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Hi people!

Today, my students posed a vey intetesting question, but one for which I had to do some research to answer and, still, I'm not satisfied with the explanation. They told me that the previous teacher had warned them to be careful when ending an email, not to sound rude or impolite. They are employees from an Argentine company working with other peolple based in New York, and were used to ending their emails like this, after giving a long and detailed explanation of some procedure:

If you have any questions, (please contact me / us) / (don't hesitate to ask).

Now, she told them that "questions" could be a troublesome term and should be avoided by replacing it with "doubts" or any other more innocuous term. She argued that "questions" could be misinterpreted and taken to mean "doubts about the validity or truth of any of the points which have been explained" or "criticisms". She also pointed out that "If you have any questions" could sound "provocative", and could be interpreted as something like "ok, if, as usual, you wish to criticize my job, just go ahead and do it." Now, I think this is far too twisted and paranoid.

1. In the first place, I have no problems with using "If you have any questions", and then, isn't this a common formulaic expression?

2. Besides, the sentence follows, "don't hesitate to ask me", so what's the point of being so rude first and then polite and well-disposed?

3. I guess she was trying to play safe, but is there such a need here?

4. Is "doubt" a good substitution? I mean, is it any better or more polite than "question" / Is there any difference in the degree of politeness? Are there any other possibilities to disambiguate (in the case it were necessary to do so)?

5. I think this possibility is also good: "Feel free to ask any questions, should they / doubts arise". What do you think?

6. Can you come up with any other suggestions?

Then, another student was afraid that writing "if you have any doubts" at the end, after a long, clear, detailed explanation could sound "patronizing". Something like: "Since everything has been so clearly explained, you shouldn't have any doubts, but because I know you're stupid, I'm telling you that if you still have any, don't hesitate to ask."

Now, this is kind of far-fetched, too, isn't it? Or is there any possibility that you, natives, will take any of these statements as offensive?

Thanks a lot!

Regards,

Mara.
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Comments  
Hi,

If you have any questions, (please contact me / us) / (don't hesitate to ask).

I tend to agree with their previous teacher.

She was thinking, correctly, that there are a lot of small subtleties in the way that people write, or speak, to each other in a work situation. Many are not only related to language but to culture. I think my remarks here are more from a British background than from an American one

My main objection to 'questions' is that it sounds like the sort of thing a teacher would say to a student, rather than one colleague, one equal, to another. To a lesser extent, it also opens the door widely to the possibility that there may be questions, some of which could be serious, about what I said.

I don't recommend 'doubts'. A doubt sounds like a serious worry about what I have said. It sounds like a reason that might lead you to think I am wrong. It's not an innocuous term.

'please don't hesitate ..'" is OK. I don't like '.. to ask me...' because again, it sounds like the writer is the teacher and his colleague is the pupil. It sounds like I, the writer, will have the right answer to you, the colleague's, foolish question.

I don't like it if someone says to me, "Feel free to ask any questions". It implies to me that I need their permission to ask questions.

Then, another student was afraid that writing "if you have any doubts" at the end, after a long, clear, detailed explanation could sound "patronizing". Something like: "Since everything has been so clearly explained, you shouldn't have any doubts, but because I know you're stupid, I'm telling you that if you still have any, don't hesitate to ask." In a way, he's right.

I would write something like 'I would be grateful for any comments or concerns you may have.' 'Comment' is a neutral term, and a professional one, one peer can offer comments to another. 'Concern' sounds much smaller, much less major than 'worry'. By asking for his input and indicating my appreciation of it, I am acknowledging my client's value as a professional and a peer.

... is there any possibility that you, natives, will take any of these statements as offensive? I wouldn't say the original ideas were offensive, but they might seem mildly irritating to some people.

Best wishes, Clive
Thanks a lot, Clive! I really liked your version!

So, what I understand by your reply is that "questions" wouldn't be suitable for this context, but not exactly for the reasons the other teacher gave. I mean, she was taking "question" to mean "cuestionamiento" in Spanish (I don't know if you spaek Spanish, but I couldn't fidn an English synonym), something like "criticism". I'd like to know if this is one of the meanings of "question". I know that there's a verb "question" with this sense, i.e., "to express doubts about the value of something or whether something is true". What would be the noun for this? "Question" as well?

The reason you give for avoiding "questions" is a different one: "it sounds like the sort of thing a teacher would say to a student". In this case, I think you're referring to another meaning / type of "questions" (please correct me if i'm wrong), namely "a sentence or phrase used to find out information". But since the whole phrase (presumably because of the way it is stated) sounds like "the sort of thing a teacher would say to a student" (and I very much agree with you here), it is recommmended that we should avoid it. My point is that maybe the word "question" is not the problem here, but the interpretation of the intentions / purposes /attitude of the writer when stating it that way.

Then, what if the receiver of the email does want some further information, either because the explanation was not clear enough or because he wants to find out something else? Will 'I would be grateful for any comments or concerns you may have' do?

Lastly, if my student was right to think that writing "if you have any doubts" at the end, after a long, clear, detailed explanation could sound "patronizing", what should we do? Remove the phrase altogether? Or state it the way you suggested?

Thanks a lot!

Mara.
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Hi Mara,

I added my comments in italics.

So, what I understand by your reply is that "questions" wouldn't be suitable for this context, but not exactly for the reasons the other teacher gave. I mean, she was taking "question" to mean "cuestionamiento" in Spanish (I don't know if you spaek Spanish, but I couldn't fidn an English synonym), something like "criticism". I'd like to know if this is one of the meanings of "question". I know that there's a verb "question" with this sense, i.e., "to express doubts about the value of something or whether something is true". What would be the noun for this? "Question" as well?

Your analysis of these words seems pretty sound. I can't think of a noun with that sense, perhaps 'doubt'? But I just take the normal sense of 'question' when I read 'If you have any questions...'.

The reason you give for avoiding "questions" is a different one: "it sounds like the sort of thing a teacher would say to a student". In this case, I think you're referring to another meaning / type of "questions" (please correct me if i'm wrong), namely "a sentence or phrase used to find out information". Yes But since the whole phrase (presumably because of the way it is stated) sounds like "the sort of thing a teacher would say to a student" (and I very much agree with you here), it is recommmended that we should avoid it. My point is that maybe the word "question" is not the problem here, but the interpretation of the intentions / purposes /attitude of the writer when stating it that way. Yes, I guess so. But I still don't like the word 'question' in this context. Why not just avoid it?

Then, what if the receiver of the email does want some further information, either because the explanation was not clear enough or because he wants to find out something else? Will 'I would be grateful for any comments or concerns you may have' do? Yes. Despite your praise for me, I must admit that it's a fairly standard phrase that just means 'If you have anything to say about this, please say it'. But if the writer wants some specific information, he should ask for it specifically, in case the other person doesn't think of it.

Lastly, if my student was right to think that writing "if you have any doubts" at the end, after a long, clear, detailed explanation could sound "patronizing", what should we do? Remove the phrase altogether? Yes Or state it the way you suggested? Yes

Clive
Hi,

I send out a lot of business proposals and so on by e-mail and I always finish up

If you have any queries, please do not hesitate to contact me.

I think queries is a less 'loaded' word as it covers even tiny issues such as 'could you send me a hard copy' or 'will you be around to discuss this on Wednesday' right up to pulling the whole thing apart! It seems to suggest a possible need to clarify something rather than explain it all over again.
Hi Nona! Thanks for your suggestion!

But don't you think that the words "queries" and "questions" have similar meanings? Don't they convey more or less the same idea? I've found this definition for "query":

"a question, often expressing doubt about something or looking for an answer from an authority."

E.g.,
"If you have any queries about your treatment, the doctor will answer them."

If this were the case, it would pose the same problem as the one stated above, i.e., it could be interpreted as "if you have doubts about the truth or validity of my above explanation" and could also sound patronizing. Even more so, if we pay attention to the last part of the definition "from an authority".

Now, Clive, I think a suitable noun for the other meaning of "question" > "to express doubts about the value of something or whether something is true", could be "complaint" > "when someone says that something is wrong or not satisfactory". I think that their previous teacher had something like this in mind when she warned them against the use of "question". Now, can "question" (noun) be interpreted in this way?

Another possibility I thought of (concerning waht the other teacher had in mind) is: "If you have any demands / if you want to make any demands." Again, can "questions" be interpreted in this way?

Thanks a lot!

Mara.
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Possibly, but 'queries' is a pretty standard way of expressing this in the UK, and 'questions' isn't. May be just a convention.
Hi,

I agree with Nona that 'query' is very often used. ...If you have any queries ... I see 'query' as an innocuous word, dealing with a minor matter. It won't give offence of the kind you are talking about.

It's a bit of a stretch to see a question as a complaint.

One certainly wouldn't want to write ... If you have any complaints or demands, please don't hesitate to contact me! (Ha-Ha!)

My advice is simply to avoid asking someone if they have any questions. I'd stick with concerns and queries. I see a difference between these two. Concerns can be both big and small, but queries are fairly minor. Thus, it depends on what you are writing about. If a major matter, ask for concerns, otherwise ask for concerns or queries.

Best wishes, Clive
Dear Clive,
I'm a non native English student .I accidentally came across this page whe searching for a reply to my own question and found your posts vety useful.
Will you plz tell me how I can have correspondence with you?
All the best,
Fairy girl
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