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Sorry About That!

7 tips for being sincere

In verbal communication, we can often quite easily understand how sincere the speaker is. That’s because we actually have an instrument – our voices – that can convey the nuances of meaning. Sincerity, or the lack thereof, can also come through quite easily in the written word, too, whether we want it to or not.

Consider the following section of an email, and the two examples of possible sentences ending the story:

Thank you for your email about the problem you encountered at our Hong Kong store, and we are sorry about that.

Thank you for your email about the problem you encountered at our Hong Kong store, and we are truly sorry you had such an experience.

Does either one sound more sincere that the other? Do you get the feeling that the first writer is just filling out a template and couldn’t care less about the problem? And does it seem that the second writer really is sincere in the apology?

How to avoid sounding insincere

Your sincerity can come across in your writing just as easily as it does in your speech. Here are some ways you can avoid giving your reader the idea that you are just going through the motions. Take a look and see which sentence sounds more sincere to you:

  • Don’t use clichés.

    “We’re sorry we let the cat out of the bag,” vs. “We apologise for accidentally releasing the report before it was in its final format.”

  • Don’t use the word ‘sincere’ unless it adds real meaning.

    “We hope to do business with you again.” vs. “We sincerely hope to do business with you again.”

  • Don’t be too formal.

    “Each of us read your report and we must say we found it most informative,” vs. “We have read your report, and found it very interesting.”

  • Say what you mean without weasel words.

    “I believe most quality marketing techniques are probably designed to make people feel truly connected,” vs. “I think quality marketing techniques are designed to connect people emotionally.”

  • Use correct grammar, spelling, and punctuation.

    “Were glad you liked our report,” vs. ‘We’re glad you liked our report.”

  • Believe what you are saying.

    “The book’s a good read, or so everyone says,” vs. ‘I can personally vouch that the book is a good read.”

  • Don’t use emoticons.

    “We want to run your writing workshop for our staff ☺” vs. “We want to run your writing workshop for our staff.”

The secret to conveying your sincerity in writing ties in with your tone and your attention to detail in your writing. Read what you’ve written out loud and ask yourself how it sounds. Do you have any sentences that sound flippant or like they came from a cookie-cutter template, or just not like what you would say if you were speaking to the reader? If so, then it probably sounds insincere and you should revise it, remove the offending words, and make it sound more ‘real’.

After all, as George Burns once implied, sounding insincere is just as bad as being insincere:

“Sincerity – if you can fake that, you’ve got it made.”
– George Burns

 

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© 2013 Shirley Taylor.
Shirley Taylor is a recognised leading authority on business writing and communication skills. For almost 30 years she has presented keynotes and training programmes that help people and organisations boost communication skills and develop great relationships both orally and in writing. Shirley is bestselling author of 12 books, including Model Business Letters, Emails and Other Business Documents, which has sold half a million copies worldwide and has been translated into many languages. If you would like Shirley to speak at your next event, visit www.shirleytaylor.com.

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