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If you listen to a band instead of a combo or eat a buffet dinner instead of a smorgasbord meal, then you should also update your business language. (Young ones, if you don’t understand what a combo or a smorgasbord is, ask your parents. Then forget about it.)

Begin modernizing your language by avoiding the use of “good office.” The term good offices (often plural) does not mean what many people think it does. Good offices actually refers to beneficial actions.

The dictionaries give us the following definitions:

  • Good offices: help from someone who has power or authority. Example: I got the interview through the good offices of a former classmate.
  • Good offices: an action performed for another, usually a beneficial action. Example: through his good offices.
  • Offices: something performed or intended to be performed for another; (specified kind of) service ⇒ done through someone’s good (or ill) offices.
  • Good offices: a service done for another or others. Example: Rescued through the good offices of the Italian Ambassador, he was returned safely to England (Oxford Dictionary of English).

Why, then, do many refer to a private or government office as “your good office”? I suspect such label might have arisen from the term good self, which is archaic language for addressing a person or persons. Examples: your good self (instead of you), their good selves (instead of they), or her good self (instead of she). Someone probably presumed that if we refer to a person as his good self, then the office that he represents must be a “good office.”

Or maybe we’re just brown-nosing. (That’s English for making sipsip, folks.)

Credit for the amazing photo: Pxleyes.com and captgeo

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10 thoughts on “Your good office

  1. Thank you for this, Janet. I have probably made this mistake quite a few times in the past but, thanks to your good offices, I shall now have one less flub in my smorgasbord of errors.

    (And yes that’s me brown-nosing just a wee bit.)

  2. Good office. Is that like the “my good Lord!” expression too? Pang-lola nga talaga. Anyway, thanks for this, Janet! Very helpful tips indeed! And good to see Mr Art Ilano on the comment page (Hi, Art!) :)

  3. Hi Niña! Nice question. Hmmm. Lemme see. I think those “good God” or “good Lord” expressions are more for emphasis or to express annoyance, surprise or anger. These would probably include “my goodness” and “good gracious.” :)

  4. Such a very good information. I was about to commit that mistake again, gladly I found this site. And thanks for the brown-nosing..I will hit my friends with that new word now. Lol! And by the way, what is a good word to substitute for our common common usage of that word? Like in… I would like to inform your ” good office”..

    • Ha ha, “brown-nosing” is an interesting word, isn’t it? :)

      There is not substitute for “good office,” I’m afraid. We can just say “your office” or simply use the pronoun “you.” Example: “May we inform you of the …” Either one will do. :)

  5. Thanks for this information Janet. I normally use “your good office” whenever I write a request letter. Maybe just “brown-nosing” to get a favorable answer or approval from the addressee.

  6. Whaoo, its nice meeting someone like you who have a deep insight on the technicalities involved in the usage of English Language. I now understand better the difference between the term: good office and good offices. Thanks alot and remain blessed.

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