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I'm from South East Asia, and in here, it's very common to use "kindly" as a written polite request to other people, and I often see it on the internet as well. But I've just discovered that from this website, "kindly" is regarded as a "low-brow, patronizing, and overly sensitive".

Other people are recommending that you use the word "kindly". Please, never use the word "kindly" when interacting with Americans. In the view of Americans, only English-speaking Indians use this word. It comes across as low-brow, patronizing, and overly sensitive.

Oh wow, I never know that. But coming from a non native western background and culture, I have nobody here I can crosscheck information with. Maybe someone here with the appropriate culture background knowledge can give some insight? Is this a general view, or just a partial view of Americans about this word? Should I stop using this word from now on, or I just overly worried over nothing? Thanks.

  • I think that is just one person's opinion. Kindly does come across as slightly formal and old-fashioned, but "low-brow, patronizing, and overly sensitive"?!?! Overuse of kindly come across as a bit patronizing, maybe, but that's all. – stangdon Jul 26 '16 at 2:52
  • I took a look at the link. I wouldn't regard that one commentator as authoritative. It's rare to hear requests beginning with kindly in the US. It's more common to use please in place of kindly, but I have heard it nonetheless. I certainly wouldn't call it inappropriate, and I don't use phrases such as low-brow, particularly in reference to one's dialect. What I find to be most inappropriate was that person's answer to the question. I think he came across as racist to be honest. – Giambattista Jul 26 '16 at 2:56
  • @Giambattista actually, we usually combine the word "please" and "kindly" altogether. "Please kindly check this document attached." or "Please kindly review the last meeting's notes." Is this appropriate? Or too redundant? – Chen Li Yong Jul 26 '16 at 3:00
  • Well, it certainly shouldn't offend anyone. I will say that to me, saying please kindly… is a little over-the-top, and I'm not sure that I've heard it that way before. But that doesn't make it inappropriate. – Giambattista Jul 26 '16 at 3:04
  • @ChenLiYong - "Please kindly" sounds strange to this American English speaker. They mean pretty much the same thing, so using both is redundant. – stangdon Jul 26 '16 at 12:38
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Please keep in mind that the post you provided is the opinion of one person. I think it's going to be difficult to accurately assess how Americans view the word kindly. I'm American, I personally do not harbor the feelings expressed in that post. In fact, if someone used the word kindly in that fashion, I would find it particularly polite.

Of course, this is also the opinion of one person. But I can assure you that please is certainly more popular than kindly. I provide some cursory search data of American English. I searched "kindly" and "please". It's hard to gather the exact meanings, since they can change according to context. However, notice the top return is "please do". enter image description here

Expanding further, we see that please do dominates kindly do, as an example, and appears to have the meaning we seek.

enter image description here

If you want to be safe (around Americans), you should use please. But I truly do not think you need to worry.

  • This is a great scientific answer! In here, we rarely use "please do", so I have a little difficulty to put it into words. "Please do check this document attached" sounds a little patronising to me. But maybe that's because I'm unfamiliar with the phrase. So I'll try and learn to internalise it. Btw, can I get the url of this website if I want to run queries about commonly used words? – Chen Li Yong Jul 27 '16 at 2:57
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I think that one of the main problems is that English language learners learn "nice words" like "kindly" and "please". They then believe that just by putting them into a sentence, the sentence will become polite.

Example:

[At a performance] Kindly sit down and be quiet. (sounds fairly patronizing)

[Exiting an elevator] Please move out of my way. (please is used but the sentence doesn't sound polite at all)

Examples of what I consider polite without using "nice words":

[At a performance] We appreciate everyone's cooperation in keeping the performance quiet and enjoyable for the whole audience.

[Exiting an elevator] This is my floor.

In short, using words like "kindly" can seem patronizing depending on contents of the sentence and situational context.

  • Yeah I can see how this comes to play. It's all depends on the motive and context too. Asian people sometimes try to keep the conversation polite, but actually has a subdued hostile meaning. So this is actually on point. – Chen Li Yong Jul 27 '16 at 3:01
  • As a native English speaker I can confirm kindly almost always comes across as patronising, unless it's clear that the speaker has limited English skills, in which case you get let off (to an extent). It's somewhat akin to "I don't want to be rude, but" - which is then followed by something intentionally rude. Best avoided – Neil Sep 15 at 21:17

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