Recently, I ran a series of workshops on professional communication at the University of Cambridge. All the participants were new graduate students whose first language isn’t English and I introduced them to the “roundabout” nature of much English office speak. That indirect way we ask for things and give feedback that is designed to keep everyone feeling happy and good about themselves.
But it struck me that even native speakers can struggle to use language that builds bridges rather than barriers.
Here are five words and phrases that you might think sound polite and professional, but that are guaranteed to get your reader’s back up (this reader at least).
As in, “It would be greatly appreciated if you could get back to me straight away” or “I would appreciate it if you returned the document to me by the end of the day”.
I’m sure people adopt this rather formal language because they think it sounds all professional and efficient. However, to me it sounds like it’s been lifted from a final reminder letter.