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195 votes
Accepted

How can I avoid coming across as condescending when telling a coworker I can't work on an issue right now?

I think your problem here is the word "luxury." Not only would the line flow just as well if you cut it out, but it's insinuating that the person emailing you isn't as busy as you are. It's probably ...
  • 15.2k
137 votes

How can I avoid coming across as condescending when telling a coworker I can't work on an issue right now?

You need to work on your written communication skills. Being logical and factual has nothing to do with it. You're implying that you can't be logical and factual as well as tactful in your emails. ...
  • 5,124
115 votes

How do you tactfully write that someone's reply doesn't truly answer your question?

Communication involves two people. Instead of making a statement about the other one, make a statement about yourself. For example: It looks like I wasn't clear enough, sorry. My question is: (...
49 votes
Accepted

How to tell a busy professor that I don't mind if he answers my questions when he has time?

A possible gushing response: Him: "Sorry it looks like I am ignoring you. I have been very busy and answering your questions isn't a small amount of time." You: "Professor (Name), I can't express ...
41 votes

Is adding “let me know if anything is unclear” to an e-mail really necessary or is it redundant?

Is adding such an obvious sentence necessary? Yes. As @Kozaky pointed in their answer's last paragraph, it's a big part of being friendly and reassuring. I agree 100% with that. I'll expand a little. ...
  • 21.5k
40 votes
Accepted

When should I use Mrs. or Ms. in emails?

"Ms." was popularized in the US to provide a form of address for women that is agnostic of married status. "Miss" means the person is unmarried and "Mrs." means that she is married. "Ms." is ...
35 votes

How can I politely find out the gender of a potential roommate via email?

Hi, I had a question about the ad you posted on Craigslist. I was interested in the house's location, but I was wondering if the current resident is male or female, and whether he/she is looking for a ...
  • 2,285
26 votes

Is adding “let me know if anything is unclear” to an e-mail really necessary or is it redundant?

Personally, I add "Let me know if anything is unclear" when I'm worried that I've been unclear! The idea is to take the stress off asking me for help. I use it to mean: "If there's anything you don't ...
  • 1,809
23 votes

How can I avoid coming across as condescending when telling a coworker I can't work on an issue right now?

If you truly are not trying to be condescending, then you'll need to work with your boss to come up with ways to reword your emails. For example, instead of telling people that you "don't have ...
  • 7,176
22 votes
Accepted

How can I email a former schoolmate who starred in porn if she needs my help, without being creepy or spooking her?

This is a tricky situation. Your nephew found out not because she told him, but because he overheard some strangers' conversation and went online checking. I don't think something good could possibly ...
  • 14.2k
22 votes

How can I assert my domain knowledge, while signalling openness to useful information, over email?

How can I assert my domain knowledge, while signalling openness to useful information, over email? Generally... Switch them around and sandwich them. Act like the guy is the kindest person in the ...
  • 33.7k
18 votes
Accepted

How to reply to a message or email after a long delay?

An explanation for the delay is often unnecessary I second what LMGagne said, an explanation is unnecessary (unless they specifically ask for one), and will only cause more attention to be drawn to ...
  • 10.2k
18 votes
Accepted

Issue an apology over inappropriate email

I think that your response is professional and appropriate. Look at it this way: It is true that you did not send that email. You are being sincere and truthful about it. If someone chooses to ...
  • 196
17 votes

How to tell a busy professor that I don't mind if he answers my questions when he has time?

You need to break your dependency on this professor, for your benefit and his. It is entirely possible that he has been too busy recently and will resume "normal service" in due course. You just ...
17 votes

How can I assert my domain knowledge, while signalling openness to useful information, over email?

I would approach this from the point of view of egoless programming. Address this as "we are on the same team, we have the same basic goal, we are trying to help each other", rather than "why is this ...
  • 7,176
16 votes

How to reply to a message or email after a long delay?

Over the years I've found that it's usually unnecessary to explain a delay in situations like this. More over, that offering an explanation draws attention to the delay and away from the actual ...
  • 888
16 votes

How to politely respond to unclear email response?

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 ...
  • 8,468
16 votes

How can I better control my desire (or need) to send long messages?

"Be concise." I have always had the same problem. In a nutshell, I found the trouble is I over-explain and go on relevant but unnecessary tangents. Somewhere in those 5000 words will be one or two ...
  • 261
16 votes

How can I politely find out the gender of a potential roommate via email?

I think formal language comes in to help here. You simply state what you want and ask if that's available. I'm looking to sublet with another female. Is your property available for this? or ...
15 votes

How to effectively communicate technical data/instructions without writing "too long" emails?

A short email is harder to write than a long one. People are telling you to take the time and put in the effort to write a short one. Let's say you're writing an email about how to boil an egg. In ...
  • 43.6k
14 votes
Accepted

Can we use abbreviations in professional communication?

Is it good to use the abbreviation words in my professional communication? It's not, unless you're using it multiple times. When writing professional documents, you should always remain that way. ...
14 votes
Accepted

How can I politely ask someone to call me? (As opposed to me calling them)

Just send an email that says something like: Hi, I look forward to discussing this with you. I am available Thursday between 2 and 4pm. Just give me a call, my phone number is (xxx)xxx-xxxx....
  • 502
14 votes

How can I avoid coming across as condescending when telling a coworker I can't work on an issue right now?

A few bits strike me as problematic about that excerpt: The phrase "the luxury of time" could imply that you think dealing with this problem is merely a "luxury", while the other person might ...
  • 9,015
13 votes

Does the way that someone signs an email change how I should address them?

In business school, I learned about the formalities of writing an email. (Note, this is a US perspective) When addressing someone in a superior position (such as a professor), always start with the ...
  • 2,992
13 votes

Professor gets cursory requests for advice from total strangers -- how to make them be more considerate?

Your time is your own and you are allowed to put whatever limits on it you want. I recommend you add a section to your web site that sets out the terms on which you will help strangers. If you're ...
  • 43.6k
12 votes

Are "pleasantries" in emails still ... "pleasant"?

I want a study that supports either using or not using them. Technicalities The technical term for this you're looking for is phatic expression: a phatic expression is communication which serves a ...
10 votes
Accepted

Public replies to private messages

I think it depends on the user and whether they agree with what you were telling them. We actually allow this on Stack Exchange as part of the limited messaging system. Moderators send private "Mod ...
  • 14.2k

Only top scored, non community-wiki answers of a minimum length are eligible