Request Strategies in Professional E-Mail Correspondence: Insights from the United States WorkplaceReport as inadecuate

Request Strategies in Professional E-Mail Correspondence: Insights from the United States Workplace - Download this document for free, or read online. Document in PDF available to download.

TESL Canada Journal, v32 n2 p1-29 2015

Despite growing interest in the rhetorical features of e-mail correspondence, this is the first study to examine the request strategies in e-mails written by native English-speaking professionals from a variety of industries in the United States. This study uses Blum-Kulka, House, and Kasper's (1989) speech act framework to analyze the request strategies from 450 request head acts. Though often mitigated with lexico-syntactic devices, direct requests occurred at about two and one half times the rate of indirect requests, and there was some variation in request strategy according to request category, gender, status, and social distance. Although the imperative was used most frequently across all gender, status, and social distance groups, senders did not choose it--the most direct strategy--as often with recipients to whom they wrote direct requests most frequently. This shows that senders may prefer particular direct or indirect strategies over others with certain recipients. Moreover, senders often used more mitigators with recipients to whom they more frequently wrote direct requests, thus suggesting that the politeness of a request cannot be judged solely by the request strategy chosen. As the first corpus-based study that examines authentic request e-mails in the North American workplace, this study offers important pedagogical implications for professional e-mail composition.

Descriptors: Electronic Mail, Computer Mediated Communication, Pragmatics, Speech Acts, English, Native Speakers, Business Communication, Syntax, Gender Differences, Social Status, Computational Linguistics, Work Environment, Teaching Methods, Writing (Composition), North Americans, Discourse Analysis, Online Surveys, Statistical Analysis

TESL Canada Federation. 408-4370 Dominion Street, Burnaby, BC V5G 4L7, Canada. Tel: 604-298-0312; Fax: 604-298-0372; e-mail: admin[at]; Web site:

Author: Leopold, Lisa


Related documents