Some sketchy business email language

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We’ve all got our own lists of business buzzwords that set our teeth on edge. Synergy, bandwidth, actionable items, scalable, leverage — and the more recent and ubiquitous “circle back”: these are just a few of my personal bugbears in the boardroom, and I know you’ve got more. (You can get your fill of them from an earlier Glossophilia post on The ubiquity of buzzwords and business speak.) But there’s another category of business-lingo that’s getting some of our backs up: it’s the common misuse in emails of certain standard English words or phrases, which just never will sound or be right, however often they’re typed and no matter how good the intention. They’re not just icky words and phrases: they’re just plain wrong.

“With regards to”:
(When you’re drawing the reader’s attention to a specific issue or changing the subject.)

Reason it’s wrong: “With regards to” is what you say when you’re sending your regards or best wishes to someone. A singular regard is what you’re looking for: a noun meaning “attention to or concern for something.”

Correct/better options: “With regard to” (singular), “concerning”, or “about”. Or what about simply “regarding”, or even “re.”?

“Please advice”:
(When you’re asking someone to tell you how to proceed.)

Reason it’s wrong: Advice is a noun; advise is the verb you’re looking for. In American English there’s sometimes no distinction in spelling between the verb and the noun. For example, it’s practice (noun) vs. practise (verb) in British English, but just practice in American for both. Could that be the rub?

Correct option: “Please advise”

(When you’re asking for or stating the time by which something needs to be done, or even a more general sense of timing of a project.)

Reason it’s wrong: A dateline is either “a line at the head of a dispatch or newspaper article showing the date and place of writing” or — as two words, each capitalized, with “International” in front — it’s the proper name for the imaginary line on the surface of the Earth that runs from the North Pole to the South Pole and demarcates the change of one calendar day to the next.

Correct/better option: Deadline (for a date or time by which something must be completed), or timeline (for an explanation or map of a project’s timing).

“Please revert (back to me)”:
(When you’re asking someone to respond. Is this a Britishism, or more universal?)

Reason it’s wrong: Revert is a verb meaning to return to a previous state, practice, or topic. If you’re asking someone to revert back to you, you’re asking them to be you — again. This does not compute.

Correct/better option: “Please reply.”


Thanks to Gail for bringing the new/email meaning of revert to my attention.

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