3

My question is simple. Which one sounds more natural to you?

1) I'm sorry, I haven't written to you for a while.
2) I'm sorry, I haven't been writing to you for a while.

I think 2 is better. Do you agree?

PS: To me the combination of "for a while" and "haven't written" sounds odd. "For a while" chimes with a lasting/repetitive action better. But "haven't written" is not a lasting/repetitive action. That is why I thought "haven't been writing " was better.

  • 2
    It's just a matter of opinion / stylistic preference / precise nuance. If you'd previously been in the habit of writing regularly, for example, you might wish to accentuate that by using format #2. From that perspective, #1 could be seen as more "neutral" (it's certainly more common if we consider all contexts where either form might feasibly be used). On that basis I'm voting to close as Primarily Opinion-based. – FumbleFingers Sep 13 '15 at 16:40
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    To me the combination of "for a while" and "haven't written" sounds odd. "For a while" chimes with a lasting/repetitive action better. But "haven't written" is not a lasting/repetitive action. That is why I thought "haven't been writing " was better. – user1425 Sep 13 '15 at 17:02
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    Are you a native speaker? In actual fact I'm quite certain your example #1 is the more common usage, regardless of whether the utterance includes something like for a while. The main reason for using #2 (less common, but also in no way "odd") would be emphasize the "disconnect" between a previously habitual activity and the fact that you're not doing it now (or at least, weren't, until you started the current missive). – FumbleFingers Sep 13 '15 at 17:25
  • I, by no means, am arguing or trying to establish a superiority of my opinion. I am just analyzing all the elements of the sentences. And I am not native. – user1425 Sep 13 '15 at 17:29
3

To me, the first choice sounds more natural. It emphasizes the nature of writing to someone as an intermittent action. The second, as FumbleFingers noted, seems to emphasize that the speaker has been in the habit of writing to the person in question.

Either one implies that the speaker should have been expected to write to the person referenced. The second, though, implies that the expectation is based on past experience, i.e. previously the speaker was in the habit of writing to them. With the first, all we can conclude is that there is a social expectation (thus both the apology and the implied definition of "a while."

  • To me 1 sounds as a one-off action. – user1425 Sep 13 '15 at 17:56
1

I'm sorry I haven't written to you in a while.

I'm sorry I haven't been writing to you for a while.

  • What about that "to you". Isn't that redundant? I'm sorry I haven't written in a while. – Cabbie407 Sep 14 '15 at 6:15
  • It's not redundant, but neither is it necessary. – Tᴚoɯɐuo Sep 14 '15 at 11:29

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