So my boss asked me to do something and I responded by asking for clarification, asking "do you want that as blah blah blah or do you want that as yadda yadda yadda?".

The response I got was "yes that sounds good".

How do I respond without implying they didn't really read my response? Or am I just reading too much into how my question will be received?

  • What is your concern? You seem to know how to send emails, and your boss responds, why do you need help from us to take this further? Do you have difficulty being polite normally? Why do you fear it will be taken impolitely? These are questions you should ahve asked yourself when crafting your question... you didnt that is why you get downvotes or at least that is why I downvoted. Aug 24, 2017 at 22:14
  • 4
    It just feels rude to me to ask for another answer when they think they have answered the question, and was looking for a more subtle way to ask
    – Liamck27
    Aug 24, 2017 at 22:33
  • I was not asking you to clarify it to me. I explaining why I downvoted and what I think you should do to make your question better. See: blog.codinghorror.com/rubber-duck-problem-solving Aug 24, 2017 at 22:38

5 Answers 5


Simply restate what you think you've been told to do.

Thank you. Now I will do x.

If he does not agree, he will respond back to you. Just apologize for the misunderstanding and move on.

This will "force" him to correct you and give you a point when you need to defend why you do that. However, do not argue. Be brief, apologize, and move on.


Your boss wants to give you the answer but made a mistake.

You could pretend they were just commenting on the quality of the ideas. "I'm glad you like my suggestions. Which one, x or y, do you think is the best?"

If you send them that, then if they didn't read your question they will not notice that you could be implying they didn't read it. If they did read your question but absent-mindedly answered it like that, then they probably won't be particularly fazed, because it's their own fault.


Ask him to be more clear, always in a polite way of course. You can't start doing a work without knowing if that is what your boss wants. Before you start you should know exactly what you need to do. It also depends on how big the work is, but I think that generally asking for clarification is never a bad idea. You could go with something like:

"Hello Bob, from your answer I couldn't understand what you want me to do; I have 2 options, X and Y, could you please be more clear about which one you want me to use?"

I really don't think he will read that as offensive.


Does it have to be in email? Can you not talk to your boss in person face to face or a phone call? I think that would lessen the confusion, give you the answer faster and avoid misunderstanding since you can see the facial expression or at least hear the voice of your boss. You can then reply to the email to document what you've agreed on.


The way in which I would handle a situation like this would be to ask for more clarification in person (only if this is possible, I realize that some people work remotely).

If doing so solely through e-mail, keep in mind that your boss may be very busy at times and may overlook details in emails or just skim through them to get a basic idea. If it is an urgent matter, I would flag the e-mail as important (Please use this sparingly, see also: Overusing high priority flags).

For the content of your e-mail you would likely want to use a list or state your intent (based on what you believe to be more important at the time)

Mr./Ms. Boss,

I will handle the issues you sent me in the following manner.

1) Issue 1 (Whichever you think is more important)
    -Step to reach goal
    -Step 2 to reach goal
2) Issue 2 
3) Issue 3

If you have any objections or would like me to redirect my focus elsewhere, 
please let me know.


Depending on your relationship with your boss + a combination of how casually your office communicates, you can keep or kill some of the formality. The first sentence could possibly come across as a bit bossy, so if anyone has a suggestion to clean it up it would be appreciated.

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