Request Letters Made Easy: 15 Tips
By Stacie Heaps
Request letters can have very positive results if written correctly. When writing your letter of request, keep in mind exactly what it is you wish to accomplish, and construct your letter accordingly.
As you write your letter, remember the importance of your request. There may be a great deal riding on the outcome of this correspondence. For this reason, consider the following points as you compose your letter:
- Think of your audience.
When you begin writing, remember to focus on the recipient(s) of your letter, and don't be self-centered. Include, if possible, the potential benefits the reader will receive by complying with your request. Also, mention the special contributions the reader can make—how he or she, in particular, can be of help, why you chose him or her, and so forth. Moreover, express your willingness to reciprocate the kindness or favor, if appropriate, as an act of goodwill.
- Introduce yourself.
This is especially important if you have not spoken with the person in some time. Remind the reader of the time and length of your association, and include some of the things you accomplished or your memorable attributes. If writing to a former employer or co-worker, include contributions you made to the company you worked for. If you are addressing your letter to a former professor or administrator at a college or university, remind him or her of projects you worked on together or outstanding work that you did on a paper or other assignment. Depending on the situation, you may wish to remind the person of your field of study, year in school, career goals, and so forth to help refresh his or her memory.
- Be straightforward.
After introducing yourself and reminding your reader of your past connection (if necessary), state the purpose of your letter. Focus on your main message, and don't include irrelevant information. However, do include as much detail as necessary to convey your request.
- Be clear.
Clearly make your request to the person(s) involved. State plainly and directly your reason(s) for making the request.
- Be specific.
Let your reader know exactly what it is that you are requesting. Understand that if you leave out important information, your response might be delayed or the person might not be able to meet your request on time.
- Be thorough.
When making your request, be sure to include all pertinent information (the purpose of the request, deadlines if any, number of copies/versions needed if requesting a letter of recommendation or other document, and so forth). Try to read the person's mind and anticipate any facts or documentation that he or she might need.
- Be brief.
Under most circumstances, your request letter should be kept fairly short (almost always to one page). Simply remind the reader of your connection, state the purpose of your letter, and include the details of your request (what you want the reader to do, by when, and so on). It is generally more difficult to write a short letter than a long one, and the recipient of your letter will appreciate the effort you make to write a concise, yet comprehensive, letter.
- Be courteous.
Keep in mind that, generally, you are infringing on another's time, talents, or other resources when you make your request. Put the reader at ease, and help her or him feel that responding will not be burdensome.
Accordingly, give your recipient adequate time to meet your request without feeling rushed or unduly pressured. Providing sufficient notice will almost always yield better results than waiting till the last minute.
- Make the request as easy to comply with as possible.
Make it easy for the person to respond—tell her or him exactly what can be done to accommodate your request, and do everything within your power so that the request can be granted (e.g., if you are asking for a letter of recommendation, include your résumé or a list of accomplishments, and enclose a stamped, addressed envelope).
- Be confident.
Be confident and persuasive when conveying your message. Be assertive but not overbearing.
- Don't apologize.
When writing this letter, avoid the temptation to apologize for your request. Strive to make the person feel complimented that you would ask the favor of her or him. On the other hand, don't take the person for granted, either. Make only reasonable requests.
- Don't be manipulative.
Realize that the reader does not have to grant your request, and understand that you cannot (nor should you try to) force him or her to comply.
- Include your contact information.
Before closing your letter, include your address, phone number, and e-mail address. Invite the person to contact you if she or he has any questions or concerns.
- Express your gratitude.
Before closing your letter, thank the person for taking the time to consider your request.
Then, after sending your request letter, follow up with a thoughtful, sincere thank-you letter. Sending a thank-you letter is a simple way of expressing your appreciation and may encourage the person to assist you in the future with other requests.
Usually send your thank-you letter within one week of the person's fulfilling your request. If the person is unable or unwilling to comply with your request, it is still important to send a letter thanking the person for her or his time and consideration.
- Keep a copy of your request letter.
In many cases, it is a good idea to keep a copy of your request letter in the event that the recipient loses it, or in case, as was mentioned above, the person is perhaps unable, or unwilling, to comply with your request. With an electronic copy of your letter, you can easily send it to multiple people, you will have a record of the correspondence for the future if necessary, and you can easily modify and reprint the letter to send it to someone else if desired.
Letters of request are some of the most important correspondence you can write. With an effective request letter you could get an interview for a new job, convince your boss that you deserve a raise, encourage people to contribute to your favorite charity, and accomplish numerous other worthwhile endeavors. Take the time to construct a complete, yet concise, well-written request letter. The results will be well worth the effort.
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