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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