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After a trip to Japan, I got a slip stapled to my passport, the first bullet point of which reads:

活字体で記入して下さい。黒色又は青色のペンで記入してください

"Please type or print clearly. Write by using black or blue pen."

I have already read through this question on using 下さい vs ください, but the answers emphasize using the two as differences between objects/actions, て-form/other forms, and personal preference. Here, these are both actions, both て-forms, and both written on the same sheet, so personal preference is not a factor.

Given the English translation above (provided on the same stapled slip), I speculate that it might be a politeness indicator, more of a soft request to print neatly, whereas the second request is more firm and required. (But that's just a guess of my own.)

What is the purpose for using the kanji and non-kanji forms of ください in this sentence, given that they both follow 「~で記入して」?

  • I think this question is related: japanese.stackexchange.com/questions/15376/… – Szymon Oct 2 '14 at 0:00
  • @Szymon Yeah, I saw that question, but it is slightly different since, in this case, ください is written on a professional document rather than in more liberal prose. – Eric Oct 2 '14 at 0:28
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I think many people use the two forms freely without a difference in meaning, and I think your sentence is actually a good illustration that this is true. I don't think there's any detectable difference in meaning between 記入してください and 記入して下さい in your example. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if whoever wrote it didn't even notice they were writing it two different ways!

Although both forms are widely used, writing it in kana is more common. If I search the Balanced Corpus of Contemporary Written Japanese (BCCWJ), I find the following:

  してください    10072 results ← 4x more common
  して下さい     2408 results

Of course, I haven't looked through all of these results to find out how they're used, so take the numbers with a grain of salt, but I think most of the results are probably applicable here.

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    It was only in 1973 (昭和48年) when the Ministry of Education made it "official" to use 下さい for a main verb and use ください for a subsidiary verb. Before that, the same Ministry had been telling teachers to use ください in all cases. Thus, we are still in a period of confusion regarding the matter. Regardless, using both forms in such a short context as in OP's example is in bad taste when both are used as a subsidiary verb. – l'électeur Oct 2 '14 at 0:01
  • Also, a lot of Japanese is written on a PC with an IME these days, so it might even not have been a conscious decision to use kanji only in the first sentence. That it did not get corrected might hint at people not caring too much about this issue. – blutorange Oct 2 '14 at 6:49

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