There is no way to avoid having to write effective emails. Are you using powerful language? Let me give you an example of what not to do.

Whenever I edit the transcript of a podcast, I search for the phrase, “You know.”

A search of a 30-minute podcast yielded 80 occurrences of “You know.” This means that, on an average, the speaker used the phrase every 22.5 seconds. Whatever he was trying to communicate got buried.

While an email isn’t a podcast, empty and sometimes weakening words and phrases easily find their way into writing, especially emails, where we use more informal language. Phrases like “I just” or “kind of” or “maybe you could,” lessen our authority.

These phrases and their many relatives express uncertainty. They convey one’s doubt about the right to give instructions and orders. They diminish the quality of our communication.

What’s Wrong with “You Know” and Its Friends?

Besides being a filler phrase, “You know” usually signals the approach of other unnecessary words.

“You know, Sean, that we are having an important meeting on Thursday at 2:30 p.m. and that you will be giving a report as our consultant on retention problems in the Human Resources Department.”

So far, this anonymous author has written 30 words without getting to the point of the email. This kind of filler writing often occurs when the writer is trying to put off making a request or giving an order.

Consider how the recipient feels about reading it. In simple terms, if Sean knows, you don’t have to tell him.

He may suspect that you think he doesn’t know (or remember) about the meeting or his promised report. He may resent the reminder. Furthermore, like all of us, Sean has too many emails and too little time, and your prologue irritates him.

The Solution: Write Effective Emails

“Sean, I’m looking forward to your report at Thursday’s meeting on your recommendations on retention for the Human Resources Department. Cara and I would like each report to not exceed 30 minutes, which will provide ample discussion time.”

Version two states the issue in 35 words.

Learn From Your Reluctance

If filler phrases litter your writing, ask yourself whether you accept your authority to make a forthright request. If you don’t, you might want some formal or informal coaching or training.

A business person who speaks and writes clear requests benefits everyone in the organization.

Get my Powerful Emails Toolkit at this link for tips on how to write effective emails.

Pat Iyer has been writing emails for decades. She is the author of the new book, Powerful Emails: How to Capture Your Client’s Attention., available on