Write me or Write to me?

Discussion in 'English Only' started by marco_bcn, Feb 14, 2005.

  1. marco_bcn Member

    Hi everybody,

    Is there a difference between "If you have further questions, don't hesitate to write me" and "If you have further questions don't hesitate to write to me? The former example sounds a bit weird to me.

    What about the verb "to contact"? Does it imply that there has been no previous conversation between the two? I mean, you can use it only when you start the conversation? E.g. If you have further questions, don't hesitate to contact me (correct or incorrect?).

    Are there more common ways of expressing the above mentioned idea without running the risk of my English becoming too colloquial?

    Thanks in advance for your suggestions.

  2. Benjy

    Benjy Senior Member

    Milton Keynes, UK
    English - English
    Personally I'd say dont hestitate to write to me. You don't write somebody, you write things to them (although you might write on them). Don't hesitate to contact is fine, you might also consider don't hesitate to get in touch.
    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 19, 2013
  3. ekeating New Member

    USA, English
    I believe that the difference is in the formality of the writing. It is fine, loosely, to say "...write me" as though to a friend (meaning, Why don't you write me?). In more formal writing, I would preferentially use "...write to me".

    Likewise, as a close, your suggestion is fine (contact me) in formal writing. I would not use "...in touch" in that same forum, but it is definitely acceptable informally.

    Just my thoughts...hope it helps.
  4. Rob625

    Rob625 Senior Member

    Murlo (SI)
    English - England
    'Write me' is American. In British English we say 'write to me'.
  5. marco_bcn Member

    Thank you both.
  6. Tabac Senior Member

    Pacific Northwest (USA)
    U. S. - English
    I, an American, was going to suggest the opposite. Curious!
  7. abc Senior Member

    Vietnam, Vietnamese
    I think both sides of the pond use write me and write to me.
  8. Rob625

    Rob625 Senior Member

    Murlo (SI)
    English - England
    In British English, 'write me' as in the original examples is definitely wrong.

    :cross: "If you have further questions, don't hesitate to write me."
    :tick: "If you have further questions don't hesitate to write to me."

    As with other verbs, we can leave out the 'to' for the indirect object when there is also a direct object:

    :tick: Write me a letter when you have time.
    :tick: He gave me a dog.
    :tick: He gave the dog to me.
    :tick: He wrote me a letter.
    :tick: He wrote a letter to me.

    :tick: Write to me every day.

    :cross: Write me every day.

    I think that all these, including the ones with a red cross, are acceptable in American English
  9. marco_bcn Member

    Thanks Rob, now I'm convinced. See, I work as a technical writer and sometimes i have to adjust my style to my manager's whims. You've proved him wrong now, although he'll never know.

    What I'm still not sure about is the use of "to contact". Does one contact somebody only when s/he writes to him/her for the first time?

    What about the verb "to register"? For example, do you register ON/TO/IN Yahoo? I have doubts as to the correct preposition.

  10. Benjy

    Benjy Senior Member

    Milton Keynes, UK
    English - English
    no.. you can contact people all the time, which is why you can stay "in contact" as such
  11. marco_bcn Member

    Thanks Benjy! That's useful information.
  12. jacinta Senior Member

    USA English
    Register with Yahoo (the same as join Yahoo)
    Register to vote
    register online
  13. Nick

    Nick Senior Member

    Western USA
    USA, English
    I usually say "Register at Yahoo" (or whichever site).
  14. jacinta Senior Member

    USA English
    Yes, you're right, Nick. That's how I say it, too, come to think of it.

  15. flaze Member

    Catania, Sicilia
    English -UK
    I find that 'sign up at' is more ambivalent than 'sign up with', because 'at' has connotations of a place at which to sign up, whereas 'with' straightforwardly says that one is signing up to be a member of the organisation, and nothing more.
  16. opsb New Member

    To use on and at in the same sentence: 'register on the page at...'

    With regards to write (to) me, I'm from England and I can't remember a single occasion where I've heard 'write me' used, it's always 'write to me', I think it's very much an Americanism.
  17. flaze Member

    Catania, Sicilia
    English -UK
    I can already use 'on' and 'at', thanks! :D

    I agree that 'write me' is Americanism - no self-respecting Englishman or lady would be seen dead uttering such linguistic blasphemy!
  18. ddnz New Member

    New Zealand English
    That's what I thought...I would always use the preposition - write to me - as would most other New Zealanders.
  19. Sparky Malarky

    Sparky Malarky Moderator

    English - US
    Why not write me? We say call me. We would not say call to me. We would not say telephone to me. We would not say email to me.

    Write to me = write a letter and send it to me.
    Write me = contact me. Do so by letter.
  20. JungKim Senior Member

    The verbs 'write' and 'call' are different in that the former requires as its primary complement what is to be written, such as a letter, a response and an email, whereas the latter requires who is to be called, such as "me".
    The verbs 'telephone' and 'email' are similar to 'call' in the same sense.
  21. ddnz New Member

    New Zealand English
    The only example that could fit with the American usage of the verb (i.e. "write me" without a direct object) is this one:

    Write me as one that loves his fellow-men.

    A quick search reveals this come from the poem Abou ben Adhem by James Henry Leigh Hunt and, according to my understanding, "write me" here means "write my name" (see the poem for the full context). All the other
    examples in that list have a direct object (so sweet a reply, a note, etc) and as far as I can tell from the preceding posts, it is the usage with just an indirect object that was being discussed.

    Anyway, I had a look in the BNC and there are a few examples:

    Give 'em all my autograph that write me.’

    I realize you can't write me here.

    The problem was that Kier had friends in the town council and, as Campbell pointed out, ‘my eneemys here have wrote to My Lord Grange; if the man is sett at liberty I begg it may be by y[ou]r interest, and that you'll be so good as write me so, for it will do me service in this place’.

    So there are a few examples, but they are relatively very infrequent compared to the 116 examples of "write to me" in the corpus.

    Also, I found this: But when I was seeing him he offered to write me a check for five million pound, I said, I couldn't take a check for five million pound because I was a to me.

    How British is that ?! ;-)
  22. boozer Senior Member

    Oh, I had not realised that, somehow. :eek:
  23. flaze Member

    Catania, Sicilia
    English -UK
    Ok, let's get this straight. In all the examples you have given (except the third), 'write me' is followed by a direct object.

    red: indirect object
    blue: direct object
    green: preposition
    pink: object of preposition

    1. write me... a reply
    2. write me letters
    3. write [about] me (poetic use)
    4. write me a note
    5. write me a...permis de séjour

    When you have a direct and indirect object, the indirect object (me) can go a) in front of the direct object:


    He bought me it
    They sold her a card
    We gave the child the dog.

    Or, b) you can have the direct object first followed by the indirect object with a preposition.

    He bought me it --> He bought it for me
    They sold her a card --> They sold a card to her
    We gave the child the dog --> We gave a dog to the child

    Now, in the absence of a direct object, the preposition is kept.


    Speak to me.
    Write to me.
    Listen to me.
    Take from the rich, give to the poor.

    So, one might say that the American use of 'write me' is, in fact, grammatically incorrect (although there are so many exceptions in English, I can't really assert this, even for the sake of bashing American English, hoho). In any case, even if Shakespeare or others used 'write me' in a poetical sense, which they may well have, it doesn't make it a normative use of such a structure.

    So, in conclusion, in British English 'write me' = WRONG. ;-)
  24. boozer Senior Member

    I know full well what a direct and indirect object is, thank you, flaze. I simply had not realised the version with indirect object alone was being discussed, as I said in post 23. :eek: I agree that 'write me' on its own is incorrect. In fact, I apologise for this confusion...
  25. flaze Member

    Catania, Sicilia
    English -UK
    Posts 22 and 23 had been written while I was writing mine, haha. - I guess that will teach me to be more to the point. Anyway, other people may not know the difference between ind. and dir. objects, but hopefully if they are reading this thread they now will :D
  26. boozer Senior Member

    :thumbsup: You did a great colourful job of explaining it anyway. It should not simply go down the drain. :)
  27. lucas-sp Senior Member

    English - Californian
    I hate to be the voice of reason, but maybe we should check in with our friends the Oxford dons? Here's the OED on "to write":
    Group (a) here is "write to/unto someone"; Group (b) is "write someone" (no preposition). They go on to give examples. Some of them are so gosh-darn British I could cry:
    And many more. So, "write [someone]" is certainly not incorrect, although it may be less common in BE than it is in AE. It also dates back to well before 1770.
  28. flaze Member

    Catania, Sicilia
    English -UK
    Which makes the use pretty out of date. Modern British English is quite different from what it was in the 1920's! In any case, it's more grammatically consistent to say 'write to me', which is probably why that is the prevailing use now in the UK.
  29. lucas-sp Senior Member

    English - Californian
    Look at what the OED says about "write someone" without a preposition:
    It was relatively rare until 1770, although certainly in existence since Chaucer (among others) used it.

    It began to be used frequently around 1790.

    Today, it is standard in the US; it is common in the UK but it is not regarded as belonging to the most formal, high-toned register of language.

    The OED says quite clearly that this is a usage that has become more popular over time in both the UK and US, not that it has become less popular​.
  30. flaze Member

    Catania, Sicilia
    English -UK
    Probably because of American influence? I like to think I subscribe to the 'formal, high-toned register of the language'. :D I don't believe it's all that popular though - none of my friends would say 'write me' and if they did someone else would probably correct them, haha.
    Last edited: Jan 18, 2013
  31. lucas-sp Senior Member

    English - Californian
    I don't think Chaucer was particularly influenced by American usage. The OED says that "write" in this sense has taken an "indirect personal object" for centuries in English, before the discovery of America.

    Some other uses:
    Thackeray, Lord Nelson, Havelock Ellis - none of them are really known for their Americanisms, are they? This usage began in English as spoken and written in England. The OED describes a clear difference between AE and BE, though, in that AE uses "write someone" in all contexts, while it is considered informal in BE.

    "Informal," not "wrong" or "grammatically incorrect."
  32. flaze Member

    Catania, Sicilia
    English -UK
    Well I still think it is wrong and grammatically incorrect, for reasons I gave above. However, I appreciate you're American and understandably protective of your language. I shall say no more on the subject.
  33. lucas-sp Senior Member

    English - Californian
    American literature is so much richer now that you've graciously given us - well - all of British literature! It's interesting how non-protective you are about your big name authors...

    The OED, by the way, isn't known as a loosey-goosey anything-goes resource. These are well-documented cases of actual English use - in this case, British English use. I'm not being protective of my language; I'm just pointing out an odd prejudice against this usage.

    Also, note that the growing popularity of "write someone" began in the late 18th century, which is a bit before any strong "American influence" would be exerted on BE.
  34. flaze Member

    Catania, Sicilia
    English -UK
    Aghh, I shouldn't go against my word, but it's just irresistible. :p

    It's really not an 'odd' prejudice. It's quite sensible. To be honest, I don't care if Nelson was accustomed to writing 'write me' in a letter - he's not famous because of his grammar! Or indeed Chaucer - whose language only somewhat resembles modern English. It sounds wrong, because according to the grammar of object pronouns it IS. People use funny constructions all the time, probably because they are thinking about more pressing things, like (in Nelson's case) wondering about whether or not to write to his wife. Odd constructions go in and out of fashion - it doesn't make them right.

    I also notice that Americans have commented on this thread that in formal contexts, they would use 'write to you', and not 'write you'. Why is that? Presumably because 'write to you' sounds 'more correct', which is quite telling.
  35. Loob

    Loob Senior Member

    English UK
    I don't know how you can argue that, flaze. Would you also argue that "Tell me!" is wrong, because we also say "Tell me the answer!"?
  36. lucas-sp Senior Member

    English - Californian
    The evidence of philology has shown that:

    A) many self-respecting Englishmen and ladies use "write me," and have done so over the last seven centuries of English usage, and
    B) it is not originally an American usage

    "Write me" is fine to use in AE, even in formal and business correspondence. ("Write your congressperson!" is a set phrase; I easily could say "Please write me if you have any questions" in a business letter.) There is a larger distinction between "write me" and "write to me" in BE, but that doesn't mean that BE doesn't use "write me" - instead, it just uses it in a different way than AE.
  37. JustKate

    JustKate Moderate Mod

    "Write me" is fine. "Write to me" is also fine. I would have no problem using either one in both formal and casual correspondence. And even if "Write me" were used only for less formal writing, so what? Less formal isn't the same thing as incorrect.

    The fact is, Flaze, you have a prejudice against "Write me." That's fine - we all have them, and that most definitely includes me. It is because of my prejudices that I avoid "utilize" in my writing and speech, and I also avoid "over than" used in the sense of "more than," and I will continue to do so, I suspect, until my dying day. I also dislike "contact" as a verb, though I may get over that eventually because, darn it, it's so useful in certain circumstances. But as for the other two, I don't like them and I don't have to like them. Similarly, you don't have to like "Write me" (or "Tell me" ;)?) , and you too can avoid it until your dying day. But everybody needs to realize that just because we dislike something, that doesn't make it wrong.
  38. flaze Member

    Catania, Sicilia
    English -UK
    That is a good point, I have to confess. I don't know why we don't say 'tell to me', it's one of the many dreaded 'exceptions'. But if 'tell to me' were in circulation along with 'tell me', I'm sure it would be preferred by grammars.

    When you have a choice between something internally logical and something not, which would you prefer? Since 'write to me' exists both in America, and England (the more natural choice), and Americans admit to using 'write me' in more formal contexts to sound better, which would you go with?
  39. Loob

    Loob Senior Member

    English UK
    I'm afraid I don't accept your premise, flaze.

    I don't, myself, say "Write me!" without a following direct object: it doesn't work in my variety of BrE. But I would never in a million years say that "Write me!" was wrong, when it is well-attested that native speakers of English do, in fact, use it.
  40. flaze Member

    Catania, Sicilia
    English -UK
    Is it that obvious? :p

    'utilise' sounds sort of pseudo-technical, but I'm not above using it now and then. As for 'over than', I think you're right in that it's best avoided :D.

    Well you had to see that coming - English is constantly changing nouns into verbs :p
  41. JuanEscritor

    JuanEscritor Senior Member

    English - AmE
    What about text, email, and message?
  42. boozer Senior Member

    I probably agreed rather hastily because I myself would not say it and because of the misunderstanding I was guilty of. Even on its own, though, 'write me' does sound like something that has been said before. :)
  43. flaze Member

    Catania, Sicilia
    English -UK
    To be frank, native English speakers say a lot of things - it's no indicator that they're right, haha. I admit that 'write me' could just be another exception in English, just as 'tell', but I have a strong feeling that if Americans did not say 'write me', no one would maintain that in modern English it is acceptable. But, hey, it exists and nothing I say will make it go away so what the heck? :)
  44. Loob

    Loob Senior Member

    English UK
    Yes, possibly. Though the OED citations include examples from BrE writers such as Iris Murdoch.
    Yes, it does.

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