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Gen Z is trying to modernise professional language in the workplace

Gen Z are increasingly moving away from the rather formal, ready-made polite phrases older generations often use to conclude their messages in favour of a more direct approach

Published: Sep 23, 2023 08:12:48 AM IST
Updated: Sep 22, 2023 03:18:54 PM IST

Gen Z is trying to modernise professional language in the workplaceWhatever their age, Britons tend to agree that certain formal sign offs will no longer be used in ten years' time. Whatever their age, Britons tend to agree that certain formal sign offs will no longer be used in ten years' time. Image: Shutterstock

The most recent arrivals on the job market are shaking up the habits of their older colleagues, particularly when it comes to professional jargon. They are increasingly moving away from the rather formal, ready-made polite phrases older generations often use to conclude their messages, in favor of a more direct approach.

It's a trend that is particularly noticeable in the UK. As elsewhere in the world, British professionals generally conclude their work-related email messages with formulas that are both commonplace and banal. The most popular? "Yours sincerely" and the related "yours truly." These two expressions may seem rather formal, but they've become an integral part of written communications in the workplace. Especially those addressed to a hierarchical superior.

However, this habit looks set to disappear, as a recent survey* by Barclays LifeSkills reveals. Some 70% of Britons say they have noticed a change in the way their colleagues address them at work. Many of them associate this phenomenon with the arrival of members of Generation Z in the work sphere.

Indeed, this younger generation is bringing a more relaxed atmosphere to the open space, both in terms of dress and language. Their writing tends much more towards the familiar style than previous generations, and they want their personalities to shine through in their professional exchanges. However, 40% of 18-24 year-olds struggle to do so in email messages.

Also read: Digital communication is the new power skill: Erica Dhawan

New language norms

But Britons of all ages agree that some of these expressions will no longer be used in ten years' time. These include "yours sincerely" and "yours truly," as well as "with compliments" and "respects." The enigmatic "To whom it may concern" is also likely to fall into disuse in the next few years, in favor of a more personalized introductory formula.

In the view of Laura Bailey, Professor of English and Linguistics at the University of Kent, this change in etiquette is part of a natural progression. "Changing norms in the workplace are reflected in the language younger employees use, and the way communication has changed in general. Email threads and instant messaging platforms have become blended into 'conversations' where formal openings and sign offs might feel out of place," she said in a statement.

*This survey was carried out by Censuswide, on behalf of Barclays LifeSkills, among a sample of over 2,000 Britons aged 18 and over.

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