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How should one address a person or a group of people, for example, in a email conversation at the start of a sentence?

  • Please somebody do something very simple if some simple condition.
  • Somebody please do something very simple if some simple condition

For example, something like "Please managers forward this request to your people if you believe they could give helpful feedback." Or "Managers please feel free to forward this request to your people if you believe they could give helpful feedback." What would be correct if both are incorrect?

Should any punctuation marks be applied?

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While it's grammatically correct to use an explicit subject with the imperative mood (e.g. "Somebody help!", "Nobody move!", "Don't everybody talk at once!", "Don't you dare go in there!"), it's somewhat informal, not very common in professional writing. In professional writing, the best solution is to write:

Managers, please feel free to forward this request to your team if you believe they can give helpful feedback.

with a comma after "managers". Here the word "managers" indicates who the sentence is addressed to (compare "Hi, <person's name>, how are you?"), but the bulk of the sentence uses an implicit "you" (as is normal in the imperative mood).

  • I am accepting your answer. It has well lightened my understanding of some peculiarities. Nevertheless in real conversation I used the following working: "If you are a manager, please feel free to forward this request to your team members if you believe they could give helpful feedback". It seems to me correct and less imperative. – moudrick Feb 28 '13 at 9:54
  • @moudrick: I think "If you are a manager" is perfect. :-) – ruakh Feb 28 '13 at 15:48
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In the context of an email, especially a work-related email, neither expression sounds all that natural. Both expressions sound quite desperate, if not overly-urgent. Business English does not usually resort to such desperation unless there is some emergency. Either expression would be much more natural in a TV drama where there is imminent danger.

Your second sentence would sound a bit more appropriate if you added can: Can somebody please do something? But still it would be too dramatic unless there was an emergency.

More natural, Business English-friendly equivalents would be:

-I hope that someone can help me

-If anyone has any suggestions, please contact me

-If you have any ideas, please let me know

-Please let me know your thoughts

-I would be grateful for any suggestions (about next steps)

-I am eager to hear any advice you might have.

  • 1
    Thank you for reply. Nevertheless it seems not suitable for me. I mean that there is a condition when the person I am addressing to is asked to do something. Let me edit the question. – moudrick Feb 27 '13 at 15:21
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Either should be OK, but the emphasis is different. It depends on whether you are focusing on "please" (a favor), or "somebody" (a person). That should be directly before "do".

Punctuation is not needed, other than possibly for emphasis.

Also "if some simple condition" is an incomplete phrase as there is no verb. Should be something like

...if some simple condition exists.

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In email there is no tone of voice so things can often get misunderstood if they are vague. These two structures imply slightly different things to me. The one you listed second is the more common and would probably be the most likely to be taken at face value. The other is often used to express exasperation or despair.

For example, if I received the following

Somebody please make coffee if we run out during the meeting with this client

I would probably just assume that the sender wanted to make sure we didn't run out of coffee.

However, if I received this:

Please somebody make coffee if we run out during the meeting with this client

I might interpret it as either the client is very picky or that there had been issues in the past where people didn't make more coffee and the sender was irritated by it

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