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In English, there is a certain etiquette to follow when writing a business letter. From what I've seen so far, the same seems to be true in Japanese as well.

If I was making a business-related request to someone who has helped me a lot in the past, I can start my email with いつもお世話になり、ありがとうございます。 Likewise, if I'm asking someone that has just done something for me, I could use お疲れ様です。

However, if I needed to make a business request to someone I don't know well, is there a general opening phrase I could use?

How about if I don't know that person well, but they work in my department?

What if they were in the same company, but a different department?

What about if they worked for another company?

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1  
いつもお世話になります is strange. It sounds like you are talking about the future. It should be いつもお世話になっています. –  sawa Jul 26 '11 at 2:53

2 Answers 2

up vote 10 down vote accepted

You have to read the last sentence in the next paragraph to get your specific answer. I borrowed a good letter example from a site with a lot of business templates.

First of all, you have to say the addressee's name, career, and you have to say "Sama", and it should be delimited with line breaks and followed by two line breaks (Or maybe carriage returns. I don't know the difference, or which is more proper). Then, you use はじめまして。 You do a line break. Then you do business type '株式会社(かぶしきがいしゃ)' and business name (they come in different orders because the official company name may have かぶしきがいしゃ before, and it may have it after, and you really have to get it correct), section name (営業部の部の意味は"section") and のyour name, then と申します(もうす). 申します 'it's said this way' and has the same meaning as と言います, but it's 謙譲語(けんじょうご). It has the humble tone because it's humble language, and it says that you're speaking to someone who is in a higher place, kind of. 突然のメール、失礼いたします is the greeting. It means: "Sorry for the sudden message."

件名:ご講演の依頼
○○○株式会社
中村 裕子様

はじめまして。
株式会社山田商事、営業部の山田太郎と申します。
突然のメール、失礼いたします。 <<(THIS IS THE GREETING)

You can inspect the rest of the letter, yourself, below. This letter is a request for a guest speaker from a high-ranking person at another company, Nakamura-Sama (中村 裕子様). It's a standard 'request' letter, when you're not asking for any specific kind of favor; however, there are letters for some specific kinds of requests, and you should be careful. At the website I mentioned, there are templates for other things that you can ask for. For example, there is a letter requesting permission to relocate, from an employee to his boss, and there are many types of templates for to request that someone take action to correct a mistake of some kind. The kind of mistake they want corrected makes the letter's content change dramatically.

さて、このたびは弊社主催の研修セミナーにて、
中村先生にぜひご講演をお願いいたしたく、
ご連絡させていただきました。

現代の国際事情を読み解き、ベストセラーになっている
ご著書『これからの東アジア情勢』は
社内でも話題の1冊になっております。
先生のお話は、わが社の社員にとって
貴重なものになると確信しております。

ご多用中のところ誠に恐縮ですが、
下記のようなテ-マおよび条件にて
ご講演をお願いできればと考えております。


テーマ: 「東アジアでのビジネス展開」
日時:平成20年5月1日(月)午後6時~8時
会場:当社2階大ホール
参加者:当社社員約550名
謝礼: 80万円(交通費別途)


なお、ご都合をお伺いするために、
週明けにこちらからお電話させていただきます。
ご検討のほど、なにとぞよろしくお願い申し上げます。


株式会社 山田商事 営業部
山田 太郎(ヤマダ タロウ)
〒564-9999
大阪府○○市△△町11-9 2F
TEL:066-9999-9999(直通) 066-9999-9999 (代表)

FAX:066-9999-9999

I am also afraid that I may have given you wrong information because business manners are so specific. If you are worried about a letter, you should post the specific letter in a question to make sure that you're writing it correctly. There are so many differences between two different letters with almost the exact same intention that each letter should warrant its own individual post.

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1  
Thanks for the response, it's pretty close to what I was looking for. A couple quick side-questions: 1. What browser are you using? I was playing around with the edit page and the edit preview let me convert the code to quotes just fine (line breaks and all) as long as I manually put a > before each line (using the quote button did not work). 2. Did you mean to post as community wiki? You don't get credit for wiki posts. –  Troyen Jul 27 '11 at 7:02
    
Well, I'm using chrome. I turned text zooming off. I have had issues with code and block quotes ever since I started using stack exchange. I tried highlighting all the text and using ctrl+q (block quote), and it didn't work. So, I used ctrl+k. Thanks for fixing it for me. I also wanted to add it to wiki because there's a lot of information that can be used in the letter. Not only the introduction, but the body, the language, the signature. I am sure that a professional office worker can find errors with this letter. It would be good to have lots of letters in wiki for solid reference. –  千里ちゃん Jul 27 '11 at 7:06
    
I also deleted an answer because I hadn't read the question fully. I was talking with my friends, and if you're just talking person-to-person, we think that you don't even have to say はじめまして. You can just write their name, state what you're asking for and say よろしくお願いします, and then sign it. It's kind of obtuse to go into a lot of respect language when just dealing with individuals. It's like calling them a target for a con, or an old person, or something. It's hard to describe, but someone might be very mad if you say '御免なさい' when you bump them instead of 失礼します or すみません. –  千里ちゃん Jul 27 '11 at 7:08
1  
Ctrl-Q didn't work for me either, I had to do it manually. I'm not sure if that makes it easier to read or not; if not, you can always roll back. (It is nice not having to scroll on the bottom section, but the section markers got translated to horizontal lines and I don't know how to override cleanly.) –  Troyen Jul 27 '11 at 7:39

はじめまして
'This is the first time seeing you'

is a standard expression.

If that person is in the same company, regardless of the department, you can continue as

...部門の...と申します
'I am called ..., and am from the ... department'

It is more polite than

...部門の...です
'I am ... from the ... department',

which may, but not necessarily, presuppose that the person should already know your existence.

If that person is in a different company, you should rather continue with

...会社...部門の...と申します

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What if I've met them before, but I just haven't had much interaction with them? I think in that situation はじめまして would be out of place. –  Troyen Jul 26 '11 at 18:03
    
@Troyen In that case, you do not have particular things to say about your relation to that person. Just start with the general 拝啓, which does not particularly mean anything except being polite, and end it with 敬具. –  sawa Jul 27 '11 at 4:12

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