Confidence in emails. How to sound more confident. Communication.
Photo by Christina @ on Unsplash

This week I got email feedback from an unsuccessful job pitch. It said I came across as not much of a go-getter and too laid back. I was mystified and bemused. Anyone that knows me knows I can be obsessive about reaching my goals, to the point of tunnel vision. 

 The more I thought about the call, the clearer it became. I had tried to come across as relaxed and not too pushy, and I had downplayed my experience and knowledge. Why the eff would I do that?! Why would I deliberately diminish my achievements? Apparently, I am not alone. It’s not uncommon for women ‘to shrug off the praise and lowball their own abilities’ (K Coffman, 2019). What struck me was that this was not a one-off. I do it a lot, particularly when I am writing emails.

I started to research how to sound more confident and realized I was guilty of using every single example of words and phrases that undermine and diminish your message. Luckily, I found some simple things I can do immediately to sound confident in emails:

  • Avoid qualifying or intensifying words like just, probably, try, think, maybe, really, and very. They are unnecessary and undermine your message. 
  • Keep it to the point and don’t talk too much – long sentences and complicated words come across as compensating for not knowing what you are talking about. 
  • Don’t apologize for emailing. It suggests you aren’t worth listening to or that their time is more important than yours.
  • Exclamation marks are my weakness. You might think they soften your message, but overuse can seem desperate. It’s not that you can’t use them, but ask yourself if the sentence needs it.
  • Practice makes perfect – whatever type of writing it is, it gets better the more you do it. Practice being confident and you will find that you feel more confident. 
  • Download Just Not Sorry – the Chrome plugin for Gmail will highlight any limiting or qualifying words in your emails. I use it for writing emails in Gmail, and then I transfer the content to whichever email account I want to send it from. Positive messages remind me not to apologize for knowing my stuff. Here is an example of how it works:
Example of an email being written with the Google Chrome Just Not Sorry extension being used

It can feel daunting to apply all of these at once. It’s ok to make the changes gradually. You will find that it soon becomes second nature. If you are like me, you are a work in progress. I don’t get everything right and that is ok. By keeping these tips in mind each time I write an email I sound more confident, and you will too. 

Is this something you struggle with? Comment below with your tips and tricks!


  1. Ellie on January 3, 2020 at 4:33 pm

    I love these tips! As a freelancer who is still pretty new to the industry (at least on a full time basis) I find these posts super useful.

    • Rachel O'Reilly on January 3, 2020 at 9:17 pm

      Thank you! I am in a similar position and learning so much as I go!

  2. Pat Murray on January 9, 2020 at 3:19 pm

    Thanks Rachel. I can see myself in a few of your points. At 73, I am still a work in progress. As long as there is progress!

    • Rachel O'Reilly on January 9, 2020 at 3:27 pm

      We all are Pat! I’m guilty of most of them too!

  3. Debi Doering on January 9, 2020 at 11:32 pm

    Good information. Thanks Rachel

    • Rachel O'Reilly on January 9, 2020 at 11:36 pm

      Thanks Debi!

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