How To Ask For a Favor Through Email

By Janine Wolf

The art of writing an email is just that—an art.

I remember when I drafted my very first professional email, which in reality was anything from professional. In fact, I am afraid to look for it in my history of sent emails.

Since that cringe-worthy time in my life, I have come a long way with writing effective emails. In order to craft ones that are engaging, yet empathetic, I have done a fair share of research on the subject.

Through a combination of readings, seeking advice and trial-and-error, I have collected many of the do’s and don’ts of email-writing.

In an attempt to summarize how I approach email-writing now, I provide you with a template for how to ask someone for a favor or request (e.g. letters of recommendation, interviews, etc.). However, this template can be easily adapted to fit your specific purpose.

So, here we go:

The Subject Line

Let’s start with the basics. Now, I’ll be honest: this is still something that I am learning to master. But, I have found that the shorter and more to the point, the better. (This may seem obvious, but trust me that not everyone has it down yet.)

To ask for a favor, try: “Favor To Ask: [insert short one- to two-word line here]”

To ask for a letter of recommendation, try: “Favor: Letter of Recommendation”

To ask for a coffee date with someone important, try: “Coffee Meeting: [day of requested meeting]”

A pointer: if you can’t think of anything, don’t make the mistake of not writing a subject line at all. It appears as “blank” in the email inbox and looks incredibly unprofessional.

The Email

Now, comes the good stuff.

Here is a template you can easily adapt to your email request:

Dear [Professor Bob],

I hope this email finds you well.

My name is [name here], and I am [relationship to the person here]. I am writing to you to ask [favor here] because [explain why you want them, and not anyone else, to assist you].

I would be more than happy to meet with you to discuss further details. Please let me know of a day and time that works best for you [if this is something that requires a meeting, be flexible].

Thank you so much, and I look forward to hearing back from you.

Best,
[Name]

Pro-tip: I would highly suggest including your contact information, as well as your social media handles in the signature area. It eliminates any future awkwardness when the other party tries to get in touch with you, but realizes that he or she can’t.

As I mentioned before, writing a solid email is an art, which requires paying attention to your recipient’s interpretation and edits. But once you master it, I guarantee you will achieve your intended goals.

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