I’ve found myself writing the phrase “as soon as possible” just too often. Sometimes I wonder if it sounds a little rude. How can I convey the same meaning in a more polite way but without losing sense of urgency?

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    Another wording: "As soon as you can." A more polite way: "As soon as you can, please."
    – J.R.
    Commented May 27, 2012 at 10:48
  • It really depends on the context! Commented May 27, 2012 at 14:34
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    The phrase doesn't seem rude to me, unless you use it that way. Adding please or could you please could always make it more polite.
    – Noah
    Commented May 27, 2012 at 19:21
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    @Mari-LouA I would like something a little more formal, in a business email type sense. Informal might depend, but definitely not slang.
    – Skooba
    Commented Mar 8, 2016 at 20:32
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    @Albertus The rudeness is not inherent in the phrase, the rudeness comes from your assuming (or asserting) that your prioritisation of tasks can override their prioritisation of their own tasks. They may very likely have tasks that are more important than the one you are asking of them. Saying "Please do this as soon as possible" is not rude when used sparingly and only about things that are actually exceptionally important.
    – Born2Smile
    Commented Aug 15, 2016 at 10:21

10 Answers 10


You could try at your earliest convenience, but there is a risk that somebody unfamiliar with idioms might take it as 'when convenient to yourself' (which is actually at your convenience).

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    I also read this as condescending...
    – Izkata
    Commented May 27, 2012 at 16:04
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    This is exactly the way I'd go because it expresses both urgency and an understanding that it has to be slotted in among the listeners other priorities. Commented May 27, 2012 at 18:13
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    @Izkata Can you expand your comment a little?
    – Albertus
    Commented May 27, 2012 at 18:46
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    @Izkata: this phrase was standard in all business letters for the 19th and first half of the 20th centuries. It doesn't normally have any overtones at all, let alone what you suggest (though obviously I don't know about your circles). Commented May 27, 2012 at 19:02
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    At your earliest convenience is, as Tim says, a common idiom that I consider quite polite, if for no other reason than "at your convenience" is hardly ever used outside of this idiom, so it seems formal and the formal sense is polite. I consider as soon as you can to be a less formal equivalent, more polite than as soon as possible, even though both are technically more urgent. That's strictly from experience of idiomatic usage. As a side note, I've heard people say "I will do that at my earliest convenience" thinking it was formal and polite, but it's actually quite rude.
    – Old Pro
    Commented May 27, 2012 at 21:39

An alternative I see in business emails is:

As soon as you get a chance.

I like it because it implies sensitivity for the other person's schedule yet conveys the urgency of the matter.

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    I agree, as soon as you get a chance is less formal but equally as polite as at your earliest convenience, and less urgent, demanding, and pushy than as soon as possible or as soon as you can.
    – Old Pro
    Commented May 27, 2012 at 21:45
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    I'd suggest this lacks formality.
    – Jodrell
    Commented May 28, 2012 at 8:16
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    @Jodrell: I agree, it's a bit informal – but sometimes that's exactly what's needed. (If two people have an ongoing, easy relationship, something more formal can sound overly pretentious or demanding).
    – J.R.
    Commented May 29, 2012 at 0:53

Unlike what you feel, as soon as possible is not considered rude. The abbreviated asap is very common in business emails and is accompanied with a 'Please' to convey the sense of polite urgency.

Please finish this task asap.

One alternative to asap is at the earliest.

Please finish this task as soon as possible at the earliest.

Another choice would be to re-word your statement as follows.

I request you to expedite this task.

Expedite conveys the sense of urgency in a formal way.

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    It's difficult to convey nuances in formal writing. Italicised 'Please' would indicate to me that the writer would normally expect me to delay unnecessarily, which is quite insulting. Commented May 27, 2012 at 15:32
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    I do not like at the earliest. I think it is a corrupted shortening of at your earliest convenience and is confusing because of the more common usage I will finish this by Monday at the earliest. Of course, my experience is predominately in the US; maybe British usage is different.
    – Old Pro
    Commented May 27, 2012 at 21:50
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    At the earliest what? "I request you to expedite this task" is acceptable but, more assertive than polite, better used in an imperative sense for a subordinate.
    – Jodrell
    Commented May 28, 2012 at 8:20
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    "The sense of polite urgency" made my day.
    – sharptooth
    Commented May 28, 2012 at 14:12
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    "I request you to expedite this task" sounds overly formal and a bit awkward. I would rather say "Please expedite this task" which is still formal, but shorter, more polite, and avoids the awkwardness of the phrase "I request you to."
    – zooone9243
    Commented Jun 12, 2012 at 10:10

I often need to ask for things to be returned to me. In a business setting, I have found that giving people a specific date (and sometimes a specific time) helps them. I always follow up with something like, "If you feel you need more time than that, please let me know." or "If this deadline is not feasible, please let me know." Adding that sentence shows the recipient that you are sensitive to his or her schedule. Giving a firm date helps the recipient be cognizant of your schedule.

I have found writing, "when you get a chance" or "as soon as possible" leaves it too much up in the air. And, as the saying goes, if it weren't for the last minute, nothing would ever get done. Your items of business will be pushed back in the recipient's schedule and then you find yourself trying to find a polite way to write, "where's my stuff!?!"

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    This is more of a management tip than it is usage advice, but +1 anyway because it is a great tip that is relevant to the OP's problem.
    – Old Pro
    Commented May 27, 2012 at 21:29
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    @OldPro, Yes, it is, but I think the vagueness of phrases like "at your earliest convenience" do not serve either the sender or recipient very well. Don't you really want to know your deadline?
    – JLG
    Commented May 28, 2012 at 4:31
  • Your prompt attention to this matter is greatly appreciated
  • We would appreciate your immediate attention
  • Your immediate response on this matter is highly appreciated
  • Your cooperation is highly solicited
  • Time is of the utmost importance
  • Time is of the essence

Time is of the essence
Timing and meeting all the deadlines are essential and required. (Often seen in contractual agreements.) e.g. The final payment is due on the first day of December, by midnight. Time is of the essence.

All of the above are very formal, strait-laced expressions, and depending on the reader, they may even sound grating, ‘stuffy’ or clichéd. But if the writer has clearly and politely described the situation which calls for a prompt reply, I see no reason why the receiver would be irked.

Alternatively, the writer could simply state the deadline

  • Please reply by Thursday this week/this Thursday.
  • Can you send me your report by March 10 2016?
  • Please get in touch with us on Monday with the results.
  • 'Time is of the essence' is a phrase that is often seen in legal contexts, as the answer acknowledges. In these contexts, it has definite legal implications. Because of that, it may be perceived as a threat that certain consequences will follow if one doesn't fulfill the demand by the specified time.
    – jsw29
    Commented May 24, 2020 at 15:37

Consider the You-Perspective directed, as soon as you (possibly) can

Once you've made the revisions, you should return the revised manuscript by the deadline given, or if none was given, as soon as you possibly can.

Describing Species


The phrase I have adopted is

"As soon as available"

with "available" being used with this definition:

(of a person) not otherwise occupied; free to do something.

It keeps the same phrase style by replacing the final word, but shifts the meaning that, regardless if this is "possible" or not, some response must be sent as soon as they are "not otherwise occupied".

However, since we are still trying to be polite it is still open for negative responses if you end up waiting too long (e.g. Sorry, I wasn't available until now.).


I like, ''Your early attention to this would be appreciated.''

  • This does not provide an answer to the question. To critique or request clarification from an author, leave a comment below their post. - From Review Commented Aug 7, 2019 at 17:42
  • I was trying to indicate urgency in a polite way. I am sorry but that was the best I could do. It was difficult.
    – Aled Cymro
    Commented Aug 9, 2019 at 0:43

I don't think "Please reply soonest" sounds rude, though it’s brief and to the point.

Where appropriate, I suggest replacing the phrase "as soon as possible" with the word "soonest."


You could say "quick as you can", "expedite please".

This is not as polite but you could say "immediately if not sooner".

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    "immediately if not sooner" sounds very rude, almost insulting... Is it? Commented May 28, 2012 at 2:24
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    how could act sooner than immediately? I've only seen and used this as an attempt to be comically rude.
    – Jodrell
    Commented May 28, 2012 at 8:14
  • @jan, Is it 1st of April?
    – Pacerier
    Commented Mar 23, 2014 at 15:10
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    "immediately if not sooner" can be used in some humorous contexts. E.g. This is excellent! Publish it immediately, if not sooner." Commented Apr 23, 2014 at 21:54
  • "I need it immediately if not sooner" is still not as time-bending as the popular New York expression "I need it yesterday."
    – Sven Yargs
    Commented Mar 10, 2016 at 18:50

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