Corporate Speak

‘Circling back’, ‘time sensitive’, ‘under review’, ‘suggested course of action’ and ‘sun setting’ are all examples of Corporate Speak, a language you ought to know already or swiftly adopt if not. In fact, I wonder why there isn’t a Corporate Speak option in those drop down lists that allow us to rate our language skills as elementary, intermediate or native.

After all, Corporate Speak is a language in itself. How often do we really sign off personal messages with ‘kind regards’? Not very often. On the one hand, it’s perfectly logical that in a professional environment, our lingo will most definitely be different to how we speak in social circles. Then again, it can feel a tad schizophrenic to become another person by changing our language the moment we walk into a corporate environment.

Over the years I have observed that while Corporate Speak comes naturally to some, it is an acquired skill for others. My take on this is simple – you don’t have to like it especially if it doesn’t sit with how you speak naturally, but sooner or later it will become necessary to be aware of who you are speaking to, the platform you are using to communicate, local cultural sensitivities and equally important, the language your company speaks.

If ‘what’s up’ is the norm at a young gaming studio, it can be perfectly OK to adopt this lingo and make it your own especially if it helps to connect with your peers. If ‘good morning’ and ‘lovely to see you’ are common practice among senior health and safety auditors, you probably don’t want to open with a casual ‘hey’. As the recent BBC post The secret language you speak without realizing it said with reference to tech jargon, “you need to speak the language to play the game”.

Similarly, if you’re addressing an executive, please oh please don’t be casual unless you know the executive for a sufficient period of time, trust has been established through your professional relationship or s/he has specifically asked you to tone down the formalities.

Can it be exhausting to speak with a filter all day long? Sometimes. Is it necessary? This is where it’s important to consider your audience. Is it a customer, a business partner, a line manager or a peer/lunch buddy? Which industry are you working in? In an ideal situation, you want to be yourself while maintaining a degree of professionalism. Whatever you choose and irrespective of the demands of a given situation, I would suggest being genuine in your correspondences. Insincerity translates instantly and knows no filter.

Kind regards,


8 Email Etiquette Tips

Etiquette Number 1: Acknowledge Emails

Replying to emails is common courtesy and replying promptly shows professionalism. In some cases, a prompt response demonstrates an understanding of urgency. In others, it proves you respect others’ time as much as your own.

Helpful Hint:  If you’re not able to form a complete response for whatever reason, send a quick message “in a meeting – will respond asap”. This will help to manage expectations and you will come across as efficient. If you have overlooked an email, acknowledge the oversight with “apologies, this seems to have drowned in my inbox”. Make the habit of doing some housekeeping by clearing your inbox at least once a week.

Etiquette Number 2: Avoid CAPS LOCK

It gives the impression that you’re shouting. Digitalization is beautiful but it also creates a third entity between you and the receiver of your email. This entity is called perception.

Helpful Hint: Use friendlier options like underlining or making your text bold. Choose a different color or go for the yellow highlighter. It’s a small effort to create a positive image among your colleagues.

Etiquette Number 3: Frame your Questions Conscientiously 

Your questions are fair in representing doubt but shouldn’t come across as suspicious.

Helpful Hint: Avoid “why would you do x over y” and instead try using “I understood xyz from your email. Is that what you meant/intended/planned?” or “I think you meant to say xyz. Would you agree?”

Etiquette Number 4: Stay Clear of Orders

Starting emails with “[Name], send me [xyz]” are seldom appreciated. They come across as rude, demanding and disrespectful.

Helpful Hint: Be tough for the problem and soft for the person. Inspire, don’t coerce. Try “Hi [Name]. I need your help with xyz …. ” or even “I’m running against time here and would appreciate your help with xyz”. 

Etiquette Number 5: Don’t cc Half the Company

Identify the core project team in any given scenario and stick to them in your email thread. Unless there is a need for an escalation think twice. Is it necessary to copy ten colleagues outside of the core conversation? Will it add value or confusion? Is it better to take the conversation offline or set up another call after discussing with the core team?

Etiquette Number 6: Set a Useful Out of Office 

An out of office email without a clear redirect who is available and has received a complete handover from you is probably not of much use to anyone.

Helpful Hint: Arrange proper coverage while you’re OOO and make sure they have a complete handover. If they’re in a different timezone, consider having an OOO contact in the same time zone as you. This will make your email redirect helpful and show that you care about the job at hand and everyone it impacts even when you’re in the Bahamas.

Etiquette Number 7: If it’s Marked “Confidential” …

Don’t make the mistake of taking the word confidential lightly in the corporate world. Data privacy is everything.

Helpful Hint:  Emails marked confidential are strictly for the recipients of those emails. It doesn’t mean you can casually show it to the colleague sat next to you. You’ve probably heard “every confidante has a confidante”. Sorry, not when comes to confidential emails.

Etiquette Number 8: Break Down the Wall

… because every now and again even the toughest drill sergeant needs to show heart.

Helpful Hint: Send a positive email welcoming back colleagues from maternity. Send a short note to your team with Christmas wishes, or inquire if you know a colleague’s been out sick for weeks or had a death in the family. Remember that entity between you and the recipient of your email? They will perceive you to be sincere and maybe even go the extra mile for you the next time you send an email asking for their help.