Sep 222009

It’s really nice to know that people want to know how to begin a letter. First, it’s nice to know that in this world of telephones, there is a real interest in writing!  It’s also great to know that our readers want to be polite, socially acceptable, and grammatically correct!

Here’s a request I received from a reader recently:

Please tell me about some phrase begging of the letter Like ( I hope find you in the best of health or I hope find well ect…

My question back is – to whom would you be writing? To a friend?  To a business associate?  To a relative or parent?  This will help me come up with some beginnings based on the social relationship.  There are more formal and less formal ways to ask this question.

Let’s look at the two openings you suggested:

I hope this letter finds you well” is a very polite opening, and one that indicates good manners.  It also would be sent to somebody whom you already know.  Your variant would be “I hope this letter finds you in the best of health.”  Of course, as I indicated, this is a polite opening, and written to somebody whom you already know, so you want to use it appropriately.  You also want to use this with someone who will appreciate the fine language.

If you want to write a letter to somebody you do not know, let me know and we can broaden the conversation and come up with some other appropriate openings.

Thank you for your question; it is a very good one!


Jul 142009

Sometimes a question that seems simple on the surface hides many other issues going on beneath the surface.  Here is another question that we have received from a reader:

Dear Help Desk,

Does a closing of an e-mail to a friend with “All the best” always mean a farewell?

With kind regards,

(name withheld)

We responded:

(name withheld),

Thank you for your question.

It is becoming a common way of ending an email between friends, and even people who do not know each other. Where it is not appropriate to end with “love”, “All the best” is appropriate because it is a congenial salutation.

Have you received this ending lately? If so, on what type of email?

The ESL Help! Desk

Next, we received the following question in return:

Dear Help Desk,

Thank you very much for the prompt response. The matter is that I have a friend. We had been known each other personally (not intimately) for half-a-year before becoming distant correspondents during the next six months. However I cannot assume we both know much about each oher. I recently sent an email with “All the best” ending and have not received a timely reply. I was just thinking if this could be concidered by him as my will to end our virtual relationship.

My kind regards,

(name withheld)

To which we responded:

(name withheld),

Hmmm…I don’t think that the time lag between your hearing from this pen pal and the present time can be attributed to your ending an email with “all the best”. However, how long has it generally been between emails?
Could your pen pal be on a vacation or traveling due to work? Or perhaps there has been, God forbid, a family tragedy? Sometimes people’s email goes down, as well.

If your relationship had been intimate, then I would say that “All the best” is not appropriate; it will establish distance. However, as you describe it, such was not the case. Could it be that this pen pal did desire a more intimate relationship? Of course you would want to be careful about that in any case, given the problem of these internet relationships.

Before you switched to “All the best”, how did you and he typically end your emails? I would suggest that you either 1) wait and see if and when you receive a response; or 2) send another short note and just say that you are  hoping everything is well with him, and sign it, “Your friend, (name withheld).”

But if you are going to use choice “b”, then wait a bit, as some people are weary of others being “pushy”.

Wishing you all the best!

the ESL Help! Desk