“I look forward to hearing from you” vs “I am looking forward to hearing from you”

I look forward to hearing from you
Talk about opening a can of worms! I initially though the answer to the question of the difference between “I look forward to hearing from you” and “I am looking forward to hearing from you” would be they’re interchangeable since both are absolutely correct English. A look around the Internet, however, tells me this minor difference in sentence structure causes quite a bit of controversy. Some say one is informal while the other is formal. Then there are others who say that actually, they see it the other way round and that the one that was declared “informal” is actually the one they consider “formal.”

Should This Bother You?

Probably not. Nobody is going to brand you as illiterate because you choose one of these forms over the other as they both say basically the same thing. But if we’re going to enter the formal versus informal debate, I’d side with those who say “I look forward to hearing from you” is the formal version – and that’s not just because they seem to represent a majority and therefore the winning side!

Here’s why: if you say “I am looking forward to hearing from you,” you haven’t quite got the “ball’s in your court” message across strongly enough. Somehow, it seems to me, “I look forward to hearing from you” is a tiny bit clearer about who has to say something next. The former has a slightly greater nuance pointing towards how pleasant it would be to hear from someone, while the other is sharper, and the focus seems to be on the response you’re looking forward to getting.

Of course, that’s just my opinion. Authorities seem to disagree to disagree, and actually get quite heated arguing for one or the other.

Do Apostrophes Make Everything More Friendly?

There are those who say “I am looking forward to hearing from you,” is still formal, whereas using the apostrophe to make “I am” contract into “I’m” is the informal way of expressing the hope that someone is going to get back to them.

I expect most people will be ready to agree that contractions like “I’m” are more informal than the full versions of the words. Again, I can’t argue against the reasoning behind this argument while still believing that the “I am” version places more emphasis on “looking forward.”

Getting It All Mixed-Up

Since these phrases are so similar in their meaning, some people mix up the tenses: “I am looking forward to hear from you,” is a common error. As soon as “look” gets an “ing” suffix, the next verb has to have an “ing” too. Thank goodness it does. English is confusing enough without mixing things up.

Nobody Can Quite Put a Finger on It

After browsing numerous articles, forums and other interesting places on the Internet, I came to this conclusion: most people agree that “I look forward to hearing…” is more formal and urgent than “I am looking forward to hearing…,” but none of them can quite say why.

Since there doesn’t appear to be a definite answer to this question, what’s your opinion on it? More specifically, why do you feel this way? Let us know your reasons you feel one is more formal than the other.

(Photo courtesy of Justin Henry)

  • Aren’t these two the exact same thing? Why would anyone get worked up about two sentences which are essentially saying he same thing? I think people have way too much time on their hands if this is something they eel needs to be argued about.

    • I have to agree. It seems to be splitting hairs over something that isn’t all that important. I guess it’s all your writing is perfect then you might want to obsess on this, but there are so many more common mistakes which are much more egregious that this simply seems like a waste of time to worry about.

    • No, I think there’s a subtle difference. The first sounds more formal to me while the second is a little bit less formal.

  • I don’t have a specific reason, the looking at the two sentences I would say “I look forward to hearing from you” is the more formal of the two. At least that’s the way I read them.

    • There’s a subtle difference. They are worded differently. While I don’t think most people would object to either being used in place of the other, I can see why some would prefer one over the other.

  • It amazes me what people will argue and get worked up about on the Internet. These may not be exactly the same, but they aren’t completely different either. Either will work fine and the person who receives the memo isn’t going to notice you used one and not the other.

  • I don’t see a difference in the two phrases. They both mean the same thing. People get all worked up about things like this while there are real tragedies in the world. I think we all need to rethink our priorities.

  • The argument between these two is nothing more than people wanting to create something to disagree about. Either is fine for any situation.

  • While phrasing words in different ways can ultimately mean the same thing, I don’t see it as the case in this situation. The difference isn’t large, but there is a subtle difference implied between the two. “I look forward…” seems to be more of a demand at a response while “I am looking forward…” is more of a hope.

  • I’ve always used “I am looking forward to hearing from you.” It seems to me that “I look forward to hearing from you” is pushy and is expecting something from the recipient.

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