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skylee

“Kindly” in a question

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skylee

I am looking for some advice on how “kindly” should be used, especially in a question asking someone to do something. My colleagues usually use “kindly” to show a polite tone, e.g. please kindly note that ..., please kindly advise us if ...., etc.

One of my dictionaries says that kindly as an adverb in such contexts = please. So I am not sure why people use the please + kindly pattern. Is this correct/common? This is Q1. My personal impression is that kindly is used to express impatience and command when used in a question asking someone to do something. And my Collins Cobuild dictionary confirms this. So my Q2 is – do people generally understand this? Does it mean that “Will you kindly advise us if ...” is not as polite as “(Please) kindly advise us if...”

Personally I find this word confusing and I just avoid using it.

Any advice will be appreciated.

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Glenn

Well, being American, my experience will almost indefinitely differ from yours (if I remember right you're surrounded by British English speakers), but to me it's kind of a stereotypical southern US thing. At least that's how I always seem to hear it used. I don't think I've ever heard it used seriously, and I certainly never use it, but I would understand it if someone said it to me, even if I thought it was a bit strange.

Also, I always find questions ("will you please...?") more polite than requests/demands ("please..."), at least as long as they're on the same politeness level/tone/etc.

[Edit] Just to clarify, I was talking about "kindly" in general, not just in questions.

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gato

"Kindly" does seem to be a British usage, although Indians seem to be fond of it, too.

There are actually quite a few discussions about this on the Net:

http://www.linkedin.com/answers/management/organizational-development/MGM_ODV/794140-25669278

Which is the correct form of writing business/official e-mails ?

http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/showthread.php?t=373117

Indian English and "kindly"

http://english.stackexchange.com/questions/14478/indian-english-usage-of-kindly

Indian-English usage of “Kindly”

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skylee

This is from the first link in gato's post and I think it has summarised the different understanding -

Are you aware of the BIG BIG difference between English English and Indian English in the word "Kindly"?

In my home if you add 'kindly' to a request (Kindly do XYZ) it means you are a little annoyed and are issuing an instruction NOT a request. Whereas in Indian English it has a polite, soft meaning similar to 'please' and implies a request.

My colleagues are not Indian, though. :D But my dictionaries list both usages. The only difference I can find seems to be that if it is a question it conveys irritation and authority, but not so if it is not a question. I don't know. :conf

Glad to know that many people (Americans?) don't use the word. It seems that avoiding it remains a good strategy. :)

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gato
Glad to know that many people (Americans?) don't use the word. It seems that avoiding it remains a good strategy.

An American might find the word slightly amusing, like Glenn, or maybe overly wordy. There is no implied irritation to an American. It's just not part of American usage.

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anonymoose

In my opinion, as a native British English speaker, it really depends on the context and the tone of voice in which it is said. I don't disagree with the analyses the people have provided above, but I think these are very general, and cannot accurately reflect every situation.

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skylee

What if there is no tone of voice (in my case "kindly" mainly /only appears in writing)?

I agree that the observations above are general. But then what I want is just a general rule of thumb. Perhaps these conclusions are not wrong ? (a) It is not usually used in America, but it is quite frequently used in some parts of the world, like India; (b ) under some circumstances it conveys politeness similar to the word "please", under others irritation/ impatience/ authority, depending on the context and the tone.

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anonymoose
What if there is no tone of voice (in my case "kindly" mainly /only appears in writing)?

In that case, it's rather ambiguous, which is why textual communication can often lead to misunderstandings. Tone of voice is an important element of communication, and without it, a certain proportion of the information is lost.

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Lu

I used that word recently. 'You are kindly requested to arrive 15 minutes before the start of the ceremony', I think it was something like that. I changed it from something like 'please arrive 15 minutes before the start...' because the version with 'kindly' sounded more polite to me. Was I wrong? 'Kindly' might be a good word to avoid, but from the top of my head I can't thinkk of a better way to write a sentence like that.

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renzhe

I would use it in formal WRITTEN correspondence. Then it's perfectly fine and polite, at least to me.

I'd avoid it in speech, as it can be misunderstood. I agree with anonymoose that it's not very clear-cut in this case and very context-sensitive. There are other ways of being polite that are less prone to being misunderstood.

Kindly note :) that I'm not a native speaker, but I do have to deal with this kind (sic) of official correspondence a lot.

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Yang Rui
what I want is just a general rule of thumb

I reckon the rule of thumb should be not to use it at all. I'm a native English speaker from the UK, and I think it sounds like the sort of horrible little word that people in corporate settings put in when they are asking you to do something that they feel you should be doing but probably don't want to do. The people who use it generally think it sounds polite but there is nothing at all wrong with just saying "please". The sort of people who use it are the sort of misguided people who think that saying "myself" instead of "me" makes something more formal e.g. "Please kindly return the forms to myself at your earliest convenience".

Looking at Lu's example, I suppose there is nothing really wrong with the way she used it, but it comes across to me as a bit schoolmarmish and priggish. There is absolutely nothing wrong with saying "please arrive 15 minutes before the start".

Sorry, I'm a bit of a language snob and feel quite strongly about this sort of thing.

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creamyhorror
I changed it from something like 'please arrive 15 minutes before the start...' because the version with 'kindly' sounded more polite to me. Was I wrong? 'Kindly' might be a good word to avoid, but from the top of my head I can't thinkk of a better way to write a sentence like that.

I think "kindly" has an air of expecting compliance, while a simple "please" does not. If you intended to convey that connotation, then by all means use it. I see "kindly" used when the writer feels in a position to tell the reader what to do - which is probably why it's associated with officialese in many places and offends Yang Rui.

"Kindly" isn't any more polite than "please", I think. It's more formal-sounding, perhaps, but that isn't the same thing as politeness (which I'd say involves sounding less demanding).

An alternative way of writing your sentence that I might favour: "We request that you arrive (at least) 15 minutes before the start of the show" - or, more politely, "We would appreciate your arriving (at least) 15 minutes before the start of the show".

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