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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?

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    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
    Commented Mar 17, 2017 at 7:52
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    @Mari-LouA, how does the presence/absence of the 'if-clause' make a difference?
    – user1995
    Commented Mar 17, 2017 at 8:01
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    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
    Commented Mar 17, 2017 at 8:10
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    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
    Commented Mar 17, 2017 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
    Commented Mar 17, 2017 at 12:07

1 Answer 1

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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...".

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