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I wrote an e-mail:

Attached is the Report, received a short while ago, submitted by Peter Pringle:

  1. What did his colleague tell you should be entered under section titled: Total Project Expenditure for the month? No total Project expenditure or Labor expenditure has been indicated at any time on the Peter Pringle report.
  2. Why does Peter's report have permanent staff shown under the labor force [as opposed to my instruction to include only casual labor]?

Please clarify.

to my line manager regarding what I saw as a conflict between the instruction I had been given by him and the example that had been submitted to me by the client (Peter Pringle) as a template for my submission. My manager responded by e-mailing me

Let’s get one thing straight, you do not delegate to me(CLARIFY).

Was his response justifiable?

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closed as off-topic by FumbleFingers, Dusty, medica, MrHen, Hellion Jan 16 at 19:15

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Does this belong in English.SE or workplace.SE? –  Peter Shor Nov 14 '13 at 10:37
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Yes, 'Please clarify' is an instruction. It is given in the imperative, and the hedge (politeness marker) 'please' does not alter this fact. It is possible for someone over whom the addresser is not in authority to take exception to this style of address. 'I'm not sure what this actually means; could you possibly please clarify?' is a suitably hedged deferential request. –  Edwin Ashworth Nov 14 '13 at 11:52
    
So he had time to write a rude response, but not time to clarify something for you to assist you in your job? Sounds like he's insecure and is on a power trip. He also used incorrect English in his response, since he used a comma to separate two independent clauses, when he should have used a semicolon or period. –  user62427 Jan 15 at 19:07
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This question appears to be off-topic because it is about workplace etiquette, not English as such. –  FumbleFingers Jan 15 at 22:12

2 Answers 2

Yes, it is a command. Being a supervisor, I also receive emails from my subordinates. I will not be offended by the "please clarify" phrase, if I delivered something to them that is really confusing. Instead of being offended, I will be ashamed because I was not able to deliver something clearly.

I would rephrase "please clarify" to "kindly clarify, Sir/Ma'am", or any other sentences that make it more polite. People have different understanding with emails, as emails do not show the tone of voice, only the text. So we really should be careful with the words.

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Your language is polite, but not deferential. It is acceptable to use it for a peer, but only if you are sure that the peer would agree that they should do as you have asked.

If you are expected to show deference, something like this would be more appropriate:

I still need some information to [whatever it is that you're trying to do]. Could you please clarify these points?

  1. ...

One more thing: your boss said "delegate". The usual meaning of delegate is have somebody do something for you that you could, in principle, do yourself. Perhaps your boss expects you to go and find the answers to those questions for yourself?

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