Are your emails rude?

Are Your Emails Sabotaging Your Customer Service?

There’s a lot of focus in the industry on how to be cheerful and helpful in our phone and in-person interactions with customers. And for good reason—these are critical parts of running a successful retail business.

After more than five years of reading Tim Huckabee’s columns, participating in his webinars and hearing him speak at conventions, I still come away with new ideas to sound more polished, professional and polite.

Are your emails rude?

But, as we all know, those aren’t the only forms of communication out there. The Internet is huuuuuuge.  For so many people we’re contact with—colleagues, customers, vendors, community leaders, friends, family—email is a major means of expressing ourselves.

At least it is for me. I work on three different magazines (to varying degrees, from contributing writer to editor-in-chief) and have bosses in cities throughout North America. My sources, living in New Zealand, the Netherlands, Colombia and Ecuador, Canada, California and Hawaii, encompass many time zones. Keeping track of all these people’s schedules is a nightmare and as I’d rather not make the mistake of calling someone at 3 a.m. (sorry, Carver!), more often than not, I email. On an average day, I send approximately 40 business emails—and receive two to three times as many in return.

Given the volume at which I email for work, I couldn’t ignore this article I saw on Twitter earlier this week: 3 Everyday Words That Make You Sound Pretty Rude in Emails

With fingers crossed, I clicked.

Offensive word no. 1: ACTUALLY

“Actually,” the author says, sounds condescending and defensive. It’s most often used when correcting someone. (See below)

Erin: That wording felt a little misleading, so I changed it.

Me: Actually, I pulled that sentence from the website!

Here’s a more courteous alternative:

Thanks for your feedback! I used that sentence because I found it on their site.

Offensive word no. 2: SORRY

Because of its overuse, “sorry” sounds flippant and insincere. “I apologize,” on the other hand, expresses ownership and carries a lot of weight.

Offensive word no. 3: ME

This word, the author says, suggests that you are internally focused, rather than concerned with how you can help others. (See below)

Hi Sean,

When you have a moment, could you please send me the info on next Wednesday’s campaign launch? I want to double-check a couple details before it goes live. Thanks!

Here’s a more respectful version:

Hi Sean,

When you have a moment, could you please send over next Wednesday’s campaign info? Double-checking a couple details before it goes live to make sure the client is happy! Thanks!

That’s where the article ended and, all in all, I don’t do any of the above excessively. However, I know this doesn’t mean I’m in the clear. A major problem for me is brevity—or not responding at all (I know! I know! Abysmal!) When I get busy, as happened the last two weeks when all three magazine close dates aligned (a Murphy’s Law situation that occurs four times a year), my email etiquette falls to pieces. (Note: for any of you who tried to reach me, I apologize for being terse.)

I’ll wager I’m not alone. This is a notoriously busy time of year for florists. There are proms, graduations and weddings—on top of Administrative Professionals’ Week and Mother’s Day. Chances are, you’ve shot off a terse email or two.

So next time we hit “compose,” let’s think a little more about what we type, remembering that our emails are an important portion of customer service.

And while we’re on the subject, don’t miss this really good article on email etiquette.



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