(Note that I originally asked this question on the English Language Stack Exchange and was told that it belonged here (Interpersonal Stack Exchange), so I removed it from the EL SE and manually moved it here.)
I am a data scientist and I regularly receive e-mails from people (our office is split between London and New York) requesting things.
I often find that in the majority of cases, the people e-mailing me add a line at the end that is something along the lines of:
“Let me know if anything is unclear.”
Naturally, if I am unsure about something, I will always ask for clarification.
My question therefore is this: is adding such an obvious sentence necessary?
I should add that I have worked with the same colleagues who have requested things from me for several months, so we aren’t strangers and, as mentioned, I always ask for clarification if I am unsure about something. I appreciate that it might be automatic on their part (like ending an e-mail with “Kind regards,”, “Best wishes,”, etc.) but there is an element to it that I just don’t understand which is why people continue to state the obvious.
It’s the same logic as asking somebody a question in an e-mail and then immediately beneath that writing, “please let me know” – the former clearly implies the latter.
Surely if somebody who is given instructions is unsure about a particular part of said instructions, then they would be competent enough to ask the requester for clarification. If they wouldn’t ask for clarification unless prompted, then it implies that their competency levels aren’t high enough to warrant a role where they are asked to construct things for people who lay out clear, coherent instructions.
Some people have said that the question is not clear, so in an attempt to make it clearer I will summarise below. Also, please note that I am not ranting – I am in fact curious and keen to understand why some people add this sentence to e-mails even if they genuinely know for certain that you are perfectly capable of the task/s they request from you.
The question is simply this: given that you know that somebody is definitely capable of doing what you ask them, and given that you specify clearly what you want, is adding such a line to an e-mail necessary? The reason I ask this is because it sometimes comes across as patronising – I’m sure that’s not the case in most instances, but nevertheless it does come across that way sometimes.
As a UK-based software developer, I often conclude an email with that line as I may sometimes fill my emails with terms that I take for granted but others might not understand.
I have worked with people who previously felt that those in my role don’t want to – or like to – ‘make things clear’ after an initial email, and so will either go find the answers themselves (which could take a lot of time) or do nothing about it, which would lead to bigger problems further down the line. Adding this line at least makes it clear that we don’t bite and are happy to clarify something that isn’t clear. This is especially useful if you are higher up than the recipient in the corporate ladder, where they might be even more reluctant to ask for something to be made clear.
Adding a friendly reminder at the end such as “give me a shout if you are unsure of anything” shows you are willing to help and removes anyone else’s apprehensions. It may seem unneeded to some, but others – especially those who do not think the offer to help is implied – will find it reassuring.