Some people are great at organization and taking deep breaths. I’m great at making lists of things that annoy me. It’s sort of the same thing.
I’ve spent an embarrassing percentage of my life sending, receiving, drafting, and trashing work emails. And since being judgmental comes naturally to me, I’ve been excellent at taking note of oft-used phrases in these emails* that are remarkably annoying.
I wish I could say the list below was simply a collection of phrases that my friends and I have seen pass through our work inboxes. Sadly, these words have also infiltrated my email exchanges— personal and professional. I’ve become the asshole who circles back and takes the 1000 foot view on brunch plans. All I ask is that you judge me harshly and enjoy my fully baked list.
CWW’s list of the 12 most overused phrases in work emails:
- Circle back. Because, you know, getting back to someone requires “circling.” But not circling forwards, rather backwards because your email companion is trudging ahead in life. This person will, however, deign to put on the breaks, hit reverse and find you at some future point to let you know the information you so desperately need.
- As you know. IF I ALREADY KNOW WHY IS IT IN AN EMAIL? It’s like the non-ironic use of “obviously” except in Times New Roman and passive aggressively reminding you of something you probably actually never knew. Damn it!
- Loop in. Loops aren’t for earrings in DC— come to think of it, I don’t think I’ve seen any woman in the halls of a government building wearing anything but studs**. However these women and men aren’t prevented from looping in— i.e. adding in other email recipients— to their email chains. New plan: try “studding in.” Ambiguously awesome? Yes.
- Get into the weeds. Always written by someone who neither eats food from gardens nor passes any time in dirt. Typically when this phrase is used, it’s to inform you that soon you’ll be getting into the nitty gritty details on something. The never-seen-a-garden author, however, will not be spending any time with you in that dirt.
- Our friends in the [insert Senate, House, White House]. They aren’t actually your friends but if you refer to them as friends in an email, it’s like you don’t writhe with contempt when you have to deal with them. Truth.
- Reinvent the wheel. During my time in government, this phrase was used approximately four times a day by different people. I sometimes suspected that the person writing it really believed the work we were doing was akin to creating the wheel— that our impact was going to be the same as introducing cars to society. As opposed to introducing more paper to society.
- Fully baked. As in a plan, not brownies, sadly. Though the second this horrifying phrase is dropped into a work email, my mind immediately goes to a batch of brownies that I’ll someday learn how to bake. Never do my thoughts turn to how to make a plan more cohesive and shovel-ready! (Another favorite term!)
- Deep dive into the issue. We can’t just dive into an issue— it has to be a deep one. One that will get us into the weeds. And though the person writing this probably doesn’t swim nor go diving, this person expects you to be ready and willing to go deep into the issue and then brief him or her on it. Kthx.
- Expend political capital. In Washington there is nothing more sacred than your political capital. So if you’re going to use it, it better be used via a large word like “expend.” And when expending political capital, it better be for something monumental. Like tickets to a Nationals game.
- The real turd in the punch bowl. There are many ways to discuss a spoiler. Some people like to go graphic. And ruin your lunch. At once.
- One size fits all solution. Little known fact— one blanket answer to a problem doesn’t exist. Who the eff knew!? The person sending that email knew. What can I say— I was an algebra all-star.
- Best, xxx. I don’t believe there is a less disingenuous way to sign off on an email than “best.” It’s the writer’s way of saying “I feel no emotional connection to you but believe if I sign this email with ‘best’ I will have minimized how cold and detached the rest of this email was.” Signing best is like getting a tepid hug from your dentist. It doesn’t lessen the fact you now have a giant hole in your mouth or that you’re about to pay $500 for it. But it makes your dentist feel like you’re still friends. Fact.
Sadly, I fear these 12 phrases will continue to populate my work and personal emails. Plans will continue to be made by looping in colleagues or friends; break-up emails will continue to include “best, xxx.”
I do ask that you’ll circle back if I’ve missed anything.
*While this list has a DC-slant, I believe such annoying phrases probably infiltrate the work emails of citizens throughout god-fearing America.
**For the record I”m jealous of anyone who can wear earrings— loops, studs, whatever. I have a skin issue where I can’t get my ears pierced. I’m like the Mother Teresa of jewelry. It’s tough.