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Stop Using These Annoying Work Email Phrases

Dayana Yochim  |  May 11, 2020

From greetings (“Hey!”) to sign offs (“Cheers!”) and everything in between, these work email cliches drive recipients nuts. Here’s how to keep it classy.

Happy Monday! Per my last email, I’m looping you in on the latest survey I found. I’ve been researching ANNOYING email habits. OMG … GUILTY!!! ; ) Just checking in to see if you have any updates to add. Thanks in advance! Cheers!

There you have it: A six sentence note containing 10 of the most annoying work email cliches, according to a survey of nearly 2,000 people by Perkbox, an employee experience platform.

Here’s the annotated breakdown showing the percentage of respondents irritated by cliche phrases, overused exclamation points, caps-lock abuse and not-so-subtle nags:

Happy Monday! (23%) Per my last email (33%), I’m looping you in (37%) on the latest survey I found. I’ve been researching ANNOYING (67%) email habits. OMG (53%) … GUILTY!!! ; ) (29%)  Just checking in (19%) to see if you have any updates to add (24%). Thanks in advance (7%)! Cheers! (26%)

Composing an inoffensive work email is like typing your way through a minefield. For help finding the words that will land safely in a recipient’s in box, here’s a rundown of irritating things to avoid.

Grating greetings

First impressions are everything. You want to strike the right balance between respectful (but not too formal) and casual (but not overly familiar). That takes “To whom it may concern” and “Hey” immediately off the table.

If you’re tempted to altogether skip the greeting to avoid a salutation stumble, don’t. According to the Perkbox survey, the biggest email faux pas is to launch into business with no greeting at all.

The happy medium for a work email is a simple “Hi,” with “Good morning (or afternoon)” as a close second. While 7% of respondents are okay being e-greeted with a “Happy (whatever day it is)!,” more (23%) find it annoying. (I think we can all agree that “Happy Monday!” should be sent straight to the spam folder without dinner 100% of the time.)

Worst and Best Email Greetings

Source: Perkbox survey

Don’t nudge

The intent behind your “Just looping in” note may be perfectly innocent, but be careful: It will be met with an annoyed eye roll by 37% of recipients. Reminders about previous conversations are also unappreciated. One third of Perkbox survey respondents bristle at “As per my list email,” 15% don’t like “per our conversation” and the not-so-subtle ”Confirming receipt” doesn’t land well with 16%. 

Also be careful with presumptuous prompts to follow up. Seven percent of people surveyed don’t like receiving a work email with “Thanks in advance.” Same with “Any updates on this?” (24%) and “Just checking in” (19%).

OMG, stop yelling!!! :-0

I was taught that the only acceptable use case for an exclamation point was pairing it with the word “fire.” Evidently 16% of people were similarly schooled and think that it is never acceptable to use an exclamation point in a work email.

The majority of Perkbox’s survey respondents are more lenient with their exclamation allowances: 48% are fine with one per email and 24% will accept two per missive. 

Using capital letters for whole words or sentences is my preferred mode of yelling on Slack (e.g. “FIRE”). That may get a pass, but 67% or people say it’s wrong for a workplace email communique. 

Slang and emojis are also on the list of bad work email practices. Common acronym expressives like “OMG” are verboten in work emails, according to 53% of people polled. So are emojis (29%) …  and smiley faces in particular (29%).

Unsuitable work email sign offs

Even before the pandemic, the chirpy “Cheers” signoff was on the outs. One quarter of respondents said “Cheers” is over, and this was in early January when Perkbox’s work email do’s and don’ts results were published. “Warmly” also leaves one third of people lukewarm; “Yours truly” (24%) and “Yours faithfully” (18%) also don’t land with anyone born in, oh, the past half century.

But by far the No. 1 worst work email sign off  is “Love,” with 57% of respondents saying it’s not appropriate to go there, regardless of your special relationship with Betty in accounting. 

The five best ways to end an email, according to Perkbox: “Kind regards” (69% of survey respondents give it the thumbs up) or the unadorned “Regards” (31%), “Thanks” or “Thanks again” (46%) and “Best wishes” (with a 20% approval rating).

Again, I’ll point out that the survey was conducted before the pandemic redefined our workplace relationships. Ending an email with a simple “Regards” may seem lacking now that we’re bonded with colleagues by a common crisis and literally meeting in each other’s homes with family life on full view in the background. 

The final email composition lesson: If you’re left with a loss for words, don’t hit “send” until you come up with something. More than 40% of the email etiquette survey respondents say that the worst signoff of all is the absence of one. A simple and genuine “Be well” or “Take care” are always appropriate for these times. 

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