After initiating correspondence with someone in an official capacity, I often receive replies nowadays that begin by thanking me for "reaching out." This expression strikes me as inappropriate. To me, that phrase has an almost evangelical quality better suited to missionaries or other proselytizers who wish to establish some kind of rapport with potential recruits or converts. For run-of-the-mill correspondence, I would expect a simple "thank you for your letter /email of 3 February" or some equally polite but neutral reply.

Am I alone in feeling that way?

closed as primarily opinion-based by user240918, KarlG, Hot Licks, Nigel J, AndyT Feb 22 '18 at 10:04

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    No, you're not alone. – peterG Feb 21 '18 at 19:15
  • @peterG Evidently not, as I recently discovered. chronicle.com/blogs/linguafranca/2012/10/08/… – user282885 Feb 21 '18 at 19:47
  • The fact that you don’t like the expression is not really relevant. What matters is that it is used, while how people feel about using or not using is just personal perceptions about how expressions should or should not be used. – user240918 Feb 21 '18 at 20:11
  • To expand on a point I made in reply to a similar objection raised by peterG, I think it matters that we use expressions that are least likely to be misunderstood by significant numbers of people, even if they constitute a dwindling minority. At any rate, I try to use expressions that unambiguously set the tone and impart the meaning that I intend. That's why I avoid "reaching out" to perfect strangers. – user282885 Feb 21 '18 at 20:22
  • This is a POB question. Sorry. – user240918 Feb 21 '18 at 20:25

It's pretty standard, bland business-ese, not sure it's worth peeving over.

The metaphor of communication as physical contact is pretty deeply worn into the language. The idea of attempting communication as "reaching out" doesn't seem to me any more evocative of a metaphorical language use than "contacting" someone.

It's possibly influenced by AT&T's 1979 and later "Reach Out And Touch Someone" marketing campaign, which was well regarded as being widely influential.

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    "It's pretty standard, bland business-ese, not sure it's worth peeving over." I admit the expression is a pet peeve of mine. But that's beside the point. It bothers me because it conveys a meaning that's quite different from what's intended. There's a jolting intimacy to it, rather like being greeted by a perfect stranger with a full-on bear hug instead of a simple handshake. Yes, it's a pervasive part of business-ese today so why mention it? But surely this is precisely the forum in which to raise it. BTW, I recall that AT&T ad. Not sure it had such an impact on the language, though! – user282885 Feb 21 '18 at 20:06
  • @StephenPhillips I'm not sure I get any of the evangelical connotations you express from "reaching out". It seems like a pretty neutral application of the "communication is physical contact" metaphor. Before you can "touch someone" you first have to "reach out" away from your body, so "reaching out" is attempting to communicate with someone. You may have had experience with proselytism that makes extensive use of this metaphor, so maybe that is why you have those associations with it, but I don't think there is anything about recruitment or conversion inherent to the metaphor. – nohat Feb 21 '18 at 21:25
  • More likely influenced by the song "Reach Out (I'll Be There)". It's hard to top the Four Tops. Except that Diana Ross may have done it with "Reach Out and Touch (Somebody's Hand)". – Hot Licks Feb 21 '18 at 22:56

I think "reaching out" implies making a conscientious effort to establish communication, above and beyond just a perfunctory nod. To say that you are reaching out to someone sounds a little boastful, in fact, a sort of Jack Horner claim ("See what a good boy am I"). But in a third-party report, it describes someone else making a good-faith effort: The police department reached out to the homeless community with an offer to help people find a place to sleep. ...rather than just running bums into jail for sleeping on the sidewalk.