Anything About Everything

2 September 2009

Revert

Filed under: Language,Society — rajiv @ 4:52 am

Although the usage is common in Singapore and Malaysia, it is widely regarded as wrong to use “revert” to mean get back to someone.

Revert is given the following meanings in the Free Online Dictionary:

1. To return to a former condition, practice, subject, or belief.

2. Law To return to the former owner or to the former owner’s heirs. Used of money or property.

3. Genetics To undergo reversion.

The use of “revert” in statements such as “I will revert with the information requested” or “Please revert on your availability” is regarded as incorrect.

If “revert” is used to mean “reply” or “respond”, then the usage is clearly wrong, and it would suffice to use the words “reply” or “respond” instead of “revert.

However, “revert” is often used to mean “get back”.  On the other hand, “get back” sounds colloquial when used in more  formal contexts, while using “reply” or “respond” as a substitute may not be an elegant way of expressing the intended meaning, for example:

  • In the first example above – (although I am replying to you now) I will get back to with the particular information you requested.
  • In the second example above – I would like you to get back to me on your availability.

Perhaps one established meaning of “revert” that would be appropriate is “return to the subject”.   In the above examples:

  • In the first – I will return to the subject with the information you requested.
  • In the second – Please return to the  subject of your availability.

In any event, the meaning of words change over time, especially through usage.   Perhaps in time, it will become accepted that “revert” means “get back”.

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