8 Secretly Aggressive Email Phrases And When To Use Them

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If you work in an office, you probably get approximately one billion emails a day with all sorts of corporate phrases that no one actually says in real life. Honestly, the fact that emojis and GIFs are semi-taboo in the corporate email world is beyond my understanding. Yes, I’m that millennial.

The worst part of email is that you never know what the f*ck people are TRYING to say. Sometimes it feels like people are trying to be so politically correct in corporate chatter that meanings get muddled. Like does following up actually mean, “why the heck did you not read my message?” (hint: yes, it does).  

Have you ever asked a co-worker a question and had them come back with something like, “Per my last note”… To have your stomach drop and be like, “ouch”. This feels… passive-aggressive?! You’re not alone.

What’s a straightforward girl boss to do?!

To help you understand all the work drams coming your way in your inbox (grab some popcorn, babes), we have gladly written out a full-on dictionary (ok, eight) secretly aggressive email phrases, and what they mean. So next time you have that stomach drop feeling at work you can totally understand it! Lucky freaking you.

Here are 8 secretly aggressive email phrases and what they mean.

“Per My Last Message”

This means: Why didn’t you pay attention to my last message?! Your colleague is basically telling you to f*ck off and they already told you this answer. Freaking ouch.

This phrase is basically like saying, no I’m not going to just simply answer the question you asked. I’m going to acknowledge that you are literally an idiot and you should have more carefully read my email. I don’t love this phrase because odds are if someone is asking you a question that you already know the answer to, there was something unclear in your last email.

“Please Advise”

This means: No, I’m not going to make a decision, you make one. Maybe you’re in an argument between two people and need them to make decisions for you, or maybe you’ve just had enough for one day. Whatever it is, this statement is passive-aggressive because you could just say, “what do you think?!”

“To Clarify”

This means: Something was misunderstood. Must clarify in a politically correct way so there’s not some massive confusion and yet, I still look like the good guy.

PS. I like this one.

“Thank You in Advance”

This means: You haven’t agreed to what I’m about to ask you, but the expectation is that you are going to do it anyway. If you are asking someone to go above and beyond for you, skip this phrase! It makes it sound like you are forcing someone to do something for you they haven’t agreed to yet.

“Following Up”

This means: You haven’t responded to my email in the normal time frame. I’m going to remind you that you haven’t responded by started my message with “following up”. Lol. Like I know you’ve emailed me three times, of course, you’re following up. (Although being the extremely timely person that I am I use this one….every day)

“Checking In On Updates”

This means: You probably didn’t finish a project or the person emailing you has crazy expectations. They want updates sooner than you provided, so they passive-aggressively emailed you about it. And although you want to replay back something equally as passiv- aggressive like, “k, thanks” you can’t. Ugh.

“Friendly Reminder”

This means: I mean, how many different ways are there to say, “f*cking respond to me?!!?” I could probably think of a million more. Once again another passive-aggressive way of saying, you didn’t respond so writing you another message to force you to email back to me. K cool.

“Not Sure If You Got My Last Message”

This means: Trying to be nice and be like, “I know you saw my last note but didn’t respond so I’m going to try and play innocent.”

There you have it. Is your mind blown from what *actually* is going on in your inbox? Put your favorite phrases below!

Need more brutally honest career advice? Buy our third book, When’s Happy Hour, available now in paperback!

Images: Shutterstock; Giphy (4); majorphilebrity, _loxsmith_, betchesluvthis, disco_infern0 / Twitter; When’s Happy Hour

Becky Bush
Becky Bush
Becky is a San Francisco twenty-something techie, who is also oddly obsessed with resumes and career advice. When Becky's not watching reruns of Gilmore Girls, you can find her (attempting) to do TikTok's in her apartment. Go follow her on Instagram (@thetypicaltwentysomething) or her career blog ( to get more job advice that will make you laugh and (surprise!) actually work.