The truth about “revert”

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on whatsapp

If you’re a Malaysian, it’s likely that you’ve heard or read the word “revert” to mean “reply”. It’s widely used in verbal and email communication here in our country.

Here are a few examples.

“This is the proposed plan of action. Kindly revert back to me if you have any further requirements.”

“I’ve taken a look at your email and have added a few more requirements.  Kindly revert with an updated quotation.”

“As discussed, here’s what you asked for. Please revert with your feedback.”

Many people, including myself, have always assumed that the use of “revert” as “reply” is incorrect. Even so, I probably used it in many of my emails back in my corporate days. It was just something that everybody understood to mean “reply”.

I never really did much reading into it because I just assumed that it was a Malaysian thing. Until today. Here’s what I found after I Googled it.

Do you see number 2? The word “revert” is accepted as “reply” or “respond” in Indian English. I also came across this article in The New York Times, Revert.

It turns out that unbeknownst to most dictionaries, revert has been leading another life in several varieties of world English, notably the kind spoken on the Indian subcontinent. The usage has finally garnered the attention of the Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary, which amended the definition of revert for its newly published eighth edition to include the meaning “to reply.”

Apparently, the use of “revert” as “reply” originated from India and has spread to other Asian countries such as Malaysia, Singapore and Hong Kong. That’s why we use it so much in our emails and why it’s found its way into the Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary.

So for all those who insist that “revert” does not mean “reply”, sorry to burst your bubble – it’s not incorrect.

For those who have been happily using “revert” as “reply” all these years – well, you can continue your happy ways, but it’s best to use “reply” when you’re communicating with non-South Asian people as mentioned by Professor Paul Brians of Washington State here.

It looks like I’ve learnt something new today. And I stand corrected.

I’ll talk to you in our next blog post!

Photo by Anete Lūsiņa on Unsplash


Do you want to speak English with confidence?

Sign up to join our free video training, Speaking with Confidence. We’ll send you seven tips to your email address!

Here’s Tip 1 for a sneak peek of what’s in store for you.

Hi there!

We’re Azimah, Amnah and Aisya from Malaysia. We created My English Matters as an online platform to help people improve their English.

You may have seen us on: