CHARACTERISTICS OF BUSINESS LETTER CORRESPONDENCE»
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CHARACTERISTICS OF BUSINESS LETTER CORRESPONDENCE» 1
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THROUGHT LEXICS 8
sampling of contract phrases 9
esoteric words 19
words against passive 20
BUSINESS LETTERS 21
subject matter of the course paper is the role of lexics and
semantics in the case of business letter correspondence. The question
of the history of official communication, the main stages of business
transactions, the role of person’s feeling for the proper use
of phrases as well as his knowledge of grammar are highlighted.
Moreover, those phrases which are more often used in business letters
are examined from the point of view of their appropriateness in
different situations. The practical part contains several examples of
business letters; the occasions on which they were written and some
of their characteristics are observed.
Letter writing - is an essential part
of communication, an intimate part of experience. Each
letter-writer has a characteristic
way of writing, his style of writing, his way
of expressing thoughts,
facts, etc. but it must be emphasised
that the routine of the official or semi-official
business letters requires
certain accepted idioms, phrases,
patterns, and grammar which
are found in general use today.
Therefore certain skills
must be acquired by practice, and
details of writing must be
carefully and thoroughly learnt.
A cheque, a contract or any other
business paper sent by mail
should always be accompanied by a letter. The letter says
what is being sent so that
the recipient should know exactly what you
intended to send. It is a typical business letter which
some people call "routine".
The letter may be short or long, it
may contain some very important and much less important
information - every letter
requires careful planning and
In recent years English has become a universal
business language. As such, it is potentially an instrument of
order and clarity. But words and phrases have unexpected ways of
creating binding commitments.
Letter-writing, certainly, is not
the same as casual conversation,
it bears only the same power of thoughts,
reflections, and observations
as in conversational talk, but the
form may be quite different. What makes the letter so
attractive and pleasing is
not always the massage of the letter,
it is often the manner and style in which the massage
E.g.: "I wish to express to you my sincere
appreciation for your note of congratulation."
"I am sincerely
happy that you were elected President
of Biological Society."
As you see such formulations show the attitude of
the writer, his respect and sincerity.
The language of business, professional and
semi-official letters is formal, courteous, tactful, concise,
expressive, and to the point. A neatly arranged letter will certainly
make a better impression on the reader, thus good letters make good
In the case of "scientific correspondence" the
majority of letters bear mostly a semi-official character and
are concerned with different situations associated with scientific
activities concentrated around the organisation of scientific
meetings (congresses, symposia, workshops, etc.), the
arrangement of visit, invitation, publication, the exchange of
scientific literature, information, etc. Letters of this kind have a
tone of friendliness, naturalism. Modern English letters
should not be exaggerated, overburdened, outmoded with time-worn
expressions. The key note is simplicity. Modern letters tend
towards using the language of conversational style.
Writing is not only a means of communication
and contract, but also a record of affairs, information, events,
etc. So it is necessary to feel the spirit and trend of the style
in order to write a perfect letter.
Business-letter or contract law is a complex and
vastly documented subject, only a lawyer can deal with it on a
serious level. A number of basic principles, however, can be
outlined sufficiently to mark of encounters that require the use of
Doing business means working out agreements with
other people, sometimes through elaborate contracts and sometimes
through nothing but little standard forms, through exchanges of
letters and conversations at lunch.
Nowadays more and more agreements are made in
English, for English is the nearest thing we have to a
universal business language. Joint ventures, bank loans, and
trademark licenses frequently are spelled out in this language
even though it is not native to at least one of the contracting
As a beginning I am going to look at the subject
of writing of business letters generally. In the main there are
three stages transactions involving business contracts: first,
negotiation of terms, second, drafting documents reflecting these
terms, and third, litigation to enforce or to avoid executing of
these terms. To my mind, a fourth might be added, the administration
I am going to look through the first two since the
third and the fourth are related only to the field of law. A typical
first stage of contract is two or more people having drink and
talking about future dealing. A second phase might be letters
written in order to work out an agreement.
In these two early stages it will be helpful to
know something about rules of contract. But what rules? Different
nations borrow or create different legal systems, and even within a
single country the rules may vary according to region or the kind of
It is worth knowing that the distinctions in legal
system of England are mainly historical.
The history of writing business letters is
undoubtedly connected with the history of development of legal
language. English is in fact a latecomer as a legal language. Even
after the Norman Conquest court pleadings in England were in
French, and before that lawyers used Latin. Perhaps, some of our
difficulties arise due to the fact that English was
unacceptable in its childhood.
Contract in English suggest Anglo-American
contract rules. The main point is always to be aware that there
are differences: the way they may be resolved usually is a problem
for lawyers. With contracts the applicable law may be the law of the
place where the contract is made; in other cases it may be the law of
the place where the contract is to be performed. It is specified in
preliminary negotiations which system of law is to apply.
Diversity is characteristic feature of English; here is
a wide range of alternatives to choose from in saying things,
although the conciseness is sometimes lacking. Consequently, the
use of English is a creative challenge. Almost too many riches
are available for selection, that leads occasionally to
masterpieces but more frequently to mistakes. English is less
refined in its distinctions than French, for example, and this makes
it harder to be clear.
That does not mean that English is imprecise for all
things are relative. If we compare English with Japanese, we will
see that the latter possesses enormous degree of politeness
to reflect the respectiveness of speaker and listener as well
as of addresser and addressee.
Here I cannot help mentioning the fact that as
contracts are so unclear in what every side intends to do, a
contract can sometimes put a company out of business.
Thus everybody who is involved in any kind of
business should study thoroughly the complex science of
writing business letters and contracts.
BUSINESS LETTERS THROUGHT LEXICS
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
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
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
A sampling of contract phrases
My observations about English so far have been general
in nature. 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.
Everyman'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 ,000..."
because the admission may later haunt one, especially if drafts
are never signed and the debt be disputed. Rather less damaging
"Whereas the parties have engaged in a
series of transactions resulting in dispute over accounting
On the whole "Whereas" is acceptable, but what
follows it needs particular care.
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.
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.
"Knightsbridge International Drapes and
Fishmonger, Ltd (hereinafter "Knightsbridge").
It is useful and at times essential phrase. Earlier I've noted
that mentioning certain things may exclude others by implication.
"You may assign your exclusive British and
suggests that you may not assign other rights assuming
you have any. Such pitfalls may be avoided by phrasing such as:
"You may assign any and all your rights
including without limitation your exclusive British and
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 prediction.
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
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 remedies..."
And this leads to another phrase.
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
What about both together?
perhaps, followed by "or
Occasionally the alternatives become overwhelming, thus and/or
is convenient and generally accepted, although more detail is
If one says "Knightsbridge
and/or Tefal shall have..."
legally it should
make no difference
in the case you are consent in using one or the
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
however is bad form.
It is a dangerous word. If you mean
agreement you ought to say
so. If you view of affairs that
is no agreement,
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
can be interpreted in a number of ways.
Here is a little word which uses are
Such a phrase as "We will
inaccurate, because the work will be
subcontracted and the
promise-maker technically defaults.
Somebody else does the
producing. Why not say "We
or cause to be
This is in fact often said, but it
jars the ear. Accordingly "We
will effect production..."
highlights the point with greater skill.
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
is more appropriate. Naturally, if you can develop an idea into
a format or protectable property, the more ambitious phrasing
will be better justified.
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
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,
and so on.
Time periods are awkward things: "...for
and expiring November,15..."
is clumsy; "...from
is skeletal when informing how long a contract obligation endures.
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
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
at the end for without it you may lose the date, concluding the
period being spanned.
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 to do?
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.
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.
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
main points of our agreement",
and so on.
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.
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.
involves legal title; "give"
is lame and probably untrue; "transmit"
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:
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.
but Not Obligation"
One of the most splendid phrases available.
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
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
quick phrase helps keep you out of trouble:
"The Right but Not
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
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
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
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
The linking of concepts is a step in building a
vocabulary of contract English.
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:
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.
will buy 1,000 barrels solely on condition that Baker delivers them"
makes everything clear.
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.
will deliver these subject to our receiving adequate supplies";
"Our agreement is subject to the laws of
"Subject to circumstances beyond our control ".
Foreign esoteric words
Every now and then a scholarly
phrase becomes accepted in business usage. "Pro
are Latin expressions but concern money. "Pro
helpful when payments are to be in a proportion reflecting earlier
formulas in a contract. "Pari
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 letters.
majeure" is a
French phrase meaning circumstances beyond one's control.
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
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.
Some words against passive
Until now the study of writing
business letters has consisted largely of contract phrases
accompanied by brief essays evaluating their usefulness. The
words are only samplings and are presented mainly to conduce
writing business letters in a proper way. It will be wrong,
however, to bring this list to an end without mention of a more
general problem that arises in connection with no fixed word pattern
at all. It arises, rather from using too many passives. Such phrases
start date is to be decided";
"The figures must be
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. In those
circumstances they will be in class with "negotiate in good
faith", which I've examined earlier.
EXAMINING ENGLISH BUSINESS LETTERS
Now let's turn to the practical point of writing
business letters. They may be divided into official and
semi-official. The first kind of letters is characteristic of those
people working in business: an executive, a department manager,
a salesman, a secretary or a specialist in business and
technology. But also many people may want to buy something, to accept
an invitation or to congratulate somebody - this is a kind of
semi-official letters. The first kind of letters may in turn be
subdivided into such groups as: inquiries, offers, orders, and so
on. I am going to examine this group more carefully looking at
the correspondence of Chicago businessmen and English manufactures.
MATTHEWS & WILSON
421 Michigan Avenue
Messrs GRANT & CLARKSON
148 Mortimer Street
London WIC 37D
England October 21,
We saw your women's dresses and suits at the London
Fashion Show held in New York on October 17. The lines you showed
for teenagers, the "Swinger" dresses and trouser suits
would be most suitable for our market.
Would you kindly send us your quotation for spring and
summer clothing that you could supply to us by the end of January
next. We would require 2,000 dresses and suits in each of the sizes
10-14, and 500 in sizes 8 and 16. Please quote c.i.f. Chicago
prices. Payment is normally made by letter of credit.
Thank you for an early reply.
Very truly yours,
This is undoubtedly an import inquiry letter. In the
first part of a letter there is a kind of introduction as a
prospective customer approaches supplier for the first time ,and it
is from this part that we found out that the correspondents
are engaged in textile industry.
The second part expresses request for detailed
information about the goods in question, their prices and terms of
In this example we come across the
abbreviation concerning the terms of delivery, that is commonly
accepted in the business world. It is interesting to know what
this kind of abbreviations means:
- 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
- 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 insurance.
- free on rail.
It is the same as f.o.b., but for railway
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 -
It is worth mentioning here that the whole letter
is written in a highly polite way, nevertheless it is quite
precise and sticks to the point.
MATTHEWS & WILSON
421 Michigan Avenue
We are pleased to make you an offer regarding our
‘Swinger’ dresses and trouser suits in the size you
require. Nearly all the models you saw at our fashion show are
obtainable, except trouser suits in pink, of which the smaller sizes
have been sold out. This line is being manufactured continuously, but
will only be available again in February, so could be delivered to
you in March.
All other models can be supplied by
the middle of January 1997, subject to our receiving your form order
of November. Our c.i.f. prices are understood to be for sealand
transport to Chicago. If you would prefer the goods to be sent by air
freight, this will be charged extra at cost
Trouser suits sizes 8-16 in white, yellow, red,
turquoise, navy blue, black
Sizes 12,14 also in pink per 100
Swinger dresses sizes 8-16
in white, yellow, red, turquoise, black per
You will be receiving price-list, cutting of our
materials and a colour chart. These were airmailed to you this
As you can clearly see it we face the second phase
of business correspondence - the answering letter. It is very
important, because it adjusts the relationships between two
partners. It does not only characterise the company, but also
advertises it. The purpose of the letter is to persuade the
partner that you are the best in business.
This letter contains the quotation in reply to
an inquiry. In lots of similar letters the quotations are simply
prices and another information asked for. But this sample is quite
the opposite: it shows the customer that he met the
sales-cautious businessman, who uses every opportunity to
stimulate his correspondents interest in his goods by
including the sales message. And the assurance that the
customer will receive personal attention is read between the lines.
In order to draw the attention of the customer to the products in
question the supplier offers "cuttings of our materials and
a colour chart". On the whole a firm offer is subject to
certain conditions, a deadline for the receipt of orders, or a
special price for certain quantities.
A business transaction often starts with an inquiry
which may later be followed by an order.
Both inquiry and order are meant to arose and
stimulate business activity on the part of recipient. They are
typically asking letters. Orders convey the writer's intention to
do business with his correspondent, usually to buy some goods
MATTHEWS & WILSON
421 Michigan Avenue
W1C 37D November 4, 1996
Thank you for your quotation of October 30. We have
pleasure in placing an order with you for
1,900 ‘Swinger’ dresses
at Price: ,745
in the colours and sizes specified below:
Delivery: air freight, c.i.f., Chicago
We shall open a letter of credit with your bank as soon
as we receive your order acknowledgement. Please arrange for
immediate collection and transport since we need the dresses for
Very truly yours,
It is indisputably an import order, and as we can
notice placing orders is simple from the point of view of letter
writing. The fact is that usually the purchasing department or the
buyer fills in an order form. But in this case the
correspondent prefers to write a letter in order to make certain
points quite clear. There are special import regulations
which are touched upon in the last paragraph: it is necessary to
complete formalities and to stress delivery instructions.
It should be mentioned here that the supplier must
send order acknowledgement as an answer to order promptly to thank
his customer for the order and to confirm it.
If some conditions have changed, the customer must
be notified. In the case the goods ordered are no longer
available, a substitute may be offered.
What follows the order acknowledgement is the advice
MATTHEWS & WILSON
421 Michigan Avenue
Chicago, III.60602 20thNovember,1996
We have pleasure in notifying you
that your credit was confirmed by our bank yesterday, 19th
November. We have had the 1900 ‘Swinger’ dresses
collected today for transport by British Airways to Chicago on 25th
Enclosed is our invoice for the goods in question plus
the extra charges for air freight, packing list to facilitate customs
clearance at your end, certificate of origin, air waybill and
Hoping that this initial order will lead to further
business, we are
The first thing to be done before writing such a
letter is to examine carefully whether the partners account is valid
or not. So in the first paragraph we come across phrase "your
credit was confirmed by our bank yesterday". Air shipment for
"Swinger" dresses is also mentioned here.
The next paragraph deals with the documents which
are necessary while importing goods: Invoice packing lists,
certificate of origin, air waybill and insurance policy. As it is the
initial order by MATTHEWS & WILSON, the GRANT &
CLARKSON hopes to encourage them to place further orders, so their
last phrase sounds very polite.
No matter how efficient a business firm tries to
be, mistakes will happen. There might be a misunderstanding about
the goods to be supplied; sometimes the consignment is
dispatched too late or delays are caused in transit; defect is
discovered when the equipment is put into operation and so on.
Therefore a letter with the complaint expressed is sent.
MATTHEWS & WILSON
421 Michigan Avenue
Chicago, III.60602 November 22,
Thank you for your delivery of ‘Swinger’
dresses which were ordered on November 4. However we wish to draw
your attention to two matters.
Of the red dresses supplied one lot of 100(size 12)
included clothes of a lighter red than the other sizes. Since we
deliver a collection of various sizes to each store, it would be
obvious to customers that the clothes are dissimilar. In addition the
red belt supplied does not match these dresses. We are returning two
of these by separate mail, and would ask you to replace the whole lot
by 100 dresses size 12 in the correct colour.
As far as your charges for air freight are concerned, we
agree to pay the extra costs which you invoiced. However your costs
for packing and insurance must have been lower for air cargo, and we
request you to take this fact into consideration and to make an
adjustment to the invoice amount. Would you please send us a
rectified invoice, reduced accordingly.
We look forward to your dealing with these questions
Very truly yours.
If this kind of letter is sent the customer
is understandably annoyed, nevertheless there is no reason to
write an angry letter of complaint. In the EXAMPLE 5 there are two
complaints: the first is about the "Swinger" dresses
colour and the second - about the fact that air freight seems too
expensive to MATTHEW & WILSON.
From this letter we see that the results are better
for the correspondent takes the trouble to explain his complaint
clearly and proposes ways in which matters can be put right.
Letters that are written in response to claims may
be called adjustments. These letters are among the most difficult to
write as they require under all circumstances patience, tact, and
diplomacy. You will not lose your customer if you react at his
MATTHEWS & WILSON
421 Michigan Avenue
The colour of the dresses about which you complain is
indeed lighter than it should be. Apparently this was overlooked by
controller responsible. Please accept our apologies for the
We are sending you a new lot by air this week, and would
ask you to return the faulty clothes at your convenience, carriage
forward. Alternatively you may keep this lot for sale as seconds at a
reduced price of &1,120.
You are perfectly correct in saying
that packing and insurance costs are normally less for cargo sent by
air. May we remind you, however, in this case your request to send
the goods by air was made at very short notice. It was not possible
for us to use the lighter air freight packing materials, as most of
the dresses were ready for shipment by sea freight (please see our
letter of 9th
November). Furthermore, our insurance is on an open policy at a flat
rate, and depends on the value of the goods, not the method of
transport. For these reasons our invoice No.14596 dated 15th
November 1996 is still valid, and we look forward to receiving your
remittance when due.
The suppliers show their understanding of situation
and express their willingness to adjust it. They say exactly what
steps they are going to take, because a disappointed customer cannot
be put off with mere apologies - he is entitled to know how the
mistake will be remedied. The supplies convince their partners that
they are really interested in maintaining good will. They try to
avoid negative statements, and what even worse, accusations; they
never forget that it is their customer who keeps them in
Even when they write their customers about
rejecting their claim on air freight, they try to give logical
reasons for the refusal.
The conclusion that therefore suggests itself is
that writing of business letters is highly complicated science. It
is not enough for a good business letter writing to know lexics
and grammar, but you should comprehend the whole range of such
things as: occasions on which the particular letter is written, the
style of letter, useful expressions, and accepted idioms.
There are certain rules which not everybody could
learn since they have to be felt by correspondents. Letter
writing requires long practice and experience. Those who write
letters should always remember, that what makes the letter
attractive and therefore promotes one's business is not always
the message of the letter, but it is the manner and style in which
the message is written.
The "golden rule" that must be followed by
every business correspondent is that the official letter should be
formal, courteous, tactful, concise, expressive, and to the point
1.WINCOR, RICHARD Contracts
in plain English
3.GOWERS, ERNEST The
complete plain words
Letters for All.