Phrases like ‘sorry for the double email’ or ‘please advise’ only serve to enrage – why use them?
Remember the last time you were scrolling through an email and saw phrases like “Reattached for your convenience”, “sorry for the double email” or “please advise”? You’re not alone if you felt enraged by reading them. According to a recent survey by the software company Adobe, 25% of us loathe the phrase “not sure if you saw my last email”. The No 2 most hated phrase was “as per my email”. In fact, the nine most loathed phrases in emails all had one thing in common: passive aggression.
Passive aggressive behaviour is a frequent complaint in the workplace. It was coined by William Menninger, a colonel in the US army in 1945. Writing in a technical bulletin, he described soldiers as passive aggressive when they would wilfully shirk duties by not carrying them out competently. They expressed their hatred of assigned tasks by “passive measures such as pouting, stubbornness, procrastination, inefficiency and passive obstructionism”. Menninger thought such behaviour was a sign of immaturity and a reaction to “routine military stress”.