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Clarification Emails: Structure and Phrases

How do you write your clarification emails?

How many times have you gotten an email and asked yourself: What is this person trying to say?  What do they want exactly?  This has happened to all of us at some point in our jobs.  Even though this situation may be unavoidable, there are ways to respond to make sure you get the information you need.  Although you may be irritated or frustrated, it is important to not be too direct with your reply.  This could be read as offensive and possibly damage your professional relationship with the recipient.  Below is a helpful structure, and some phrases, to help you politely get what you want with your clarification emails.

Writing emails that people read: Free eBook downloadEmail structure and phrases for clarification emails

1.  Thank the person for the information

  • Thanks for the information on the conference.
  • Thank you for sending along the details regarding the project timeline.
  • Thanks for the email Peter.

2.  Clarify what you don’t understand/still need

  • I’m afraid I don’t understand what you mean by ABC.  Could you please provide more details?
  • Regarding the deadline, are you saying that we should wait a few weeks?  Any additional information would be greatly appreciated.
  • I understand XYZ, but could you please clarify what you mean concerning ABC?

3.  Reference the next step politely

  • I am looking forward to receiving the updated information today.  Thanks for your help.
  • Thanks for your time and I look forward to hearing from you this week.
  • I appreciate you taking the time to get back to me by the end of the day.

Examples of clarification emails


Hi Tom,

Thanks for the information on our meeting agenda.  I’m afraid I don’t understand what you want to do exactly after lunch.  What do you mean by “Discussion 1pm to 2pm”?  Thanks for clearing this up when you get a minute.



Hi Susan,

Thanks for sending along the spreadsheet I requested.  Regarding the “Reasons” column, did you leave that blank because we don’t need that information now?  Any additional information on that would be greatly appreciated.  Look forward to your response.



By replying to unclear emails politely and clearly, you can save time for both people and get the information exchange you want.  Let us know what has worked for you for clarification emails in the comments area below.  Want more help with emails or to improve your writing overall at work? Click here for information.


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