8 common email expressions (and what they really mean)

Common Mistakes in Business Emails
Common Mistakes in Business Emails

A hilarious (and profane) look at what we'd all really write in emails if we didn't have to be so polite.

As every professional knows, there's an art to emails. How do you pester a person without coming across as annoying (if he or she is your equal or senior) or drawing undue attention to his or her procrastination (if you're a conflict-averse boss)? How do you make a necessary suggestion without insulting a colleague's competence?

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To finesse these questions, we've all developed a sort of email code -- gentle phrases that sound nonthreatening and polite but which mask annoyance, exasperation, or downright rage. We all know what they mean, of course, but we all agree to pretend we don't.

Trust a poet to see through our politeness and call us on the true meaning of these bland -- but secretly hostile -- expressions. Over at literary journal McSweeney's, Adriana Cloud has ripped the cloak of civility off common email expressions, to hilarious effect.

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If you've ever been forced to squeeze your less-than-civil feelings into the confines of appropriate email language, it's well worth a read in full. But here are a few of the common expressions Cloud translates to get you started. (Warning: Those who are horribly offended by the f-word should probably give the list a pass.)

  1. "I'm just checking in" = Where is that thing you promised I'd have by now?

  2. "Sorry to bother you again" = Why can't you do your f*****g job?

  3. "Sorry if I somehow missed your email" = We both know you never emailed me.

  4. "Perhaps there was a misunderstanding" = You didn't f*****g listen to me.

  5. "If you could get to this in the next couple of days, that would be great"=Do this immediately if you know what's good for you.

  6. "I just want to make sure we are on the same page" = I worry you didn't understand my simple instructions and will f*** this up.

  7. "I can't remember if I already asked you to do this" = I've asked you four times and you still haven't done it.

  8. "Let me know if you have any questions" = Do not bother me with your stupidity.

Are you willing to admit to sometimes masking your email rage with these expressions?

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Originally published