Being Courteous: How To Be Polite
To write courteous sentences, you need to use the first
"P" - be polite.
Imagine that you have received the memo below from your
manager. How does it make you feel?
Date: 20 July 200X
A team meeting will be held on 13 April to discuss
All team members have to attend this important
Everyone must submit at least one idea by 5:30 pm
on 10 April.
The memo is very clear and concise. However, it's not
very polite, is it?
Look at the final sentence.
"Everyone must submit at least
one idea by 5:30 pm on 10 April."
It sounds like an order or command, doesn't
How can you rewrite that "command" to make it sound more polite?
"Please submit one idea by 5:30
pm on 10 April."
You can change a command into a polite request by
changing a few words.
Remember, you only need to change a few words to make a
sentence more polite.
Look at the original "command" and the two revisions
"Everyone must submit one idea"
"I would like everyone to submit
one idea... " (revision)
"May I ask everyone to submit
one idea... " (revision)
The revisions sound more
polite. Do you know why?
USE MODAL VERBS
Using a modal verb - eg could, would, may, might - also
makes a sentence sound much more
Look at the sentence below.
"Send me all the information on
How would you use a modal verb to make this sentence more
"I would like you to send me all
the information on overdue accounts."
Your sentences will be polite if you use "magic words" and modal verbs. Is there anything else you can
TURN STATEMENTS INTO QUESTIONS
You also can make a sentence more polite by turning it
into a question.
Turn the original "command" below into a question...and
see the difference.
"Would everyone submit one
"Could everyone submit one
When you turn a statement into a question, you give your
reader a choice. Giving people a choice makes them more likely to do what you
So there are three ways to write polite sentences. You
can use "magic words" and modal verbs. You can also
turn statements into questions.
What would happen if you used all three strategies at the
Try to turn the original "command" below into a question,
and use "magic words" as well as modal
"Could everyone please submit
When you use all three strategies together, you write a
very polite request, don't you?
Look at the statements below.
"You have to be at the
"You must be on
You use the modal verbs "must" and "have to" when giving
orders or commands. So, you should avoid using these verbs when writing to
But what about this statement?
"You should be more
Would you write such a statement to a customer?
You use the modal verb "should" when you are giving
advice. If a customer asks you for advice, you may want to use "should".
However, you should generally avoid using this word when writing to
The following sentences are not very polite. Revise the
sentences to make them more polite. Type your revisions in the spaces
1) Send proof of your income.
2) You must pay the annual fee without delay.
3) Bring the supporting documents to our office.
4) You should fill in the application form.
5) To ensure security, choose a password with numbers and
1) Could you please send proof of your
2) Would you please pay the annual fee by 20 March
3) Please bring the supporting documents to our
4) Would you mind filling in the application
5) To ensure security, please choose a password with
numbers and letters.
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