gentle reminder - is this phrase friendly?

englishelp

Senior Member
Chinese
Hi,

I remember receiving emails titled "Gentle Reminder" from University administrative staff. But I am not sure if this is a friendly phrase. You may be wondering what I mean by friendly. Let me give you an example of what I have in mind:

Please take off your shoes before entering the house. --> friendly
Kindly take off your shoes before entering the house. --> not friendly

[Well, at least that's what I have been told.]

The reason I am asking about the phrase "Gentle Reminder" is that I want to write a short note reminding my referee (person who writes reference letters for me) that the letter is due in a few days. Would "Gentle Reminder" be a friendly phrase to use in this context?:

Hi, XXX,
Just a gentle reminder that the reference letter for the position of [name of position] is due on XXX. Thanks very much.

Thanks!
 
  • JamesM

    Senior Member
    "Kindly" is often used in an exasperated or sarcastic way, as in "Kindly keep your thoughts to yourself, "Kindly remove your dirty feet from my sofa".

    I agree that it can be interpreted as unfriendly, although it is not its original meaning and often not the intention of the person using it (when the person is not exasperated or sarcastic).

    [edit] To answer the original question (I'm so easily distracted these days!), "gentle reminder" is formal but friendly, in my opinion.
     
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    Copyright

    Senior Member
    American English
    I'm sure it's just me, but I don't care for Gentle Reminder. Just seeing it annoys me. It's too coy and pseudo-polite and, after all, it is a reminder -- so just tell me what's on your mind.

    I must admit that my annoyance with the phrase is tied to the number of times I see this set expression of supposed friendliness, and the person behind the message. :)

    Once something passes into rubber-stamp-speak, it loses the personal, friendly touch you're trying to achieve. And putting Gentle Reminder in the subject line of an email to me is enough to stop all forward progress on whatever project I'm doing for you -- by way of Gentle Warning. :D
     

    natkretep

    Moderato con anima (English Only)
    English (Singapore/UK), basic Chinese
    No, it's not just you, Copyright. I'm another one who dislikes gentle reminder. I see it too much in our work email. I've also heard similar reactions from my colleagues. It's a set phrase that feels meaningless.

    I don't like kindly either because it is typically used sarcastically.

    For your letter, I would just say, 'This is just a reminder ...', or 'This is just to remind you ...'.
     

    panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    Oh dear.
    I'm surprised at some of the reactions to "gentle reminder".
    I use it, but not a lot. I very rarely see it on incoming mail, and never consider it anything other than what it says.
    But it seems that this little phrase has caught on in some contexts to the extent that it has indeed become over-worked.
     

    Renaissance man

    Senior Member
    I think every phrase that repeatedly accompanies a reminder will pavlovianly be interpreted as something annoying and pseudo-polite.

    If I got emails saying "this is just to remind you" over and over again I would be equally appalled by the "this is just"-bit...
     

    natkretep

    Moderato con anima (English Only)
    English (Singapore/UK), basic Chinese
    Thanks, I see your point. Yes, perhaps the problem isn't the phrase itself but that it was used too much and used unthinkingly (often in the subject line). The other thing is that I think describing a reminder as gentle comes off better from somebody other than the person doing the reminding: how does the person reminding know that it will be taken gently? In that way, it sounds presumptuous. I don't think I would have this reaction if gentle was used descriptively by someone other than the person doing the reminding.
     
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    okaki

    New Member
    English - UK
    Yes, it is friendly; I use it often. What I'm worried about is that you think using kindly is not friendly ...
    A 'reminder' is neutral e.g. a meeting reminder--this is more than enough.
    There's nothing friendly about 'gentle reminder'. It signifies a warning that there's a nastier reminder afterwards, or a fine or a punishment.

    'Kindly' is normally used by a superior to an inferior e.g. a boss to his/her secretary: Kindly draft a letter to Mr X. There's a sense authority and thus this is NOT as friendly as 'please'. I based this answer from Bill Bryson's dictionary of troublesome words.
     

    Glenfarclas

    Senior Member
    English (American)
    I'm sure it's just me, but I don't care for Gentle Reminder. Just seeing it annoys me. It's too coy and pseudo-polite and, after all, it is a reminder -- so just tell me what's on your mind.
    No, it's not just you, Copyright. I'm another one who dislikes gentle reminder. I see it too much in our work email. I've also heard similar reactions from my colleagues. It's a set phrase that feels meaningless.
    I agree completely. "Coy" is a good descriptor, in a passive-aggressive, unfriendly sense.
     

    djweaverbeaver

    Senior Member
    English Atlanta, GA USA
    I don't think I've ever seen or heard gentle reminder in American English. You'd be more likely to find a friendly reminder here.
     

    Barque

    Senior Member
    Tamil
    You could but it sounds as if you mean it won't make much difference if the recipient doesn't take it seriously.

    Cross-posted.
     

    natkretep

    Moderato con anima (English Only)
    English (Singapore/UK), basic Chinese
    I prefer a more straightforward statement. 'This is just a reminder of our meeting tomorrow ....'
     

    JamesM

    Senior Member
    To me, the "just" softens "this is a reminder". If you are looking for a way to soften the reminder I think "just" is actually a helpful cue. It's less formal than "This is a reminder" but that is part of its appeal, in my opinion.
     

    Linkway

    Senior Member
    British English
    Just a gentle reminder that the reference letter for the position of [name of position] is due on XXX. Thanks very much.
    Speaking personally, I would only use "gentle reminder" in the context of a more senior person reminding a more junior person. Actually, I don't really mean "more senior" as such, rather a person in a supervisory or coordinating role.

    eg: Just a gentle reminder that all applications for study grants for next academic year must be received by the end of January. Thanks, Fred Tillson, Grants Committee Chair.

    If you are reminding your supervisor about giving you a reference, it seems inappropriate to say that you want to be "gentle" with him or her.
     

    ain'ttranslationfun?

    Senior Member
    US English
    A superior speaking to someone lower in the heirarchy (boss to secretary, for instance) would probably say "Don't forget + infinitive/noun."

    (Suggestion) In writing to one's referee (OP, 2012), perhaps "I have not yet received your letter of recommendation. Please don't forget that I am required to furnish it for the xxth (of this month).", or something like that. That way, you don't make it sound like it's you who are insisting, but that the deadline is imposed by the organization to whom the letter will be addressed.
     
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