When asking somebody for something in a business or professional email, it's essential that you both explain what you want clearly and ask them in the right way. If you don't, you increase the probability of the person receiving it saying no, becoming angry/annoyed with you or being confused about what you are asking them for.
Fortunately, writing a good and effective formal email of request is easy to do when you understand what makes a good one and why.
For a formal email or letter of request to work, it needs to be easy to read and understand by the person receiving it. And you do this by how you both structure what you write (where you say what) and the vocabulary you use in it.
Use a Good Structure
Fortunately, the structure of a formal email of request is very simple:
- You start the email or letter by explaining what you are writing about (the topic/subject) and what the email's purpose is (i.e. you want to ask them some questions or for something).
- Then in the next section, you ask them the questions or requests.
- And finally in the last section, you finish the email by saying when you require the information or things by and thank them in advance for doing what you've asked.
Use the Right Vocabulary
The second (and more difficult) part of writing a good formal email of request is how you ask for things and what you write. You need to both explain what you want and why and use the right type of vocabulary and expressions to make sure that the email is polite, clear and persuasive (i.e. to make them do what you want).
To know how to write your own formal email or letter of request and (more importantly) to remember it, I have created the below online exercise. In this exercise, you'll learn professional phrases/vocabulary that are used for writing a good business email of request in English. In addition, you'll see an example of the structure you need to use when writing this type of email.
Once you have read the example in the exercise, do the quiz/test at the end. Doing this quick quiz will make sure you understand how and when to use the vocabulary in your own emails and that you remember it.
Example & Exercise:
Read the below formal business email of request about a project in an airport from a client to an external project manager.
From the context, try to guess what the meaning of the words/phrases in bold are. Then do the quiz at the end to check if you are right.
Dear Mr Mitchell,
I am writing in reference to the current situation with the Skipton Airport Project. We have a number of questions which we hope you could answer.
First of all, could you please provide us with an update on where you are on the Skipton Airport Project. We would also appreciate it if you could clarify what the current issues with the delivery system are, and confirm when you expect them to be resolved.
In addition, at the end of our last meeting we requested a copy of the latest project update report. Unfortunately, we have still not received it. We would appreciate it if you could forward this to us.
Could you also please confirm whether the post-installation support covers the equipment 24 hours a day? And what is actually included in the support? In particular, we would like to have confirmation if the cost of parts and labour are included in the package? We require this information as soon as possible.
And lastly, we are considering extending the period of the post-installation support from your company from 6 months to 12 months.
We would be very grateful if you could provide us with a quote for this extension.
I would really appreciate it if you could deal with these matters urgently.
I look forward to hearing from you.
The quiz comes after this ad
Click to see 20 other email/letter exercises & examples
Below is a definition/description of each of the words/phrases in bold from the above text. Now choose the word/phrase from the question's selection box which you believe answers each question. Only use one word/phrase once. Click on the "Check answer" button next to the answer box to check your answer.
When the answer is correct, this icon will appear next to the answer. Click on it to find extra information about the word/phrase (e.g. when, where and how to use etc...) and a translation in Spanish.
Now that you understand the vocabulary of writing a formal business email or letter of request, practise it by writing your own business email of request with the new words/phrases.