In this week’s Everyday Grammar report, we will continue telling about how to communicate politely in emails.
Murat, a reader of our website, asked if we could talk about how to open and close our emails when making a polite request.
Thank you, Murat, for this idea.
Today, we will talk about greetings, how we can close our emails and finish our discussion about polite requests.
Openings and closings
To set a good tone for your request, consider the subject heading, the opening and the closing of your email.
Some greetings include:
Dear (name of receiver),
“Dear” is considered very formal.
Hello (name of receiver),
“Hello” is an acceptable greeting, but it is less formal.
If the person answers with a less formal greeting, like “hi” or “hey,” then this is a signal that they prefer a less formal tone. You may want to change how you answer them.
For closings, express your appreciation and remind the receiver that you expect an answer.
You could say something like this:
I really appreciate your help. I look forward to your reply.
Thank you for taking your time to read this email. I hope to hear from you soon!
Some simple ways to end the message include:
Sincerely, (followed by your name)
Similar endings are:
All the best,
These are all common, formal expressions to politely close your emails.
Know your situation
When making a request by email, we want to show awareness of the receiver’s situation. To do this, we use hedging expressions to soften what we want to say. Hedging expressions let the writer of the email say what they want to say but in a less direct way and more politely. For example, one could say:
I'm sorry to bother you, but would you have time to review this report?
I know you’re busy, but if you get some free time later, would you like to meet up for coffee?
This is a lot to ask, but do you mind waiting for me? I’m almost finished.
The hedging expressions come before the word “but” in the questions. The request comes after.
These expressions show the receiver of the email that we understand their situation.
We can also use the words “possible” and “possibly,” when hedging a request. These words express the probability or chance of the request being fulfilled. Let us look at these examples:
Could you possibly drive me to the train station later?
Is there any possible way for you to meet me downtown?
When using “possibly” with a modal verb like “could,” it shows the receiver that you are even more aware that the request might not be fulfilled. Giving the receiver the chance to say “no,” makes the request more polite.
When making polite requests, we can offer a good thought or action to balance the request.
For example, you can show your appreciation or thankfulness.
I would really appreciate the favor.
The verb “appreciate” is a transitive verb, which means it takes a direct object.
You can add the adverb “really” to strengthen the expression.
You can also offer something in exchange for the request. For example, you could say:
I owe you a favor.
I can cover for you next time.
“To owe someone a favor” means that you will return a kindness or service to someone because they have done something for you.
“To cover for someone” means that you will take their place for a task next time.
Give a reason
You can include a reason for the request. This could be an explanation or an excuse.
For example you could say:
Would you mind reading my essay? I’d like really like your feedback.
Would it be okay if we reschedule our lunch for next week? I’m not feeling well today.
In these examples, the reason is a separate statement that comes after the request. We do not always need a reason for the request, but giving a reason makes the request more polite, and the receiver may be more willing to help you.
In today’s Everyday Grammar, we looked at additional ways to express a request politely in an email. We can use hedging expressions and “possibly” to show awareness of the receiver’s situation. We can offer a good thought or action to balance a request. We can include a reason to support the request. And be aware of your openings and closings in emails. A formal and thoughtful greeting can make your request more likely to receive the answer you hoped for.
I’m Faith Pirlo.
And I’m Jill Robbins.
Faith Pirlo wrote this lesson for VOA Learning English.
Words in This Story
politely – adv. to do something showing good behavior and respect for other people
greeting – n. something that is said or done to show people that you are happy to meet or see them
tone – n. a quality, feeling, or attitude expressed by the words that someone uses in speaking or writing
formal – adj. following or according with established form, custom, or rule
prefer – v. to like better or best; to favor
appreciation – n. a feeling of being grateful or thankful for something
awareness - n. the idea of knowing that something (such as a situation, condition or problem) exists.
hedging expressions – n. (grammar) words or phrases used to soften what we say, making it more indirect to protect the receiver of the message
modal verbs – n. (grammar) verbs that are used to express possibility, ability, or necessity.
favor – n. a kind or helpful act that you do for someone
feedback – n. helpful information or criticism that is give to someone for the purpose of improving performance or a product
What other expressions do you use to politely request something in email?
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