I’ve always bristled when reading the words Please advise in an email directed to me. I haven’t shared this pet peeve of mine with many people in the past, but I’ve become emboldened by the results of a recent survey conducted by Adobe in which the phrase Please advise made it to the Top 10 list of most annoying phrases people use via email at work. Let’s look at 3 reasons why Please advise is no good and why I advise that you stop using it.
What exactly do you want advice on when you say Please advise? It’s too general, and it requires the email recipient to do the heavy lifting to figure out exactly what advice would be helpful to you. And if you prefaced Please advise with a detailed explanation of your question or what you need, then you don’t need to punctuate your thoughts with those superfluous two words.
It’s passive-aggressively bossy
You might be saying, Wait, they’re saying ‘please,’ so it can’t be bossy. Well, how does “John, please get yourself into my office immediately” sound to you? You might as well substitute please with an exasperated sounding for the love of God and have the same effect. I’m not saying that Please advise necessarily communicates exasperation, but I am saying that, by itself, including please doesn’t make something polite.
More importantly, Please advise communicates a presumption that it’s someone else’s job to provide you with clarity. “I don’t understand why we’re making this investment. Please advise.” If you want to understand, then ask a direct question that, if your reader could answer, would provide you with the understanding you need.
It sounds overly official
One of the biggest hurdles that my clients and students face involves the mistaken belief that, to sound professional and competent, you can’t sound approachable. And while Please advise could sound like you’re making clear who’s in charge and who’s asking whom for explanations, it also creates quite a bit of distance. And what’s wrong with distance? Well, it makes you less approachable; and less approachable means less likable; and people are more likely to do things for people they like than for people they don’t like or that they view as distant.
Other examples of overly official sounding phrases in email (some of which made that Adobe Top Ten most annoying list) include:
- Anything with the word “per” (e.g., per my last email, per our conversation, per SOP)
- As previously stated
- I have been advised
Think about whether you’re using the words Please advise in your email and what impression you’re giving the people reading your messages. If you want to sound approachable, helpful, and direct, I advise you to remove Please advise from your email vocabulary.
Guillermo Villar is principal coach with Cambio Coaching. He helps high-achieving individuals and teams communicate with intention to get the business results they want. If you’re interested in working with Guillermo, sign up for a free meeting to explore how he can help.