10 Everyday Words that Make you Sound Rude in Emails

Language is a beautiful thing. It helps us communicate with each other, laugh and tell jokes, share stories, and show compassion through our words. But sometimes, our words get us into trouble, and embarrassingly enough, this tends to happen quite often when we write work emails. Despite the fact that we all know that we should keep to a professional email etiquette, how many times have you felt super offended when you received a work email from a colleague or a potential client, and then you realize that their message wasn’t all that mean after all? It’s so easy to misunderstand the written word. And let’s not even mention how many times we’ve sent important email to our bosses and then realized that we’d said something unintentionally inappropriate. The funniest part? When we cringe and get upset reading an email, the words that we’re stressing out about and which we’re convinced that are super rude, are actually normal, common words. The kind of words that we use every single day of the week. Read on to find out the top ten everyday words that sound rude in emails.

See Also: 7 Reasons Why Humor is the Key to Success at Work

1. Okay

Is there a more everyday word than “okay”? We use it all the time. It’s hard to think of a situation where this word doesn’t fit. But while it may be super common, it needs some emotion, expression and context behind it. If someone types “okay” to you – or even worse, the two letter “ok” version – you’re going to think they’re pissed off. If they weren’t angry, why didn’t they type more than a single word? Why not add “great” or “sounds good”? But nope, they’ve just written “okay” and now you’re wondering if they’re plotting your demise or want to get you fired. And you’re also becoming pretty paranoid because you’re now trying to think of what you’ve said to that person to make them angry. In reality, you did nothing and they just literally meant things are okay and they were agreeing with whatever you said or asked for in your own email. Oh, language. It’s so complicated.

2. Thanks

We write “thanks” about a million times a day. But we usually say “thank you very much” or “thank you so much” or at least add an exclamation point in there somewhere. But when you read the word “thanks” in an email, it almost seems sarcastic. And it definitely seems mean. Which is pretty funny since the person is just trying to be polite.

3. No

This word has no place in an email, particularly one that’s being sent between colleagues. It just sounds totally rude. You can always reframe whatever you’re trying to say without the “no” and it’ll sound so much better. If someone emails you and says your next department meeting is on Thursday and you know it’s on Friday, saying “No, it’s on Friday” sounds super rude. But saying “The meeting’s on Friday” is not rude at all, it’s just a matter of fact.


frustrated woman

Saying “I need this ASAP” is like berating your employee or colleague for being so lazy and not doing their job. It’s just never going to sound polite or friendly or even civil. So just don’t do it. You sound like an idiot. And if you’re the one receiving this super rude email, wouldn’t you rather read "this is due Friday" or "finish it by tomorrow"? Of course you would, because that’s just explaining when something is due.

5. You

Guess what? The person you’re emailing knows that you’re speaking to them. That’s kind of the whole point of an email. You never need to use the word “you” when sending an email. You can be creative – there are so many other words to use and you can always work around it. You’ll figure it out. The recipient is only going to think “oh crap, I’m in trouble.” The word “you” can be like a shock to the system in a work setting. We immediately figure we’ve done something wrong. Do you really want to freak someone out like that?

6. Need

You can’t always get what you want but you can get what you need, right? Or at least that’s the case according to the Rolling Stones. Well, the word “need” has no place in work emails. Of course you need the other person to do something for you. That’s what you do at work – you perform a service for someone, no matter what you do and what industry you’re in. Find a more polite way of asking for what has to be done. It’s much better to use the word “deadline” instead – the person will definitely get that the work needs to be finished by then, so you’ll still get your point across.

7. Actually

Is there ever a reason to use this word? Let’s be honest: there’s not. Never use "actually" in a work setting. It sounds like you’re directly insulting the person who’s going to be receiving the email. You might as well be writing "actually, you’re a total moron" or "actually, you can’t seem to understand simple instructions." Of course you wish you could say that to certain people that you work with, who wouldn’t? But if you want to keep your job and your stellar reputation, you might want to avoid this word. It just makes you sound like you’ve gone way past confident and are now really cocky and full of yourself.

8. Important

Everything at the office is pretty important, right? Or at least that’s the way it should be. But sometimes, you send an email that says something is super important and it’s actually not all that urgent. It will just instill fear and worry in the person you’re sending the email to. If on the other hand the email is indeed important, then you can trust that the person reading it will be intelligent enough to figure it out for themselves. Don’t spell it out for them. They will definitely understand.

9. Swearing

We all swear. Of course we do. Sometimes the only word that fits the situation is a swear word, and there’s no shame in that. But swearing in a work email is never going to fly. It’s just incredibly rude. So don’t do it.

10. Sorry

woman writing email

You don’t need to apologize in an email. It comes off as rude and sarcastic, not to mention the fact that it’s probably better not to have a written record of the fact that you’ve made a mistake. Hey, we all make them, but you don’t want to broadcast it, right? You can apologize in person, but typing the word “apologies” or “sorry” in an email is not a good idea. It sounds like you’re just shrugging off the apology and don’t really want to say you’re sorry at all.

Have you ever opened a work email and felt insulted right off? It happens to all of us, and despite the fact that what strikes us as rude is, in reality, an everyday word, we just can’t help but feel insulted. And though you might not be able to stop other people from sending you this kind of emails, you can still take care of what you type in in your own emails.

Are there any other words that strike you as rude in emails? Share with us in the comment section below.

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