Stop Using 'I hope...' and 'Just wondering...' In Your Email

How many emails have you sent today already? How about in the last week? If it’s a lot, you could end up with a vocabulary like a blocked vacuum cleaner — it’s making a lot of noise and making you work really hard, but it’s doing absolutely nothing. That’s a problem if you’re trying to run a business.

Review your recent emails, and see how many of them begin —or have sentences which begin—like this:

“I hope. . .”

“Just wondering. . .”

These two phrases are the hallmarks of lazy communication. They’re usually the introduction to sentences such as, “I hope that you had a great weekend,” and “Just wondering whether you’d had a chance to review that invoice I sent you?”

Arguably, ‘I hope’ is more useless than ‘Just wondering,’ but there are alternatives to both, which when sending emails, can help you to appear more sincere, more interested, and more professional. These are the alternatives.

Why Is ‘I hope’ Bad?

The problem with ‘I hope’ is that it often sounds insincere. Granted, it’s polite, but if your email is a professional one, there are different ways to express your interest, which can help you to learn more about who you’re talking to. That’s valuable for two reasons:

  1. The more trust that’s woven into your professional relationship, the more fruitful your work
  2. The more you know about the recipient’s goals, the better job you can do for them

What are the alternatives?

Alternative #1: The easiest way to get rid of ‘I hope,’ is to literally get rid of it. When emailing clients who I’ve worked with for a while, I will usually leave out, “I hope you had a great weekend,” and get right to business. I do hope they had a great weekend, and that’s implied by us having an ongoing and successful business relationship. There’s really no need to keep saying it.

Alternative #2: The second easiest way to get rid of ‘I hope,’ is to replace it with a short, relevant question. Even if your relationship with the recipient is a new one, there will be projects and ideas flying around all over the place, so use them to learn more. Look at this example:

“Hi David. I hope you had a great weekend. Your invoice is attached.” [Sounds a bit insincere, right?]

“Hi David. Great post yesterday; you happy with it? I’ve attached your latest invoice.” [Much better]

Why Is ‘Just wondering’ Bad?

I admit that I’ve used ‘Just wondering’ a few times, but it’s pretty lazy, and not entirely honest. Think about the times when you’ve used this phrase — were you really just wondering? Or were you asking a legitimate question and expecting a legitimate answer?

Saying, “I was just wondering,” implies that whatever you’re asking isn’t that important, or that it doesn’t deserve a full response. If that’s the case, do you really need to ask it at all? We sometimes use ‘Just wondering’ as a way to placate people before asking something which could annoy them. That’s pretty twisted, and any decent professional relationship should be able to get by on straight questions and answers.

Alternative #1: Do not use ‘Just wondering’ as a way to placate your reader. Instead, be straight with your question and offer to help if necessary. For example:

“Hi David. Just wondering whether you’d had a chance to look at my latest invoice? It’s a little overdue.” [If David’s invoice is overdue, respectfully ask him for a reason]

“Hi David. The invoice I sent last month is now overdue. Is everything ok? Is there anything I can do to help?” [This is proactive, and there’s no doubt about what you’re asking]

Alternative #2: Turn your passive request into an active one. For example:

“Hi David. Just wondering whether you’d heard about how an octopus can take off a diver’s helmet under water?” [Wonder on, my friend, I have too many things to do]

“Hi David. What do you think about this octopus that pulled a guy’s diving mask off?” [What do I think? I’ll tell you what I think!]

What’s the take-away?

Both you and your reader deserve respect. If your enquiry about their weekend is genuine, then fabulous, have a wonderful time. If that time could be better spent developing your respective businesses, however, then it could be time to revisit your writing style. On questions and queries, try to keep them direct and honest. If you can’t figure out how to phrase your question without ‘Just wondering,’ write it out, then delete the offending phrase — it will sound just fine.