Please Be Advised: Meaning and Proper Usage

“Please be advised” is another one of those English phrases that you’ve probably come across. We use it most often with formal, written settings where someone wishes to inform you of something.

However, there are instances where you’ll hear someone speaking the phrase, particularly while delivering official announcements.

“Please be advised” is a phrase used to notify someone that you will inform them of something. Frequently, “please be advised” has negative connotations because it is associated with a warning that precedes some negative information. It is thought to be a quite formal and impersonal phrase.

While some consider “please be advised” to be an unnecessary phrase, it can smooth over negative information.

Once we understand the meaning of the phrase and where and when to use it, we can then explore the debate surrounding the politeness of “please be advised” and some possible alternatives to this expression.

What Does “Please Be Advised” Mean?

The expression “please be advised” is an empty one with no meaning to some English speakers. We refer to such a phrase in the English language as “superfluous,” which merely means it’s unnecessary.

While this may be the case, the expression still does have two rather essential functions: 

  1. As a formality to add politeness to a warning.
  2. To draw attention to the information that follows.

It softens the fact that someone is telling you something by trying not to sound bossy. It also uses the passive voice to avoid sounding like an order. Let’s take a look at some examples to get an idea of how we can properly use the expression.

Compare these two sentences:

  • The library is closed today.
  • Please be advised that the library is closed today.

There is nothing grammatically incorrect with the first sentence; however, it may come off as a bit blunt to an English speaker.

“Please be advised” has become such a common expression of courtesy in the English language that we expect to see it with such formal notifications.

In this example, we see the phrase used to illustrate authority, formality, and politeness: 

Please be advised that 42nd Street is the last stop on the train.

Here, the important part is that the last stop on the train is 42nd Street, so the phrase “please be advised” catches the listeners’ attention and ensures they hear the critical information.

The phrase is especially useful when dealing with a lot of information, allowing you to highlight a specific part of it.

Image by Gerd Altmann via Pixabay

When Do You Hear the Phrase, “Please Be Advised?”

Those in positions of authority employ the expression in situations that require a certain level of formality and authority. We most often find “Please be advised” in written English, so you will likely see it in an email or an official document. 

It is a phrase considered a part of standard business English similar to other phrases like “To whom it may concern” or “I would appreciate your immediate attention.”

You will often find the phrase used in the business world, especially in its written form, because you need to remain formal, polite, and professional (source).

The legal industry is also very fond of the expression, so you will regularly find the written form in legal documents and correspondence.

Example: Please be advised that your court date is set for the 23 June 2021.

In the spoken form, “please be advised” is generally heard in public spaces for general announcements or important information. 

Example: Please be advised that the mall will be closing in one hour.

In these examples, the term helps create space or distance between the sender and receiver or speaker and listener, which is another function of “please be advised.” 

While the phrase is still used quite widely in the business and law fields, it has lost popularity in some circles in favor of directness and conciseness.

So instead of saying, “Please be advised that the outstanding amount is overdue,” they will often say, “The outstanding amount is overdue.”

Why Do We Use It?

You might wonder why we use the phrase “please be advised” at all. We use this expression because the English language demands a level of politeness. In English, we have varying degrees of formality based on the context in which we are communicating (source).

Part of this has to do with the fact that individuals in America and in English cultures do not like being bossed around or told what to do. It’s much better to rephrase things as a request.

We also want to avoid being blunt by simply stating what we want. Have you ever heard someone in a restaurant say to the waiter, “I want a hamburger”? Probably not, because this phrase is ill-mannered.

Instead, you would hear the expression, “I would like a hamburger, please.” In the English language, “I want” is considered rude.

Another example is, “Give me a pen?” instead of “Please, may I borrow a pen?”

It’s necessary to be polite; otherwise, you can upset people. “Please be advised,” holds the same function in English. It makes the phrase more polite and respectful.

Now let’s examine this example of using the phrase “please be advised”:

Don’t use the elevator.

The sentence is correct grammatically; however, it is quite intrusive, bossy, and rude. Consider instead the following:

Please be advised that the elevator is being serviced and is currently out of use.

Combining “please be advised” with the reason the elevator is out of use provides a much politer and welcome way of phrasing it.

It’s also useful when we desire to ensure that someone fully understands what we are trying to say. So while “please be advised” may not add anything to the meaning, it helps shape our interpretation of the sentence.

While some can view the phrase “please be advised” as having a measure of politeness, we do tend to associate it with negativity. We’ll examine these negative connotations in greater detail in the next section.

The Negative Connotations

While you can see how the phrase is employed to add a dimension of politeness, it is also considered by some English speakers to be superfluous, high-handed, and officious.

Because many use the phrase in matters relating to authority, it is often not considered a request as much as a demand. As such, people often feel that, while the term contains the word “please,” its real function is to appease the listener or reader.

Please be advised that this is a restricted area.

Please be advised that this parking is reserved for restaurant patrons only.

The word “advise” itself means to tell someone what they should do. The passive voice “be advised” is simply a way to avoid the active voice “We advise you,” which sounds much more demanding.

Additionally, there are negative connotations associated with the expression because it often precedes something negative:

Please be advised that the playground is closed.

Please be advised that your mortgage payment is late.

Please be advised the water is not drinkable.

These examples illustrate how someone used the phrase to deliver bad news. Over time, we’ve come to associate it as a precursor to something unpleasant. 

Often the expression is employed in good faith, but it can still upset people. That’s why it’s always wise to limit your use of it to formal situations.

Another point to note is that the phrase “please be advised” does not usually warrant a reply, and it would be quite unusual to do so. 

In most contexts, you don’t even have that option. If we consider the example, “Please be advised that the sixth floor is restricted,” there is no expectation to respond to this as it is non-negotiable.

Please Be Advised vs. Please Advise

“Please be advised” and “Please advise” sound similar, but they are essentially opposites. “Please be advised” is giving information, while “please advise” is asking for information. Both expressions are used more commonly in written English.

Here are two examples to help us understand how these two phrases are different.

Good afternoon,

Please advise when my monthly water bill is due?

Many thanks,

Mrs. Sue Townsend.

In this example, we use the phrase “please advise” to ask for information. 

Good day, Mrs. Townsend,

Please be advised that your monthly water bill is due at the end of the month.

Regards,

The Brooklyn Department of Water. 

In this example, we use the phrase “please be advised” to give that information.

Be aware that using the expression “please advise” regular correspondence can come off as pretentious and a bit too formal.

Instead of the phrase “please advise,” you can try one of the following expressions:

  • Please let me know.
  • Please get back to me when you have an opportunity.
  • Can you offer me your input?
  • Any thoughts?
  • I look forward to your response.

Alternatives to “Please be Advised”

While the phrase “please be advised” is perfectly okay to use in certain situations, there are other phrases that are synonymous that you can use instead of the “please be advised” (source).

Many of these are just as formal, but some carry more friendly tones.

ExpressionContextExample
Please note / Kindly note/
Please be aware/
Please take note
Fine for both casual and formal settings. A friendlier alternative to “Please be advised.”Kindly note that your library book is overdue. 
Please take note of the change in library opening hours.
We wish to inform you/
We would like to inform you.
This is for more formal occasions but isn’t overly formal. It can be used in business situations.We wish to inform you that your parcel is ready for collection.
Please pay attention to the following.It can also be used both casually and formally.Please pay attention to the emergency exits located on the plane.
It has come to our attention. This phrase works best in a more formal setting.It has come to our attention that your son had not been at school.
Let the record showDefinitely a phrase for more formal settings such as in business or in law.Let the record show that Mr. Barlow is not responsible for the accident.
For your informationA more casual expression. This one can come off as confrontational.For your information, I am perfectly happy to go on my own.
Remember that / Keep in mind/ Bear in mindA good expression to use in verbal communication in a casual setting.Remember that we are going to your grandparent’s house this weekend.
Keep in mind that it’s your grandmother’s birthday soon.
I want you to knowQuite a casual expressionI want you to know that I’ll be a bit late for dinner.
It is important to noteThis phrase is used in a formal context and is often used by academics.It is important to note that Shakespeare was more than merely a playwright.
Don’t forget thatA great phrase to use casually. It is friendly, but it can come off as accusative if you’re not familiar with the person. Don’t forget that we are meeting for lunch today.

Context when using certain phrases is so important. You should always consider who you are speaking to and in what setting. The phrase “Whether it be” is another example that we should always consider in context.

Final Thoughts

When it comes to the expression, “Please be advised,” people are divided. While some find it redundant and pretentious, others find it useful.

Whatever your feelings, the phrase is still widely accepted in the business world and doesn’t look like it will be going anywhere soon. Luckily there are loads of alternatives to use if you are on the fence about the phrase, “please be advised.”

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