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I received an email today with the following sentence:

Please be reminded to bring your basketball gear in.

He was subsequently made fun of by a co-worker:

'Please be reminded' - Will you be doing the reminding, or should I expect somebody else to be reminding me?

I am wondering if:

  1. the original sentence is valid and unambiguous, or if
  2. the interpretation made by his co-worker is valid due to ambiguity in the semantic meaning of the original sentence.
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+1 for forming the question nicely – RiMMER Nov 8 '11 at 6:20
it is similar to the construct 'please be advised', however if you compare the frequencies of the two phrases the 'please be reminded' is a few orders of magnitude less frequent (see comparison). – Unreason Nov 8 '11 at 11:35
Actually, the comparison is even more stark when you use correct capitalisation. – Bringer128 Feb 7 '12 at 7:03
up vote 3 down vote accepted

The sentence is grammatical: a passive construction does not necessarily need an agent. That said, as others have commented, it’s probably not the most effective way of putting it.

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Thanks Barrie. Do you have an opinion on whether the sentence is ambiguous? – Bringer128 Nov 8 '11 at 9:30
No, I don't think it's ambiguous. If I read it, I would take it as a reminder to bring my basketball gear in. – Barrie England Nov 8 '11 at 9:50

I agree with your coworker: the phrasing is slightly pretentious and obviously imprecise. I would prefer "I would like to remind you to...", which moves it from the passive voice to the active, or simply "please bring your basketball gear with you."

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Our simply "Remember to...". The l passive original really jars with the supposed informal relationship you have with a basketball playing colleague. – Hugo Nov 8 '11 at 6:24
Yes -- it sounds like airline-speak: "At this time we will be asking you to please return your seat to the upright position ..." – David Aldridge Apr 30 '13 at 20:39

This is a standard formal construction used in academic conferences and elsewhere. The extreme formality is intended to remove responsibility for the act of "reminding" from the Master of Ceremonies, who presumably is of far lower status than the speakers, moderators, or participants in the conference.

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Good catch on that one! – tchrist Apr 30 '13 at 2:27

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