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Does Please Make a Request Optional?

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  • Your young listener has an excellent point! When working with my European colleagues, I am often kindly teased about my overuse of the word “please”. It must be an American thing to start every request with “please”. It can get to be too much, at least in written form. “Please review, please respond by this date, please do some other thing.” The overuse of “please” creates clutter which can lead to misunderstanding (I never thought about them being seen as optional, as your listener suggests, but now I see that could be the interpretation). I have found this to be true even with my Japanese counterparts, where politeness is paramount. Because of this, I have tried to restructure my phrasing to limit the use of “please” to my introductory statement and know that a direct command is perfectly ok and not always seen as rude.

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