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Lexico-sementic chartersticcs of business letter correspondence



"Exclusive" Its 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.



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.

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Example 1.


MATTHEWS & WILSON

Ladies' Clothing

421 Michigan Avenue

Chicago, III.60602


Messrs GRANT & CLARKSON

148 Mortimer Street


London WIC 37D

England October 21, 1993



Gentlemen:


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,

P.Wilson.Jr

Buyer

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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.

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Example2


GRANT &CLARKSON

148 Mortimer Street

London W1C 37D


MATTHEWS & WILSON

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,

F.T.Burke

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.


MATTHEWS & WILSON

Ladies' Clothing

421 Michigan Avenue

Chicago, III.60602


GRANT &CLARKSON

148 Mortimer Street

London W1C 37D November 4, 1996


Gentlemen:

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,

P. Wilson

Buyer

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.


GRANT &CLARKSON

148 Mortimer Street

London W1C 37D


MATTHEWS & WILSON

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

F.T.Burke

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.



MATTHEWS & WILSON

Ladies' Clothing

421 Michigan Avenue

Chicago, III.60602 November 22, 1996


GRANT &CLARKSON

148 Mortimer Street

London W1C 37D


Gentlemen:

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.

Wilson.


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.


GRANT &CLARKSON

148 Mortimer Street

London W1C 37D


MATTHEWS & WILSON

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

Burke

 

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.




CONCLUSION


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
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BIBLIOGRAPHY


1.WINCOR, RICHARD Contracts in plain English

2. ..

3.GOWERS, ERNEST The complete plain words

4.Ãðîìîâà Í..

5.Naterop

Business Letters for All.


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