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Why you need to eliminate 'I hope you're well' from your emails. Fast.

We’ve all done it.

It’s an average day in the office and you need to send an email to someone, really anyone; a client, you’re boss, a co-worker, anyone.

You open a new email and without even thinking you start your email by typing “I hope you’re well” before launching into the reason you’re emailing.

Why? You don’t really care. You would never in a million years use the phrase ‘I hope you’re well’ with anyone you actually cared about. Can you imagine telling you’re mother you hope she’s well? No, of course not.

In a piece for New York magazine, writer Dayna Evans explains that the phrase  “I hope you’re well” is incredibly insincere and need to be stopped once and for all.

Listen to the folks at The Well on removing niceties from your emails, and other life hacks. Post continues after audio…

Evans argues that the phrase is so overused that our brains already skip over it when reading an email, so there’s really no point in including it in the first place.

Emails were once completely matter of fact messages that got directly to the point, but as they became peoples main form of written correspondence the pleasantries of the hand written letter weaselled their way into commonplace.

Those pleasantries have become so expected that it’s strange not to receive them.

“Many people believe there is no need for bland benedictions and expressions in our email correspondence, especially at work, but there is also a hard-to-place feeling of hurt that comes from being on the receiving end of a one-line email with no thanks, no greeting, and no sign off,” writes Evans.

But, if we’re all using phrases without any meaning, what’s the point of saying them at all.

Last year, writer Rebecca Greenfield wrote a diatribe against the email sign off “Best” for Bloomberg. She wrote, “The problem with best is that it doesn’t signal anything at all.”

Similarly, Evans says, “‘I hope you’re well’ is a scourge on email correspondence, a hollow greeting that has come to mean nothing.”

The words are completely empty.

“It’s like if you sat down for a delicious dinner of spaghetti and meatballs but before getting to eat, you forced yourself to take a shot of Soylent first,” Evans explains. “Why would anyone do that? Just get right to the good part.”

Thankfully Evans took it upon herself to provide “two foolproof alternatives.”

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Either just jump right in to what you’re emailing about or if you’re feeling like there needs to be some kind of decorum, find something personal or timely to comment on.

“Sometimes I like to comment on how hot it is outside (‘Are you surviving this disgusting heatwave?’) and sometimes I like to throw in some current cultural commentary (‘Did you catch merman Phelps’s race last night?’),” writes Evans.

Or, if she finds she’s completely strapped for something to say she’ll try something ‘I hope you’re well’- esqe without actually saying those cookie-cutter words.

“Perhaps you write, ‘Is life in Chicago as great as it looks?’ or ‘Is the summer treating you nicely?'” says Evans. “At the very least, the person on the receiving end of the email will know you have not copy-pasted this text from another email you just sent to another person asking for another favour.”

If the idea of leaving the phrase “I hope you’re well” out of your emails is still making you uncomfortable, Evans suggests simply adding an exclamation point in your greeting.

“It’s nearly as hollow as ‘I hope you’re well’ but takes up less than half the space. Fun!”

Perhaps it's time to try a personalised question?

Personally, I agree that the phrase 'I hope you're well' is overused, I'm actually embarrassed how often it came up when I searched for it in my email. But, that being said, I disagree with Evans when she says they don't mean anything.

When discussing the article on Slate's DoubleX GabfestNew York magazine’s Noreen Malone refers to these little phrases as "verbal foreplay". Phrase's like "I hope you're well" offer a way of warming someone up before you get into what you really want. Slate Outward editor June Thomas says that what Evans suggests doing instead, writing an original thought or something specific for the person you're writing to, is still just "foreplay before we get to the meat." I agree, what's the difference really.

"You do want some, you know, foreplay, but I don't think we have to go to great lengths to
be original when really you might just as well put the word 'friendly foreplay'."

So, to all my bosses and co-workers consider this notice of the fact that all my emails with now begin with the term 'friendly foreplay' before I get in to what I'm really emailing about.