Are you guilty of overusing weak words and phrases in your business communication? I definitely tend to overuse “just,” “I feel like,” and “I’m not an expert, but …” when I speak. (I’m a much more confident when I write.) I know that I’m not alone in this.

For example, I might start a phone call with, “I’m just checking in to see …” Why do I feel like I have to apologize for calling a colleague? Using the word “just” is unnecessary and undermines my authority. Instead, I should say, “I am checking on …” That’s polite, and I have nothing to be sorry about. I am calling because I want a status update. Period.

I also find myself using qualifiers like “I feel like,” “I might be wrong,” or “I’m not an expert, but …” These definitely weaken my position and take away the credibility of whatever statement comes next.

Of course, there will be situations that warrant an apology or doubt. This should not, however, be the norm.

Here are some other examples of weak language and how to replace them with strong language:


Weak Strong
“I just called to tell you that I won’t be available for our meeting at 2.” “I am calling to reschedule our meeting.”
I feel like we need to retrain our employees on our inventory management software.” “It’s evident that we need to retrain our employees… because of the recent errors.”
I might be wrong, but I think we should look for a different vendor.” “I recommend that we look for a new vendor due to the continued quality problems.”
I was wondering if you could send me the quarterly report for Q4.” “Please send me the quarterly report for Q4.”

Note that if the weak word or phrase is removed, the statement still makes sense. It’s simply unnecessary. Removing weak language from your business communications will help you communicate with greater confidence and improve your professional image.

Ridding your writing and speech of weak, unnecessary language takes self awareness and diligence. One useful tool for e-mails is Just Not Sorry, a plug-in for Gmail that finds and highlights self-demeaning words and phrases. It works like a spell check to strengthen your writing.

Are you making an effort to eliminate weak language from your business communication? How are you making this change? I’d love to hear your thoughts and strategies.

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