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Are Antiquated Phrases Hurting Your Business?
As someone who travels from one insurance company to another teaching 'Effective Business Writing for Claims and Risk Management Professionals,' I'm often amazed by how many claims letters are weighed down with stodgy phrases reminiscent of the 19th century. How many letters do you see each day that contain 'enclosed please find,' 'under separate cover,' and 'please do not hesitate to contact me'? I recently gave a seminar at a 200-employee insurance firm in upstate New York. One of the claims adjusters showed me the claims department's book of form letters. There were more than 80 of them, not counting ones that had exclusionary language by state. Each of these letters is sent out an average of 30 times a month. 80 x 30 = 2,400 letters a month x 12 months = 28,800 letters a year. Only four of those awful outdated phrases per letter would total more than 100,000 in a year! If you think this stilted language isn't hurting your business, think again. These phrases not only alienate the insured and engender a distant tone, they chip away at the long-lasting relationships your company seeks to maintain. They damage a claims professional's relationships with doctors, attorneys, insurance commissioners, and colleagues alike. Risk managers (who write internal audits, loss control recommendations, risk reports, and answers to inquiries) also must eliminate stodgy phrases from their documents to enhance their range of relationships. Here's my list of the 10 most common (and terrible) antiquated phrases in the insurance industry. See how many you find the next time you review a typical claims adjuster's or examiner's correspondence. Yours very truly. No, you're not! Use 'sincerely.' Please be advised. This is standoffish legalese that really means 'tell' or 'inform.' Above-captioned loss. Why not just name the loss instead of breaking the reader's train of thought? For example, if the caption says 'Insured: Jones Co.', you could write 'the Jones Co. loss.' Kindly. How about 'please'? Please do not hesitate. This was a light, bright phrase about 40 years ago, but now it's a cliché. Don't be the millionth person to recycle it. I have forwarded. You're not playing football! Use 'sent.' Please note that. This sounds patronizing and makes me feel as though I should get out my notebook. Don't use it. Enclosed please find. Exactly what's to be found in your letter? Use 'I've enclosed' or 'enclosed is.' And it's OK to say 'I' in business writing. After all, you are doing the enclosing. Under separate cover. This phrase reminds me of the lid of a big spaghetti pot. Say you're sending something separately, by Fed Ex, or however. Contact the undersigned. You are most often the undersigned - write 'contact me' or 'call me.' Here are more old-fashioned phrases to avoid and possible substitutes: affords us the opportunity -- gives us the opportunity as per our discussion -- as we discussed amongst -- among at your earliest convenience -- by next week attached herewith -- attached is, here is beg to differ -- disagree by virtue of -- because of deem it advisable -- suggest furnish -- give, send in the event that -- if it is advisable -- I suggest we are in receipt of -- we have received Banishing such phrases from your company's correspondence is a simple but potent step toward improving your company's image, increasing morale, keeping customers, and encouraging modern, clear, concise writing.