Friday, November 21, 2008

Should you say "No" to "Please"?

People feel passionately about "please."

"Common sense might tell you that adding 'please' or 'thank you' to an email will always make it more polite. Common sense would be wrong." That's according to David Shipley and Will Schwalbe in Send: Why People Email So Badly and How to Do It Better.

I decided to ask the participants in my workshop on "How to Write Effective Business Emails and Letters" if they think "please" should be optional. "No way!" was their response. 

I agree that it's good to leave "please" in your vocabulary. I'm puzzled by Shipley and Schwalbe's assertion that it's "almost impossible to use in writing without coming across as obnoxious."

Do you use "please" in emails? Please leave a comment below.

Susan B. Weiner, CFA
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Copyright 2008 by Susan B. Weiner All rights reserved


  1. We discussed this in my Business Communications class, which is why I was looking online to see what others say. I say "yes" to please; Good writing not only conveys a message but maintains the reader's goodwill, and showing gratitude with the please and thank-yous we were (hopefully) taught in grammar school is just one way to maintain that sense of common courtesy. I think that it shows the reader gratitude for their work, and whether you're a superior or a subordinate, good work should always be appreciated.

  2. Jami,
    I'm with you. Let's appreciate our readers!

  3. Please is good, but a little stiff, simply because it's so formal in the literal sense of the word (i.e. there's a formula, and the word "please" is in it). Personally, if I'm to be schmoozed effectively, or even politely treated in a warm and friendly way, I'm going to need slightly longer, slightly less entrenched courtesies, like "Could you...?" and "Can I ask...?" I want more acknowledgment than "please" if I'm doing a special favor. Something like "I'm in a pinch, could you help me? I would need you to...." --Scott Kern, Wikipedia

  4. Thanks, Scott!

    I try to follow your advice when I'm asking a favor face-to-face. But when I write an email, I try to keep requests brief because people are in a hurry.


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