How To Ask for a Favor in a Formal Email: Steps, Template and Example

All too often, people make requests for your time or expertise that just aren’t feasible. It’s why Muse cofounder Alex Cavoulacos wrote a helpful article with advice for declining an email introduction you never agreed to.

Once you’ve been on the receiving end—feeling uncomfortable with an ask to connect a distant contact with the most impressive person in your network, or dreading a call for someone to pick your brain when you don’t have the time—you become more sensitive to not wanting to put others in a similar position.

And that’s a good thing, because if you’re extra thoughtful, they’ll notice and be more inclined to help you when they can. (Not only that, but if you always give other people an out, it’s less awkward when you decline a request from them that doesn’t make sense on your end.)

So, here are three templates to ask for a favor—in a way that lets the other person say “no” and still save face:

How to ask for a favor in a formal email
  1. Ask the right person. …
  2. Focus on the recipient. …
  3. Give them enough time. …
  4. Address them properly. …
  5. Introduce yourself if necessary. …
  6. Politely ask the favor. …
  7. Include all necessary details. …
  8. Add a convincing argument.

Email | How to ask for something POLITELY | 2021

How to ask for a favor in a formal email

To ask for a favor formally over email, you can follow the 11 steps below:

1. Ask the right person

Before you ask anyone for a favor, its important to check that you are asking the right person. Think about what it is you need and whether the person you are asking is the best person to help. For example, if you need assistance on a project, its likely better to ask one of your team members than it is the head of the company.

2. Focus on the recipient

When writing your formal email, start by focusing on the recipient. Explain why you chose them for the favor. For example, if you need help with your Java programming, you could mention “Your recent Java program was really well done.” This shows the recipient you are seeking their specific help because of their skills. It may also convince them to say yes by starting off with a compliment.

3. Give them enough time

As soon as you think you need a favor from someone, start planning how you can ask them. Give the person you are asking as much time as possible to assist you. This can make them more likely to say yes, as they can have an easier time fitting the favor into their schedule.

4. Address them properly

Since this is a formal email, address the recipient in the proper way. The most acceptable way to start the letter is by using “Dear.” After that, include their title, like “Ms.” or “Dr.” along with their last name. If you do not know their title, use “Dear” followed by their full name. For example, “Dear Casey Smith.”

5. Introduce yourself if necessary

If the person you are contacting is unfamiliar with you, or may not remember who you are, its a good idea to briefly introduce yourself. Let the person know who you are and how you know them.

For example, “My name is Jaylen Sampson and I work in the marketing department,” or “My name is Jenna Jones and I recently read your amazing blog.”

6. Politely ask the favor

In the second paragraph of your letter, politely ask for the favor. Remember to format this as a request rather than something you need them to do. For example, “It would really help me out if you could send over those documents today instead of tomorrow,” rather than “I need you to send me those documents today.”

7. Include all necessary details

To speed up the process and help the recipient determine if they can assist you, include all the information they need in your request, like time frames, specific results or materials needed. For example, rather than asking, “Can you please send over those documents from yesterday?” you could write, “Can you please send over the documents titled ClientMeeting1.doc and ClientMeeting1.xls from 12/20/20?”

8. Add a convincing argument

Depending on the favor, you may need to add a convincing argument. Let the recipient know why you need this favor and why it is important. If there is some benefit to the recipient, be sure to include this as well. For example, if you need a coworker to cover for you at a meeting, you could write “Would you be able to cover for me at the meeting on Friday? My child is in a play at school and Id really love to be there. Id be happy to cover for you at a future meeting in return.”

9. End the letter

End the letter by thanking the recipient for their consideration and their time. Add either “Sincerely” or “Regards” to the end of the letter and include your name and contact information to make it easier for the recipient to contact you.

10. Proofread your request

After writing your formal email, proofread it before sending it out. Look for typos, spelling errors or grammatical mistakes. Also check that the information you included, such as what you need or the timeline, is accurate.

11. Format the email

Take the letter you wrote and format it professionally. Start by choosing a simple and direct subject line. For example, “Document Request” or “Fridays Upcoming Meeting.” Next, put new paragraphs on a separate line and avoid using indentations. Choose a font that is easy to read, such as Times New Roman or Arial in size 11-point or 12-point.

Why it’s important to format an email correctly

Proper formatting can help you ask for a favor in a professional and formal way. When asking for a favor, its courteous to take up as little time as possible from the recipient, and the right formatting makes it easier for them to get through the email quickly. Using a formal format also shows that you respect the reader and value their opinions and work. This might make them more likely to grant your favor or request.

Template for asking a favor in a formal email

Below is a template you can use to prepare your formal email:

[Subject]

Dear [Title] [Name],

[Introduction]. [Connection to recipient].

[Statement of favor]. [Reasons or benefits].

[Statement of thanks].

Sincerely,

[Your name]
[Your email address]
[Your phone number]

Example of a formal email asking for a favor

Use this example to help you craft your own email:

Dear Mr. Johnson,

My name is Claire McGill, and I am an avid reader of your blog. I really enjoy the way you are able to distill advanced and complicated topics down into easy-to-follow steps. Your guide on advanced SEO topics was particularly useful.

As someone who is well known as an expert on digital marketing, you likely have a lot of people looking to hire you—more than you have time for. As an aspiring digital marketer myself, I was wondering if you would allow me to assist you. Id be happy to help out on some of the projects you dont have enough time for in exchange for some experience and networking opportunities. Attached is my resume along with some samples of my work if you are interested.

Thank you for taking the time to read this email and for providing such great resources for us newcomers.

Sincerely,

Claire McGill
clair[email protected]
555-555-5555

FAQ

How do you politely ask someone for a favor?

Use these phrases to politely ask for a favor.

Could I ask / bother / trouble you + infinitive
  1. Could I ask you to help my brother?
  2. Could I bother you to give me a ride to work?
  3. Could I trouble you to open the door for me?

How do you write a professional email asking for help?

How to ask for help via email
  1. Use a clear, direct subject line. …
  2. Greet your reader. …
  3. Establish your credibility. …
  4. Put the question in the first or second sentence. …
  5. Use a call to action to clarify the next steps. …
  6. Make your email easy to read. …
  7. Give your reader a deadline. …
  8. Close the email politely and thoughtfully.

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