Making Routine Requests
Making requests – for information, action, products, adjustments, or other matters – is a routine part of
business. In most cases, your audience will be prepared to comply, as long as you’re not being
unreasonable or asking someone to do something they would expect you to do yourself. By applying a
clear strategy and tailoring your approach to each situation, you’ll be able to generate effective requests
quickly.
Strategy for Routine Requests
For routine requests and positive messages,
State the request or main idea
Give necessary details
Close with a cordial request for specific action
Like all business messages, routine requests have three parts: an opening, a body, and a close. Using the
direct approach, open with your main idea, which is a clear statement of your request. Use the body to
give details and justify your request. Then close by requesting specific action.
State Your Request Up Front
Take care that your direct approach doesn’t come across as abrupt or tactless.
Begin routine requests by placing your request first. Of course, getting right to the point should not be
interpreted as a license to be abrupt or tactless:
• Pay attention to tone. Even though you expect a favorable response, the tone of your initial
request is important. Instead of demanding action (“Send me the latest version of the budget
spreadsheet”), soften your request with words such as please and I would appreciate.
• Assume your audience will comply. An impatient demand for rapid service isn’t necessary. You
can generally make the assumption that your audience will comply with your request once the
reason for it is clearly understood.
• Be specific. State precisely what you want. For example, if you request the latest market data
from your research department, be sure to say whether you want a one-page summary or a
hundred pages of raw data.
Explain and Justify Your Request
Use the body of your message to explain your initial request. Make the explanation a smooth and logical
outgrowth of your opening remarks. If possible, point out how complying with the request could benefit
the reader. You can also use the body of your request to list a series of questions, which will help you
organize the message and help you audience identify the information you need. Follow these tips:
• Ask the most important questions first. If cost is your main concern, you might begin with a
question such as “How much will it cost to have our new website created by an outside firm?”
Then you may want to ask more specific but related questions, such as discounts for paying
early.
• Ask only relevant questions. To help expedite the response to your request, ask only those
questions that are central to your main request.
• Deal with only one topic per question. If you have an unusual or complex request, break it
down into specific, individual questions so that the reader can address each one separately. This
consideration not only shows respect for your audience’s time but also gets you a more accurate
answer in less time.
Request Specific Action in a Courteous Close
Close request messages with
A request for some specific action
Information about how you can be reached
An expression of appreciation
Close your message with three important elements: (1) a specific request that includes any relevant
deadlines, (2) information about how you can be reached (if it isn’t obvious), and (3) an expression of
appreciation or goodwill. When you ask readers to perform a specific action, ask that they respond by a
specific time, if appropriate (“Please send the figures by April 5 so that I can return first-quarter results
to you before the April 15 board meeting”). Conclude your message by sincerely expressing your
goodwill and appreciation. However, don’t thank the reader “in advance” for cooperating. If the reader’s
reply warrants a word of thanks, send it after you’ve received the reply.
Common Examples of Routine Requests
Most of the routine messages that you’ll be writing will likely fall into a few main categories: asking for
information and action, asking for recommendations, and making claims and requesting adjustments.
Asking for Information and Action
When you need to know about something, to elicit an opinion from someone, or to request a simple
action, you usually need only ask. In essence, simple requests say
• What you want to know or what you want readers to do
• Why you’re making the request
• Why it may be in your readers’ interest to help you
If your reader is able to do what you want, such a straightforward request gets the job done with a
minimum of fuss. In more complex situations, readers might be unwilling to respond unless they
understand how the request benefits them, so be sure to include this information in your explanation.
Naturally, you’ll adapt your request to your audience and the situation. For instance, requests to fellow
employees are usually casual and get straight to the point .
Asking for Recommendations
The need to inquire about people arises often in business. For example, before awarding credit,
contracts, jobs, promotions, scholarships, and so on, some companies ask applicants to supply
references who can vouch for their ability, skills, integrity, character, and so on. If you’re applying for a
job and your potential employer asks for references, you may want to ask a former instructor or
professional associate to write a letter of recommendation. Or, if you’re an employer considering
whether to hire an applicant, you may want to write directly to the person the applicant named as a
reference. Before you volunteer someone’s name as a reference, make sure you have permission to do
so. Some people are not comfortable writing recommendation letters, and some organizations have
policies that prohibit employees from endorsing former colleagues or suppliers.
Because requests for recommendations and references are routine, you can assume that your
reader will honor your request, and you can organize your inquiry using the direct approach. Open your
message by clearly stating that you’re applying for a position and that you would like your reader to
write a letter of recommendation. If you haven’t had contact with the person for some time, use the
opening to recall the nature of the relationship you had, the dates of association, and any special events
that might bring a clear, favorite picture of you to mind. Consider including an updated resume if you’re
had significant career advancement since your last contact.
Close your letter with an expression of appreciation and the full name and address of the person
to whom the letter should be sent. When asking for an immediate recommendation, you should also
mention the deadline. You’ll make a response more likely if you enclose a stamped, preaddressed
envelope, which is a considerate step in any event.
Making Claims and Requesting Adjustments
In your claim letter,
• Explain the problem and give details
• Provide backup information
• Request specific action
If you’re dissatisfied with a company’s product or service, you can opt to make a claim (a formal
complaint) or request an adjustment (a claim settlement). In either case, it’s important to maintain a
professional tone in all your communication, no matter how angry or frustrated you might be. Keeping
your cool will help you get the situation resolved sooner. In addition, be sure to document your initial
complaint and all correspondence after that.
In most cases, and especially in your first letter, assume that a fair adjustment will be made, an
use a direct approach. Open with a straightforward statement of the problem. In the body, give a
complete, specific explanation. Provide any information an adjuster would need to verify your
complaint. In your close, politely request specific action or convey a sincere desire to find a solution. And
if appropriate, suggest that the business relationship will continue if the problem is solved satisfactorily.
Companies usually accept the customer’s explanation of what’s wrong, so ethically it’s
important to be entirely honest when filing claims. Also, be prepared to back up your claim with
invoices, sales receipts, credit card statements, dated correspondence, and any other relevant
documents. Send copies and keep the originals for your files. Be prepared to document your claim. Send
copies and keep the original documents.
If the remedy is obvious, tell your reader exactly what you expect from the company, such as
exchanging incorrectly shipped merchandise for the right item or issuing a refund if the item is out of
stock. In some cases, you might ask the reader to resolve a problem. However, if you’re uncertain about
the precise nature of the trouble, you could ask the company to make an assessment, then advice you
on how the situation could be fixed. Supply your contact information so that the company can discuss
the situation with you if necessary. Compare the poor and improved versions in Figure 7.3 on page 166
for an example of making a claim.
Adapted from:
Courtland L., B., & John V., T. (2007). Completing Business Messages. In D. Parker, R. Butera, & M. Boos
(Eds.), Business Communication Essentials (3rd ed., pp. 165-167). Upper Saddle River: Pearson
Prentice Hall.


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