Does “Advise” Mean “Tell”?

Does “advise” mean “tell”? No. “Advise” means “give advice.”

Jargon is the enemy of good police writing. Here’s an example of jargon (using advised to mean told) from a report about a domestic dispute:

“Both witnesses advised they observed the passenger side door open and a (woman) fall out onto the road.”  INCORRECT

Bad writing. Here’s what the deputy should have written:

“Both witnesses said they observed the passenger side door open and a (woman) fall out onto the road.”  CORRECT

Advise is not a synonym for say or tell. According to, advise means “to give counsel to; offer an opinion or suggestion as worth following: I advise you to be cautious.”

You may be wondering why I’m complaining about what the deputy wrote. We understand what he was telling us, right? Why is using advised in his sentence a problem?

Here’s why: If you frequently use advise when you mean tell (as many officers do), you’re going to create confusion when you actually give advice to a citizen. Here’s an example of what I’m talking about:

Pastor Grady advised me that vandals had defaced the church sign three times in the last six months. I advised him to install brighter lighting in front of the church building.  CONFUSING

In this example, “advised” is used twice with different meanings. The first sentence should be revised to read “Pastor Grady told me….”

Here, by contrast, is a statement from a law enforcement website in which advised is used correctly, in the sense of counseling:

The New Garden Township police are advising the communities in the southern portion of the township, along the Delaware border, to be watchful of suspicious activity occurring in and around their community.  CORRECT

I advise you to be careful how you use advise in your reports! (Did you notice that I was careful to use “advise” correctly?)


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