Do you mind your manners when you write?

For a few weeks before Christmas, I spent much of my time helping my wife with her fast-growing online business. For a couple of months, she spent 18 hours a day making lovely ceramic gifts while I looked after the logistics of sending hundreds of orders far and wide.

For a long period, our lead time for orders was around 3 weeks. This was clearly marked on the product pages and in the confirmation e-mail when customers placed

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an order. For most people that was fine but, as you would expect, a handful of people got in touch to ask if they could receive their order a bit sooner.

This is typical of the emails I was receiving from clients:

Hi there

I recently ordered a personalised necklace for my mum’s Christmas present. I note from the email that the estimated date of dispatch for this is 17 December which will be after I last see her before Christmas. Is there any possible way of a quicker dispatch?

Kind regards

On the face of it, this seems like a perfectly polite request. But look closer. Nowhere does the customer use a small but important word: ‘please’.

For a few weeks I was receiving several of these emails every day. Clearly we couldn’t prioritise everyone’s order, so I developed a simple rule. If the customer said ‘please’ and ‘thank you’, I’d prioritise it. If they didn’t, I wouldn’t.

Now. I appreciate that this may seem a bit picky and a bit arrogant. However, it actually got me thinking about how easy it is for manners to go out of the window when you write. Had any of these people spoken to me about their order, I expect all of them would automatically

Somewhat gone use enough you’ve. And I geneticfairness could a and – I it…

have said ‘please’ and ‘thank you’.

I then began to notice that I wasn’t saying ‘please’ in my own emails and correspondence either, even when I was asking quite a favour. This is something that I’ve immediately tried to remedy.

As copywriters, we spend days asking people to ‘call us now’ or ‘get in touch today’ without ever saying ‘please’. I appreciate that it’s not relevant (or indeed appropriate) in all cases, but wouldn’t your copy be

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a little bit warmer and more polite if you just said the magic word once in a while?

Have you had any success with using the word ‘please’? Do you automatically include it? And does your copywriting mind its manners? Please share your thoughts below.

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Author: Nick Parkhouse, Published 11 January 2013

4 thoughts on “Do you mind your manners when you write?

  1. You know, I’ve never once thought about that. And I’ve spent ages thinking about calls to action. “Feel free to…”, “Go ahead and…” – they’ve made the odd appearance, especially on my blog. But I’ve never actually thought to use please. I think it’s because of the almost pleading aspect it can lend to a piece of copy.

    Still, you’ve given me something to think about. So I will say thanks!

    • Andy – Thank you for your comment. I’d never thought about it either and hadn’t noticed that I was as guilty as many other people in omitting it.

      As you rightly say, I don’t think it’s appropriate in every case – “Pleeeeeeaaasse read my blog” sounds a bit desperate – but it would certainly suit some tones of voice, I think.

  2. From Rupes on Facebook:

    “I thought the quoted request was very polite and friendly, with “would it be possible…” and “Kind regards”, I think it would have been difficult to insert the word “please” into the message without is sounding a bit weird. Politeness and understanding is more than just t?w?o? three words (please and thank you). I bet if they said “Thanks in advance”, it would have gone to the bottom of the pile though, as it sounds presumptive that you’re going to do it. Could we have an example of the kind of message with please and thank you that you liked, to compare with ?”

    • Rupes – Yes, I’ll give you an example of the kind of message:

      Hi there

      I recently ordered a personalised necklace for my mum’s Christmas present. I note from the email that the estimated date of dispatch for this is 17 December which will be after I last see her before Christmas. Please would it be possible for you to dispatch this sooner?

      Kind regards

      I don’t think it’s very hard to do…

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