Writing tip: Why I don’t hope you are well

Want a top writing tip? Let’s start by addressing an epidemic in the world of business writing…

These days every email, regardless of content, context or source, is prefaced with the stale opener, ‘I hope you are well’(or its more patronising spinster cousin, ‘Trust this email finds you well.’)

But does the sender really hope I’m well? Is he or she genuinely concerned with the state of my health – physical, mental or otherwise? Probably not. And yet…there it is. Every single day. Always.

Why do we do this, as email writers?

Because we’re reluctant to dive straight into our message. It feels abrupt; rude even, and so we experience a measure of professional guilt if we don’t top and tail our business writing with ubiquitous good wishes.

We use the ‘I hope you are well’ as a kind of mental warm-up for the message itself. Getting ourselves into the zone, so to speak, while we work out the rest of the wording in our heads.

I’d like this to stop. It’s inauthentic, trite and – to be frank – flipping boring for everyone. So, when typing the average email, here are some alternative openers you may like to try instead:

  • If you’re responding to someone else’s email:
    Thank you for your email [this morning or whenever].
  • If you’re initiating an email conversation:
    [Introduce yourself and give some context:]
    I’m Tiffany, the copywriter. I was referred to you by [whoever]…
  • If you’re delivering a promised piece of info:
    As promised, here is [whatever it is]…
  • If you’re reminding someone of something:
    This is a quick courtesy follow-up regarding…
  • If you’re referencing a previous discussion:
    It was good to chat with you earlier.

Or, simply be brave and start with your main message, whatever it might be. If you ignore everything else you’ve learned today, give this one little writing tip a try.

Please. I’m literally begging you.