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Writing Polite Emails (even when you’re not feeling polite)

By All Things Writing, LLC

We’ve all been there. You’ve answered three emails about the same issue from the same person already today, and your courtesy meter is running on low. It’s tough to take a deep breath and pen yet another polite email. But you can. Read on. We’ve got some language tips for those days when you need a little support in the courtesy department.

Use Gentle Language

Your word choice combined with some sentence structure strategy can significantly change the tone of your email. If you’re looking to soften your frustration (or pure exasperation), start by using gentler language. You can do this sometimes by asking a question. Or you can use words like may, can, could, would and might.

  • Could you please take a second look at this document before sending it on? (That’s a lot different sounding from, “Don’t send that. It’s poorly written.”)
  • I would consider reworking the approach on this particular part. (Compare to, “That part’s lousy. Redo it.”)

Try Distancing Words

Using words that create a little distance before your direct message can relax your email and your reader. Try inserting phrases like:

  • I was hoping…
  • I was wondering…

These phrases bring in some feelings and soften the impact of your message.

Weave in Introductory Phrases

Creating a soft intro before your request can relax your message, as well. Try phrases like:

  • When we’re talking about matters such as this…
  • As I was considering your request…

Avoid Negative Language

Even if your message is a downer or rejection, there are ways to frame it in a more positive light. Dress the negative message in a more positive phrase.

  • Take the negative thoughts:
    • That won’t work for me.
    • This is a bad idea.
  • And make them more positive:
    • I think there may be a different option that will get us the results we’re looking for.
    • Let’s consider some other choices that we both might like.

Email Formula

To write a complete, professional email, you’ll want to make sure you follow the formula and include all of the important components. Here’s what to include in your positive, polite message:

  • A greeting
    • Good afternoon, Ms. Smith,
    • Jones,
  • Thanks as needed
    • Thank you for your message with ideas for our latest campaign.
    • I appreciated hearing from you this morning.
  • State your purpose
    • While I always welcome the feedback of my constituents, I’m not certain these particular ideas suit our needs at this time.
    • I’m sorry to hear that our product did not meet your expectations. Unfortunately, as stated in the user’s manual, the item is not waterproof.
  • Closing remarks
    • We welcome your feedback in the future, though, and hope you will remain involved in the campaign.
    • Because water damage is not covered under warranty, we can only offer you the opportunity to order a replacement at the same discounted price you received initially. We appreciate your business, however, and hope you will consider us again in the future.
  • Closing
    • With gratitude,
    • Sincerely,

And there you have it! You’re now empowered with the tools to craft polite emails when polite is actually the last thing you feel like being. Grit your teeth, choose some softer phrases and send professional emails you’ll be proud to look back on the next day.

Serving private, government and nonprofit sectors, All Things Writing is a content development and content marketing company on a mission to help clients shine online and in print. They may be reached at [email protected].

“Your Words Mean Business” provides insights and tips to business owners, organizations and professionals seeking to better their performance and increase their bottom line through sharpening written communication skills.

 

 

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