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10 Work Emails Translated into What We REALLY Mean

Ah, work emails: a blend of professional jargon, passive-aggressive undertones, and the occasional emoji to keep things “light.” While on the surface, these communications seem straightforward, often what’s being said between the lines is a whole lot more telling. From the infamous “Per my last email” to the ever-dreaded “Let’s circle back,” we’re peeling back the layers on what these phrases really mean. Buckle up, and let’s translate the top 10 work emails into plain English.

1. “Per my last email”

Translation: “I know you ignored me, but I’m politely pointing out you already have the information.”

2. “Just following up”

Translation: “I’m on the verge of sending a search party since you’ve vanished off the face of the Earth regarding my last request.”

3. “Let’s circle back”

Translation: “This meeting is going nowhere fast, so let’s try this again when we have actual updates or when I’ve figured out how to better explain why your idea won’t work.”

4. “For future reference”

Translation: “Let me educate you now to prevent you from making the same mistake again, thereby saving us both from future headaches.”

5. “Not sure if you saw my last email”

Translation: “I know you saw it. My email tracking app told me you opened it three times. What I’m not sure about is why you haven’t responded yet.”

6. “To clarify”

Translation: “You completely misunderstood my previous message, so let me spell it out for you like I’m talking to a five-year-old.”

7. “Moving forward”

Translation: “Let’s never speak of your colossal mistake again, but here’s how we’re going to prevent it from ever happening in the future.”

8. “Kind regards”

Translation: “I managed to keep my cool throughout this email. Please note the effort it took not to descend into caps lock fury.”

9. “Please advise”

Translation: “I’m pretty sure this is your job, not mine, so could you do something about it?”

10. “Thanks in advance”

Translation: “I’ve already decided you’re going to do this, so I’m thanking you to make it harder for you to say no.”


Navigating the world of work emails can sometimes feel like decoding a cryptic puzzle. But fear not, with our handy translations, you’re now equipped to read between the lines and respond with the perfect blend of professionalism and real talk. It’s an art form to decipher the nuanced language of email correspondence where every “per my last email” might be a polite nudge for attention to detail, and each “to clarify” is a courteous way of saying “you might have misunderstood.”

Remember, behind every “kind regards” is a person just trying to make it through their inbox—and perhaps a hint of sarcasm waiting to be understood. Unpacking the true meaning behind these phrases can give you an edge in your electronic communication. More than that, it’s a reflection of corporate culture’s indirect communication styles, where directness is often cushioned in pleasantries.

Think of each email as a strategic game of chess, where your moves are your words and the objective is to communicate effectively, all while maintaining a veneer of decorum. In this world, “As previously stated,” might translate to “I’ve already covered this, please keep up,” and “just checking in” usually means “I’m reminding you again because you haven’t done what I asked.”

So, whether you’re navigating a minefield of CC’d supervisors or crafting a cautiously optimistic “looking forward to your thoughts!”, understanding the subtext is key. By mastering the subtle art of email etiquette, you can advance through the ranks with grace, wit, and the confidence that comes from knowing just what to say—between the lines.

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