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Stop sounding like a robot and send friendlier emails!

Tags: email friend · friendly email · friendly greetings · more human

One thing that many users, including myself, find irritating about emails is the “robot-speak”. You know what I’m talking about, those business emails which use overly-complicated phrases to describe the simplest things, the feeling that you’re speaking to an automaton which lacks any emotion or friendliness… you know, that dialect closely related to legal-ish.

Why is it used? Well, my best bet is that in the birthplace of the email – the US, emails are still regarded as an evolution of the internal memo – that’s why many emails received from genuinely amiable US citizens lack proper greetings or goodbyes and sound matter-of-factly, almost condescending to Europeans – that’s just how memos are, unfriendly and cold! Up until recent times, businesses in the US liked to come off as “guys in suits” – faceless teams of professionals that are efficient and get the job done (and also, who own quite a number of dark grey clothes)! Luckily, this isn’t the case anymore and nowadays the buzz word is “socializing” – providing a more “human”, good-natured and friendly feel to everything, from products to communications; even the big guys are doing it (just check and see how all corporations have friendly Facebook pages, Twitter accounts and regularly update them and email their followers/users)! It’s the same difference as receiving a pizza from a bored delivery guy and eating at the corner restaurant. It’s all about the friendliness and feeling of CARE for the customer’s needs!

So, be open, friendly, and keep in mind the following tips in order to seem more like a human and less like the Email-Reply 3000:

–          Be polite. Yes, the same thing that our mothers used to tell us – use please, thank you, hello, just like in a normal conversation with a friend. This really matters and tells a lot about yourself, all the while giving the feeling of a friendly face “at the other end of the line” and genuine care.

–          Don’t try to be funny with people who are not your friends. Since you can’t convey your tone or expression in an email, it may come off as condescending, sarcastic or just plain rude. Making jokes doesn’t mean that you’re friendly with a client but rather that you’re not taking them seriously.

–          Don’t use smiley-faces or the like. Rather, compose your email so that the recipient understands what you mean without forced, additional aids.

–          Take care in the tone of your emails. This is pretty hard to explain, since even if you follow the above tips, you may still seem unfriendly or demanding.

That’s why I’m going to give an email example:

“Hello John,

Would you please fix the issue put forth in last week’s email with appropriate speed? You know… the one detailed in paragraph 2.a of our compliance agreement (if you don’t know where your copy of the agreement is, you can, of course, find it on our FTP).If you encounter any difficulties, please consult your direct supervisor.

Please send your diagnosis and results ASAP.


Bill Doe – CEO of Sprockets Inc.”

The above email emphasizes superiority and makes Bill into an unfriendly, demanding person; all the while, poor John is also regarded as incompetent (I blame the HR departments for the appearance of these passive-aggressive “friendly” emails). Wouldn’t it have been better to just say:

“Hello John,

Could you take a look at the Sprocket assembly line please (it’s been having problems for a week or so)?

If you run into any trouble, you can find documentation on our FTP or just ask Jill, your supervisor.

Keep me up to date with the progress; I’m really looking forward to your findings!


Bill Doe”

The second email is shorter, straight to the point, doesn’t imply anything of John and makes management seem friendlier.


Another thing to keep an eye for is the sudden changes in tone (the “mixed-signals email”). What I mean by this is the feeling you get when reading an email with a dirty joke followed by the page-long disclaimer: “our attorneys will sue you, your family and your dog if you speak of this message”. This brings us to:

–          Stop using the same-old, tried-and-true business phrases. Instead be open, explain yourself in a friendly, professional manner. Even if you are required to include disclaimers in your work-related emails, stop using them when communicating with friends or family, or when they’re not needed – they give the impression of an unfriendly, faceless corporation!

If you don’t have the time to edit each email and would like a way of automating your communications, then look no further that Bells&Whistles for Outlook, our feature-packed productivity add-in! In a few easy steps you can define specific profiles for each group of your contacts (and even for individual email addresses) and never-again irritate your friends with out-of-place, rigid business-talk.

–          Lastly, try to add a little of yourself to the emails. Anything, from the “think before printing” tree to interesting QR codes will make you seem friendlier and better suited to your client’s needs. We all like the feeling that there’s someone genuinely interested in our problems, so a friendly email will go a long way.

Next week, we’ll look at a couple of examples on how you can take a friendlier approach to those dusty-old business phrases, so be sure to check back! In the meantime, you can contact us in the comments section or by email, at

Now, for our blog readers who would like to give Bells&Whistles a try, we’ll throw-in a $10 discount (offer stands until the 1st of October, 2011 – just email us at the above address)! It will surely help with your daily email frustrations – in fact, we’re so sure about its abilities that there’s a 30-day money back guarantee on your purchase (although we don’t think you’ll use it)! If you would just like to test it out though, you can just download the latest version from here.


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