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I was just browsing through StackOverflow just now, and randomly hit on this question, where the question-asker signed off his request with a "please advise." Certain I'd heard this turn of phrase before from foreign speakers, I searched "please advise" in quotes and received about 25,000 hits, from what seemed to be many non-native speakers, which was enough to be intriguing.

Now, pardon me if I'm wrong, but this isn't common in American English is it? If I'd ever heard it, I'd expect the phrase to be please advise me, where advise takes an object. Moreover, "advise" as an ending pleasantry seems a bit stilted and formal to my ear. Perhaps this is U-English, that I've read is commonly taught to foreign speakers in ESL courses? Or is it a kind of a direct translation of a common construction in many languages? Does anyone know where it comes from? I'd appreciate any enlightenment.

Incidentally, it seems that I'm not the only person to have noticed this.

EDIT: So, to be clear, constructions such as "please advise if...", "please advise on...[XX topic]", "please advise for..." are commonly used in business emails?

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"please advise" is a common police/fire/military/etc. ref. mostly in radio communication. –  Strangegirl Jan 10 at 12:03
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5 Answers

up vote 14 down vote accepted

"Please advise" is quickly becoming common place in email conversations where one person asks a question and then makes it extremely clear that the other side now has responsibility for doing something next. Essentially, it means "I am now done doing things; you go do something and get back to me."

I do not know of its use outside of emails or other text-based mediums nor do I know its origin but I can emphatically confirm native speakers using it and using it frequently.

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I'm intrigued OP thinks "Please advise me" might be a more natural form. As MrHen says, plain please advise is very common and has no significant overtones. Adding me just seems to add personalisation (not to mention a suggestion of desperation) that would often be inappropriate. –  FumbleFingers Apr 1 '11 at 23:20
    
"Come with?" with an implied 'me' is also becoming quite popular usage among native speakers but that doesn't change the fact that 'come with me?' would be a more natural form. Before this abbreviated business usage became popular, I think 'please advise' would have sounded as odd to us as using 'tell' instead of 'tell me'. –  gpr Apr 2 '11 at 2:45
    
ps +1 for the connotation of "the ball's in your court now" ;) –  gpr Apr 2 '11 at 2:47
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Advise means "offer suggestions about the best course of action to someone," in both American and British English. It can be used as a transitive and non-transitive verb.

I advised her to go home.
She advised caution.
We advise against sending cash by post.

Looking for please advise in the Corpus of Contemporary American English, I get the following result. [pp*] matches any personal pronoun.

                 spoken  fiction magazine newspaper academic
please advise        1        11        9         3        0
please advise [pp*]  1         3        0         2        0
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I think "please advise" used to be a relatively common phrase and may stem from the days of the telegraph. Brevity and clarity were key with telegrams. This phrase appears in versions of a joke telegram attributed to Robert Blenchley, a reporter assigned to a story in Venice, in which he telegraphs his editor "Streets flooded. Please advise." (there are variants on the exact phrase, see Quote Investigator for more on the phrase).

I would hazard a guess that this turn of phrase has fallen out of favour along with the telegraph.

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While I agree with your contention that the phrase is telegraphic, I must disagree that it has fallen out of favour. It is very common in business correspondence. –  dnagirl Feb 7 '13 at 17:53
    
I think @dnagirl is correct on that one. I suspect the reason for its continuing use may well owe something to war films, "please advise" has similar benefits in radio communications when under fire and does happen in at least some such films (whether that's realistic of them or not, I wouldn't know). While the stereotype of the self-styled business warrior who talks about Sun Tzu and borrows drill-instructor clichés isn't entirely fair, it isn't entirely unfair either. While I'm mocking, I certainly do use it myself, as the idiom is convenient whatever I suspect of its origins. –  Jon Hanna Feb 8 '13 at 1:48
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When putting “please advise” in an email, basically you are asking how to proceed on the issue you are addressing in the email. I like the “ball is in your court” reference … it fits. I think it may come from CB radio or ham radio communications. I have heard it used on the radio asking for clarification on the subject. I have also heard “please be advised”, meaning pay attention – important information following. Slang or jargon often finds its way into spoken English.

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In the United States, please advise is very common in business and legal writing, both paper and electronic. I have never heard it spoken. While it is understood that the object is dropped for the sake of brevity (please advise me), advise is a transitive verb and technically must have an object. Therefore the phrase is grammatically unsound, and should be considered a bad habit. Including the object and even supplementary information provides a clearer message: Please advise me on this issue.

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I guess I must be cloistered then. I've never seen this, not even once, in any of the emails that have been sent to me, even in contexts having to do with official business. –  Uticensis Apr 1 '11 at 23:27
    
Your company must not have a "sales team" then. :) –  HaL Apr 1 '11 at 23:29
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@HaL: The first M-W entry for the intransitive, "give a recommendation about what should be done", sounds like a pretty good description of the meaning intended in "please advise". Why would it be an incomplete sentence if advise is an intransitive verb? What is missing? –  Kosmonaut Apr 2 '11 at 0:46
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@Hal: it’s not missing a subject; it’s in the imperative mood, so doesn’t need an explicit subject, and is just as complete as “Come here!” or “Please bring me some more sherry.” (Depending on preferred analysis, one can say either that imperatives don’t have any subject, or that they always have the implied subject “you”.) –  PLL Apr 2 '11 at 1:43
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