It’s unfortunate that weak language is often confused with being polite, or business appropriate. Not unlike the salesperson who talks a client out of buying by not shutting up, weak language sets you up for disappointing results.
It’s a pet peeve of mine that people dust cobwebs off words and phrases they never would use in a conversation for business emails and letters. If your goal is to put your reader to sleep, inspire them to check their phone, or navigate immediately to another browser tab, heavy-handed and weak language is a great way to do it.
Let me walk you through some examples:
I hope this email finds you well and that you enjoyed your weekend.
It’s Monday morning and I walked into an avalanche of client requests and emails. I am already asleep after reading this first line. If we didn’t talk last week about something fun I was doing over the weekend, don’t start a message with this.
As you’re no doubt aware, this is a first-time reach-out from me to you.
Thank you for pointing out that we don’t know each other. Why are you writing to me?
Try this instead: I am interested in learning more about the <title> position at <company>, given the strong alignment between my background and the skills and experience you are seeking in a candidate.
Now I know why you are reaching out and why I should care.
Passive Aggressive Paul
Hopefully, if you read this note, you’ll come away with…
I feel really good about not reading the rest of this note.
Try this instead: My company has significant experience working with small- and medium-sized digital marketing agencies like yours.
This persona would include several paragraphs and 15 bullet points to try to demonstrate value when one paragraph would suffice.
Try this tactic instead: Think of 1-3 points that would entice a reader to want to know more. (Think taste, not full meal.)
Everyone is overwhelmed and distracted these days. Squirrel!
It’s important to make it easy for people. They probably won’t bother to dig through random information.
I thought you might have some interest in knowing about what I have been up to and where I think I am heading.
Might have? Some interest? Think you are heading? Not very compelling language. You don’t seem to have a lot of enthusiasm or direction, so why should I care?
Try this instead: I am excited to share my vision for my next chapter with you, taking my 15 years of consulting experience and starting my own firm working with independent realtors on improving their sales and marketing results.
Can you feel the difference in the energy? This person seems pretty fired up.
They have given me a lot of information in just one sentence. I might want to read more. I could use some good news.
Try to remember to talk like you speak. Use action verbs and avoid the passive voice whenever possible.
I strongly recommend you front-load your emails and letters with energy and information. Readers are always thinking What’s in it for me? You should strive to answer that question in every correspondence as quickly as possible.