13 passive-aggressive email phrases and what they really mean

13 passive-aggressive email phrases and what they really mean

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Most of us use email every day to communicate, either for business purposes, or with friends and family. Especially in the business field, when you close deals and make pitches via email, effectiveness is paramount, and sometimes the gloves come off. We are all familiar with the kind of passive-aggressive phrases that hit their target and do it in such a nice way that it takes you a while to figure out what hit you. Minda Zetlin at Inc. created a list of passive-aggressive phrases you might encounter in an email and what they actually mean:

                          1. “Thanks in advance” actually means “I’m already thanking you for doing me this favor, even though you haven’t yet agreed to it. Therefore, you must do it.”
                          2. “I’d be most grateful” means “If you could respond to this inquiry any time within the next 24 hours, I’d be so grateful.”
                          3. “Can I send you some information?” – in this case, the situation on your end is exactly the same whether you send me an email asking to send information or just go ahead and email the information. The only reason you’re asking first is to create some sort of commitment that I’ll pay attention to that information.
                          4. “Any interest in … ?” – usually this is followed by insufficient information, just enough to get you interested. If you say yes you may feel obligated to come through, but if you say no you may feel like you’re missing out.
                          5. “Looking forward to … “ – whatever the phrase following this, it’s the same idea as “Thanks in advance.” It means “I’m already looking forward to your positive response. If I don’t get it, I’ll be disappointed.”
                          6. “I hope you don’t mind” translates to “I’ve done something or am planning to do something when I should have obtained your permission first.”
                          7. “Just wondering … “ – if you use this, you probably know what you’re about to ask is an unreasonable request.
                          8. “Checking in” translates to “I’m going to keep sending you emails about this until you respond.”
                          9. “I don’t mean to be a pest.” – this statement is always a lie.
                          10. “Let me clarify” often means “You completely misunderstood my last message, you idiot!”
                          11. “Sorry for being unclear.” – sometimes this actually means that I believe I was unclear and I am apologizing. Other times it means: “You didn’t really read what I wrote. Pay more attention this time!”
                          12. “Your thoughts?” – sometimes it can be a perfectly innocuous phrase, but more often than not, it’s used to ask someone to solve a challenging problem. Or it can be a semi-subtle way of telling someone you think he or she has screwed up, but giving them the benefit of the doubt.
                          13. “All the best.” – this is a classic, and it subtly or not so subtly indicates that the sender intends to end the conversation with this message.
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Caroline Parker has a Bachelor of Arts degree in American Studies from the University of Bucharest. She is currently pursuing a master's degree in the same field. She specializes in gender issues, ethnic minorities, and has a passion for literature, but she loves to find out more about any subject she comes across. When she is not busy with her studies, she is attending conferences, seeing plays which deal with contemporary issues in society, traveling, taking photos for her Instagram account, and watching beauty related vlogs. She aims to become a published writer and to pursue a Ph.D. is the field of gender studies.