Last week, I received an email from a potential client asking if I could edit an academic paper due for publishing in a journal. When I was gathering information on details, one question I asked was whether there was a deadline. They responded with, “as soon as possible.”

This phrase has mildly irritated me for a few years now. Most people consider it synonymous with “right away”, but once you look at it, it doesn’t mean anything of the sort. When it comes down to it, it doesn’t actually mean a whole lot.

The way I look at it is if someone is asking me to do something as soon as possible, they’re asking me to do it as soon as it is possible for me to do it. In other words, as soon as my schedule or resources free up to make it possible for me to do it. As soon as it is possible — in its strictest interpretation — has no indication of meaning quickly or with a rush.

As soon as possible is too vague and has the potential to confuse. You might mean urgent, but the receiver of your request might interpret it as when they can get around to it. Or vice versa.

So what can we use instead to offer more clarity? Well, Lynn Gaertner-Johnston offers 10 alternatives:

  • At your earliest convenience
  • Right away
  • Urgent/urgently
  • Immediately
  • Without delay
  • At once
  • Soon
  • Quickly
  • Promptly
  • Straight away

What do you think? Do you use a phrase other than as soon as possible or ASAP to indicated a clear sense of urgency? Let me know in the comments below.

About Kim Siever

I am a copywriter and copyeditor. I blog on writing tips mostly, but I sometimes throw in my thoughts about running a small business. Follow me on Twitter at @hotpepper.

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