When authorities reply to requests they often use a template in their answers. FOI responses, where information is being withheld, will often show the FOI exemption used and then explain why that exemption has been applied.

Requesters, to an extent, can do the same when asking for information. Having a formulaic template that is used for FOI requests can help to provide consistency when multiple requests are being made.

Also by making it as easy as possible for an authority to identify an FOI request will reduce the potential for initial delays. It is possible to show them you know your rights, without being patronising.

The following template for a request may be a useful starting point. A good FOI request may clearly state what the information requested is, a date range, the department of the authority that may hold the information, and the format the information is to be received in.

All requests should be tailored to the authority and the particular information. 

Hello [Authority name]

I am writing to you under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 to request the following information from [authority name/department]:

[Insert what is being asked for]

Please provide the information in the form [insert form to be received in]

If it is not possible to provide the information requested due to the information exceeding the cost of compliance limits identified in Section 12, please provide advice and assistance, under the Section 16 obligations of the Act, as to how I can refine my request.

If you can identify any ways that my request could be refined I would be grateful for any further advice and assistance.

If you have any queries please don’t hesitate to contact me via email or phone and I will be very happy to clarify what I am asking for and discuss the request, my details are outlined below.

Thank you for your time and I look forward to your response.

Best wishes,

[Name and email signature with contact details]

I am a journalist and author. I am a staff writer at the UK edition of WIRED magazine and in 2015 my book, Freedom of Information: A Practical Guide for UK Journalists, was published. I created FOI Directory in 2012.

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