Enquiry or inquiry – which to use?

by , freelance copywriter

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Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition. And no one should be left wondering about the difference between “enquiry” and “inquiry” after reading this handy blog post

“Enquiry v inquiry” is one of the most googled spelling questions on the internet. If you’re one of them, welcome.

In fact, choosing between the two words is simple – and you don’t need online grammar checkers to help you out. Just use this handy aide-memoire:

An “inquiry” is similar to an “inquisition”

This is the key to it. When you’re talking about a “public inquiry”, a “steward’s inquiry”, or some official investigation, the spelling you need is inquiry.

You can remember it easily, because an “inquiry” is like an “inquisition” – and both start with an i.

When you’re talking about a simple question, on the other hand, the spelling you need is enquiry.

If you still need help, remember that you can put an “enquiry” in an email – so it begins with an e.

What about “enquire” and “inquire”?

Same rule.

To inquire is to investigate. Frankly, the word isn’t used much. You can remember it in the same way – like “inquisition”, “inquire” begins with an i.

To enquire is to ask.

Enquiry or inquiry: a guide to usage

OK, so now you have the rule. But as writers, we’re interested not only in spelling words correctly – but in using the right words in the first place.

When to use “inquiry”

Now: if you’re talking about a “public inquiry” or a “steward’s inquiry”, this is a very specific use case.

You don’t have much choice here: “inquiry” is a formal word for a formal thing, and that’s fine. Use it when necessary.

When to use “enquiry”

But the word “enquiry” is different. As I said earlier, it means “question”, which is a much simpler word for the same thing.

So in many cases I’d question whether you should really be using the word “enquiry” at all.

Let’s take an example. If I write to a client and say: “Thank you for your enquiry about my copywriting services,” I’m being fairly buttoned-up.

But if I write: “Thanks for asking about my copywriting services,” that might be a less formal alternative.

Choose the right level of formality

Now: in a very formal setting, the word “enquiry” may well be appropriate.

But if you’re trying to make your business more friendly and approachable, “enquiry” and “enquire” are the kind of words you want to use less.

To summarise: instead of “enquiry”, consider using the word “question”. And instead of “enquire”, think about using the word “ask”.

This will help you to write as you speak, which is a good thing when you want to strike a direct but friendly tone.

Ultimately, this is about tone

I hope this clears things up. When writing, think not just about accurate spelling, but about whether you can use a simpler word for the same thing – if that’s appropriate for your business and your tone.

Typical, you might say: you come here asking how to spell a word and instead I suggest you don’t use the word at all.

Much like the Spanish Inquisition, perhaps you weren’t expecting that.

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I’m a UK-based copywriter. Contact me if you need help with copywriting or editing for your business.