Advise or Tell? A Quiz for You

Which word is correct: advise or tell?

In just a few moments you’ll have a chance to take a short quiz on the difference between advise and tell. (The answers are provided at the bottom of this post.)

First, though, let’s talk about why you should care about the difference.

Many officers mistakenly use “advise” as a synonym for “tell”: Barlow advised me that he’d been at work when the break-in occurred. It’s a longstanding criminal justice habit.

You’re thinking no problem, right? Other officers know you mean “Barlow told me.”

But what happens if you use advise this way when you’re not writing a police report? For example, suppose you’re writing a research paper for college, or an article for a police publication, or a press release for a local newspaper, or a supervisory report. Everyone who reads your work is going to wonder why on earth you don’t know how to use advise correctly.

And here’s another potential problem. Suppose you’re an administrator who orders an officer to correct a behavior that’s causing problems. After you talk to her, you put a document into her file that includes this statement:

I advised Officer Blaine to follow agency guidelines when questioning suspects.

That “advised” could cause trouble for you later if Officer Blaine claims that you only suggested (“advised”) that she change her behavior.

Advise doesn’t mean “tell” (check the dictionary!) “Tell” means “tell,” and “advise” means “to give advice.”

(Can you tell that I just read a college paper full of misused “He advised” and “I advised” sentences? Guess who wrote it: a police officer who’s working toward a college degree. Sigh.)

Here’s a little quiz to make sure you know how to use advise correctly. Change advised to told where necessary. Answers appear below.

1.  I advised Inmate Jones that he was assigned to the morning shift.

2.  I advised Inmate Jones to improve his negative attitude.

3.  I advised Mary Smith to see a doctor about the cuts on her arms.

4.  Smith advised me that her ex-boyfriend was responsible for the cuts.

5.  Chief Simmons advised us that he would be on vacation the first half of July.

6.  Officer Donaldson’s doctor advised him to limit his cholesterol intake.

7.  I already advised the Assistant Warden about the broken alarm in Baker Dorm.

8.  I’m glad I listened to Chief Johnson when he advised me to continue my education right after high school.

9.   The chaplain advised us that there would be a special religious service Sunday evening.

10. I’m glad my guidance counselor in high school advised me to take a keyboarding course.

Here are the answers:

X 1.  I told Inmate Jones that he was assigned to the morning shift.

X 2.  I advised Inmate Jones to improve his negative attitude.  (giving advice)

3.  I advised Mary Smith to see a doctor about the cuts on her arms.  (giving advice)

X 4.  Smith told me that her ex-boyfriend was responsible for the cuts.

 5.  Chief Simmons told us that he would be on vacation the first half of July.

6.  Officer Donaldson’s doctor advised him to limit his cholesterol intake.  (giving advice)

X 7.  I already told the Assistant Warden about the broken alarm in Baker Dorm.

8.  I’m glad I listened to Chief Johnson when he advised me to continue my education right after high school.  (giving advice)

X 9.   The chaplain told us that there would be a special religious service Sunday evening.

10. I’m glad my guidance counselor in high school advised me to take a keyboarding course.  (giving advice)

 

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