The common email phrases that say a lot more than you realise.

Well. Now you know…

You’ve heard of passive aggressive notes being left around offices, usually in the kitchen and in Comic Sans font. (Ew.)

But did you realise that little silent grenades of passive aggression are also being pinged back and forth over email every day?

Hidden meanings, underlying implications and innuendos only decipherable by the most astute office-worker minds…

Here are some of the common email phrases we may or may not be guilty of using, and what they actually mean.

1. Thanks in advance.

Makes you prickle just reading it, doesn’t it? This is short for – I am commanding you to do this task. I expect this task to be done. I am no longer feeling friendly and sociable, re: the getting done of this task.

“Thanks in advance” comes at the end of a favour/request, but renders that favour/request a command/demand. Politely, but firmly. With no opt-out option.

2. I’d love to pick your brains about something…

Ah, this phrase. The favour/request in disguise, that does little to mask all out panic. This reads: Help. I am in over my head. I need you to explain this thing to me that I really should already know as part of my job. I am getting desperate. I will owe you one etc etc.

If the “I’d love to you pick your brains about something” request is granted, there will be a gushy, thankful email to follow, with excessive use of exclamation marks. “Thank you so much! Legend! Saviour!”


3. With all due respect.

Oooh, things are getting heated here. With all due respect, this has been brought up before. With all due respect, I don’t believe that’s the direction we’re heading.

With all due respect = I don’t respect you/you are being a dickhead/you are missing the point entirely/I pity you. And I’m one step from the passive-aggressive cc. (See below.)

4. I’m just following this up…

“Hi there, I’m just following up to see how you went with x?” Yes, that old chestnut. It can also come in the form of “I was wondering if you’d had a chance to see my email, sent last week…”.

The many guises of the “WILL YOU HURRY THE F UP AND DO WHAT I ASKED” email. Said in a less shouty, more socially acceptable manner.

5. FYI.

Three little letters, so much meaning. FYI (for your information) is used primarily as a handballing mechanism. As in, FYI this is your problem now. Deal.

FYI you need to read the entire 47-week long email chain below and work out what’s what and do something that I have not indicated with anything other than my innocent FYI.

FYI this needs chasing up. By you.

Ah, the damage that can be done with this little guy!

 6. The sneaky CC.

Not strictly a phrase, but a cunning strategy nonetheless, the sneaky cc can be used in a multitude of situations. CC in someone senior to someone who’s your equal, and you’re basically dobbing them in.


This is akin to saying “Susan didn’t do what I repeatedly asked, and now I’m telling you, her boss, so you can make her do it.” This is public shaming. This is finger pointing at its subtlest.

The sneaky CC can also have the effect of bombarding innocent office-workers with the ins and outs of a series of emails around a certain project or task. Look at me! Look at how hard I am working!

7. Over to you.

Oh, the joy of an “over to you.” This happens in email communities of two or more CC-ees. One person writes their response, neatly packages up their tasks and responsibilities, and assigns the remainder to their unassuming (and now burdened) workmate.

Over to you Jim! Over to you Sarah! That means, I’m out, job done, this is your problem now. I wash my hands of this email.

8. I’m not across this.

Simply translated: I don’t give a shit. I have no desire to give a shit.


What double-meaning email phrases have you received or are guilty of using?

If you need some help dealing with all those passive-aggressive emails, here are some inspirational career quotes:

Want more? Try these:

23,000 emails? Here’s how to get them down to zero.

Found: The app that helps you UNSEND an email.