General Writing and Grammar Help/Could / May

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Question
Dear Ted,

I wrote the following e-mail:
“Unfortunately, no. May you please provide us an example showing where should we look?”
However, I was corrected by a colleague, who told me I should have written this:
“Unfortunately, no. Could you please provide us an example showing where should we look?”
Question: Which way is better, and why?

Thank you,
Leonardo

Answer
Dear Leonardo:

I wrote the following e-mail:
“Unfortunately, no. May you please provide us an example showing where should we look?”
However, I was corrected by a colleague, who told me I should have written this:
“Unfortunately, no. Could you please provide us an example showing where should we look?”
Question: Which way is better, and why?

*** I don't agree with either of you.  "May" suggests "are you willing?"  "Could" suggests "are you capable?"

Why do you need either one?  What you need to do is provide a clear and concise REQUEST:

Please provide us with an example showing where we should look.

That statement if NOT a question.  It is a request.

Ted

General Writing and Grammar Help

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Ted Nesbitt

Expertise

I am the bibliographic instruction and reference librarian at a public college. Some members of the English department recommend me to their students. I offer assistance in grammar, punctuation, sentence structure, and paragraph development. My master`s thesis concerns William Faulkner`s tragic novels. I formerly taught advanced placement English at two schools in the Philadelphia area.

Experience

I have been one of the highest-ranked volunteers in this category for more than a decade.

Education/Credentials
B. A. and M. A in English; MSIS in Library & Information Sciences; graduate study in philosophy

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