Writing request emails
Have you ever written request emails to a colleague and never received the information you needed? While it might be one of the most frustrating situations in business, the reality is that we have very little control over how people react to our requests. There are many different factors that can influence how someone responds, or doesn’t respond, to request emails. Some of the factors include, but are not limited to: their culture, their workload and their personality. In light of this, we have to deal with the fact that we can’t control how someone will react when we ask for something. We can, however, control how we ask for things. We can ask in a way that gives our colleagues an incentive to respond by telling them the reasons why we need the information.
Quick and easy structure for request emails
1. Something nice
This should be something short and polite that doesn’t require an answer. It’s enough if we use simple phrases to wish our colleague well.
- I hope you’re having a nice Friday.
- I hope you had a nice weekend.
- I hope you’re doing well.
- I hope this email finds you well. (This means that we hope the person is well, or doing good, when they open the email.)
2. what you need
Here we simply state what it is we want.
- Can you send me the agenda for our annual meeting?
- As you might remember from my email dated Oct 1, 2013, I need the price spreadsheet for XYZ company.
- As you may recall from our previous contact, I need the ABC document for my report.
3. why you need it
This is the missing element in many request emails. You have a better chance of getting what you need if you give a reason for the request. First, it helps explain why your colleague should take time to help you. Second, it can link the request to your organization as a whole, or to the work your colleague does.
- I need the price spreadsheet so I can put together a proposal for the client next year.
- It is important that I have the spreadsheet so I can complete the analysis.
- If I don’t have the final sales numbers, I wont be able to get the report finished.
4. something nice
Again, the “something nice” here is as simple as a ‘thank you’ accompanied by the following short phrases:
- Have a nice day.
- Have a nice weekend.
- Have a good afternoon.
If the suggested structure above seems like a lot of work, compare it to the time and frustration it costs to write repeated request emails and get no answer. We can write a polite request that will help us get what we want and includes all the necessary information in just four short sentences.
Below is an example of a request email using this structure. Let us know if you have any suggestions or comments.
For more information on how to write well in English at work, click here.