Lexico-sementic characterstics of business letter correspondence
«LEXICO-SEMENTIC CHARACTERISTICS OF BUSINESS LETTER CORRESPONDENCE»
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BUSINESS LETTERS THROUGHT LEXICS 7
A sampling of contract phrases 7
Foreign esoteric words 16
Some words against passive 16
EXAMINING ENGLISH BUSINESS LETTERS 17
Example 1. 18
Example 3. 22
Example 4. 24
Example 5 25
Example 6. 27
The 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 is written.
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
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 business partners.
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
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 specialised English.
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
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
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 of contracts.
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
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 transaction involved.
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
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
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 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.
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.
"Whereas" 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 $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:
"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.
"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,
"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:
"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
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 to
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
"Assign" involves legal title; "give" is lame and probably untrue;
"transmit" means send.
Thus each word misses some important - detail or implies unnecessary
"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
The linking of concepts is a step in building a vocabulary of
"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.
"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 ".
Foreign esoteric words
Every now and then a scholarly phrase becomes accepted in business usage.
"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.
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 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. 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, 1993
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
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 possible transaction.
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:
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.
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
148 Mortimer Street
London W1C 37D
MATTHEWS & WILSON
421 Michigan Avenue
Chicago, III.60602 30th October, 1996
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 by 15th of November. Our c.i.f. prices are
understood to be for sea\land 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 $2,650.00
Swinger dresses sizes 8-16
in white, yellow, red, turquoise, black per 100 $1,845.00
You will be receiving price-list, cutting of our materials and a colour
chart. These were airmailed to you this morning.
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 from them.
MATTHEWS & WILSON
421 Michigan Avenue
148 Mortimer Street
London 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: $38,745
in the colours and sizes specified below:
|Quantity |Size |Colour |
|50 |8,16 |white |
|100 |10,12,14 |white |
|50 |8,16 |turquoise |
|100 |10,12,14 |turquoise |
|50 |8,16 |red |
|100 |10,12,14 |red |
|50 |16 |yellow |
|100 |10,12,14 |yellow |
|50 |16 |black |
|100 |10,12,14 |black |
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 Christmas.
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
What follows the order acknowledgement is the advice of dispatch.
148 Mortimer Street
London W1C 37D
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 insurance policy.
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, 1996
148 Mortimer Street
London W1C 37D
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 without delay.
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 claim promptly.
148 Mortimer Street
London W1C 37D
MATTHEWS & WILSON
421 Michigan Avenue
Chicago, III.60602 2nd December, 1996
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 oversight.
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 business.
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
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
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3.GOWERS, ERNEST The complete plain words
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Business Letters for All.