Please note, the idiom

So, “please note”. It’s about taking note, but is it really a plea? One thing it is not, is it is not the polite form of “Note”. It is a strangely forced form of politeness. “Please note that the train does not stop at Blackpool” is almost the same as “Note that this train does not stop at Blackpool,” but it includes the insinuation that the person being told does not care for being told where the train will stop. No, they are so high and mighty, that simply giving them the vital information is insufficient. If you just tell them to note it, they will flatly ignore you and get on the train anyway, and blame you for not trying hard enough to get information into their thick skulls. So, to accommodate this kind of idiocy, you beg and plead. You say “please”. Instead of just “note that,” you say “Please note that this train does not stop at Blackpool.” Now you’ve not only told them something they desperately wanted to know, but you have begged for their reluctant permission to hear it and actually note it. Of course, if they had no intention to stop at Blackpool, you just added a “please” to a note that had no interest to them. You have told them that they are being rude for not caring about stopping at Blackpool.

So what is “please note?” It’s more like a veiled threat than anything else. You can usually prefix it with “for your own good” or “if you want to live”, or “if you care about your family and your unborn children then you will….”.

“Please note” is for when you have said something, or something has been discussed already, and a minor adjustment is in order, such as:

  • A clarification (something needs to be made clear)
  • A correction (you made an error)
  • A warning (you might not have realised something)

So, after the whatever, if you want to add a correction, a warning or a clarification, you say, “please note”.

  • A clarification: “Thank you for buying this paddling pool. Please note that we cannot be held responsible for injury or death resulting from the use of this device, especially when it is filled with water.”
  • A correction: “You thanked us for our quote of R5011.00 including tax. Please note that this price excludes tax.”
  • A warning: “Your letter refers. Please note that we have reported your statements to the police.”

“Please note” is the heavy weaponry of idiomatic language. Where ever you see “…please note that…” you can fairly safely substitute something that lacks the pretense of politeness:

  • “…You had better listen up here:…” (e.g. before you get on this train, please note that it does not stop at Blackpool)
  • “…contrary to what you might think…” (e.g. please note that we are closed on Sundays)
  • “…you better watch out because…” (e.g. please note that Santa Claus is coming to town)

Uncle G. Oogle does not seem to know what the idiom “please note” means. Actually, it seems like it is abused as much as the Latin “Nota Bene”, “Note well”. Oh well.

One last thing: Please note that “please note” needs something to attach the note to. You cannot add a note in isolation. “Dear Sir, please note that this is my first e-mail to you…” That just doesn’t work for 419 reasons.

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