Justice

Women Are Using a New Hack to Take Certain Words Out of Their Emails

The national conversation about American working women often focuses on how they can get their ideas heard, and that includes through email.

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In 2014, the beauty brand Pantene released a commercial of women saying "sorry" and using passive language in meetings. The commercial advised women to "Be strong and shine."

Even female advisors to President Barack Obama talked about their method of making sure they were heard in a room full of men.

But how do women to get their point across in work emails as well?

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The makers of a Gmail plug-in want to help women be more assertive by warning them about passive language in their emails.

The "Just Not Sorry" Gmail plug-in highlights common passive words and phrases, like "sorry," and then it explains, often with quotes from successful people, why they could undermine any arguments or points in the email.

"Just Not Sorry" Gmail Plug-in

Although the examples on the Chrome Web Store feature a man's name, the Cyrus Innovation plug-in released last year was primarily designed for women to use.

"It was designed with women in mind, but many men use it too and really enjoy it," Tami Reiss, the founder of Just Not Sorry (who no longer works at Cyrus Innovation) told ATTN: by email. "Every product should have a target market for launch, and ours was smart accomplished women who weren't conscious enough of the underlying bias words they use trigger."

"Just Not Sorry" Plug-in

Saying sorry more often can make women look unsure, obstruct good arguments, and obscure important points, according to an opinion piece in The New York Times by Sloane Crosley.

"It’s not what we’re saying that’s the problem, it’s what we’re not saying. The sorrys are taking up airtime that should be used for making logical, declarative statements, expressing opinions and relaying accurate impressions of what we want."

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Women may apologize more often than men because they are more worried about being rude. A 2010 study by researchers from the University of Waterloo in Canada found that men find less behavior offensive than women, and that could be why men apologize less.

"This finding suggests that men apologize less frequently than women because they have a higher threshold for what constitutes offensive behavior," the authors wrote.

"Just Not Sorry" Gmail Plug-In

Reiss said that most of the feedback she's seen on the plug-in has been positive.

"Ninety-eight percent of feedback has been really positive," she said. "We get emails and texts every week of people who use the extension and find it helps them be more conscious of their word choice in emails and while speaking."

Women on Twitter also think it's time to stop apologizing.

However, other women feel that the movement to purposefully avoid apologetic or passive language is just another way of policing what women say.

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Penny Eckert a professor of linguistics at Stanford University told NPR last year that people are spending too much time policing how women and minorities speak.

"People are busy policing women's language and nobody is policing older or younger men's language," Eckert said. She added that the only way for all speaking styles to be considered equal is to for women and minorities to stop trying fit white male ideas about speaking.

"You only get change by not allowing it to be a problem to you. And I think this is something that has been huge in all of the years that people have been studying minority dialects. African-American vernacular English is a very rich dialect, and yet little kids are told they better not speak that if they want to succeed in the world. So the question is, do you knuckle under to that or do you try to make the world change a little bit?"

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