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 first needs to be easy to read by the person receiving it. And the main way you make an email easy to read is by how you structure what you write.

Use a Good Structure

Fortunately, the structure of a formal email of request is very simple:

  1. 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).
  2. Then in the next section, you ask them the questions or requests.
  3. 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.

To see exercises and examples for over 20 other types of business emails and advice on writing them, go to our email exercise menu.

In addition, you can also do an exercise (with example) on 'how to write formal email of response'.



Example & Exercise: A business email of request

Read the below formal business email of request about a project in an airport from a client to an external project manager.

You will be tested in the quiz that follows on the words/phrases that are in bold. So, from the context try to guess what both the meaning and the purpose/use of these words/phrases are.

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.

Yours sincerely,




Ian McAdam
Development Manager



Click to see 20 other email/letter exercises & examples

Quiz:

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, an Additional Information Icon "" will appear next to the answer. Click on this for extra information on the word/phrase and for a translation.

1. A formal way to say that you 'asked the person for' something before, is
           

We requested:
(verb) This is normally used when you want information or some type of service ( a site visit), help or a replacement. It is very similar to 'order', but 'order' is used more for objects (i.e. books, computers etc...) that you are going to buy. Both are used when you want to know where something you have asked for is, e.g. 'we requested a replacement 10 days ago / we ordered a washing machine 10 days ago and still haven't received it'. In Spanish: "solicitar".

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2. A formal way to say in an email 'we are thinking about' doing something, is
           

We are considering:
(verb) This is commonly used in formal business correspondence and means that you are still deciding what to do about something. It is used for decisions, orders, recommendations, requests etc..., e.g. 'they are still considering opening a new factory in Argentina'. In Spanish: "estamos considerando/estudiando".

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3. When you have more than one question to ask, you use this to introduce the first question.
           

First of all:
(adverb) This is commonly used in formal business correspondence and has the same meaning as 'firstly,' or you can write the more direct 'first' or '1.'. It is used for ordering or listing both questions and answers. It can be followed by 'Secondly, etc..' until 'And finally' or 'And lastly'. In Spanish: "en primer lugar".

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4. A more formal way to say in an email 'also', is
           

In addition:
(adverb) It is used when you want to ask a different question which is connected or related to the subject of the previous question that you have just asked or written. In Spanish: "además".

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5. A politer way to say 'we want', is
           

We require:
(verb) The infinitive is 'to require'. It is a polite way of demanding something. It basically means you 'want' or 'need' something. It is often followed by a date or time, e.g. 'we require the report by Monday morning'. In Spanish: "necesitamos".

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6. A polite way to ask the person to send you something (e.g. a file, a document etc...) by email, is
           

We would appreciate it if you could forward this to us:
(phrase) When making requests the use of 'We would appreciate it if', makes the request very formal and polite, e.g. 'We would appreciate it if you could arrive before 9am'. This part has a very similar meaning to 'We would be very grateful if'. With emails, we use 'forward' when you want somebody to send you a copy of a file or document. This is only used with emails and never with letters. A more direct and neutral way to say this would be, 'can you forward it to me' In Spanish: "Le agradeceríamos si pudiera enviarnoslo".

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7. A phrase like 'specifically', which is used to say exactly what information you want them to give you, is
           

In particular:
(adverb) It is very formal. It has a similar meaning to 'especially' or 'specifically'. It is used in questions to ensure that the person answering the question focuses his attention on answering a specific part or aspect, e.g. 'Could you confirm the cost of the project? In particular, we would like to know the cost of the building'. It's like saying that this detail is more important than the rest. It is also used in answers for the same purpose. In Spanish: "en particular".

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8. A verb used to ask the person to 'explain' something to you, is
           

Clarify:
(verb) The infinitive is 'to clarify'. This is a formal way to say 'explain'. It is often used if you require more details about a process or an action. It can also be used if you want someone to explain something to you in a less complex or confusing way, e.g. 'Can you clarify what impact that will have on us?'. In Spanish: "aclarar".

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9. A formal way to say that 'you would be pleased' if they do something for you, is
           

We would be very grateful if:
(phrase) An extremely polite way to make a request. It has a similar meaning to 'We would appreciate it if', but is even politer. This phrase is always followed by 'could', e.g. 'We would be very grateful if you could arrive before 9am'. In Spanish: "Le quedaríamos muy agradecida si".

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10. A type of question where you want confirmation if something will happen (or is included) or not, is
           

Could you also please confirm:
(phrase) 'to confirm' is commonly used in both formal and neutral emails and letters. What makes this phrase formal is the use of 'could' instead of 'can', and the use of 'please', 'To confirm' has two types of uses. The first, is when you require confirmation (e.g. 'yes' or 'no'). In this case, this phrase is followed by a 'whether statement' ('whether' is exactly the same as 'if', but is used in formal language), i.e. 'Can you confirm whether you are attending the meeting?'. The second use is when you want information or details about something. It isn't followed by a 'whether statement', i.e. 'Could you please confirm the schedule for the event?' In Spanish: "podría confirmar tambien".

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11. A polite phrase that introduces the section of the email where you ask the person your questions, is
           

Which we hope you could answer:
(phrase) This is very polite and formal. This generally follows 'We have a number of questions'. A more direct way to say this would be 'Please answer the following questions:'. A more neutral way to say the same would be 'I just have a few questions about...'. In Spanish: "que esperamos que pueda responder".

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Practice:

Now that you understand the vocabulary of writing a formal business email or letter of request, practice them by writing your own business email of request with the new words/phrases.

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