“Advise” and “revert”: two words to avoid in your emails

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[This entry originally appeared on Clare Lynch’s blog, goodcopybadcopy]

Request, please. When you’re emailing me, please don’t use the words “advise” and “revert”.

Nothing wrong with those words, you may say. True enough. If, that is, they’re used correctly.

But when people tell me they’ll “advise” me of progress on a project, or ask me to “advise” them of my telephone number, I have to resist the urge to scream.

At what point in such an exchange will any actual advice be given? What’s wrong with the correct word “tell”? Are you implying that a quick conversation won’t be enough to get the information across? That one of us (me) is so thick that everything needs spelling out v-e-r-y s-l-o-w-l-y?

Similarly, whenever someone says they’ll “revert” tomorrow, I desperately want to ask: “Revert to what? To your true self as an unprofessional layabout who sits in front of the telly all day?”.

What they mean, of course, is “get back to you” or “reply”, which are clearly far too prosaic for your average executive.

Funny, I keep forgetting that getting a word wrong in corporate life is a sign of cleverness and dynamism. Elsewhere it’s a sign of illiteracy. Just so you know.

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2 Responses to “Advise” and “revert”: two words to avoid in your emails

  1. Brad Shorr May 13, 2009 at 10:27 pm #

    Whew, “revert” hasn’t infiltrated Chicago yet – I’ll advise you when it does. Advise you of when it does? Maybe I’ll just tell you.

    Here. “please advise” is a universal closer for emails. It can mean –
    please respond
    please explain
    please tell
    please update

    On rare occasions it means please advise.

  2. Clare Lynch May 14, 2009 at 9:36 am #

    And don’t you just love it when people think it’s smart (not wrong) to take a transitive verb and turn it into an intransitive one? Spot the three abuses here:

    “Here’s the report I promised – enjoy! I need your comments by Friday – will you be able to deliver? Please advise.”

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