If writing emails is hard work, writing emails in a second language is even harder. Not only is it difficult, it’s time-consuming and fraught1 with opportunities to make embarrassing mistakes. That’s why it makes sense to cut corners2 whenever we can. Falling back on our favorite tried-and-true phrases is a great way to save time and effort. But business emailers beware: some of the most commonly used phrases in email correspondence deserve a second look. “Please don’t hesitate to contact me” is just one of them.

Please don’t hesitate to contact me (sowie das leider inzwischen — warum auch immer — eingedeutschte: Bitte zögern Sie nicht, mich zu kontaktieren oder ähnliche Floskeln im Englischen, die mit please don’t hesitate beginnen) is unceremoniously slapped onto the end of what feels like every other email. It’s so commonplace that its appropriateness may seem  unquestionable, even to native speakers, but in terms of style, consider the following:

It’s unnecessarily wordy:

Isn’t it? And I say that as a guy who likes words very much indeed: Please don’t hesitate to contact me if xyz is nothing more than a long-winded3 way of writing “Please contact me if…”. Why waste time and space doing it the hard way? But more importantly, why would your clients be hesistant to contact you? Are you not insinuating4 you’re a rather scary, nasty person to do business with?

Strive to make every email a shrine to brevity5, keeping things as short, simple and readable as you can. After all, according to a recent survey, American workers spend up to 14% of the workweek emailing. Why burden yourself and your reader with all those unnecessary words? Especially when we think in terms of emailing using English as a second language the reason to avoid this phrase becomes clear. Choose the path of least resistance!

It’s actually kind of bossy:

Take another look at the first two words of the phrase—please don’t—and the second issue I take with this phrase becomes clear. Here’s a fun challenge: take an inventory of the other times you tell your clients in writing to please not do something. With the exception of please don’t hesitate to contact me, I’ll bet your list of please don’ts will be mighty short. As a rule, I’m not a fan of being told what not do to. Why use the negative when we can get the same point across with something more positive?

Please contact me if…

Feel free to reach out if…

Please let me know if…

I hope you’ll let me know if…

Try to use phrasing that sounds more like a friendly invitation, and less like a ban or command. After all, the intended message is, “I’m here for you if you need me.”

1voller [xyz] stecken/ [xxx]-belastet/beladen/behaftet sein,  2die Kurve schneiden,  3langatmig,   4andeuten/unterstellen,   5kurze Ausdrucksweise/Prägnanz

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