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Are your words working against you in your emails?

Words have power.

Have you thought about the impact of the words that you use in your emails on your reader?

Emails are now an essential part of the working day. Your words have the power to work for you or against you.

Where does this power come from?

The power of words comes from the emotion associated with them when we read them.

The words that you use affect how your message is perceived.

How can you use the power of words to your advantage?

It's common to be told what can't be done. For example: I can't do that until tomorrow.

What if this statement was reframed to: I can do that tomorrow.

The same information is given yet the choice of words changes how the statements are received. Your readers – whether they are colleagues or clients – want to know what can be done, not what can't be done.

It's second nature to use negative words.

A study by Professor Robert Schrauf from Pennsylvania State University, found that 50% of all words used have a negative emotional association. So it's important to review what you've written before sending your email.

How do you know if you're using negative words?

A simple technique to check the 'negativity' of your words is to read your email out loud and hear how your message sounds.

If you hear negativity then you know it's time to consider more positive words. Look out for negative words like unfortunately, impossible and problems as flags for sentences to revise.

Now that you're aware of some possible negative words, check your email and ask yourself: Is there a better way to express myself?

For example, here are some negative words written in a positive way:

Nosy                —–>           Interested

Stingy              —–>           Thrifty

Stubborn         —–>           Steadfast

Peculiar           —–>            Unique

Picky                —–>            Meticulous

How can you use words effectively in emails?

Emails provide the perfect opportunity to work on using positive words.

The nature of emails allows you to edit your words before sending your message.

Let's look at an examplean email to encourage team members to complete their work on time

Here is an example of a negatively written email:

Unfortunately, it will be impossible to meet the project deadline due to the problems some people are causing by submitting their work late.

How would you feel if you received this email? How could the email be improved upon?

Here is a different version using positive language:

Can everyone send their part of the project by COB next Wednesday so that we can meet the project deadline.

Would you feel differently if you received this email compared to the first?

By comparing the two emails, which do you think would encourage team members to step up to the challenge of meeting the project deadline?

What other 'powers' do positive words possess?

Using positive words can help to reduce conflict, improve communication, increase optimism in others and can portray the writer as credible and respectable. Even unpleasant news can be softened by the use of positive words.


Maria Pantalone

Maria Pantalone works with individuals and teams to make communication their strength so that their message is heard. Her programs help her clients to excel in their role and be recognised as leaders in their field.
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  1. James Birtwistle

    Hi Maria, this is a great exercise to use positivity when sending emails.
    I once wrote to a client claiming 'his partner was 'adamant' that the project would not proceed….' The partner wrote back immediately and said 'he was not adamant and had never been adamant'!
    I chose my words more carefully after that.

    • Maria Pantalone

      That's a great example of thinking about the words you use. Your reader's interpretation of your message may not be what you had intended.


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