Every email that we write should be professional, friendly and polite. We do this by using clear, plain English (see here for more details).
When writing an email asking for information, we also need to make sure that:
- we get all the information that we need
- we get the information in time
Mr Dobson needs a cleaning service for his small business. Examine these two emails that he has drafted:
Could you email me some information on your cleaning services?
Mr JC Dobson
We are currently seeking a professional cleaning service for our small office.
Our office area is around 2000 square feet. Since it includes a workshop, we generate a lot of plastics waste and we would like to ensure that this is dealt with in an eco-friendly manner. We would require the service twice-weekly and our budget is $200.
Could you provide a quote for us, please?
Mr JC Dobson
Sample A is very general and does not give any details to help the cleaning company formulate an effective reply. It is also too abrupt and may be considered rude. The reply is likely to be very general and may or may not include the information that Mr Dobson needs.
In sample B, the cleaning company can see that Mr Dobson has a special request. He has also given the exact size of the office and his budget, which will help the cleaning company to deliver a more precise quotation.
Let’s look in more detail at how we can structure this kind of email. We can generally use a three-part structure for any short email, which works here:
Part 1: Reason for writing
Part 2: Details
Part 3: Request action
Let’s see how this layout is applied to another sample email. In this email, Mrs Choudry is contacting a hotel to enquire about booking a function hall:
I am writing to enquire about hiring one of your function halls for a corporate dinner event on February 25. The event would take place from 7pm to around 11pm and would be attended by fifty persons.
There are a few special requirements that we have:
• Three of us are vegetarians.
• We need AV equipment to show a short video clip.
• Four persons will be staying overnight, so we will require rooms and a taxi service to and from the airport for them.
Our committee will be meeting on February 10 to discuss which hotel to use. We would greatly appreciate it if we could have a quotation from you before then.
Mrs S Choudry,
Assistant Manager, Corporate Services,
Sunrise Resources Ltd
Mrs Choudry states her reason for writing very directly: I am writing to enquire about…
She gives some background details necessary for the quotation; it is a corporate event for about 50 people.
Mrs Choudry lists out the special requirements. The use of bullet points breaks up the text and also makes it easy to quickly reference her special requirements. At a glance, we can see that she has three special requirements.
Rather than rushing the hotel and asking for a quotation ‘as soon as possible’, she gives the specific date that she needs the information. She makes it clear that what she wants is a quotation. She makes her email polite by adding the sentence starter: We would greatly appreciate it…
Sample writing tasks
Here are some sample writing tasks for practicing this kind of email:
1 Imagine that you work for a large multinational corporation. You have heard that your corporation offers funding for employees wishing to pursue a master’s degree. Write to the HR department to get more information.
2 Imagine that your company has decided to redesign the company cafeteria. Email the interior design firm Fresh Interiors to find out if they could help you with this.
3 Imagine that you need to get a range of corporate items made – pens, mugs and shirts with your company’s logo. Write an email to Biz Products Ltd to ask for a quotation.
4 Imagine that you are interested in hiring the motivational speaker Jack Jaggler to come and give a talk to your employees. Email firstname.lastname@example.org to get more information about his workshops.
Learn how to write a reply to an email asking for information here.