Posted by: Jack Henry | November 6, 2018

Editor’s Corner: Inquire vs. Enquire

Recently, one of you asked me about the difference between the words inquire and enquire. My first thought was that they are two different spellings of the same word, one used by the U.S. (inquire) and the other by the U.K. (enquire), but looking a little further, I found that there’s a bit more to it than that.

From Daily Writing Tips:

These are two spellings of the same word, which means to seek information about something or to conduct a formal investigation (usually when followed by “into”). The corresponding noun is enquiry or inquiry.

Either spelling can be used, but many people prefer enquire and enquiry for the general sense of “ask,” and inquire and inquiry for a formal investigation:

[KC – I stepped in and changed the examples a bit.]

· Jane enquired about the handsome boy’s name.

· The most common student enquiry at the “Lost and Found” desk is “Did someone find a black umbrella?”

· Detective Morgan was sent to inquire into the incident.

· Nittle, Nattle, and Frattle, Attorneys at Law, finished the inquiry Friday and sent the results to the court the following Monday.

In practice, enquire and enquiry are more common in British English, and inquire and inquiry are more common in U.S. English, for both informal questions and formal investigations. However, the Guardian (a British newspaper) tells writers to “use inquiry” and the Oxford English Dictionary seems to recognize inquire as the more dominant form, deeming enquiry:

”An alternative form of INQUIRE. The modern dictionaries give inquire as the standard form, but enquire is still very frequently used, esp. in the sense ‘to ask a question’.”

That being said, I think in the U.S. you are probably safest using inquire or inquiry, unless you’re talking about the National Enquirer, in which case nothing is safe or sacred!

Kara Church

Technical Editor, Advisory

Symitar Documentation Services

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