Maybe this is a bit too hypothetical, but I thought it was an interesting question nonetheless.

I was writing a business email in Japanese, using pretty formal language, on behalf of someone who doesn't speak Japanese.

In this email I wanted to let the receiver know that future communication will happen in English as the person writing (me) won't be available in the future.

I'm the person writing it, but if I'm referring to myself as someone else, so what level of politeness is appropriate? I'm confused because:

  1. Talking about myself using kenjougo would be odd because I'm writing as someone else.
  2. Talking about myself using any form of polite language, even just kinbikoさん, sounds arrogant, and the receiver knows I am the one writing this on behalf of someone else.

Now, in the end I reworded this bit entirely to avoid mentioning myself, and I get that this is probably the best practical solution here. Just wondering if there's any right or wrong answer for what the appropriate level of polite language is when referencing yourself when writing on behalf of someone else. Maybe I'm missing something.

  • 1
    It sounds to me like you came up with a good solution, under the circumstances. Perhaps another option would have been to get the author of the email to omit this part from the body of the email you were translating and let you append a separate note explaining the situation – signed by yourself and using kenjougo – at the end?
    – Nanigashi
    Commented Jul 3, 2019 at 16:46

1 Answer 1


Not so hypothetical question, as it came from real life.

While there may not be clear rules, I would use the polite form about myself (ie make the letter use the style that would be correct if the person who signs the email actually would write it.), even in your case where the recipient more or less can guess that it was you who wrote it. In addition to etiquette, it could also be that use of the "Incorrect" style makes the email difficult to understand.

However, there is actually a remotely related custom rel. to postcards that are sent from A to B with the intention of having B to use the card to reply back to A (eg in invitations to weddings etc.) Thus, the postcard having been prepared to make it easier for B to reply. In these cases, one essentially does the opposite of what I wrote above.

(Sorry for the clumsy explanation above, but I found a good post in https://ameblo.jp/k-style-ko/entry-11979860588.html )

Even in the cases when A is a company, and the postcard is group mailing, printed one, A would send the postcard having been printed in a way where B has to modify it by eg removing a few "politeness ご" characters before sending it back to A (maybe the opposite (A sends a version that B could use without modifying it) could be thought of implying that A is demanding B to answer in a polite way, and therefore is not done) (Just my theory)

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