Business Writing 2020-06-16 00:00

Why It’s Not Okay to Say: ‘I Hope That’s Okay’ In Your Email

Email okay

Navigating business email do’s and don’ts can be tricky. You want to be professional, yet still casual. These days, with remote work soaring, email or an instant messaging app is how many of us our having what would be face-to-face conversations any other day.

There are a lot of things that are fine to include – the occasional smiley face, or “lol” can be expected when communicating online. However, there are some things we just shouldn’t say in a business email. You might be surprised, but it’s not okay to say, “I hope that’s okay” and I’m going to explain to you why.

You Appear Unsure About Your Proposal

One of the main reasons you don’t want to say, “I hope that’s okay” or “Is this okay with you?” is because you appear to be extremely uncertain of yourself. Whatever you’re proposing, your boss wants to know that you’ve got it under control. By asking if something you’re proposing is okay, you give off the impression that you’re not sure that it is.

This can be especially problematic depending on your role – if you’re a marketing director, reporting to a VP or President of Marketing, you don’t want your boss to worry that you don’t think your strategy will work.

Similarly, it could be something as simple as requesting to work a different time than usual. Asking if it is okay to take off X time because you have a doctor’s appointment sounds as though you can easily reschedule the appointment if it’s not okay. In this instance, you’d be better off saying “I need X time off for a doctor’s appointment, can I make up the time on X?”

Don’t let people think you don’t know what you’re talking about. If you’re preparing a content strategy, a list of headlines for a content calendar, or something similar, you want your client or boss to know you’re confident in what you’re giving them.

Sounds Like You’re Searching for Validation

Another reason not to say, “I hope that’s okay” or “is this okay?” in your business emails is because it can make you sound needy. Maybe your boss or client knows you well enough to know that you always deliver outstanding work.

If you’ve provided great work again and again, there’s no reason to sound unsure about what you’re suggesting. Eventually, it starts to look like you are searching validation for everything. Like you are someone who needs constant affirmation that your work is exceptional – otherwise you might start to believe you’re slipping.

This is the same thinking that goes behind leaving out words like “just” when you’re writing a business email. There’s a difference between “I just wanted to get your thoughts before moving forward” and “I’m going to start working on this for you – let me know if you want me to do anything different than outlined above.”

When you’ve worked on more than one project together, most times, your boss or client will trust you to begin working as soon as you’re ready to. Plus, if they know you’re going to start working on something soon, they will let you know immediately if you’re not headed in the right direction, so they don’t pay you for lost time.

Another phrase that goes in the same category as asking if something is okay and adding the word “just” is “I think.” If you’re skilled at what you do, you don’t think – you know. End of story.

You don’t want to tell your boss, “I think these keywords will have the best ROI” when you could instead say “These are going to be the high ROI keywords for this quarters marketing push.” It sounds much more definitive and confident, doesn’t it?

A Few Similar Phrases You Should Avoid in Your Business Email

Now, we’ve just covered four specific phrases you should avoid:

  • “I hope that’s okay”
  • “If that’s okay with you?”
  • “I just…”
  • “I think…”

But these are not the only phrases that you’re going to want to avoid. Some things, while said in person might be perfectly fine – able to be quickly followed up on with certainty – are not quite so acceptable in email communication.

“To be honest…” is one that we should all work to avoid using both in email and in person. After all, saying that implies that everything you’ve said until that point could have been dishonest. Ideally, you’re telling the truth 100 percent of the time when you’re talking to your boss or your clients. So, you should never need to specify that you’re being honest about one specific statement.

“I don’t know,” is something your boss or clients probably don’t want to hear from you. If you don’t know, then you need to figure it out – and quick! Your clients are asking you for something or about something, meaning they don’t have the answer and are looking to you for it.

If it’s something you’ll easily be able to answer at a later time – like when you have access to a PC or more time on your hands – then tell them you’ll find out for them as soon as you’re able. Or, if it’s not urgent, wait to answer the email until you have the answer. That way, you never have to tell anyone you don’t know what they need you to know.

Instead of Questioning Yourself, Offer Solutions and Ask for Input

Communication through email can be tough – especially if you’re used to communicating with people face-to-face. Some things, like asking if something is okay, might sound polite – but over an email it doesn’t look good. It can be seen either as uncertainty or seeking validation, you don’t want to be associated with either of those things.

You want your boss or clients to know that you’ve got everything under control. That you are confident in your skills and abilities and that you know whatever you’re doing for them is going to work.

Here are some phrases that you might find work better when you’re trying to ask “is that okay” without having to say it.

“Let me know if you’d like to make any changes.”

“I’d appreciate any input if there’s anything you’d like to see included.”

“Please reach out with any questions or concerns.”

These phrases are much more certain. They don’t pose a question, making it seem as though you’re questioning what you are telling the person on the other end of that email. You also don’t appear like someone who needs or seeks validation for everything.

If you’re trying to avoid using the words “I think” or “just” then you might want to try restructuring your sentence.

For example, instead of saying: “I think we should publish 3 pieces each week and recap in a newsletter email” you would sound more confident saying “We should publish three pieces each week, so we can recap in a weekly email newsletter.” Do you see the difference?

Another example, you might want to say “I just wanted to check in and see if you had time to review the proposal I sent you” it would be better to say “I’m reaching out to see if you’ve had time to review the proposal I sent out on X date.”

One sounds timid and dismissive – the other sounds confident and professional. In the virtual world, our words give away what body language might have in an in-person situation. But just like you can learn to control your body language to be more confident, you can do the same in your writing.

It takes being conscious of what your writing – and proofreading your business emails before you send them off. (Which you should always do anyway! Too many obvious typos or sending something off with a wrong statistic could be a major problem!)

Once you’ve spent enough time paying attention to the way you phrase things in your emails, it will start to come naturally – not only in your writing but in your speech as well. You’ll find that being more confident in yourself when your writing will find its way into other aspects of your life – making you a more effective writer, communicator, and businessperson.

So, no, it’s not okay to ask “is that okay” – but you can find a way to be polite and still sound sure of yourself.

Be confident about grammar

Check every email, essay, or story for grammar mistakes. Fix them before you press send.