I’m afraid that…

“I’m afraid that…”

It is a phrase that is awfully overused and misused in support communications.

Folks, “I’m afraid” is a way to foreshadow something scary, but it also means that the person saying that phrase is distressed by what he/she is saying. So think of it this way, anytime you say “I’m afraid”, what you are really saying is “I’m distressed that you weren’t able to replicate that project I sent you.” Sounds dramatic, doesn’t it.

While “I’m afraid” can be used just to be polite, I would like to request that you avoid it altogether. Here is a suggestion for you to use instead.

Customer says:
“Look, I paid a lot of money for your product. And all I am asking if for a small project of custom code.”

Instead of saying:
“I’m afraid we don’t provide custom code services…”

“While writing custom code is not a function of our company, I can offer you sample custom code to assist you with your project…” OR “While writing custom code is not a function of our company, I am dedicated to helping you figure out how to best utilize our tools in your project…” etc

As someone pointed out, our messages use “I’m afraid” so much and so often, that a customer may get the impression that our engineers walk around afraid all the time. 🙂

1 comment

  • Alex Skorkin

    While I agree with you when it comes to overuse of “I’m afraid”, still I think that we should not completely get rid of it. As you correctly mentioned, this phrase is used in some cases just to sound more polite. So, this might be not a good idea to avoid it completely. For example, Oxford dictionary gives the following definition:

    I’m afraid
    [with clause] used to express polite or formal apology or regret:
    I’m afraid I don’t understand

    Oxford advanced American dictionary:
    I’m afraid
    used as a polite way of telling someone something that is unpleasant or disappointing, or that you are sorry about