Get All Access for $5/mo

Why I Stopped Using 'Actually' and 'But' In My Customer Service Emails Some words can detract from your message. Avoid them if you want to achieve more powerful and pointed communication.

By Carolyn Kopprasch

This story originally appeared on Buffer

One of my favorite "happiness hacks" has been to attempt to remove the word "actually" from my vocabulary.

This has been remarkably hard to do, and I still have to struggle not to let it past my lips or fingers. At Buffer, we have found that there is a small band of words that takes away from your message, and "actually" is their leader.

It almost doesn't matter how good the news is; if it comes after "actually," I feel like I was somehow wrong about something.

Related: I Admit It. I Have No Idea What I'm Doing. (And That's a Good Thing.)

Consider these two sentences:

Actually, you can do this under "Settings."

Sure thing, you can do this under "Settings!" :)

Certainly, there are other differences between those two sentences besides the word "actually." We try to aim for the second one at Buffer for several reasons.

Bottom line is, if customers take time out of their lives to ask us a question, thus teaching us about areas of confusion in our app, we'd love if they never have any occasion to feel stupid, or wrong, or corrected.

It's amazing how much brighter my writing (and speaking) gets when I go through and lose the "actuallies."

Related: How to Name Your Startup

While I'm at it, I try to get rid of the "buts" too.

Sentence 1: I really appreciate you writing in, but unfortunately we don't have this feature available.

Sentence 2: I really appreciate you writing in! Unfortunately, we don't have this feature available.

Feel different? When I substitute my "buts" for exclamation points, I feel so much happier with my message.

You can see more examples in the tone guide we recently published describing how we write for our customers in emails, on Twitter, with product messages, at our blog, and everywhere else we might interact. The main principle behind our tone is this:

To the customer, our language and tone say: I am grateful for you. I have great respect for you. I am listening. I am open. I am here.

Working on getting rid of words like "actually" and "but" help us to get closer to living that principle every day.

Related: The Science Behind Why Small Teams Work More Productively

Carolyn Kopprasch

Chief Happiness Officer

Carolyn is "Chief Happiness Officer" at Buffer, where the happiness team serves Buffer's customers and helps information flow back to the Product team. She doesn't believe in "scaling" support and instead is constantly learning how to make every conversation unique. 

Want to be an Entrepreneur Leadership Network contributor? Apply now to join.

Editor's Pick

Side Hustle

This 26-Year-Old's Side Hustle That 'Anybody Can Do' Grew to Earn $170,000 a Month. Here's What Happened When I Tested It.

Stephen Alvarez was working at a dental supply company and following his passion for cars on the side — then an Instagram ad changed everything.

Science & Technology

AI Marketing Secrets: 3 Game-Changing GPT-4 Use Cases to Make Money with AI

Learn how to harness AI to generate leads and increase sales, even with limited resources and a small social media following.

Business News

Over 10 Billion Passwords Have Been Exposed in the Largest Password Hack in History

The data is thought to have been collected over the past two decades.

Business News

Mark Zuckerberg Says an Upcoming Meta Product Left Testers 'Giddy'

Meta is almost ready to show this gadget to the public.

Making a Change

How I Turned My Learning Disabilities Into a Superpower

This article outlines my journey from struggling with multiple learning disabilities to recognizing my unique abilities as a strength. It explains how leveraging my personality, interests, and instincts helped me build self-confidence and achieve success as an entrepreneur and leader.