in your emails:

  • “Hopefully, I’ll finish the logo by Friday.”
  • “Hopefully, we’ll finish setting up for your wedding on time.”

Can you imagine being a nervous bride or groom and seeing that second sentence in an email from your wedding planner or venue coordinator? It wouldn’t exactly calm your nerves, would it?

Instead of communicating that you’re hopeful but ultimately unsure of your abilities, be clear and confident about what you can accomplish and what you can’t.

Alternatives you can use:

  • “I can’t finish the logo by Friday, but I’ll send it to you by noon on Monday.”
  • “We’ll finish setting up for your wedding on time as long as your family drops the centrepieces off by 9 a.m.”

 

 

Want to seem confident, competent, and reliable to your clients, customers, or collaborators?
Grab my FREE cheat sheet on 10 words to avoid in emails and alternatives to use instead.

Send me the cheat sheet

 

 

6. Maybe

“Maybe” is yet another a word that can undermine how confident and competent you appear to other people. Why? Because it can make you seem ambivalent or unsure of what you’re saying.

You might use it like this:

  • “Maybe we should redesign the packaging.”
  • “Maybe I can help you strengthen your business development strategy.”

Again, if you’ve hired someone to do something for you, do you want to know that they can maybe do it? Or do you want to know that they feel confident that they can do it?

Drop “maybe” from your emails so that you don’t give clients, customers, or collaborators the idea that you’re unsure of yourself or your abilities.

Alternatives you can use:

  • “Let’s redesign the packaging.”
  • “I can help you strengthen your business development strategy.”

 

7. I think

You might 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 makes 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 phrases like this 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.”

8. 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 makes 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 desire 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.”

9. Does this make sense?

This is a bit of a tricky one, and one that you might use with good intentions. So it may not seem like a word that could make you sound less confident in emails.

If you’re someone who likes to use this phrase, you might 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 my 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?”

Related: How to use power words to instantly write stronger copy

10. 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 might be especially likely to use this phrase 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 this phrase may seem entirely appropriate.

For example, it might 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” can make you sound less confident in emails. Remove this phrase from your emails to ensure it doesn’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 seem less confident

It might feel scary to remove these 10 words and phrases from your emails. After all, they seem like the padding that softens the impact of your requests, suggestions, and ideas so that you don’t come across like a total jerk.

But remember that your requests 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!

 

 

Want to seem confident, competent, and reliable to your clients, customers, or collaborators?
Grab my FREE cheat sheet on 10 words to avoid in emails and alternatives to use instead.

Send me the cheat sheet

 

 

 

Do your emails make you seem less competent, confident, and reliable? Find out if you use any of these 10 words to avoid in emails + grab my email cheat sheet.

10 words that make you sound less confident in emails + Free email cheat sheet
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