5 Types of (Not So) Professional EmailsCoffee brews, keyboards click, and professional emails fly. Office life is one of constant correspondence, sometimes even with people you could reach out and swat if the desire struck—which, undeniably, it does from time to time (especially when you find yourself the recipient of one of these five common—and irritating—types of professional emails.

1. The “I don’t want to bother you, but…”

What it looks like: Someone asking very politely for a favor.

What it really is: A desperate, clinging, last-ditch cry for help.

RE: A Quick Favor

Hi Kathryn,

How are you? How’s the reboot going? I hope you’re not too busy. How are the kids? I hope everything is well. I’m so sorry to do this to you, but I could really use your help with the project I’m working on. I really thought I could complete it by the 12th, but it wasn’t until I really got going that I realized how massive of a project it really was. If you could help me out, I would really appreciate it. I’ve attached a spreadsheet with the tasks that still need to be completed—could you please let me know if you’re available to take on any of these tasks? Thank you so much! I can’t tell you how big of a help it would be. I don’t think I could do this without your help. Just let me know as soon as you can how many tasks you’ll be taking on. You’re amazing. I’ll be in my office until 3, so feel free to pop by with any questions you may have. You’re the best!

Gratefully yours,


2. The short (and not-so-sweet) request

What it looks like: A quick email including a brief instruction about something important.

What it really is: A very clear message that somebody (you know who you are) has done something unacceptable.

RE: Holidays

All time-off requests for July must be submitted by this Friday. Requests received after this will not be processed. Don’t even bother asking. Thank you.

3. The TMI and then some

What it looks like: A professional email about something office-related.

What it really is: Thinly veiled office gossip.

RE: Tuesday’s Meeting

Hey Heather,

I’ve been asked to send you the minutes from Tuesday’s meeting. I’ve attached them to this email. In case you haven’t already heard, the meeting was an absolute disaster. Julie threw a fit about the late reports, and I thought that Erica was going to lose it when Julie accused her of “not caring” about the completion of that competitor analysis. It was pretty intense. I don’t want to name any names, but let’s just say that a certain IT guy probably won’t be writing code for very much longer, if you catch my drift. It’s probably lucky that you missed it. Don’t worry, though—I’ll get you up to speed when we go out for drinks on Saturday. That’s if Bryan agrees to take care of Koen while I go out. If not, Ko will have to come with us. We may have to reconsider the bar scene. Anyway, here are the minutes. See you at lunch!


4. The “Ha-ha, I’m not here”A dog reading a not-so-professional email.

What it looks like: A polite out-of-office message.

What it really is: A co-worker bragging about the fact that he or she is on vacation while you are stuck at work sending emails.

RE: Out of Office

Thank you for your message. Unfortunately, I am out of the office, and will be until June 26th. If you have an urgent need to contact me, please stop, think, and remember that there is literally no such thing as an “urgent” Human Resources matter. You may consider contacting my assistant, Karen, who—for the next three weeks—will be taking on five times her regular amount of responsibility and receiving absolutely no compensation for this extra work. Thank you.

Kindest regards,


5. The passive-aggressive “You’re wrong”

What it looks like: A helpful, professional email containing important information.

What it really is: A claim on professional territory—a metaphorical lifting of the leg, if you will.

RE: Memo Color

Hello Taylor,

I was just going over last week’s meeting minutes, and I noticed that some concern was voiced over the color of paper the memos have been printed on lately. Of course, I understand this concern, as memo color is a very important office issue that needs to be properly addressed. The minutes state that you personally suggested the memos should be printed on pink paper. While I agree with you that, aesthetically, pink would absolutely be the ideal memo color, I regret that I must be the one to inform you that such a color does not comply with our company’s policy on memos. I’ve attached a copy of our memo policy to this email; as you will see, this policy clearly states that all memos must be printed on yellow paper. Luckily, this is the measure I have been complying with during my five-year tenure as the company’s official memo printer. So we really dodged a bullet there. I hope that clears up any confusion you may have had about the memo paper color. Thank you.




These examples may be a bit on the extreme side, but I’m sure we can all think of a time when we’ve received a professional email that was just a little off in tone. If you’re worried about accidentally sending a professional email like one of the five shown above, you may want to consider checking out a professional editing service before hitting the Send button. When it comes to communication, it’s often better to be safe than sorry!

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