Making requests at work: An examination of phrase frames in workplace email communication


workplace emails
formulaic sequences
corpus-based genre analysis

How to Cite

Xia, D., Kessler, M., Chen, Y., & Pae, H. (2024). Making requests at work: An examination of phrase frames in workplace email communication. Ibérica, (47), 67–92.


As a method of business communication, emails play an essential role in establishing relationships and support systems among colleagues, partners, and sponsors to achieve business goals. Research has suggested that nonnative speakers of English and novice writers face challenges when composing professional email requests for business purposes. Previous studies have underscored the importance of phrase frames (p-frames), which are recurring multi-word sequences with a variable slot, to fulfill rhetorical functions in academic discourse. However, little research has explored how p-frames are used for written communications in business workplace contexts. This study investigated five-word p-frames used for rhetorical moves in business email requests. Using 1,148 authentic request emails extracted from the Avocado Research Email Collection corpus, we analyzed the distribution and linguistic characteristics of p-frames across five rhetorical moves. Results showed that p-frames were unevenly distributed across the rhetorical moves in business request emails. Two moves, making the inquiry and closing, showed the highest degree of formulaicity. P-frames were used in a variety of messages to soften demands and express politeness. This study has pedagogical implications for teaching English for business purposes to both L2 learners and novice writers.

Copyright (c) 2024 Detong Xia, Matt Kessler, Yudi Chen, Hye Pae

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.


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