1

I regularly write emails to colleagues and tend to start my letters with 'I was writing to ask if...'. Should I replace it with 'I am writing to ask if...'? I think so because I am writing at this time.

I know this may not be the best way to start emails, but nonetheless, which usage is grammatically accurate?

  • 2
    I was writing.. is fine, because it precedes the if-clause, it's a super way to make a polite request. If (ha!) there is no "if-clause", then either verb tense is acceptable but I'd prefer the present tense. "I'm writing to enquire..." "I'm writing to inform you..." – Mari-Lou A Mar 17 '17 at 7:52
  • 1
    @Mari-LouA, how does the presence/absence of the 'if-clause' make a difference? – user1993 Mar 17 '17 at 8:01
  • 3
    In my opinion, the "if-clause" adds a more hesitant note. It's similar to the "I was wondering if you would-clause" when you want to make a polite request, you are aware that the listener might be busy with other things more important. "I was writing to ask if.." and "I was wondering if..." are a bit redundant but they help make an enquiry or request sound less like a order. – Mari-Lou A Mar 17 '17 at 8:10
  • 8
    While writing the letter you would be writing in a present tense, asking in a present tense but would refer to having wondered (and therefore been prompted to write) in a past tense. You would write "I am writing to ask...", "I was wondering..." or, the slightly tortured "I am writing because I was wondering...". – Mike C Mar 17 '17 at 8:43
  • While we're on the topic, does anyone have a problem with, "Dear Soandso, I write to ask if...?" This avoids the problem altogether. – MDHunter Mar 17 '17 at 12:07
2

While writing the letter you would be writing in a present tense, asking in a present tense but would refer to having wondered (and therefore been prompted to write) in a past tense. You would write "I am writing to ask...", "I was wondering..." or, the slightly tortured "I am writing because I was wondering...".

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.