Posted by: Jack Henry | December 2, 2021

Editor’s Corner: Weak Phrases, Part 1

Recently, in the WomenAtJackHenry BIG, we discussed words and phrases that we want to use less because they weaken our communication. Saying words like “sorry” out of habit, when you aren’t apologizing for something you did, or using the word “just” when speaking or writing, can take all the pizazz out of your point. I usually hear these discussions centered around women in business, but this article about Weak Phrases is for everyone.

Today we’ll look at the first five phrases, and next time I’ll share the other six items with you. I’ve done a little editing for the sake of space and time.

Weak Phrase What to Say Instead Explanation
Does that make sense? What are your thoughts?

I’d like your opinion on this.

If you ask “Does that make any sense?” after you’ve finished sharing a thought, you’re immediately giving the impression that you’re not convinced yourself, that your idea might be incomplete.

Rather than seeking validation or approval, you should be asking the listener or reader for their opinions on your idea.

Maybe we should try…? Let’s try… Up until the mid-19th century, “maybe” was written as two words—“may” and “be”—which makes it clear that it literally refers to something that might happen, but might not.

That’s pretty wishy-washy when you apply it to your own ideas or suggestions. Either you believe in what you’re talking about, or you don’t.

I think this would… I believe this would… This is a minor distinction, but a valid one: “I think” sounds weaker than “I believe,” and is a little more doubtful, as if you’re saying something might work, but you’re not sure.

“I believe” puts you in charge of the thought and conveys a calm surety. And even if you’re not so sure at all, no one needs to know that!

I’m not positive, but …

I’m not sure, but …

This might be a stupid question, but…

I don’t want to sound pushy, but…

Start with what you were going to say after “but.” You don’t need to add disclaimers.

It’s an easy rule that bears repeating: Don’t put yourself down. Ever.

I just wanted to touch base … I wanted to touch base… How many times have you started an email with “Just wanted to ask you if …”? The problem in this case is that the “just” is a softener — almost an apology, as if you’re saying, “I hate to bother you, but …”

There’s a time and a place for that, but business communication generally isn’t it.

Kara Church

Pronouns: she/her

Technical Editor, Advisory

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