Sorry, I Actually Disagree

computer_headerI recently read “3 Words to Leave Out in Your Next Email,” a post that was originally published at The Muse and then picked up by Time. The post offers advice on three things not to do in your business email communications and even offers alternatives.

The first and second words to ban are “actually” and “sorry.” (Now you are getting a sense of what’s behind the post title here.) I get the rationale there. Actually is often used to correct someone and there is generally a better way to handle that. Sorry is just tired; don’t be sorry, just tell me what you are going to do to fix or avoid an issue moving forward. I see these all the time and do think avoiding them makes for better messages.

Then there is “me.” The author writes:

It’s not just the word “me” I wanted to avoid. It was everything “me” represents—being internally focused, rather than concentrating on how I can help the people I interact with every day.

She goes on to offer a before and after message, one that uses me and I and the other with those words scrubbed.

Hi Sean,
When you have a moment, could you please send me the info on next Wednesday’s campaign launch? I want to double-check a couple details before it goes live.
Thanks,
Aja

Here’s the re-written version:
Hi Sean,
When you have a moment, could you please send over next Wednesday’s campaign info? Double-checking a couple details before it goes live to make sure the client is happy!
Thanks,
Aja

I have to disagree that the communication became better with the rewrite. The first sentence becomes vague and the second is not a sentence at all.

But, its more than the language for me. I believe that using me and I means you are taking ownership of your work; that you are clearly contributing to the team. It is important to let people know what you need and what you plan to do in support of mutual goals. Taking out this ownership leaves it unclear about who is taking responsibility for addressing a need or task.

So, yes, your communication should be focused on how what you are doing is benefiting the mission and company as a whole (an assertion the post author makes using the word I), but don’t be shy about declaring your role and ownership. After all, teams are composed of people and the more we know about those individuals and their efforts, the stronger the team and organization.

Thoughts?