Yesterday, a person in another company sent me a file that I had requested. The file was shared via an online document system, and even though the online document is brand new, the downloaded file is the same as the version I was sent last time.

The files are identical in every way (name and md5).

Even though I know this is wrong, it's an innocent mistake anyone can make, it hasn't inconvenienced me at all, and I don't want to make it seem otherwise. I'm having trouble coming up with the right words — how can I correct and ask for the right file in the most polite but simple/direct way possible?

  • 1
    Is there a cultural sentiment ? Ex. company/someone from another country ? If its purely professional just a, hey, Is this the recent most version of the document you have ? I got this version X with me, I was wondering if you have version X+1 ? Jun 5, 2013 at 19:40
  • I am confused is this a new document or a new version of the document? Is there some reason you can not use the provided version? Jun 5, 2013 at 20:35
  • @Chad -- The person sent what was supposed to be a new version. Instead it was the version I was already sent (by the same person). Feel free to update the part that confused you.
    – Nicole
    Jun 5, 2013 at 21:11
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    How bout "hey, I'm having trouble spotting the difference between the file you sent me and the file I already had. Would you be kind enough to direct my attention to the relevant part?" Jun 5, 2013 at 23:17
  • Is anyone else CC'd in the e-mail? Is this your first contact with this person? Are you in a conservative industry (banking, law, etc.) or a more relaxed one?
    – jmac
    Jun 5, 2013 at 23:33

5 Answers 5


I would simply and briefly explain the circumstances, and ask the person if they would check on their end. Of course, leaving open the possibility that it is someone else's (including your own) mistake.

Unless the other person is totally irascible, this should be acceptable.


Be polite, personable, and understanding. You've already stated you don't think that it was intentional, and that you weren't inconvenienced.

A good example of what you could say might be:

"Hello {person},

Thanks for sending me the {file} I requested. Do you happen to have any more up-to-date versions? The one you sent me is identical to mine, and I was wondering if my copy already was fully up-to-date. It's completely possible that is the case, but I'd just like to be sure. If you could let me know, and send on any more updated version you have I would be really appreciative. Sorry for the inconvenience, especially if it turns out that I made a mistake about the file versions originally.

Have yourself a great day, and thanks again!



Check to Make Sure It's a Mistake

Make sure you clicked the right link. Use compare documents to ensure there are no changes (or use a checksum, like you did). Before making a request and causing conclusion, do your due diligence to save some headaches.

The Issue with E-mail

E-mail is a really really messy medium. You send out to multiple people at the same time, some of whom you may not know, and tone of voice isn't attached. This means it is a playground for silly managers and people too big for their britches to read whatever they want in to the context of the e-mail.

For that reason I suggest a quick IM or phone call (at a minimally-intrusive time, like first thing in the morning, or just after lunch). That allows you to speak directly to the person, make it easy for them to fix it immediately (rather than become another request in the inbox), and allow your tone of voice convey information lost in an e-mail.

If you do send an e-mail, I highly recommend sending it just to the person who sent the file. Remove all the CC's, and just send a quick simple e-mail like:

Hey John, I double-checked the file you sent yesterday, but it hasn't been updated since last time. When you get a chance, could you give it a look and update if needed? Thanks.

The keys are:

  1. Explain that you already checked
  2. Provide them with a clear action
  3. Don't include any negative language assigning blame

E-mail by nature feels "serious" so keeping it short can be a good strategy to mitigate the seriousness. If you format the same above e-mail in incredibly formal fashion, it feels totally different:

Hey John,

I double-checked the file you sent yesterday, but it hasn't been updated since last time.

When you get a chance, could you give it a look and update if needed?

Thanks in advance, - Nick


How annoying, huh. My approach is usually something that doesn't try to cast blame on them for the mistake but makes it clear that they didn't send the right item.

"Hi {so-and-so}. I'm sorry if I was vague in my request. I already have version X, dated MMDDYYYY, of the file and I believe there is a newer version Y, I think from yesterday? Would you be able to send the latest, or if you don't have it, let me know who to ask? Thanks so much for your help, sorry to keep bugging you."

Now, you know darned well that they screwed up but you're playing nice guy. And so-and-so will not be pissed (but should be embarrassed).


I would write:


The download link for the document at still gives the previous version, even though the version that is displayed in the page has been updated.

Cheers ...

This is feedback which helps them as much as you.

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