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Say goodbye to ‘Yours Truly’ - Three quarters of Brits think the younger generation is changing the formality of language in the workplace

12 September 2023
  • Three quarters of workers (71 percent) believe the younger generation is changing the formality of language in the workplace
  • ‘Yours truly’, ‘Yours sincerely’ and ‘To whom it may concern’ are the top contenders to be retired from workplace repertoire
  • 97 per cent of 18-24 year olds want to show their personality through office interactions, but 4 in 10 struggle to do so through emails
  • Barclays LifeSkills offers advice and support to those stepping into the world of work and wanting to improve their communications skillset

12 September 2023: New research from Barclays LifeSkills predicts the phrases and sign-offs likely to be extinct from the workplace within the next ten years, with ‘Yours truly’ (41 per cent), ‘Yours sincerely’ (36 per cent) and ‘To whom it may concern’ (35 per cent) topping the list. Furthermore, over a third believe we will soon see the last of ‘With Compliments’ (33 per cent) and ‘Respects’ (31 per cent) within email communication.

Enter Gen Z

September marks the start of many grad schemes and internships, and brings with it an influx of the “next generation” of communicators. In the last five years, during which the oldest of Gen Z have embedded themselves in the office, over two thirds (70 per cent) of Brits have noticed a change in the way people use language in the workplace. Seven in ten (71 per cent) believe this is due to Gen Z changing the formality of language, with 73 per cent citing they were now more casual in their use of communication across the workplace.

Yet, respondents had differing views on why language is changing in the workplace. Unsurprisingly, social media was cited as a factor, but there were disparities between generations on how far this impacted. Four in ten (39 per cent) of over 55s think social media has had the biggest impact on the change of communication, whereas just under a quarter (24 per cent) of those aged 18-24 agreed.

Out with the old
When asked about Brits’ views of certain phrases, over a third (37 per cent) of those surveyed dubbed ‘Yours truly’ and ‘Yours sincerely’ as old fashioned. In contrast, half of Brits see ‘Thanks!’ (46 per cent) and ‘Thanks so much’ (50 per cent) as friendly, with nearly a quarter (23 per cent) seeing ‘Ta!’ in the same way. Be wary though, as a third (29 per cent) also see ‘Ta!’ as crossing over into over-familiarity. ‘Hiya’ is also dividing opinions, with 42 per cent considering it friendly, 36 per cent as casual, but still 26 per cent thinking of it as over-familiar.

Top five phrases due for retirement in the next 10 years:

1. Yours Truly
2. Yours Sincerely
3. To Whom It May Concern
4. With Compliments
5. Respects

New ways of expression

With more ways to communicate online, we are no longer tied to emails alone. Gen Z are almost twice as likely (49 per cent) to use instant messaging platforms at work compared to over 55s (27 per cent), as they feel it is more personable. Those aged over 55 appear keen to keep formalities where possible, preferring to use email considering it to be more professional (54 per cent).

New messaging applications also offer more options to share individuality, from emoji reactions through to gifs and images. A huge 97 per cent of those aged 18-24 highlighted a keenness to show personality through their workplace exchanges. Despite this desire from Gen Z to be themselves, 4 in 10 (40 per cent) said they would struggle to demonstrate their personalities through emails alone, suggesting a need for ongoing support for young people on how to effectively communicate in the workplace.

Kirstie Mackey, Head of Barclays LifeSkills said: “Our research shows that the next generation are clearly going to make their mark on the workforce when it comes to how we communicate. The shift to more personable language is a positive one, however it’s important to demonstrate an understanding of social etiquette in the workplace, which does differ from school or university. Striking the right balance whilst still displaying your personality through your communications is key.”

Dr Laura Bailey, Senior Lecturer in English Language and Linguistics at the University of Kent, said:

“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.

For the older generation, letter-writing etiquette might be drilled in enough that it is instinctive in any written communication. Whereas for Gen Z, social media has driven linguistic change and sped up the spread of language trends.”

Barclays LifeSkills aims to equip young people with everything they need to feel confident when starting their first job, enabling young people to navigate these milestones, and helping them to enhance their communications skillset.

To help those starting their new role in September, Kirstie Mackey shares some top tips from LifeSkills on how best to communicate online:

  • Remember your audience: It is okay to change language based on the seniority of the person you are communicating with, or how well you know them, but be careful to not be overfamiliar whilst communicating in the workplace.
  • Ask their preference: With the rise of instant messaging platforms for work, think if what you’re saying can be a quick message, or needs the space an email can provide. If you’re not sure, don’t be afraid to ask their preference and adapt accordingly.
  • Watch out for your tone: The workplace is a busy environment, and inboxes are often full of emails, so it’s best to make your point or request quickly and concisely. However, there’s a fine line between getting to the point and coming across as rude. Try not to be too blunt, and if in doubt ask a colleague to check your email before sending.


Notes to editors

For more information, please contact: Annie McQuoid, Barclays: Annie.McQuoid@Barclays.com; +44 (0)7385 535614

The research was conducted by Censuswide with over 2,000 respondents representing the national average in August 2023. Censuswide abide by and employ members of the Market Research Society which is based on the ESOMAR principles and are members of The British Polling Council.

About Barclays
Barclays is a British universal bank. We are diversified by business, by different types of customer and client, and geography. Our businesses include consumer banking and payments operations around the world, as well as a top-tier, full service, global corporate and investment bank, all of which are supported by our service company which provides technology, operations, and functional services across the Group.

For further information about Barclays, please visit our website www.barclays.com

About Barclays LifeSkills
Since 2013, the Barclays LifeSkills programme has helped millions of people to build the core transferable skill, knowledge, confidence, and connections they need to get into or progress in work, whether that’s a young person preparing for their first job to someone wanting to make changes in their career or even start their own business. The programme provides free lesson plans, modules, and interactive tools to support educators with young people or adult learners, plus access to online tools and resources for independent learners and families.

For further information, please visit www.barclayslifeskills.com