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Some Japanese friends explained to me that adding のほど just makes the speech sound more formal/polite and business-like, but the logic behind the use of ほど (meaning "degree" or "extent", as I know) in such cases still baffles me. Could someone pls explain? Many thanks in advance for your answers.

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The usage and function of:

「Noun + の + ほど」

is explained very nicely in デジタル大辞泉, which says:

4 (「…のほど」の形{かたち}で)断定{だんてい}を避{さ}け、表現{ひょうげん}をやわらげるのに用{もち}いる。

My TL of that would be:

"In the form of 「…のほど」, it is used to soften the expression by avoiding a declaration."

Thus, this means that it sounds softer and slightly more sophisticated to say, for instance:

「ご協力{きょうりょく}のほど、よろしくお願{ねが}いいたします。」

than to say:

「ご協力、よろしくお願いいたします。」

because the latter can sound too direct.

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