You might not realize it, but you're probably sending rude emails.
Using more than one exclamation point? Rude!! Using the word "need"? Do you really need to be so demanding? The word "actually"? Dropping that one in emails is actually impolite.
This public-service announcement comes courtesy of Outsource-Philippines, a provider of global outsource solutions. It's circulating an infographic titled "These 10 Words Make You Sound Rude in Emails," which does exactly what you'd expect -- tell you which words to skip if you'd rather avoid coming across as an e-boor. (Actually, it's nine words if it's not too rude to get technical about it.)
"Communicating with clients and colleagues through email does not mean you shouldn't be careful with your word choice," the company says. "There are certain terms or words that are best said in person as you can easily identify the meaning behind it by the speaker's facial expression and tone."
True enough, and some of the tips make sense, particularly in the context of customer care emails.
For example, as the infographic suggests, "fine" can convey a couple of different messages: "that works" and "sure, be that way." And swearing probably won't win you any new customers (unless you say something like, "You are, quite possibly, the best f***ing client we've ever had." Heck, if someone wrote that in an email to me, I'd downright welcome multiple exclamation points emphasizing the praise.
But some of Outsource-Philippines' suggestions come across as far too broad, even in relation to dealing with customers. The word "important" can help underscore a point without rudely insinuating readers aren't smart enough to know important emails when they see them. And the words "me" or "I" don't always make the writer sound selfish do they? I don't think they do, I really don't think they do.
Google "rude emails" and you'll come across plenty of tips on how to keep your emails on the right side of rude. Many recurrent points are common sense and worth keeping in mind, regardless of the recipient: be professional and respectful; steer away from a Debbie Downer vibe; cushion criticism with support; in sticky situations, give yourself a time-out before hitting the send key; beware the risky reply-all.
But were I drafting a list of 10 tips for emailers, I'd have to put this one at the top: Don't take every Internet email tutorial as indisputable truth. Digital communication, like most human interaction, is far from one byte fits all. Sometimes a little spontaneity and a few exclamation points (!!!) can go a long way toward humanizing an exchange, even one that originates with a big, faceless company. They actually can.