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Lexico-sementic characterstics of business letter correspondence

Lexico-sementic characterstics of business letter correspondence

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BUSINESS LETTERS THROUGHT LEXICS................................

A sampling of contract phrases......................................

Foreign esoteric words.....................................................

Some words against passive.............................................


Example 1....................................................................................


Example 3....................................................................................

Example 4....................................................................................

Example 5....................................................................................

Example 6....................................................................................




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 thoughtful writing.

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 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 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 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 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 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 parties.

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 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 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 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.


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 entrap.

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 particular care.

"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.

For example:

"Knightsbridge International  Drapes and Fishmonger,  Ltd  (hereinafter "Knightsbridge").

"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 prediction.

"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 remedies..."

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 is better.

"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 on.

"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 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 "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 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.  "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.

"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 letters.

"Force 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

"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.


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.


Example 1.


Ladies' Clothing

421 Michigan Avenue

Chicago, III.60602


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 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 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 insurance.

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 point.




148 Mortimer Street

London W1C 37D


Ladies' Clothing

421 Michigan Avenue

Chicago, III.60602                                   30th October, 1996

Dear Sirs,

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.

Yours faithfully,


Export Department


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.

Example 3.

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.


Ladies' Clothing

421 Michigan Avenue

Chicago, III.60602


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:


































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,

P. Wilson


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.

Example 4.

What follows the order acknowledgement is the  advice  of dispatch.


148 Mortimer Street

London W1C 37D


Ladies' Clothing

421 Michigan Avenue

Chicago, III.60602                     20thNovember,1996

Dear Sirs:

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 November.

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

Yours faithfully


Export department

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.

Example 5

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.


Ladies' Clothing

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.

Example 6.

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


Ladies' Clothing

421 Michigan Avenue

Chicago, III.60602                   2nd December, 1996

Dear Sirs:

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.

Yours faithfully



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 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


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3.GOWERS, ERNEST The complete plain words

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Business Letters for All.

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