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Enquire or inquire

Which to use on a site aimed at the USA?

     
11:23 pm on Feb 3, 2006 (gmt 0)

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It'll have to have a form, and it is not a contact form, it really is either an enquiry or an inquiry.

I always thought that 'enquiry' was, broadly, a question, whereas an 'inquiry' referred to an investigation, a more formal thing entirely. So I might enquire about where the inquiry is being held.

However someone told me that enquiry is not widely used in the USA and will just look like a spelling error. Is this so? Would you think it odd to be invited to send a "booking enquiry" or odd to be invited to send a "booking inquiry"?

12:29 am on Feb 4, 2006 (gmt 0)

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It's definitely "inquire" and "inquiry" in the U.S., according to me and two dictionaries that I checked just to be sure. ;-) All "enquire" gets is a referral to "inquire."

But I'd say you're correct that "inquiry" has the sound of an investigation to it. It's a very formal sounding word to an American ear, not something to be used in everyday speech. When I read "booking inquiry" I really didn't know what it meant, although I guess it would be asking about registering/booking for something? Unless you have a purpose in coming across in a very formal way, something like "Ask us about..." would be a more American-friendly invitation.

3:57 am on Feb 4, 2006 (gmt 0)

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It's a very formal sounding word to an American ear, not something to be used in everyday speech.

I don't consider the word "inquire" formal though it may be a tad more formal than saying "ask about." But no one would blink an eye if you "inqured" about something. For example, a sign posted in a U.S. store window advertising that the store is hiring will often include the phrase "inquire within."

Neither do I think an "investigation" automatically comes to mind when an American hears the word inquiry...unless it is pronounced "in-qwa-ree." (Spoken in three syllables instead of four: "in-qui-er-ee.") A good many Americans *would" think it was a gross misspelling if they saw "enquiry."

We do use terms such as "booking a flight" so I think "booking inquiry" would be totally understood. "Booking enquiry?!" Well, expect a lot of email from Americans kindly informing you of the spelling error.

Few, if any, Americans would ever write the word enquire. It is foreign to most of us unless we read international papers, particate in online forums with international participants and the like. Most Americans still think it looks odd when someone writes "whilst."

1:40 am on Feb 5, 2006 (gmt 0)

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"Inquire" as a verb isn't terribly formal. But calling a form an "inquiry" does sound a bit odd to me. But, yeah, I'm one who does find "whilst" strange - wondering if people actually say it, or just use it in writing (and if they say it, is the i pronounced as in "will" or as in "while").
1:56 am on Feb 5, 2006 (gmt 0)

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Thanks for all that.

I don't think I have ever said 'whilst', but I have written it. Somehow there are words that seem fine written down but stilted if spoken.

So, what am I to call this form? It is for making an enquiry/inquiry. A service will be provided which needs to be booked, but not directly from the site. It is complex and so people will need initially to enquire/inquire further, giving a few basic details, so that contact can be made to arrange a discussion by phone.

'Ask a question' or 'find out more' does not seem to cover it. A query?

I have some sort of a mental block about this.

4:15 am on Feb 5, 2006 (gmt 0)

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So, what am I to call this form? It is for making an enquiry/inquiry.

Can you use something like: "For further information"? Or do you need to actually name the form, so to speak?

If it's between Query Form and Inquiry Form, I'd persaonlly go for the latter. imho it is more commonly used here, more understandable and more specific.

In my experience and in the regions where I've lived in the U.S., query is used much less than inquiry. As a matter of fact, I can't recollect a time when I've used the word query in every day language. I do associate it with doing a Google or similar search. So when I query, I'm personally searching for information. When I inquire or make an inquiry, I'm expecting someone to provide me with information. Hope that makes sense.

Since the form fields or any words preceding the form will provide context, I think Inquiry Form (or Booking Inquiry) is most suitable.

4:27 am on Feb 5, 2006 (gmt 0)

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UK: "booking enquiry"

US: "ask about reservations"

Brits "book a table" at a restaurant, Americans "reserve a table". When you arrive you say to the maitre d' in New York "I have a reservation for 8:00", in London "I booked for 8:00".

Same usage for travel, hotel rooms, theatre tickets, rental cars, and everything else: a Brit "books" them, an American "reserves" them.

4:51 am on Feb 5, 2006 (gmt 0)

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Same usage for travel, hotel rooms, theatre tickets, rental cars, and everything else: a Brit "books" them, an American "reserves" them.

Fair enough. However unless I misunderstand abbeyvet, folks will not initially book or reserve anything, but fill out a form to seek additional information from a third party. So it's an inquiry not a reservation form.

2:48 pm on Feb 5, 2006 (gmt 0)

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Have an ' Ask a question' tab on my site.

Stops all this foreign Americanism's

5:35 pm on Feb 5, 2006 (gmt 0)

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Or ... "To learn more about ..." "To Learn More" ... or, here in the U.S. "So what's the deal?" :-)
11:34 pm on Feb 5, 2006 (gmt 0)

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I have advertised my European rental apartments on US websites for years and have received numerous emails with the subject line “Inquiry about your apartment”. Each time one of these lands in my inbox my heart jumps a beat. Not that I fear inquiries you understand, but half my life is wasted on ‘red tape’ issues and an inquiry into anything is another drain on my time. Enquiries, on the other hand, are very welcome.

When developing a website a year ago with a reverse audience (UK based site targeting an American as well as UK market) I asked many Americans if ‘enquiry’ was understood and the response was that it was – they just thought it was British English for ‘inquiry’, but more importantly it didn’t have any negative tones. In the end I went with “Click to email owner” with the form saying Enquiry Form”. Similar to you my form is an enquiry into availability, rates etc and can’t be named anything else. I decided to steer clear of ‘Inquiry’ after a British businessman working in the US for many years told me an inquiry still sends shivers down his spine.

Inquiry and Enquiry have different meanings in British English but my understanding was that they mean the same thing to Americans – just spelled differently.

4:45 am on Feb 6, 2006 (gmt 0)

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You say tomaeto, I say tomaahto. ;)

I'm with Escape. If I saw "Inquiry" instead of "enquiry", my heart would skip a beat too.

Use local spelling.

Especially if your locality is an important part of your "personality". e,g, travel.

I went though this 10 years ago. It doesn't seem to affect (or should that be effect?) enquiries to my clients.

FYI: to clarify for the "globalised" market, I use "Enquiry/Booking Form" and "Contact Us" as call to action/email/navbar phrases.

11:05 pm on Feb 19, 2006 (gmt 0)

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Maybe: "Request information" or "Request further information"
 

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