Copywriting

“Let’s touch base” and 6 other phrases we need to stop using in emails

Studies made up by me have shown the average entrepreneur spends 90% of their lifetime writing emails — with the other 10% spent on superfluous activities like sleeping and speaking to loved ones.

With so much time spent writing emails, entrepreneurs should know how to write good ones … right?

You’d think so — and yet, so many emails sent off by business owners are rife with overused words and phrases.

You know what I’m talking about. These are the phrases you write when your brain is on autopilot. The ones from the well-worn bag of tricks you turn to when you’re in a rush and just want to send the email as quickly as possible.

They’re also the ones you’ve seen sent to you that make your eyes roll.

Luckily, we at the ‘Lab have found seven of the most used, cliche, groan-inducing phrases you could possibly use in your emails. We’re going to show you each one AND offer up an alternative you should use in its stead.

“Let’s touch base.”

bass 1

Alternates:

“Let’s connect.” 

“We should chat soon.”

Why it sucks:

Here’s a great system to see if you should use “Let’s touch base” in an email:

Are you:

  • an astronaut piloting your ship to a planetary surface?
  • a bass player trying to convince a band to let you play with them?
  • a baseball team manager giving directions to your team?

If no to those, do not use it. Also, consider relaying this information by other means besides email.

Your email copy should be clear. Nothing is less clear than the phrase, “Let’s touch base.” It’s vague, jargon-y, and avoids actual action (aka everything good copy isn’t). Not to mention the fact that it’s overused to death.

Do this instead:

Get straight to the point with your copy and propose how you want to connect. This will trim the fat. You’ll also come across as engaged and ready to take action.

EXAMPLE: “Let’s plan a 30-minute meeting tomorrow in my office at 2:00 pm ET.”

“I’ll get straight to the point.”

obama 1

Alternate:

“I’ll make this quick.”

“The long short of it is …”

Why it sucks:

Nothing makes me want to hurl my computer out my home office window faster than, “I’ll get straight to the point.”

IF YOU WANT TO GET STRAIGHT TO THE POINT WHY DON’T YOU JUST DO IT THEN?

This is a great example of “filler language” — the words and phrases that don’t serve any purpose besides filling in your sentence. It’s superfluous and only exists to waste your time and the time of whomever you’re emailing.

Do this instead:

Just … get straight to the point. Start talking about whatever it is you want to address with your email recipient. No BS. No unnecessary build up. (Pro tip: read your email on your phone to check its length. You’ll see the “sparse” 3 sentences on your desktop are just enough info on your iPhone.)

Here’s an old motivational poster to help you remember:

pasted image 0 24

“I hope this email finds you well.”

Alternates:

“I hope all is well!”

“Happy Monday/Tuesday/Friday/Whatever!”

Why it sucks:

While well-intentioned, the statement is emptier than my checking account after a Steam Summer Sale.

It’s like saying “Have a good day” whenever you say goodbye, or promising your high school sweetheart that you’ll be together 4ever.

(Or was that just me…)

Plus it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense either. An email can’t “find you well,” any more than the person sending you the email can find you well in that moment.  

Do this instead:

Skip the ineffectual sentiments and get to what you wanted to talk about.

If you really want to open up with something nice, though, bring up a mutual connection if you’re speaking to a cold contact. If it’s someone you already know, bring up something light that’s come up in the past.

EXAMPLE:

“Hey Tony, Would you like to meet for coffee this week to discuss a work opportunity? I’m also a University of Iowa graduate (class of 2015) and found your name on our alumni site.”

Or

“Hey Tony, I finally checked out the highlights to the game we talked about and it was awesome!”

“Is that fine?”

Alternates:

“Are you okay with that?”

“Can we do that?”

Why it sucks:

This phrase most often comes at the end of a request or a proposal — and while you think it makes you sound polite it actually sounds needier.

As such, you drain your message of the confidence and assertiveness you want to convey.

Do this instead:

Don’t seek validation. End with a strong call-to-action that they direct any issues they might have to you.

EXAMPLE: “If you have any questions or concerns, please reach out to me.”

“Going forward …”

Alternates:

“In the future …”

Why it sucks:

Whenever I see this, I have to physically restrain myself from typing, “AS OPPOSED TO GOING BACKWARD??? DID WE FIND A TIME MACHINE THAT REVERSES THE LAWS OF TIME AND SPACE AT THE COMMAND OF YOUR COPY OF MICROSOFT OUTLOOK 2014?!?!?!”

The phrase is completely unnecessary and yet we use it to soften any proposals we might have. As such, it’s overused to the point of cliche.

Unless you’re giving directions to someone driving, don’t use “going forward.”

Do this instead:

Get straight to your proposal and have confidence the other person knows you’re talking about the future instead of doing things in the past.

Unless you’re these guys.

“I don’t have the bandwidth.”

data 1

Alternates:

“Do you have the bandwidth?”

Why it sucks:

You know what’s an easy way to sound like a robot from an ‘80s movie? Use “bandwidth” in your emails.

This piece of business jargon grew out of the dot-com boom of the early 2000s and has yet to die an overdue death. While initially referring to the rate in which a computer network transfers data, it’s since morphed into a way we ask each other if we have time to do something.

Do this instead:

Ask if and when they’re free for whatever you’re asking.

EXAMPLE:

“Are you free this Monday at 3pm for a meeting?”

Or

“Can you provide 3 times in the next 2 weeks when are you free for a meeting?”

“Just circling back on my last message.”

Alternates:

“I wanted to loop back on …”

Why it sucks:

Often used for follow-up emails — which would be fine if it wasn’t so jargon-y.

It also conveys a mental image of you spinning your tires or “circling around” an actual solution. Something you definitely want to avoid at all costs.

Do this instead:

Don’t use “circling back.”

EXAMPLE: “I wanted to follow up on my previous message regarding the position.”

Honorary mention: The exclamation point!!!

Alternates:

“I wanted to check in about the slide show!”

“I’m so busy today!”

“[literally any sentence]!!!!”

Why it sucks:

Friends, it’s time for some real talk about the exclamation point.

[pulls up chair and sits in it backward]

I don’t think there’s a punctuation more abused in the internet age. We use it everywhere: Blog posts, text messages, tweets, and especially our emails.

I get it: You’re scared of sounding rude. To compensate for that, you pepper in the exclamation point throughout your message so you sound friendlier and less serious.

The truth is you just sound like you’re screaming at me via email rather than being friendly!

Do this instead:

Trust that what you’re saying won’t come across as rude OR write it in such a way that it leaves no question.

Write better emails

Writing emails while avoiding business cliches and jargon can be hard. It’s easy to “circle back” on your message to see if someone can “touch base.”

If you want to learn how to write fantastic copy that gets your message across without relying on tired phrases, you’ve come to the right place. Here at the ‘Lab, we have a wealth of material on exactly that topic.

We even wrote an Ultimate Guide to Email Copywriting. Check it out and download it to improve your copy today.

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