“Believe” has no place in business writing

When editing cover letters, emails, and business development proposals for EY, I was especially merciless in my insistence on expunging the word “believe.” Unless your communication is an actual statement of faith (e.g., about a religion, a theory, or an arguable statement someone has made), cutting out “believe” makes any statement stronger. For example:

I believe we are the right fit to help you with this project.”
I believe our teams will collaborate and communicate seamlessly.”
"I believe we understand your company’s mission, and will serve you in a manner that supports that mission.”

“Believe” is a crutch people adopt in a misguided attempt to convey feeling or conviction. They also tend to use “think” or “feel” toward the same end. In most cases, those too should be excised. If you find yourself wanting to use “believe,” “think,” or “feel” in a business communication, ask yourself why before proceeding. Are you trying to convey strong feeling? As illustrated above, your statement will stand stronger on its own. Are you hoping to convey confidence? Then say that instead: “I am confident we are the right fit to help you with this project.” Are you trying to convey that what you’re expressing is an opinion? If everyone prefaced all business writing that could halfway be defined as an opinion with “I believe” or “I think,” you’d end up with a shitload of singularly unreadable schlock. So just get on with it, make your point without undue preface, and acknowledge that many, many statements that are in fact opinions will be read as opinions whether or not you call attention to the fact that they're opinions.

I’ll give a certain amount of credence to “feel,” however, if there is indeed a strong sentiment you wish to express in your business communication. But claiming to “feel” something can come off as inauthentic. It’s better to get specific and make your intended emotion real for your reader. For example:

“We are honored to be part of your team.”
“We are proud of what we have accomplished together.”

“We are deeply invested in our relationship with you.”

See how that works? We’re not claiming to feel. We’re just very busy FEELING.

When you are expressing your feelings to someone you care about, go ahead and “feel,” “think,” or “believe” as much as you want. But keep it far, far away from the majority of your business writing. I believe you will thank me.