20 Passive-Aggressive Office Emails Every Singaporean Has Seen

What are the typical office emails Singaporeans write and what do they mean? If you’ve worked in Singapore, you’d definitely recognise these passive-aggressive emails!
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You might think your emails look great and sound diplomatic – even respectful. Not at all like the passive-aggressive office emails you see articles writing about.

 

Well, during my years of working in corporate and marketing communications, I’ve noticed almost all my former colleagues writing office emails that just seem unintentionally aloof and passive-aggressive. They’d ask me to look through their drafts every now and then – worried if they came across mean, unfriendly or cold. 

 

Can your email seem rude and unpleasant even if you don’t mean it? The short answer is “Yes!”

 

Chances are, at some point, your clients said something passive-aggressive that triggered or provoked you. And I’m willing to bet you’ve ended up in some form of dispute or argument on email because you were ‘rude’ or someone else was.

 

If you’ve worked with clients in Singapore, you’d definitely recognise these typical passive-aggressive office emails!

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Emails can seem rude and unpleasant, affecting professionalism and business. Still, Singaporeans are known for our passive-aggressive emails!
1

Passive-Aggressive Office Emails and what they mean (Singapore edition)

1.1

According to company policy / SOP

What You Actually Mean:

“My company say one, not I say. What you want me do?”

 

How to Word It Better:

“I apologise for your inconvenience. We’re not able to do this currently due to the limited timeline. Alternatively, I would be happy to do this instead so that we can achieve your goal!”


Why? 

In my experience, unhappy customers always want 2 things: Accountability and Solutions.

1.2

This is a gentle/friendly reminder / Following up from my previous email

What You Actually Mean:

“Oi, you do already or not? So long already, go JB ah?”

 

How to Word It Better:

“Hi Simon, how’s the status of the project?”

Why?

Sometimes, when what you want is obvious, being simple and direct is more genuine.

1.3

Let me simplify this for you

What You Actually Mean: 

“Walao, so obvious you also don’t understand ah? Now must waste time explaining to you.”

How to Word It Better: 

“No problem! Another way to look at this is…” / “An example of what I mean would be…”

Why?

The point here is not to make your recipient feel stupid while helping them understand you better. 

1.4

As Per My Last Email

What You Actually Mean: 

“Walao, you never see my last email is it?” 

How to Word It Better: 

“Based on what I mentioned earlier, let’s try…” / “Considering my last email, the most efficient step to take here is…”

Why?

This suggests that you’re building on from your previous email, and also acts as a reminder for them that you said something. It definitely sounds a lot less snobbish than passive-aggressive office emails!

1.5

I Believe You Received It On This Date. Attached Is A Screenshot

What You Actually Mean: 

”Eh c’mon la, don’t act dumb leh. See, got proof here.”

 

How to Word It Better: 

“I sent it over on this date. Perhaps it could be in your Spam folder. Do have a check and let me know!”

 

Why?

This not only acknowledges that there’s a valid reason your recipient could have missed something, but also adds a helpful tip with an unassuming tone. 

1.6

Kind regards

What You Actually Mean: 

“Don’t say I not nice hor, still put ‘kind’ and ‘regards’.

How to Word It Better: 

“Kind regards” / “Warm regards” / “Sincere Regards” / “Cheers!”

Why?

In this case, I don’t see anything wrong with the sign off. Whatever you put, someone will misinterpret it if they insist on looking for a bad intention.

1.7

This was agreed by us on this date. Refer to meeting minutes

What You Actually Mean: 

“Don’t anyhow say ah, I got every detail documented to cover my ass and make you malu.”

How to Word It Better: 

“Could you tell me the details of this change? Here are the previous meeting’s minutes. This would help everyone keep track of project deliverables.”

Why?

Sometimes, things might have been changed on purpose. Your recipient might have just forgotten to notify you. This brings everyone back on the same page and shows your recipient that you only want to help them.

1.8

With all due respect

What You Actually Mean: 

“No offence ah, but you think I respect you meh? Due respect can also mean zero respect what.”

 

How to Word It Better: 

“It might be better to do this, because…” / “I’d recommend this alternative instead based on previous user patterns…”

 

Why?

Anyone who uses “with all due respect” is always going to follow it up with a negative remark. The phrase sets a bad impression and makes you seem sarcastic. It’s like saying “No offense, but you’re incompetent”. Just get to the point in these situations and provide a good reason for any differing view.

1.9

Kindly advise

What You Actually Mean:

“Give me the solution. You wrong, you kena, not me.”

 

How to Word It Better:
“Would love to know your thoughts!”

Why? 

This informal way of putting your words across shows not only genuine interest but warmth and friendliness. It’s way better than passive-aggressive office emails with a subtle demand like “kindly advise” or “please advise”.

1.10

Moving Forward

What You Actually Mean: 

“Limpei tell you. Next time, just follow everything I say, don’t gei kiang follow your own plan and cock up.”

How to Word It Better: 

“I propose…” / “I recommend…” / “I suggest…” / “The best way to do this in my experience…”

Why?

When someone uses “Moving forward”, there’s always an air of undisputed finality that comes with it. Unless you have the authority to back your words up, most of your peers would feel challenged to question you instead. By making a reasonable suggestion rather than a statement, you still place emphasis on yourself and your directive, but remain respectful. This is usually well-received and productive.

1.11

Revert back to you

What You Actually Mean: 

“You wait ah. I don’t know how to answer you leh, pang chance now can?”

How to Word It Better: 

“Let me return to you on this matter by…” / “Can I get back to you by…”

Why?

There’s no such thing as “revert back to you”! This is a pet peeve of mine. To revert means to turn back into something. I was not you previously. Reassure your recipients by letting them know when you’ll get back to them too!

1.12

Hope this helps

What You Actually Mean: 

“If I say like that, it’s like that lor. Don’t know how to help you liao.”

How to Word It Better: 

“Glad we could help. All the best!” / “Was my pleasure to help! Thanks for reaching out!”

Why?

Wish your clients something after helping them out. Be emotive and personal. Personalised emails tend to get positive feedback and improve relationships!

1.13

As stated before / discussed

What You Actually Mean: 

“How many times I say already? You one ear in, one ear out is it? Brain got hole ah?”

How to Word It Better: 

“Let’s proceed from this in order to…” / “It’d be great to take note of what was said before, which is…” 

 

Why?

Your recipient would likely know what was discussed before. There’s no need to remind them. Even if you do, why send passive-aggressive office emails when you can put it in a way that’s constructive towards their needs?

1.14

If you need further clarification

What You Actually Mean: 

“Don’t tell me you still don’t understand meh, I already explain so clearly.”

How to Word It Better: 

“Feel free to let me know if you have any more questions and I’ll be glad to help!”

Why?

Personally, I feel that however you word this, it’s more or less acceptable. What you want to do is emphasise how open you are to following up with your recipient’s doubts. Really, it just makes more business sense to do all you can to reduce misunderstandings.

1.15

I have CC’ed my team to better understand your needs

What You Actually Mean: 

“I got witnesses here to protect my ass. To boss, you see ah, I got do work one.”

How to Word It Better: 

“I’d like to introduce you to Adam and Eve. They’re the design supervisors of this project and they would be happy to help address your needs directly.”

Why?

If you have to CC anyone else into the email, make it so that it’s beneficial to the recipient. By inviting people into the project this way, what I see as a client is that the company is serious about customer service.

1.16

Hope to get a positive/timely reply, thanks

What You Actually Mean: 

“Limpei very busy one hor, no time to wait for you. Better give me a good reply on time.”

How to Word It Better: 

“It would be great to hear from you soon!”

Why?

Controlling your recipient’s reply by using words like “timely” and “positive” is the definition of passive-aggressive office emails. Friendlier words are more inviting and more likely to get a positive reply. If you prefer, you can add a date to your message so your recipient doesn’t have to guess what you mean by “timely” or “soon”.

1.17

Reattaching again for you

What You Actually Mean: 

“You obviously never see attachment right, act only. Never mind, I attach again for you.”

How to Word It Better: 

“Here you go! It’s the same file I sent over earlier.”

Why?

Again, you don’t want to make your recipient think he or she is stupid. Just send it again and let them know you’ve sent it before as an indication of reassurance. This is clear, honest and friendly, and your ass is covered too.

1.18

FYI

What You Actually Mean: 

“Don’t say I never tell you ah.”

How to Word It Better: 

“Here’s something to help you out!” / “Thought this might be useful for you.” / “Let me know what you think.” / “Need your opinion on this.”


Why?

There’s lots of ways to do this. When your recipient feels needed or that a piece of knowledge could benefit them, they’re more likely to take note of what you have to say. Wouldn’t you?

1.19

Out of goodwill

What You Actually Mean: 

“I need to show you how generous I am by doing something at no cost. Better appreciate hor.”

 

How to Word It Better: 

“As part of our commitment to excellent service…”

 

Why?

This is usually used with clients who are either demanding something in compensation or did not receive a satisfactory service. With this alternative, you’re not giving yourself an ego boost or pitying your client. You’re focusing on your core values and backing your actions with customer-oriented reasons.

1.20

Noted

What You Actually Mean: 

“Ok la, ok la, I do. Can’t say no right?”

 

How to Word It Better: 

“Got it, will do!” / “Roger that!”

 

Why?

This is the email equivalent of how a woman says she’s “fine” when she’s unhappy. But in a professional workplace, you’ll want to maintain confident and friendly relationships without the passive-aggressive office emails. Luckily, “noted” is so frequently used without implications that it’s generally considered a neutral word.

2

Why You Shouldn't Write Passive-Aggressive Office Emails

As Singaporeans, let’s face it – a lot of these examples are true for most of us.

 

While passive-aggressive office emails may seem hilarious at first glance, they’re funny only because we can relate to them. How many times have you seen your inbox filled with emails from clients and actually looked forward to replying to all of them?

out of goodwill how to write email passive-aggressive office emails copywriting
Passive-aggressive office emails can destroy morale. How many times have you seen dozens of client emails in your inbox and had this face?

Unfortunately, a common source of office politics and stress is passive-aggressive office emails that can easily culminate in a co-working culture of blame and conflict. Too many times I’ve seen heated exchanges on email and in the office because of poor choice of words.

 

Positive emails can build a coordinated, wholesome work culture where everyone is productive and helpful. They are also a great way to exercise customer service! I personally like a modern, fresh and casual tone in my emails, because it breaks ‘office culture’. It’s simple and genuine. It’s friendly and clear. It doesn’t sound scripted.

 

The best emails are honest, sincere and transparent. This makes your communications as constructive and efficient as possible, speeding up clarity and workflow for you to deliver your project and get turnovers in quickly. More importantly, it gives everyone a peace of mind and promotes a harmonious work culture.

Disclaimer

These interpretations and suggestions do not necessarily reflect the opinions and attitudes of all companies, organisations and personnel who send dozens of emails day in and day out. They might also not be universally applicable to every context or help to settle every email dispute. They’re a take on the author’s decade of experience in office culture and corporate communications.

 

What I actually mean: Don’t play play hor.

 

Do you agree with our picks and suggestions? Let us know in the comments!

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