There is a new trend in email writing to send someone a request and then sign it with “Thanks in advance.” or even worse “Thanks in advance!!!“. I find this trend bordering on offensive.
What do you imply when you use this phrase? Thanks or thank you is an expression of gratitude or acknowledgement of something someone has done. In the non-email world it is a word you say after or during the action you are grateful for but not something you say concurrently with asking someone to do something. In the non-email world the “thank you” usually quickly follows the request because the action you have requested or at least agreement to carrying out that action quickly follows the request.
However, in the world of email this is not the case. When you ask someone to do something over email by the time they read to the end of the email they have neither done what you have asked nor have agreed. Thus the “thanks in advance!” precedes any action or communication on their side. In the non-virtual world this might look something like asking a waiter: “Could you bring me another drink. Thanks in advance!” or asking your spouse to pick up some bread on the way home and saying “thanks in advance!” before they can agree or respond. I suspect both of these approaches would inhibit you from getting both bread…and water. Thus by saying thanks in advance you short-change the interaction by presuming this person will do something even before they have agreed.
Another problem with this phrase is it implies that your obligation to say thank you is done and you don’t need to express gratitude after the person actually does what you have asked them to do. It is another way you shortcut the interaction and make the receiver feel left out.
Of course people who write thanks in advance aren’t trying to be offensive or presumptuous but that’s how it comes across (particularly to the native eye). You can substitute one of these alternatives:
- I really appreciate any help you can provide.
- I will be grateful if you can send me this information.
- Many thanks for considering my request. (Thus acknowledging that you are grateful for the recipient to even read your email.)
- I hope what I have requested is possible.
- In the meantime, thank you so much for your attention and participation.
Just give the “in advance” a rest. And always thank someone after they have done what you asked (or even simply considered it and told you it’s not possible). It may seem like a small thing but well-said gratitude goes a long way.