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So I got an email from someone reading "blah blah, X is attached". However the email has no attachments. Obviously they just forgot to attach X before hitting the send button.

How should I hint at this without being too blunt and possibly embarrassing the person? Something like "Oops, I don't see an attachment, maybe my mail client blocked it?"

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    Hi ErlVolton, I clarified your question slightly - if this changes too much feel free to edit it. Welcome to the site! – enderland Nov 5 '14 at 19:00
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    Comments removed. Comments are for seeking clarification and otherwise improving the post they're attached to. They're not for answers. If you have an answer to the question, please post it as a proper answer. – Monica Cellio Nov 7 '14 at 2:46
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Hey, is it possible you can resend this? I didn't get any attachments.

Thanks!

Don't overthink this. No one's perfect.

Word it in a way which isn't accusational and you'll be fine. Don't say "you forgot the attachment" but just let them know.

Also, don't reply all if others were copied, just back to the sender.

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    +1 for don't reply to all, this is part of email communication etiquette – Raiyan Nov 5 '14 at 20:55
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    I personally don't see any problem with "you forgot the attachment". This is probably my "direct" culture speaking (as compared to "polite" american). :) – Sergio Tulentsev Nov 5 '14 at 21:36
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    @SergioTulentsev Had I been the one to forget the attachment, and you replied "you forgot the attachment" I would think, "Oh, I feel like an idiot." Compared to enderland's response, where I would think, "oops, honest mistake." – DoubleDouble Nov 5 '14 at 21:53
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    With gmail this shouldn't happen, btw. It will pop up a dialog if it detects that you want to attach some files, but didn't attach any. – Sergio Tulentsev Nov 6 '14 at 7:08
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    Yea, dont overthink this. Also keep in mind that certain file types can get caught in corporate email scanners, so the attachment could have been added by the sender, but was removed by a virus scanner. – Fredrik Nov 6 '14 at 7:39
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This is very culture dependent. And dependent on the person as well. The obvious thing is that you don't embarrass the sender in front of others unless you want to start a confrontation, so send whatever message you send only to the original sender and not anyone else.

From my point of view, I make mistakes, and if you find them, you tell me and I fix them. I'm happy if you tell me because that way the mistake gets fixed. Sometimes mistakes are embarrassing, but you are not embarrassing me by telling me, I am embarrassing myself by making stupid mistakes. And if you make mistakes, I will tell you and expect you to fix them. But that's just me. Other people will be different.

On the other hand, if you sent a message "Oops! Looks like you forgot the attachment (we've all been there!)" as suggested, I would take it as condescending and annoying. Again, that's just me. gnack who suggested it would obviously be quite happy receiving this message. So the same message to different people will be received differently.

For a sender whom you don't know personally, a neutral message like "I didn't get the attachment, can you resend it? " should be fine - if someone takes offense with that, it's their problem.

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Oops! Looks like you forgot the attachment (we've all been there!)

Something like that is always nice. It's informal so it's human-to-human and it fails to offend as you are admitting that it's something common that we've all done.

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    Reply like Clippy would? – Gusdor Nov 6 '14 at 8:29
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    @Gusdor "It looks like you are trying to send an attachment. Do you want help with that?" – ratchet freak Nov 6 '14 at 9:10
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    I think that sounds childisch ("oops") and arrogant; "we've all been there" implies lack of experience. – phresnel Nov 6 '14 at 10:41
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    You're also elevating forgetting an attachment up to a level of embarrassment that requires that assurance. And it's not even offensive, it's just so wrong that people will just be left wondering why you said it. – user1084 Nov 6 '14 at 13:27
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    I'm finding it interesting (and surprising) that this answer is getting downvoted. Here in the UK this kind of mild self-deprecation is used very often in many workplaces. What is really surprising me is that some people are interpreting it as arrogant - to me it says the opposite. So some international/cultural issues coming into play here I think. – A E Nov 6 '14 at 16:52
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There's no need for finesse here.

In situations where it's possible that somebody else could be responsible for the failure of the attachment to arrive (especially if that's you), the email should be phrased in a way that acknowledges that.

In situations where the subject is embarrassing, delicacy is required.

In this situation, the overwhelmingly most likely cause of the problem is that the sender of the original email simply forgot to attach the document. Forgetting to attach a document is not remotely embarrassing: it's not like forgetting to put your trousers on. There is no need to avoid being direct: just reply to that one person saying matter-of-factly that they forgot the attachment. It's not like you're accusing them of some heinous crime. The worst possible case is that they did include the attachment but your spam filter ate it, in which case, they'll most likely reply matter-of-factly saying exactly that.

  • "Forgetting to attach a document is not remotely embarrassing" - I don't agree - one needs to avoid the implication that the sender has stupidly forgotten to attach the attachment. – A E Nov 6 '14 at 16:55
  • @AE How does matter-of-factly saying that they forgot the attachment imply stupidity on their part? – David Richerby Nov 6 '14 at 17:07
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    It doesn't have that implication for you, but workplace cultures and national cultures differ, as does the sensitivity level of individuals. In some contexts, telling someone they have made a mistake can be interpreted as rude (however illogical this may seem to you). For example, see air crashes involving "crew members whose cultural legacy made them too deferential to communicate clearly that the plane was about to crash." – A E Nov 6 '14 at 17:51
  • @AE The question says nothing at all about the asker being in a culture where pointing out an error is either taken to imply stupidity or be rude. – David Richerby Nov 6 '14 at 17:58
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    So? I think it's uncontentious that workplace cultures and the sensitivity level of individuals also differ. As I said above. – A E Nov 6 '14 at 18:13
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A great response would be:

Good afternoon,

Hi (sender), thanks for sending me this however, the attachment appears to be missing. Would you be able to resend it?

Thanks.

Best Regards, (your name)

  • Welcome to the Workplace -- note that this question is from 2014 and already has an accepted answer. Also be sure to take a look at the more recent questions in need of answers. – mcknz Sep 2 '16 at 23:26
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I like to say "Looks like the attachment got lost in the mail, can you please resend?" It's vaguely humorous, non-accusatory, and very clear.

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