Learn English – What’s up with the expression “to reach out”?


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?

Best Answer

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.