How many of you have written the following at some point?
- Just checking on the status of…
- Actually, I only needed…
- Sorry to bother you…
I know I have done this! So, why do we do this? Why strip our writing of any power? Are we really sorry for bothering someone for something we need? Is our goal to minimize what someone else thinks of our request?
Of course those are rhetorical questions, however, we are doing the very things we detest most every time we write with weak words. Knock it off! Oh, and guess what? There’s a solution for it now too!
In 2015, one of my resolutions was to stop using the word “just” in my writing. Dear Lord, I would write sentences such as:
- Just wanted your opinion on…instead of “I want your opinion on…”
- Just needed to check on…instead of “Please get back to me on…”
- Just checking to see how you are…instead of “How are you?”
There was an article written last summer about Ellen Petry Leanse, a former executive at Google and Apple, and her harsh criticisms of women using the word “just” too much. As she shared with others, the word “just” is a permission word. Are you asking for permission when you need an opinion, or are checking status on something and even when you want to know if someone is feeling ok? Of course not, then stop changing what you mean to some passive form of permission. And although this seems to be directed mostly at women, I am seeing more and more men using this writing technique today. Stop!
Whenever I hear this word, I cringe. Are you trying to make me feel stupid?
- Actually, the premium is $100, not $99.
- The assistant actually left at 4:59 pm.
- I actually need you to call the client first before I deliver the policy.
Completely removing this word will not only help your credibility but will improve your personal and professional relationships. Actually, it’s an unnecessary word and it’s kinda just mean. (See how this works? Yuck!)
Writing is an important part of what we do in financial services. I feel confident many of you do not intentionally mean to write weak and abrasive sentences, but our writing habits tell a different story.
TIME, a well-respected magazine, wrote an article several years ago which I took to heart. I never realized how much I was using this word and how it made my writing appear harsh. Just stop it!
Sorry, guys, talking to the ladies for a moment. “Sorry” is a word I knew long ago I didn’t want my daughters to use unless they really meant it. Women tend to abuse this word so much that when they really mean it – it’s hard to know because it’s been devalued from the million other sorries already said.
Many of us are confusing “sorry” with trying to be polite. We have been reared well and encouraged to have manners (yeah!), but this has been grossly misconstrued to now include a word of remorse.
Say what you mean and mean what you say.
If you need the medical records from a client’s doctor’s office to complete their life insurance, do not say, “Sorry, just checking..” That’s not what you meant. Instead, say, “I need the status of the medical records for…”
There’s a solution for that…
I was putzing around LinkedIn today and saw an article published on Slate.com about a Chrome extension you can download for Gmail to put an end (or, at least, give you a chance to reconsider) a crappy sentence. “Just Not Sorry” is a Gmail plug-in which lets you stop qualifying your messages and diminishing your voice.
Words are underlined for correction and the plug-in goes on to provide details about why you should change something. This gives you an advantage as you’ll also learn a little more about your writing so you can make the best decision based on the message going out.
In closing: These are bad writing habits. You’re not a bad person, your writing might be making you appear that way on the other side, though. Commit to better communication in 2016 and you’ll see how others respond more positively to your awesome new skills.
Be bigger, better and more BIONIC!
Sheryl Brown | @BIONICsocialite