Лингвистический фон деловой корреспонденции (Linguistic Background of Business Correspondence)
Part IV. Structural and lexical peculiarities of a
Sender's address Copenhagen K,
9th May 2001
Inside address Warwik Street,
(Receiver's address) Forest Hill,
London SE23 1JF
Attention line For the attention of the Sales
Salutation Dear Sir or Madam,
Please would you sent me details of your
quadrophonic sound system, which were
advertised in the April edition of "Sound Monthly"?
Body of the letter
I am particular interested in the Omega
range of eguipment that you specialize in.
Complimentary close Yours faithfully,
Signature E. Gadyukova (Ms)
Per pro p.p. D. Sampson
Company position Sales manager
1. Structure of a business letter
In correspondence that does not have a printed letterhead, the sender's
address is written on the top right-hand side of the page.
In the UK, in contrast to the practice in some countries, it is not
usual to write the sender's name before the sender's address.
The date is written below the sender's address, sometimes separated from it
by a space. In the cases of correspondence with the printed letterhead, it
is also usually written on the right-hand side of the page.
The month in the date should not be written in figures as they can be
confusing; for example, 11.01.1998 means 11th January 1998 in the UK, but
1st November 1998 in the US. Nor should you abbreviate the month, e.g. Nov.
for November, as it simply looks untidy. It takes a moment to write a date
in full, but it can take a lot longer to find a mis-filed letter, which was
put in the wrong file because the date was confusing.
Many firms leave out the abbreviation 'th' after the date, e.g. 24
October instead of 24th October. Other firms transpose the date and the
month, e.g. October 24 instead of 24 October. These are matters of
preference, but whichever you choose you should be consistent throughout
Inside's (or receiver's) address
This is written below the sender's address and on the opposite side of the
page, i.e. the left-hand one.
1. Surname known
If you know the surname of the person you are writing to, you write this on
the first line of the address, preceded by a courtesy title and either the
person's initial(s) or his/her fist given name, e.g. Mr J.E. Smith or Mr
John Smith, not Mr Smith. Courtesy titles used in addresses are as follows:
. Mr (with or without a full stop; the abbreviated form 'mister' should not
be used) is the usual courtesy title for a man.
. Mrs (with or without a full stop; no abbreviated form) is used for a
. Miss (not an abbreviation) is used for an unmarried woman.
. Ms (with or without a full stop; no abbreviated form) is used for both
married and unmarried women. Many women now prefer to be addressed by
this title, and it is a useful form of address when you are not sure
whether the woman you are writing to is married or not.
. Messrs (with or without a full stop; abbreviation for Messieurs, which is
never used) is used occasionally for two or more men, e.g. Messrs P.
Jones and B.L. Parker) but more commonly forms part of the name of a
firm, e.g. Messrs Collier & Clerk & Co.
. Special titles, which should be included in addresses are many. They
. academic or medical titles, e.g. Doctor (Dr.), Professor
. military titles, e.g. Captain (Capt.), Major (Maj.), Colonel
. aristocratic title, e.g. Sir (which means that he is a
Knight; not be confused with the salutation 'Dear Sir' and
always followed by a given name - Sir John Brown, not Sir J.
Brown or Sir Brown), Dame, Lord, Baroness, etc.
. Esq (with or without a full stop; abbreviation for Esquire) is seldom
used now. If used, it can only be instead of 'Mr' and is placed after the
name, e.g. Bruce Hill Esq., not Mr Bruce Esq.
2. Title known
If you do not know the name of the person you are writing to, you may know
or be able to assume his/her title or position in the company, e.g. the
Sales Manager, or the Finance Director, in which case you can use it in the
3. Department known
Alternatively you can address your letter to a particular department of the
company, e.g. The Sales Department, or The Accounts Department.
4. Company only
Finally, if you know nothing about the company and do not want to make any
assumptions about the person or the department your letter should go to,
you can simply address it to the company itself, e.g. Soundsonic Ltd.,
Messrs Collier & Clerke & Co.
Order of inside addresses
After the name of the person and/or company receiving the letter, the order
and style of addresses in the UK and in the US, is as follows:
|British style |American style |
|1. Inside |Address (company) |
| | |
|Messrs Black & Sons, |International Trading Company |
|159 Knightsbridge, |Sabas Building |
|London SWL 87C |507 A. Flores Street |
| |Manila |
| |Philippines |
| | |
|The International Trading Company |The American Magazine |
|24 Churchill Avenue |119 Sixth Avenue |
|Maidstone, Kent |New York, NY 11011 |
|ZH8 92B | |
| | |
| | |
|British style |American style |
|2. Addressing an individual |on company business |
| | |
|The Manager |Mr. C.C. Pan |
|The Hongkong and Shanghai |Far East Jewelry Co. |
|Banking Corporation |68 Queen's Road East |
|Main Office |Hong Kong |
|Kuala Lumpur | |
|Malaysia | |
| | |
|Dear Sir, |Dear Sir: |
|Dear Sirs, |Gentlemen: |
| | |
|Messrs Mahmound & Son |The Standard Oil Company |
|329 Coast Road |Midland Building |
|Karachi, Pakistan |Cleveland, Ohio 44115 |
| | |
|3. Addressing an individual |on private business |
| | |
|T. Hardy, Esq., |Mr. C. Manzi |
|c/o Waltons Ltd., |Credito Milano |
|230 Snow Street, |Via Cavour 86 |
|Birmingham, England |Milan |
| |Italy |
| | |
|Dear Tom, |Dear Mr. Manzi, |
| | |
|Miss Claire Waterson |Continental Supply Company |
|c/o Miller & Sons Pty. Ltd. |321 Surawongse |
|Box 309 |Bangkok |
|Sydney NSW 2000 |Thailand |
|Australia | |
Style and punctuation of addresses
Both the addresses may be 'blocked' (i.e. each line is vertically aligned
with the one above) or 'indented', as below:
There are no rules stating that one style or the other must be used, though
blocking, at least in addresses, is more common. In any case you must be
consistent, i.e. do not block the sender's address and then indent the
If punctuation is used, each line of the address is followed by a
comma, except the last line. But, the majority of firms now use open
punctuation, i.e. without any commas.
'For the attention of'
An alternative to including the recipient's name or position in the address
is to use an 'attention of'.
e.g. For the attention of Mr. R. Singh (British English) or
Attention: Mr. E.G. Glass, Jr. (American English)
. Dear Sir opens a letter written to a man whose name you do not know.
. Dear Sirs is used to address a company. Note: in the US - Gentlemen.
. Dear Madam is used to address a woman, whether single or married, whose
name you do not know.
. Dear Sir or Madam is used to address a person you know neither the name
nor the sex.
. When you do not know the name of the person you are writing to, the
salutation takes the form of Dear followed by a courtesy tille and the
person's surname. Initials or first names are not generally used in
salutations: Dear Mr Smith, not Dear Mr J. Smith. The comma after the
salutation is optional.
The body of the letter
This may be indented or blocked. It is as matter of choice. Whichever style
you use, you must be consistent and use that style all through the letter.
It is usual to leave a line space between paragraphs in the body of
the letter; if the blocked style is used, this is essential.
For the information concerning the linguistic aspect of writing the
body of the letter, consult the following chapters of my diploma paper.
. If the letter begins with Dear Sir , Dear Sirs, Dear Madam, Dear Sir or
Madam, it will close with Yours faithfully.
. If the letter begins with a personal name - Dear Mr James, Dear Mr.
Robinson - it will close with Yours sincerely.
. Avoid closing with old-fashioned phrases such as We remain your
faithfully, or Respectfully yours, etc.
. Note that Americans tend to close even formal letters with Yours truly or
Truly yours, which is unusual in the UK in commercial correspondence. But
a letter to a friend or acquaintance may end with Yours truly or the
casual Best wishes.
The comma after the complimentary close is optional. The position of the
complimentary close - on the right, left or in the center of the page - is
the matter of choice. It depends on the style of the letter (blocked
letters tend to put the close on the left, indented letters tend to put
them in the centre) and on the firm's preference.
Always type your name after your handwritten signature and your position in
the firm after you typed signature. This is known as 'the signature block'.
Even though you may think your signature is easy to read, letters such as
'a', 'e', 'o', and 'v' can easily be confused.
It is, to some extend, a matter of choice whether you sign with your
initial(s), e.g. D. Jenkins, or your given name, e.g. David Jenkins, and
whether you include a courtesy title, e.g. Mr., Mrs., Miss, Ms. In your
signature block. But if you give neither your given name nor your title,
your correspondent will not be able to identify your sex and may give you
the wrong title when he/she replies. It is safer therefore, to sign to sign
with your given name, and safest of all to include your title.
Including titles in signatures is, in fact, more common among women
then among men, partly because many women like to make it clear either that
they are married (Mrs.) or unmarried (Miss) or that their martial status is
not relevant (Ms.), and partly because there is a tendency to believe that
important positions in a company can only be held by men. It would do no
harm for men to start including their titles in their signatures.
The term 'per pro' (p.p.) is sometimes used in signatures and means 'for
and on behalf of'. Secretaries sometimes use p.p. when signing a letter on
behalf of their bosses.
When writing on behalf of your company, it is useful to indicate your
position in the firm in the signature.
If ther are many enclosures, e.g. leaflets, prospectus, etc., with the
letter, these may be mentioned in the body of the letter. But many firms in
any case write Enc. or Encl. At the bottom of the letter, and if there are
a number of documents, these are listed, e.g.
Bill of landing (5copies)
Insurance certificate (1 copy)
Bill of exchange (1 copy)
Some further features of a business letter
1. 'Private and confidential'
This phrase may be written at the head of a letter above salutation, and
more importantly on the envelope, in cases where the letter is intended
only for ht eyes of the named recipient.
There are many variations of the phrase - 'Confidential', 'Strictly
Confidential' - but little difference in meaning between them.
2. Subject title
Some firms open their letters with a subject title (beneath the
salutation). This provides a further reference, saves introducing the
subject in the first paragraph, immediately draws attention to the topic of
the letter, and allows the writer to refer to it throughout the letter.
It is not necessary to begin the subject title with Re: e.g. Re:
Application for the post of typist.
. c.c. (= carbon copies) is written, usually at the end of the letter, when
copies are sent to people other than the named recipient.
. b.c.c. (=blind carbon copies) is written at the copies themselves, though
not, on the top copy, when you do not want the named recipient to know
that other people have received the copies as well.
2. Content of a business letter
How long should a letter be? The answer is as long as necessary and this
will depend on the subject of the letter.
It may be a simple subject, e.g. thanking a customer for a cheque, or
quite complicated, e.g. explaining how a group insurance policy works. It
is a question of how much information you put in the letter: you may give
too little (even for a brief subject), in which case your letter will be
too short, or too much (even for a complicated subject), in which case it
will be too long. Your style and the kind of language you use can also
affect the length. The right length includes the right amount of
The three letters that follow are written by different people in reply
to the same enquiry from a Mr. Arrand about the company's product:
1. Too long
Dear Mr. Arrand,
Thank you very much for your enquiry of 5 November which we receive
today. We often receive enquiries from large stores and always welcome
them, particularly at this time of the year when we know that you will
be stocking for Christmas.
We have enclosed our winter catalogue and are sure you will be
extremely impressed by the wide range of watches that we stock. You
will see that they range from the traditional to the latest in quartz
movements and include ranges for men, women and children, with prices
that should suit upper-market bracket priced at several hundred pounds.
But whether you buy a cheaper or more expensive model we guarantee all
merchandise for two years with a full service.
Enclosed you will also find our price-list giving full details on
c.i.f. prices to London and explaining our discounts which we think you
will find very generous and which we hope will take full advantage of.
We are always available to offer you further information about our
products and can promise you personal attention whenever you require
it. This service is given to all our customers throughout the world,
and as you probably know, we deal with countries from the Far East to
Europe and Latin America., and this fact alone bears out our reputation
which has been established for more than a hundred years and has made
our motto a household world - Time for Everyone.
Once again may we thank you for your enquiry and say that we look
forward to hearing from you in the near future?
There are a number of things wrong with a letter of this sort. Though
it tries to advertise the products and the company itself, it is too wordy.
There is no need to explain that stores or shops are stocking for
Christmas; the customer is aware of this. Rather than draw attention to
certain items the customer might be interested in, the letter only explains
what the customer can already see, that there is a wide selection of
watches in the catalogue covering the full range of market prices.
In addition, the writer goes on unnecessarily to explain which
countries the firm sells to, the history of company and its rather
2. Too short
Thank you for your enquiry. We have a wide selection of watches
which we are sure you will like. We will be sending a catalogue soon.
There are number of points missing from this letter, quite apart from
the fact that, since the writer knew the name of his correspondent he
should have begun the letter Dear Mr Arrand and ended Yours sincerely.
There is no reference to the date or reference number of the enquiry.
Catalogues should be have sent with a reply to the enquiry; it is
annoying for a customer to have to wait for further information to be sent.
Even if a catalogue is sent, the customer's attention should be drawn to
particular items that would interest him/her in the line of business.
He/she might be concerned with the upper or lower end of the market. He
might want moderately priced items, or expensive ones.
3. The right length
Here is a letter that is more suitable:
Dear Mr Arrand, Thank you for your enquiry of 5 November.
We have enclosed our winter catalogue and price-list giving details of
c.i.f. London prices, discounts and delivery dates.
Though you will see we offer a wide selection of watches, may we draw
your attention to pp. 23-28, and pp. 31-37 in our catalogue, which we
think might suit the market you are dealing with? And on page 34 you
will notice our latest designs in pendant watches, which are becoming
fashionable for both men and women.
As you are probably aware, all our products are fully guaranteed and
backed by our world-wide reputation.
If there is any further information you require, please contact us.
Meanwhile, we look forward to hearing from you soon.
Let's sum up the basic rules concerning the letter length.
The letter should be neither too long nor too short. It is better to
include too much information than too little. Your reader cannot read your
mind. If you leave out vital information, he won't know what he wants to
know, unless he writes back again and he may not bother to do that.
If you include extra information, at least he'll have what he wants,
even though he may irritated by having to read the unnecessary parts.
Provided, of course, that you include the vital information as well as the
extras: the worst letter of all is the one that gives very piece of
information about the product, except for the price.
Order and sequence
As well as containing the right amount of information, the letter
should also make all the necessary points in a logical sequence, with each
idea or piece of information linking up with the previous one in a pattern
that can be followed. Do not jump around making a statement, switching to
other subjects, then referring back to the point you made a few sentences
or paragraphs before.
1. Unclear sequence
Consider this badly-written letter. There is no clear sequence to the
letter, which makes it difficult to understand.
We are interested in your security system. We would like to know
more about the prices and discounts you offer.
A business associate of ours, DMS (Wholesalers) Ltd., mentioned
your name to us and showed us a catalogue. They were impressed with the
security system you installed for them, so we are writing to you about
it. Do you give us guarantees with the installations?
In your catalogue we saw the 'Secure 15' which looks as though it
might suit our purposes. DMD had the 'Secure 18' installed, but as we
mentioned, they are wholesalers, while we are a chain of stores. We
would like something that can prevent robbery and shoplifting, so the
'Secure 15' might suit us.
How long would it take to install a system that would serve all
departments? Could you send us an inspector or adviser to see us at
If you can offer competitive prices and guarantees we would put
your system in all our outlets, but initially we would only install the
system in our main branch.
We would like to make a decision on this soon, so we would
appreciate an early reply.
Here is a better version of the same letter, in which the ideas and
information are in logical order.
Dear Mr. Jerry,
We are a chain of retail stores and are looking for an efficient
security system. You were recommended to us by our associates DMS
(Wholesalers) Ltd. for whom you recently installed an alarms system,
the 'Secure 18'.
We need an installation which would give us comprehensive
protection against robbery and shoplifting throughout all departments;
and the' Secure 15' featured in your catalogue appears to suit us.
However, if one of your representatives could come along to see us, he
would probably be able to give us more advice and details of the
Initially, we will test your system in our main branch, and if
successful, then extend it throughout our other branches, but of course
a competitive quotation and full guarantees for maintenance and service
would be necessary.
Please reply as soon as possible as we would like to make a
decision within the next few months. Thank you
1. First paragraph
The first sentence or paragraph of a letter is an important one since it
gets the tone of the letter and gives your reader his first impression of
you and your company. Generally speaking, in the first paragraph you will
thank your correspondent for his letter (if replying to an enquiry),
introduce yourself and your company if necessary, state the subject of the
letter, and set out the purpose of the letter. Here are two examples:
Thank you for your enquiry dated 8 July in which you asked us about
our range of cosmetics. As you have probably seen in our advertisements
in fashion magazines, we appeal to a wide age-group from the teenage
market trough to more mature women, with our products being retailed in
leading stores throughout the world.
Thank you for your letter of 19 August which I received today. We
can certainly supply you with the industrial floor coverings you asked
about, and enclosed you will find a catalogue illustrating our wide
range of products, which are used in factories and offices throughout
2. Middle paragraphs
This is the main part of your letter and will concern the points that need
to be made, answers you wish to give, or questions you want to ask. As this
can vary widely with the type of letter that you are writing, it is dwelt
in other parts of my diploma work.
It is in the middle paragraphs of a letter that planning is most
important, to make sure that your points are made clearly, fully and in
3. Final paragraph
When closing the letter, you should thank the person for writing, if your
letter is a reply and if you have not done this at the beginning. Encourage
further enquiries or correspondence, and mention that you look forward to
hearing from your correspondent soon. You may also wish to restate , very
briefly, one or two the most important of the points you have made in the
main part of the letter. Here are some examples:
Once again thank you for writing to us, and please contact us if
you would like any further information. To go briefly over the points I
have made - all prices are quoted c.i.f. Yokahama; delivery would be
six weeks from receipt of order; and payment should be made by bank
draft. I look forward to hearing from you soon.
I hope I have covered all the questions you asked, but please
contact me if there are any other details you require. May I just point
out that the summer season will soon be with us, so please place an
order as soon as possible so that it can be met in good time for when
the season starts. I hope to hear from you in the near future.
We are sure that you have made the right choice in choosing this
particular line as it is proving to be a leading seller. If there is
any advice or further information you want, we shall be happy to supply
it, and look forward to hearing from you.
3. Rules and manners for writing a business letter
. Main steps
. Technical layout of letter
. A letter's style
Writing an effective business letter is an important skill for every
manager and business owner.In this brief overview we will examine the five
main steps in creating an effective business letter.
1.Identify your Aims:
Clearly establish what you want to achieve from the letter- whether it is
to win back a dissatisfied customer or to reprimand an employee.Whatever
the aim, create your letter from these goals.
2. Establish the facts:
Make sure you have the relevant accurate facts available. For a late
payer,this might include relevant invoices, complaint forms, talks with
your sales department and any previous correspondence from the customer.
3. Know the recipient of the letter:
Write in the language of your recipient. Try to put yourself in the
position of the recipient. Read it from his point of view. Is the letter
clear or open to misinterpretation. If you know the recipient, use this
knowledge to phrase the letter to generate your desired response.
4. Create a sample Copy:
Having established your aims, amassed the relevant facts with a conscious
view of the recipient- write down the main points of your letter.
5. Decide on Physical layout of letter.
The physical appearance of a letter consists of the paper and the envelope.
The first thing a recipient sees is the envelope. It is essential that it
is of suitable quality with the name and address spelt correctly.Quality
envelopes and paper suggest a professional company. It is wise to make
sure the envelope matches the size of the paper.While you will use 81/2 x
11 inches(A4 size) sized paper for the majority of letters - a 4 x 6
inches(A5) can be used for specific shorter letters.But insist that
properly sized envelopes are used for this A5 size paper,allowing you
maintain and convey an coordinated image.
Technical layout of letter:
This will include your company's name, address, telephone number, fax
number and email address. Include your web address if available. Other
information may be required depending on the legal status of your business
formation.Contact your legal adviser for exact details.
2. Name and address:
Always include the recipient's name, address and postage code. Add job
title if approriate. Double check that you have the correct spelling of the
recipient 's name .
Always date your letters.Never abbreviate January to Jan. 31.
These are optional.They are a good idea if you have a large volume of
correspondence.These day modern word processors made this an easy task to
complete and maintain.
The type of salutation depends on your relationship with the recipient.
Always try to personalise letter thus avoiding the dear sir/madam
Again this is optional, but its inclusion can help the recipient in dealing
successfully with the aims of your letter. Normally the subject sentence is
preceded with the word Re: It should be placed one line below the greeting.
This will contain a number of paragraphs, each paragraph dealing with one
point and one point only.
The signature should be clear and legible-showing you are interested in the
letter and consequently the recipient.Your signature should also be
followed underneath by a typed version of your name and your job title.
If you include other material in the letter, put 'Enclosure','Enc', or'
Encs', as appropriate, two lines below the last entry.
A letter's style:
Previously we created the main points of our letter, now we must transform
this into a final version.To do this, four main considerations are
There are three main formats: blocked, semi-blocked and indented.
The former has all entries tight against the left -hand margin.The semi-
blocked format sets the references and the date to the right margin for
filing and retrieval purposes, with the remaining entries placed against
the left margin.
The indented format follows the same layout as either of the above, but
indents each paragraph by five or six spaces.
Clarity of communication is the primary goal. Don't use technical jargon if
the recipient is unlikely to understand it. Short sentences are less likely
to be misunderstood or misinterperted. Be precise , don't ramble. Check
each sentence to see if it is relevant.Does it add to the point ?
Always try to personalise your letters. Always try to be civil and friendly
even if the subject matter is stern and sensitive.Give the impression to
the recipient that some effort and thought has gone into the letter.
Once the final version of the letter has been created, polish it off with a
final spelling and punctuation check.
Letter writing etiquette
Always make sure you start and end your letters correctly. If you are
writing to Mrs Jane Smith then you should start the letter 'Dear Mrs Smith'
and finish it with 'Yours sincerely' - N.B. 'sincerely' does not start with
a capital 'S'.
Particular care is required when you are writing to a woman. If she has
just written her name as Jane Smith do you start the letter 'Dear Jane' or
'Dear Ms Smith'. She might be offended if you refer to her as 'Ms' and you
might not feel comfortable writing 'Dear Jane' as it sounds too familiar.
To get round this problem all you have to do is ring the company and ask
them how she likes to be addressed. If there is not a telephone number for
the company in the advertisement just call Directory Enquires (dial 192 in
the UK). When you ring the company all you have to say is that you are
writing to Jane Smith and you would like to know whether she is a Ms, Mrs
or Miss so your letter can be correctly addressed.
If the advertisement just says reply to J. Smith how would you address the
letter? Dear Sir? or Dear Madam? Dear Mr Smith? You would be well advised
to ring the company and find out J. Smith's full name and title
(Mr/Mrs/Ms/Miss). Remember politeness costs you nothing, but it can really
pay dividends and you will probably be the only person who has bothered to
find out. This may distinguish you from everyone else who applied - being
noticed is the key to writing a potential interview-winning covering
If the advertisement just says write to the Personnel Department or reply
to Box Number 55 it may not be possible for you to find out who will be
handling your reply. In these cases you will have to start your letter
'Dear Sir/Madam' and finish the letter with 'Yours faithfully'. Please note
that 'faithfully' does not start with a capital 'F'.
Striking the Right Tone
An underlying goal of most business letters you write is to
promote goodwill between you and your reader. Especially when writing to
someone for the first time, you should use a tone that will encourage that
person to listen to you and want to work with you now and in the future
If your letter is primarily informational or contains good news, a
direct approach is usually best. State your point or offer your news
immediately and briefly, and then explain any other information the reader
needs to know.
Finding the proper tone is more difficult if you are delivering bad
news. In this case, taking an indirect approach may be a better strategy.
In the first few sentences, for example, you could begin on a positive note
by stating how much you want to work with the reader’s company or by
reminding the reader of times you accommodated his or her requests in the
past. When you do get to your point, try to minimize the reader’s
disappointment or anger by delivering the message in carefully considered
language that conveys your news clearly but tactfully.
Establishing a Courteous Tone
The fast pace of letters makes it easy to send a message
without fully considering the nuances of its tone. If you do not take the
time to think about your words and how they may be perceived, your letters
may seem overly blunt or even insulting.
A simple rule can keep you from writing inadvertently offensive
letters: Always ask yourself how you would feel if you received the message
you are sending. If you would bristle at its terseness, you can assume the
reader will as well. If you are unsure how the message might be taken, ask
for someone else’s opinion, or let it sit overnight and read it again the
next morning with a fresh eye.
If someone sends you a rude e-mail message (or “flame,” in e-mail
slang), take a moment to calm down before responding. The best way to douse
a flame is to write back using the most neutral and measured tone you can
muster. In some cases it’s best not to respond to a flame.
4. Style of a business letter
Now I will deal with some common writing problems that do not involve rules
of grammar. These problems—of parallelism, redundancy, and the like—are
more rhetorical than grammatical; that is, they involve choices you must
make as a writer trying to create a certain style of expression. You must
determine what stylistic choices will afford greater clarity and cogency to
each of your efforts to communicate. We all make different choices when
faced with different communicative tasks depending on what we feel will be
most effective. An expression that is appropriate for a formal letter may
be utterly off-putting in an informal message.
A successful and distinctive writing style is an elusive bird of
paradise. It is unmistakable once you see it but difficult to find. It
involves many things: creating an appropriate voice for your purpose,
choosing the right words for the subject and audience, constructing elegant
sentences whose rhythm reinforces their meaning, presenting an argument in
a logical fashion that is both engaging and easy to follow, finding vivid
images to make thoughts accessible to your readers. You can probably add to
this list. You may, for example, want to shock or jolt your audience rather
than court it, and this strategy requires stylistic features that are quite
different from those you would use for gentle persuasion.
Most memorable writing has as one of its recognizable features the ample
use of parallel grammatical structures. A basic guideline about parallel
constructions is to make sure that all the elements in a balanced pair or
in a series have the same grammatical form. That is, if you start with a
that-clause, stick with that-clauses; if you start with an infinitive,
stick with infinitives; if you start with a participle, stick with
participles; and so on. What you don’t want is a mixed bag, as in She had a
strong desire to pursue medicine and for studying literature or The
scientist asked for volunteers with allergies but who had not given blood
A second point is to make sure that once you have chosen the kind of
grammatical forms you want to make parallel, you structure them
symmetrically. Remember that an initial article, preposition, auxiliary
verb, or modifier will tend to govern all elements in the series unless it
is repeated for each element. For example, if you set up a series of nouns
with the first modified by an adjective, the reader will expect the
adjective to modify the rest of the series as well. Thus you should say The
building has new lighting, plumbing, and carpeting but not The building has
new lighting, plumbing, and different carpeting. The same is true for
articles: He brought the rod, reel, and bait. If you want to restrict a
modifier to only one noun, repeat the article for each noun: He brought the
light rod, the reel, and the bait.
When you spot a faulty parallel, recast the structure to give all
the elements equivalent treatment. If your new parallel construction does
not seem much of an improvement, rewrite the sentence completely to avoid
the parallel construction. Better to have no parallel structures than to
have parallel structures that sound overblown or stilted.
Faulty parallelism is all around us. We see and hear it every
day—often without taking notice. How many times have you heard Please leave
your name, number, and a brief message? After waiting for the tone, have
you ever objected to the imperfect symmetry of this sentence? In our most
recent ballot we presented some sentences with questionable parallelism to
the usage panelists to see how tolerant they would be. As we expected, they
had a range of opinions.
Crafting sentences with flawless parallelism takes effort and
practice. Even if your readers don’t notice or object when you make
mistakes, balance and symmetry are worth striving for in your writing.
There are certain constructions that are notorious for throwing things out
of whack. I listed some of them below.
both … and …
comparisons with as and than
either … or / neither … nor
not only … but also
Writing handbooks usually include warnings about the passive voice—it
is wordy and clumsy and leads to static rather than dynamic writing. There
is truth to this, certainly, but the passive voice also has legitimate
uses, and in many instances it is preferable to the active voice.
Such phrases as "The material will be delivered"; "The start date is
to be decided"; "The figures must be approved" are obscure ones leaving
unsettled who it is that delivers, who decides, and who does the
approving. Which side it is to be? Lawsuits are the plausible outcome
of leaving it all unsettled. Passives used in contracts can destroy the
whole negotiations. "You will deliver" is better for it identifies the
one who will do delivering. Certainly, "must be approved by us" violates
other canons. "We shall have the right but not the obligation to approve"
is less unfortunate.
There is no doubt that passives do not suit business letters, and
if they go all the way through without adding something like "by you" or
"by us" they are intolerable. Once in a long while one may find passives
used purposely to leave something unresolved.
A certain amount of redundancy is built in to the English language,
and we would never consider getting rid of it. Take grammatical number, for
instance. Sentences such as 'He drives to work' and 'We are happy' contain
redundant verb forms. The -s of drives indicates singularity of the
subject, but we already know the subject is singular from the singular
pronoun he. Similarly, are indicates a plural subject, which is already
evident from the plural pronoun we. Number is also indicated redundantly in
phrases like this book and those boxes, where the demonstrative adjective
shows number and the noun does as well.
But there are redundant ways of saying things that can make the rest
of your writing seem foolish. Many of these are common expressions that go
unnoticed in casual conversation but that stick out like red flags in
writing. Why say at this point in time instead of now, or because of the
fact that when because will do? Something that is large in size is really
just large. The trouble lies less in the expressions themselves than in
their accumulated effect. Anyone can be forgiven for an occasional
redundancy, but writing that is larded with redundancies is likely to draw
unwanted laughs rather than admiration.
Listed below are some of the more problematic redundancies.
but … however
consider as / deem as
rarely ever / seldom ever
reason is because
In a world in which efficiency has become a prime value, most people
view economy in wording as a sign of intelligence. Its opposite, therefore,
is often considered a sign of stupidity. Most of us are busy and impatient
people. We hate to wait. Using too many words is like asking people to
stand in line until you get around to the point. It is irritating, which
hardly helps when you are trying to win someone’s goodwill or show that you
know what you’re talking about. What is worse, using too many words often
makes it difficult to understand what is being said. It forces a reader to
work hard to figure out what is going on, and in many cases the reader may
simply decide it is not worth the effort. Another side effect of verbosity
is the tendency to sound overblown, pompous, and evasive. What better way
to turn off a reader?
It is easy to recommend concision in expression but much harder to
figure out how to achieve it. In general, wordy writing has three
distinguishing characteristics: weak verbs, ponderous nouns, and lots of
prepositional phrases. The three are interconnected.
The key to writing clearly and concisely is to use strong active
verbs. This means that you should only use the passive voice when you have
a solid reason for doing so. If you look down a page you have written and
see that you are relying on forms of the verb be and other weak verbs like
seem and appear, you can often boil down what you have written to a
fraction of its size by revising with active verbs.
Here is an example:
It is essential to acknowledge that one of the drawbacks to the increased
utilization of part-time employees is that people who are still engaged
full-time by the company are less likely to be committed to the recognition
and identification of problems in the production area.
This passage has 45 words. We can boil it down to 14 by cutting out the
unnecessary words, using active verbs, and using noun modifiers to do the
work of prepositional phrases:
Using more part-time employees often makes full-time employees less
willing to report production problems.
A certain amount of repetition and redundancy has its uses. It
never hurts to thank someone and add that you appreciate what was done. The
recapitulation of the major points in a complicated essay can be a generous
service to the reader, not a needless repetition. If you keep focused on
what you are trying to accomplish and on what will help your readers or
your listeners, you will have less need to remember formal rules of good
writing. You will be able to trust your instincts and your ear.
5. Lexics of business letters
From the lexicological point of view isolated words and phrases mean
very little. In context they mean a great deal, and in the special
context of contractual undertakings they mean everything. Contract
English is a prose organised according to plan.
And it includes, without limitation, the right but not the
obligation to select words from a wide variety of verbal implements and
write clearly, accurately, and/or with style.
Two phases of writing contracts exist: in the first, we react to
proposed contracts drafted by somebody else, and in the second, which
presents greater challenge, we compose our own.
A good contract reads like a classic story. It narrates, in orderly
sequence, that one part should do this and another should do that, and
perhaps if certain events occur, the outcome will be changed. All of
the rate cards charts, and other reference material ought to be ticked off
one after another according to the sense of it. Tables and figures, code
words and mystical references are almost insulting unless organised and
defined. Without organisation they baffle, without definition they
In strong stance one can send back the offending document and request
a substitute document in comprehensible English. Otherwise a series of
questions may be put by letter, and the replies often will have
contractual force if the document is later contested.
Now it appears logical to examine the examples of favourite
contract phrases, which will help ease the way to fuller examination of
entire negotiations and contracts. A full glossary is beyond reach but in
what follows there is a listing of words and phrases that turn up in great
many documents, with comments on each one. The words and phrases are
presented in plausible contract sequence, not alphabetically.
"Whereas" Everyone's idea of how a contract begins. Some lawyers
dislike "Whereas" and use recitation clauses so marked to distinguish them
from the text in the contract. There the real issue lies; one must be
careful about mixing up recitals of history with what is actually being
agreed on. For example, it would be folly to write: "Whereas A admits
owing B $10,000..." because the admission may later haunt one,
especially if drafts are never signed and the debt be disputed. Rather
less damaging would be:
e.g. "Whereas the parties have engaged in a series of
transactions resulting in dispute over accounting between them..."
On the whole "Whereas" is acceptable, but what follows it needs
"It is understood and agreed" On the one hand, it usually adds
nothing, because every clause in the contract is "understood and agreed" or
it would not be written into it. On the other hand, what it adds is an
implication that other clauses are not backed up by this phrase: by
including the one you exclude the other. «It is understood and agreed»
ought to be banished.
"Hereinafter" A decent enough little word doing the job of six
("Referred to later in this document"). "Hereinafter" frequently sets up
abbreviated names for the contract parties.
e.g. "Knightsbridge International Drapes and Fishmonger, Ltd
"Including Without Limitation" It is useful and at times essential
phrase. Earlier I've noted that mentioning certain things may exclude
others by implication. Thus,
e.g. "You may assign your exclusive British and Commonwealth rights"
suggests that you may not assign other rights assuming you have any. Such
pitfalls may be avoided by phrasing such as:
e.g. "You may assign any and all your rights including without
limitation your exclusive British and Commonwealth rights".
But why specify any rights if all of them are included? Psychology
is the main reason; people want specific things underscored in the
contracts, and "Including Without Limitation" indulges this
"Assignees and Licensees" These are important words which
acceptability depends on one's point of view
"Knightsbridge, its assignees and licensees..."
suggests that Knightsbridge may hand you over to somebody else after
contracts are signed. If you yourself happen to be Knightsbridge, you
will want that particular right and should use the phrase.
"Without Prejudice" It is a classic. The British use this phrase all
by itself, leaving the reader intrigued. "Without Prejudice" to what
exactly? Americans spell it out more elaborately, but if you stick
to American way, remember "Including Without Limitation", or you may
accidentally exclude something by implication. Legal rights, for example,
are not the same thing as remedies the law offers to enforce them. Thus
the American might write:
"Without prejudice to any of my existing or future rights or
And this leads to another phrase.
"And/or" It is an essential barbarism. In the preceding example I've
used the disjunctive "rights or remedies". This is not always good
enough, and one may run into trouble with
"Knightsbridge or Tefal or either of them shall..."
What about both together? "Knightsbridge and Tefal", perhaps, followed by
"or either". Occasionally the alternatives become overwhelming, thus
and/or is convenient and generally accepted, although more detail
"Shall" If one says "Knightsbridge and/or Tefal shall have..." or
"will have...", legally it should make no difference in the case
you are consent in using one or the other. "Shall", however, is
stronger than "will". Going from one to another might suggest that one
obligation is stronger somehow than another. Perhaps, one's position
may determine the choice. "You shall", however is bad form.
"Understanding" It is a dangerous word. If you mean agreement
you ought to say so. If you view of affairs that there is no
agreement, "understanding" as a noun suggests the opposite or comes close
to it. .it stands, in fact, as a monument to unsatisfactory compromise.
The softness of the word conjures up pleasing images. "In accordance
with our understanding..." can be interpreted in a number of ways.
"Effect" Here is a little word which uses are
insufficiently praised. Such a phrase as "We will produce..."
is inaccurate, because the work will be subcontracted and the
promise-maker technically defaults. Somebody else does the producing. Why
not say "We will produce or cause to be produced..."? This is in fact
often said, but it jars the ear. Accordingly "We will effect
production..." highlights the point with greater skill.
"Idea" This word is bad for your own side but helpful against
others. Ideas as such are not generally protected by law. If you submit
something to a company with any hope of reward you must find better
phrasing than "my idea". Perhaps, "my format" or possibly "my
property" is more appropriate. Naturally, if you can develop an idea
into a format or protectable property, the more ambitious phrasing
will be better justified.
"As between us" It is useful, because people are always forgetting
or neglecting to mention that a great many interests may be
involved in what appears to be simple dialogue. "I reserve control
over..." and "You have the final power of decision over..." sound like
division of something into spheres, but frequently "I" am in turn
controlled by my investors and "You" - by a foreign parent company, making
the language of division inaccurate. Neither of us really controls
anything, at least ultimately.
Thus it will be useful to say, "As between us, I control..." and so
"Spanning" Time periods are awkward things: "...for a period
commencing August,1 and expiring November,15..." is clumsy; "...from
August,1 to November,15..." is skeletal when informing how long a contract
But during particular time periods one may be reporting for work, for
example, three days out of every five, or doing something else that is
within but not completely parallel to the entire time period involved.
A happy solution is the word "Spanning". It goes this way:
"Throughout the period spanning August,1 - November,15 inclusive you will
render services as a consultant three days out of every five."
It will be useful to put "inclusive" at the end for without it you may
lose the date, concluding the period being spanned.
"Negotiate in Good Faith" The negotiators have worked until late
at night, all points but one have been worked out, the contract will never
be signed without resolution of some particular impasse. What is there
Agree to "Negotiate in Good Faith" on the disputed point at later time.
This is done frequently, but make no mistake about the outcome. The open
point remains open. If it happens to be vital you may have no contract
at all. "Negotiate in Good Faith" is one of those evasions that must be
used sparingly. At the right time it prevents collapse, at the wrong time
it promotes it.
"Confirm" It suggests, of course, that something has been agreed upon
before. You are writing now only to make a record of it. "I write to
confirm that you admit substantial default in delivery" Frequently we
encounter it in ordinary correspondence: "Confirming your order",
"Confirming the main points of our agreement", and so on.
"Furnish" It is a handy word which usefulness lies in the avoidance
of worse alternatives. Suppose you transact to deliver a variety of
elements as a package.
"Deliver" leaves out, even though it may well be implied, the
preliminary purchase or engagement of these elements, and at the other end
it goes very far in suggesting responsibility for getting the package
unscathed to where it belongs. Alternatives also may go wrong, slightly,
each with its own implications. "Assign" involves legal title; "give" is
lame and probably untrue; "transmit" means send.
Thus each word misses some important - detail or implies unnecessary
things. "Furnish" is sometimes useful when more popular words fall short
or go too far. It has a good professional ring to it as well:
"I agree to furnish all of the elements listed on Exhibit A annexed hereto
and made part hereof by incorporation."
Who is responsible for non-delivery and related questions can be
dealt with in separate clauses. "Furnish" avoids jumping the gun. It
keeps away from what ought to be treated independently but fills up enough
space to stand firm. The word is good value.
"Right but Not Obligation" One of the most splendid phrases
available. Sometimes the grant of particular rights carries with it by
implication a duty to exploit them. Authors, for example, often feel
betrayed by their publishes, who have various rights "but do nothing about
them." Royalties decrease as a result; and this situation, whether or not
it reflects real criminality, is repeated in variety of industries and
court cases. Accordingly it well suits the grantee of rights to make
clear at the very beginning that he may abandon them. This possibility is
more appropriately dealt with in separate clauses reciting the
consequences. Still, contracts have been known to contain inconsistent
provisions, and preliminary correspondence may not even reach the
subject of rights. A quick phrase helps keep you out of trouble: "The Right
but Not Obligation". Thus,
"We shall have the Right but Not Obligation to grant sublicenses
in Austria"("But if we fail, we fail").
Even this magic phrase has its limitations because good faith may
require having a real go to exploiting the rights in question. Nevertheless
"Right but Not Obligation" is useful, so much so as to become
incantation and be said whenever circumstances allow it. I the other
side challenges these words, it will be better to know this at once
and work out alternatives or finish up the negotiations completely.
"Exclusive" It’s importance in contract English is vast, and its
omission creates difficulties in good many informal drafts.
Exclusivity as a contract term means that somebody is -barred from dealing
with others in a specified area. Typically an employment may be exclusive
in that the employee may not work for any one else, or a license may
be exclusive in the sense that no competing licenses will be issued.
Antitrust problems cluster around exclusive arrangements but they
are not all automatically outlawed. It follows that one ought to specify
whether or not exclusivity is part of many transactions. If
not, the phrase "nonexclusive" does well enough. On the other hand,
if a consultant is to be engaged solely by one company, or a
distributorship awarded to nobody else except X, then "exclusive" is a
word that deserves recitation. "Exclusive Right but Not Obligation" is an
example that combines two phrases discussed here. The linking of
concepts is a step in building a vocabulary of contract English.
"Solely on condition that" One of the few phrases that can be
considered better than its short counterparts. Why not just "if"? Because
"if" by itself leaves open the possibility of open contingencies:
"If Baker delivers 1,000 barrels I will buy them" is unclear if you will
buy them only from Baker. Therefore what about "only if"? Sometimes
this works out, but not always.
"I will buy 1,000 barrels only if Baker delivers them" is an example of
"only if" going fuzzy. One possible meaning is "not more than 1,000
barrels" with "only" assimilated with the wrong word. Here then a more
elaborate phrase is justified.
"I will buy 1,000 barrels solely on condition that Baker delivers them"
makes everything clear.
"Subject to" Few contracts can do without this phrase. Many
promises can be made good only if certain things occur. The right
procedure is to spell out these plausible impediments to the
degree that you can reasonably foresee them. E.g. :
"We will deliver these subject to our receiving adequate supplies";
"Our agreement is subject to the laws of Connecticut";
"Subject to circumstances beyond our control ".
"Repeat" This word is often used in cables to emphasize a negative,
e.g. Do not REPEAT not send order 18551.
Or to emphasize an important detail,
e.g. Flight delayed by six REPEAT six hours.
Foreign esoteric words
Every now and then a scholarly phrase becomes accepted in business
"Pro rate" and "pari passu" are Latin expressions but concern
money. "Pro rata" proves helpful when payments are to be in a proportion
reflecting earlier formulas in a contract. "Pari passu" is used when
several people are paid at the same level or time out of a common fund.
Latin, however, is not the only source of foreign phrases in business
"Force majeure" is a French phrase meaning circumstances beyond one's
English itself has plenty of rare words. One example is "eschew";
how many times we see people struggling with negatives such as
"and we agree not to produce (whatever it is) for a period of X". The
more appropriate phrase would be "we will eschew production".
But here it should be mentioned that not everyone can understand
such phrases. Therefore rare words should be used only once in a long
while. Those who uses them sparingly appears to be reliable.
Abbreviations can be useful because they are quick to write and easy to
read. But both parties need to know what the abbreviations stand for.
The abbreviations c.i.f. and f.o.b., for example, are recognized
internationally as meaning cost, insurance, and freight and free on board.
But can you be sure that your correspondent would know that o.n.o means or
Some international organizations, e.g. NATO, are know in all
countries by the same set of initials, but many are not, e.g. EEC (European
Economic Community) and UNO (United Nations Organization). National
organizations, e.g. CBI (Confederation of British Industry) and TUC (Trades
Union Congress), are even less likely to be known by their initials in
other countries. So, if you are not absolutely certain that an abbreviation
will be easily recognized, do not use it.
The International Chamber of Commerce uses a set of terms for
delivery in overseas contracts - these are called Incoterms.
Now let me examine some of the abbreviations most frequently used in
c.i.f. - cost, insurance, freight.
If consignment is to be delivered according to c.i.f., then the
supplier insures the goods and pays for the whole delivery.
f.o.b. - free on board.
If consignment is to be delivered according to f.o.b., then the
supplier pays for transportation to port, steamer or air shipment and
dispatch; and the customer pays for onward transportation and
f.o.r. - free on rail.
It is the same as f.o.b., but for railway transportation.
c & f - cost and freight.
If consignment is to be delivered according to c & f, then the
supplier pays for the whole delivery and the customer - for insurance.
CPT ( Carriage Paid To) named place of destination
Delivery happens when goods are given to the carrier (if more than one, the
first carrier, or a freight forwarder). The seller pays the costs of
delivery to the named place and the buyer's risks start from here.
CIP (Carriage and Insurance Paid) named place of destination
Delivery occurs, as in CPT with the buyer's risks being the same. The only
change is the exporter pays the cost of cargo insurance.
DAF (Delivery at Frontier) named place
Delivery happens when the buyer gets the goods at a named place on the
frontier, cleared for export, but not cleared for import. The buyer assumes
risks from here. The exporter pays all the costs to this point, but does
not pay for unloading or import clearing charges.
DES (Delivery Ex Ship) named port of destination
Delivery happens when buyer gets goods at named port. He then assumes all
risks, but the exporter pays all costs to that point, but not unloading or
DEQ (Delivery Ex Quay - Duty Paid) named port of destination
Delivery happens when the buyer gets the goods on his/her quay (dock) and
assumes all risks from that point.
DES and DEQ can only be used for sea and inland waterways.
DDU (Delivery Duty Unpaid) named place of destination
Delivery takes place when the buyer gets the goods at the named place in
the importing country and takes all the risks thereafter. The seller pays
all costs to this point, but not duties and taxes.
DDP (Delivery Duty Paid) named place of destination
Delivery happens as in DDU, with the buyer taking the same risks. The
seller pays all costs to this point including duties and taxes.
Ex-Works (EXW) e.g. from the factory or warehouse
Seller packs and prepares goods for dispatch with delivery taking place at
his/her factory or warehouse. The buyer now takes all transit risks.
FCA (Free Carrier) named place e.g. where the carrier - the plane or
ship etc., pick up goods
Delivery occurs when the seller gives the goods to the carrier (airline,
shipping company, or freight forwarder) who is named by the buyer. The
seller will pay all the costs up to the point, including export formalities
and licences. From this point the buyer takes the risks for the goods and
FAS (Free Alongside Ship) with port of shipment named e.g. where the
goods are leaving from
Delivery occurs alongside the ship named by the buyer at the named port of
the shipment. The buyer has the expense of loading. The seller pays costs
up to and including delivery alongside the ship, including all
documentation. This term is only used for sea and inland waterways.
Here is list of abbreviations not mentioned above:
A/C, a/c acc. - account current
adsd - addressed
adse - addressee
ad - advertisement, pl- ads
a.m. - ante meridiem, afternoon
app. - appendix
ASAP-as soon as possible
AWB - air way bill
attn. - attention
B/E, B.E., b.e. - bill of exchange
B/L, B.L., b/l, b.l., - bill of landing
cc., cc - copies
CEO -chief executive officer
Cf. - confer, compare
Co. - company
COD - cash on delivery
contr. - contract
corp. - corporation
cur. - 1.currency, 2. Current
CV -curriculum vitae
dd - 1.dated; 2.delivered
dep., dept., - department
doc. - document,( pl-docs)
doz., dz. - dozen
eaon - except as otherwise noted
e.g. - exempli gratia, for example
enc., encl., - enclosed, enclosure
exc., excl. - except, exception, exclude, exclusion
expn - expiration
fig. - 1.figure (1,2 ,3 ); 2.picture, scheme
FY - fiscal year
h.a. - hoc anno- this year
H.Q., HQ, h.q. - headquaters
id. - idem- the same
i.e., ie -id est- that is
inc., incl. - including
inc., inc - incorporated
info - information
inv. - invoice
IOU - I owe you
L/C, l.c. l/c - letter of credit
LLC - limited liability company
Ltd., ltd. - limited
LOC - letter of commitment
mdse - merchandise, goods
memo - memorandum
M.O., m.o. - 1. mail order, 2. Money order
M.T. - metric ton
MV - merchant (motor) vessel
N/A - not applicable
N.B., NB - nota bene- an important note
NC, N.C., n/c - no charge, free
o/l - our letter
PA - power of attorney
p.a.- per annum - per year
par. - paragraph
Plc, PLC - public limited company
PO - post office
pp. - pages
pp, p.p. per pro- on behalf of
qv - quod vide- see there
R&D - research and development
rct - receipt
rept – report
re - 1 regarding, 2. Reply
ref. - reference
RSVR - rependez s'il vous plais- reply please
RMS - root-mean-square
Shipt - shipment
Sig - signature
tn. - ton
urgt - urgent
v., vs. -versus
VAT - value-added tax
VIP - very important person
v.s. - vide supra- see above
v.v - vice versa-
w/ - with
w/o - without
& - and
@ - at (when stating a unit price)
# - number (AE)