7 Words That Are Making You Sound Insecure in Emails — And What to Write Instead

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Laura Berlinsky-Schine2.3k
June 13, 2024 at 2:42PM UTC

Once a casual form of correspondence, today, email has become a primary means of communication in the workplace and beyond. But as with other methods of communicating in a professional context, there are right and wrong ways of composing your message.

It’s critical to maintain your composure and come across as “together” in your emails. Are you including these words? If so, it’s time to stop — they’re making you sound insecure.

1. Sorry

“Sorry for bothering you.” “Apologies for checking in again.” “Sorry, but could I get some clarification on…”

Have you done something wrong? Unless that’s the case, you shouldn’t be including the word “sorry” or a synonym, like “apologies,” in your emails. You’re sending this email for a reason — there’s no need to apologize! You might be giving them valuable information (in which case they should be thanking you) or soliciting the information you need, and it’s their job to give it to you.

2. Just

We say “just” all too frequently in our emails. While we’re usually trying to be polite by toning down something that could come across as too demanding or direct, instead, we’re making ourselves sound weaker and implying that the matter is insignificant.

The next time you’re tempted to write “Just checking in,” “Just wondering” or “Just wanted to see,” simply omit that word from your message. The result will be far more direct and make you sound more confident.

3. Hopefully

“Hopefully, we can discuss this more tomorrow.” “Hopefully, I can do this by such-and-such time.”

“Hopefully” has no place in professional communication. It makes it sound like you’re asking for validation or that you’re not sure of yourself. Replace it with a stronger word: “Let’s discuss this more tomorrow.” In some cases, you should just eliminate the word entirely: “I can do this by such-and-such time."

4. Maybe

“Maybe” is a wishy-washy word that, once again, conveys insecurity and ambivalence. “Maybe I can get this done.” “Maybe we can meet tomorrow?” “Maybe this is part of a larger issue.”

Be firm and clear. For example, if you’re trying to nail down a date to meet, give the recipient choices of times without including maybe. Beware of synonyms like “perhaps,” too.

5. Actually

It may sound relatively innocuous, but actually is actually a word that makes you sound unconfident in your communication. It’s simply a filler word that doesn’t add anything to the email. Generally speaking, filler words will make you sound less secure in yourself and your abilities because they come across as though you’re in need of more words to add to the space.

“Actually, I already did that.” “Actually, I think we can do this instead.” “I’m actually really good at that.”

As with “like” in everyday conversation, it detracts from the message far more than it adds to it.

6. Try

When you write “try” in an email, you’re suggesting that you may not be able to complete the task at hand. Are you unsure about whether you can or cannot do it? Unless you need to have a longer conversation about it — perhaps to discuss what’s missing for you to be able to do the work — then you should be more confident. 

Instead of saying “I’ll try to get this done,” say, “I will get this done.” Or, if you do have questions, ask them in the email or in a different forum. Don’t let your insecurity come through in your message, though.

7. Emojis

This is a bonus one since it’s not actually a word, but it’s a rare instance when it’s appropriate to use emojis in professional communication unless you’re on very casual terms with the recipient. Adding them only makes you come across as a bit immature and as though you’re trying too hard. While it’s not necessarily inappropriate in all cases, it’s best to keep them to a minimum so you can get a sense of the tone of the exchange before peppering your message with winky faces.

What's your no. 1 piece of professional email advice? Leave your answer in the comments to help other Fairygodboss'ers!

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Laura Berlinsky-Schine is a freelance writer and editor based in Brooklyn with her demigod/lab mix Hercules. She specializes in education, technology and career development. She also writes satire and humor, which has appeared in Slackjaw, Points in Case, Little Old Lady Comedy, Jane Austen’s Wastebasket and The Haven.
This article was written by a FGB Contributor.

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