The most common email jargon and how to avoid it

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Business jargon is all around us. Whether you come across it in meetings or even casual chats, office jargon can often be a barrier to clear communication and actively cause confusion amongst colleagues and clients. So to overcome the challenges it presents, you first need to understand the most common terms and what they mean.

Why do people use business jargon?

Your team might make fun of business lingo and corporate phrases that others use but, if they are so unpopular, why are people still using them? The most common reasons outlined by thought leaders include filling space, struggling to describe complex terms and establishing colleague credentials. 

However, whatever the reason for using it, you need to understand the corporate lingo that others use so you can communicate effectively with them. For this article, we’ll focus on one of the most common culprits for tricky business lingo – email

Examples of corporate jargon in emails

As a daily communication tool, corporate email lingo is likely to be a regular part of your office life even if you might not totally understand what it means. To help, we’ve brought together some examples of jargon words and phrases commonly used in emails: 

  • Double down: when it comes to corporate-speak, this is probably one of the most commonly heard terms. Being asked to ‘double down’ on a task means someone’s asking you to give it extra commitment and focus. A term also used in blackjack, the phrase is often used in high-stakes situations. 
  • For future reference: when you’re being kept in the loop on a project or conversation, the sender may use ‘for future reference’ to bring it to your attention. In short, it’s business-speak for ‘keep this email in your archive rather than hitting the delete button’. 
  • Reach out: most often used in cold emails, this corporate language is almost always a preamble to asking a favour from you. 
  • Touching base: when a colleague is checking in with you to get an update on a task or project, they might use this phrase. 
  • Circle the wagons: one of the most abstract jargon examples, this means the sender wants to set up a meeting to discuss a project or topic. 
  • Run the numbers: whether you work with spreadsheets or not, this phrase means the sender wants you to check the facts of a situation. This could include the budget, timings or just getting a cohesive timeline of events together. 

How to avoid using corporate email lingo

Now you’ve seen some phrases that you should use sparingly, you might be looking for some best practice business email examples. Here are some quick tips and advice on how to make your emails as effective and clear as possible. 

How do you start an email?

Thinking of email starters is one of the trickiest tasks, particularly if you’re trying to communicate under pressure. However, the best rule of thumb on how to start an email effectively is to set out to be as courteous, polite and clear as possible. 

Think about an email as if it was a face-to-face conversation. Once you’ve chosen a greeting e.g. ‘Hi’, ‘Hey’ or ‘Dear’, your email opening sentence depends on the stage you’re at in the conversation. If you’ve not spoken to your colleague in a while (or ever before), ask them how they are. If you’re in the middle of an ongoing chain, you can probably get to the point of your email without too many pleasantries. 

By treating each email within its individual context and being polite, you’ll be sure to get the best possible response from the recipient. 

How do you make your email clear and concise? 

With each email you write, you want to keep it as short, sweet and precise as possible. Think about the key points you want to make and set them out in bullet points or separate paragraphs. 

If you’re responding to a set of questions or points, make sure that you answer each one clearly and directly. Copy and paste their queries into your email and answer them in there directly to avoid endless scrolling. 

How do you close an email effectively? 

Depending on the length and type of email, it may be worth adding in a closing sentence that summarises your message clearly. This should be a single line that gets to the crux of your request or feedback, followed by an appropriate sign-off

Then, once you’ve finished, save the email in your drafts and come back to it later. Even the breathing space of five or ten minutes can help you to see any errors or unanswered queries clearly. It also makes sure you don’t include any information that’s irrelevant or business jargon that might be misunderstood. Your recipient is sure to appreciate you taking this time to edit when they receive an email that’s clear, concise and, most importantly, jargon-free.

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