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Recently I have emailed my teacher and asked for my transcript. I've thought that I asked for it politely, but my teacher emailed me back that he was currently busy and "your tone was quite rude"

I discussed this with my friend and she said "I would appreciate if you could reply as soon as possible" could've sounded rude.

I thought I was being formal and polite. Does this sound "quite rude"?

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    So much depends on context and personality. Some teachers (I used to be one) take their dignity seriously. Others might find your request, as worded, amusing. The rule is that the more senior the person from whom you are seeking a favour, the more useful it might be to sound obsequious. If you're the praying sort, for instance, and looking for divine intervention, you definitely need to reword it. – Ronald Sole Sep 25 '16 at 17:35
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    @Maimai123 If your teacher does not know that you are a non-native speaker, his reply may be understandable. If he does know that you are a non-native speaker, then he is a jerk and a fool and not worthy of his position of trust. – P. E. Dant Sep 25 '16 at 22:17
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    @P.E.Dant That's incredibly arrogant for not knowing anything else about this teacher and not even having seen the full email yourself. – user32753 Sep 26 '16 at 0:52
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    @C.M.Weimer If I knew my correspondent was a NNS, and I saw I would appreciate if you could reply as soon as possible, I would ask whether my correspondent understands the nuances of this usage rather than excoriating her for rudeness. A teacher, of all people, has a duty to be aware of such things. I doubt that any unknown portions of the email were causative here. Even as it is, the quoted request is not especially demanding. The arrogance (and insensitivity) here seem entirely on the part of the teacher. – P. E. Dant Sep 26 '16 at 1:23
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    @user2338816 Yes, it allows the reader to infer that, but only if the reader is predisposed to cantankerousness. A civilized response, on the other hand, is "I understand that you are a non-native speaker of English, and that you may not be acquainted with the subtle nuances of the language, and with the many usages by which cantankerous, picayune, and unsympathetic people may choose to be offended. I'll get to your request as soon as I can." – P. E. Dant Sep 26 '16 at 4:27
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To my ears, yes, it does sound rude. First things first, apologize. If you say that you thought you were being polite and formal and didn't realize the way you said it sounded rude, you'll be likely to be immediately forgiven.

As far as rudeness goes, there are a couple errors here. First is "I would appreciate it." With "would" included, you're saying that you currently aren't appreciative. "I would appreciate it if" is quite often associated with bosses asking their underlings to complete a task, never the other way around. Instead of "would," try "really":

I really appreciate it.

Second is the way you asked for it. It's considered polite to ask someone about their time and whether they are even able to complete a task. Instead of saying that you need it ASAP, try being considerate of their time:

Is it at all possible to get this sooner rather than later? There's a hard deadline at X time. I really appreciate it.

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    In all honesty, even the wording as it is would be significantly less rude if you put the reason why. No professor wants to be the reason you didn't get the job/interview/internship/promotion/whatever. – corsiKa Sep 26 '16 at 1:04
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    "I really appreciate it" has no place at the tail end of (or anywhere in) a request. You are thanking someone for something they haven't even done or agreed to doing. Thanking in advance is just bad practice. – Amani Kilumanga Sep 26 '16 at 7:20
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    "sooner rather than later" sounds a bit rude to me too, as it kind of implies that you would normally expect that person to take forever to answer and are annoyed at this in advance. – njzk2 Sep 26 '16 at 14:37
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    @AmaniKilumanga +1 nice comment. I HATE thanking people in advance. Just send your request, word it politely, and that's it. Once the person does the task, then you thank them. – ell Sep 26 '16 at 23:40
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    @halfer: One needn't be overly specific as to the specifics of what will happen if a deadline isn't met, but giving the reader a clue as to whether it's necessary to meet some specific hard deadline, and what else will need to happen before the deadline after the reader completes the task, would be helpful. – supercat Sep 27 '16 at 2:17
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Yes, it sounds rude. This, in my opinion, is not so much due to the nature of the English language so much as the meaning of what you are saying.

You're basically saying "I would like you to do this quickly, please." This comes off as rude in all of the 3 languages I know. It is better to explain and communicate to the other person the reason for your urgency, what would happen to you if it was not taken care of quickly.

For example (depending on your circumstances):

"I need my transcript for an application that is due tomorrow. I apologize that I did not contact you sooner, but unfortunately if I do not receive my transcript tonight, I will be unable to get my application together in time to meet the deadline. It would be a lifesaver if you get this message in time and can forward me the transcript."

Another thing that people don't often realize: if the next thing you write is "Thank you," then it implies that you are assuming that they will get it done, which actually can be considered rude. Again, I've noticed this in other languages as well, not just English. I prefer to write "Thank you so much for your time," because this could refer to the time it took them to read this message and consider your request. It does not have to imply that you assume they will do the thing for you.

Hope this answer helps. Navigating the nuances of a language that is not your native tongue is indeed very difficult. Don't be discouraged by your minor mistake—even native speakers make such mistakes. Good luck.

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    It would help if you added why it is rude to ask them to do something quickly without stating the reasons. – reinierpost Sep 27 '16 at 10:27
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    You're already asking them to do something. To then ask them to do it quickly is going to far. One should be humble and polite when asking someone for something. – user3707023 Sep 27 '16 at 13:48
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Part of the problem is that "as soon as possible" doesn't have a well-defined meaning, at least in British English. I used to work in an organization where the official policy was that any request to do something "as soon as possible" was put into the work plan with a finish date one year after the date of the request - simply to encourage people to ask for what they really needed, and not just shout "I want it now".

If you had said "I need this information by < insert date > because < insert the reason >", that would have been more explicit than "as soon as possible" and it's unlikely anyone would consider it rude - unless it was your fault that you forgot to ask for the transcript earlier, of course!

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NO! Don't listen to the person above. They, like your teacher, have sensitive whiskers poking out of their feelings.

As far as rudeness goes, there is actually nothing wrong with your tone at all. It IS, however, prone to interpretation: which is a universally prominent phenomenon and becoming a more commonly acknowledged trend by the global community as their exchange across countries becomes increasingly necessary.

First is "I would appreciate it." With "would" included, you're saying that you are extending your invitation to "appreciate" them, but do not expect any obligation of compliance with your request. It is humbling for everyone to feel like they're truly appreciated and it should be considered a courtesy to allow someone become graced by your engagement with them.

"I would appreciate it if" is the language of somebody in need: like a boss asking his/her employees to complete a task they would not otherwise be able to handle had they no employees at all. It is also usually a mutually inclusive phrase even if out of necessity another party needs to use it more.

Instead of having to express 'need' quite humiliatingly ("I need you to do this"), it is dignified in knowing your requests to reconcile 'needs' are met without effort to comfort someone from their own insecurity. Hence, the assurance of trust is made by giving your dignity to another (not humility), and the proof needed to show your trust - a sign of shameful pride and unworthiness.

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    You disagreed with me, but then you said the exact same thing I did, but in more words, with no added information... – user32753 Sep 26 '16 at 4:10
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    "I would appreciate it if"... is traditionally how a superior would address a junior. The student addressing a teacher must by needs address the teacher with respect, they are not equals. Just as an underling is not the equal of a boss. – StackBuddy Sep 26 '16 at 15:09
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    Answers can change their order on the page, as they get voted up and down. So saying "don't listen to the person above" is a bit unhelpful. Today's "person above" might be the "person underneath" tomorrow. – Dawood ibn Kareem Sep 27 '16 at 6:05
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    In addition to what @DavidWallace said, there are multiple "persons above" this currently. (By my preferred sorting order and the current votes, they are C. M. Weimer, user3707023 and alephzero, plus all the commenters on their answers plus all the commenters on the question, plus the OP. Which are you referring to?) – a CVn Sep 27 '16 at 8:39
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Well it doesn't sound rude to my ears, but I assume that some people could take it bad, like your teacher in this case. It really depends on how you are related to the person you send this, if this person thinks he's way more important than you, he'll take it bad, but it depends more on his personality than his grade.Well it doesn't sound rude to my ears, but I assume that some people could take it bad, like your teacher in this case. It really depends on how you are related to the person you send this, if this person thinks he's way more important than you, he'll take it bad, but it depends more on his personality than his grade.

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Why is it impolite?

Just copying my comment to Jacob Davis's answer in case the post, or my comment is deleted.

You don't say this to someone you're asking a favour of. One should aim to be grateful (presumably the person will do the favour), humble (you are the one asking, the professor has no obligation) and appreciative (you acknowledge that the professor is busy) at the same time.

It's all about tone, and if the English language had a formal version of ‘you’ today, the professor would have been less peeved. Let's pretend thou is formal—originally it wasn't—how would the sentence sound today?

"I would appreciate if thou could reply as soon as possible"

Unfortunately, thou is practically obsolete in contemporary English, and many speakers of Romance languages, and non, find themselves in the same predicament as the OP. How to be extra polite and show respect to someone using you.

Modals, and Thank you’s

The expression, ‘I would appreciate’ is super polite; and using another modal like could is highly recommended. In fact, the OP wrote ‘if you could reply as soon as possible’, again super polite, I can't fault it. But when you're asking a favour from someone who has authority, it might be considered "brash" to ask them to respond ASAP, even if you soften it with all the ‘woulds’ , ‘coulds’ and ‘mays’ in the world.

If you're British, first of all you apologize: ‘I'm sorry to bother you’, and then you use a conditional tense: ‘I was wondering if you wouldn't mind sending my transcript, I would be extremely grateful if you did.’ You would explain why you need it, and then conclude your email with, ‘Thank you for your time.

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Beside the point about "would appreciate", I think "as soon as possible" is not something polite to hear but to say. For example, you can say your teacher:

I try to prepare a draft of the paper as soon as possible.

You can still use "possible" to request something from your teacher like:

if that is possible, I would like to have a copy of your paper

To me "soon" itself sounds demanding, specially if there is no reason for it. You usually send your request and wait to receive the answer. Therefore, you end your letter with:

I look forward to hearing from you

to emphasize that the reply is important to you.

You may later send a reminder letter if it took longer than usual.

But if it is an urgent situation, you'd better to explain it. For example:

there is a hard deadline for X , I appreciate if I receive your kind response before this time.

As I said it is just for urgent situations, otherwise there is no need.

  • That's a good ending, except you would have to have "look forward to hearing from" rather than "to hear from." – user32753 Sep 28 '16 at 1:58
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Consider this alternative:

Your prompt reply is appreciated.

And consider telling the person why you are asking for a prompt reply. People don't like being rushed for no reason.

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    This doesn't sound any better to me. – Matthew Read Sep 26 '16 at 14:27
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    You don't say this to someone you're asking a favour of. One should aim to be grateful, (presumably the person will do the favour) humble, (you are the one asking, the professor has no obligation) and appreciative (you acknowledge that the professor is busy) at the same time. – Mari-Lou A Sep 26 '16 at 17:49
  • I think it might depend if you are in a professional context or not. Sometimes it isn't about being polite, it is about helping the person you are talking to know there is a time constraint. For some situations this might work. – Jacob Davis Sep 26 '16 at 20:43
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    I would only consider signing off like this on a complaint letter. – Lightness Races in Orbit Sep 27 '16 at 12:41

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