Business correspondence is what allows colleagues, superiors and partners to judge how competent you are as a specialist. And business correspondence in different languages has its own distinctive features and it all cannot be adjusted to one common standard. Of course, the same goes for English. The slightest deviation from the standard can cost you, as a minimum, the puzzled look of partners, as a maximum – damage to business reputation.
Knowledge of the norms of etiquette in business correspondence is a necessary condition for any secretary, businessman and even an interpreter. Each country has its own culture of correspondence, so before translating a business letter, interpreters must thoroughly familiarize themselves with all the nuances and rules of correspondence, formulas of speech etiquette and generally accepted templates of the address.
We offer you a short guide to the world of business correspondence in English.
5 Tips on What to Do and What Not to Do in Business Correspondence in English
- Avoid generalizations
In a formal business letter, everything should be clear, concise and understandable. It is necessary to avoid ambiguity and generalizations – only specifics.
Let us consider the example:
There are many factors that affect the operation of the enterprise.
Certain factors affect the operation of the enterprise.
The second option is more suitable for business correspondence.
- Try not to use words of amplification
These words give an emotional tone to speech, which should be avoided in formal correspondence. Reinforcing words are used in journalistic, artistic and colloquial styles, but not in business communication.
Instead of the expression "a lot of", it is better to use "many" or "much" – depending on the situation.
For example, not "a lot of factors", but "many factors" etc.
- Do not use abbreviations
Despite the fact that many of us have long and very confidently used abbreviations, in business correspondence this is not acceptable. Do not forget about it. Lovely phrases that save time and add warmth to your message are better to use in a friendly informal correspondence. Exceptions may be abbreviations for an electronic business letter. But first you should make sure that the recipient is well-oriented among all the variety of abbreviations. The presence of smiles in a business letter is not discussed. Just think, would you take seriously a business partner who adorns the message with such arts as: :-O?
Latin abbreviations are acceptable:
- cf. - in comparison;
- e.g. - for example;
- et al. - and others;
- etc. - and so on.
- Try to use the active voice more if possible, avoiding the passive
These materials were provided by the construction company.
The construction company provided these materials.
For business correspondence, the second option looks more attractive.
- Use strong verbs
There is a difference between "We can offer" and "We offer". In business correspondence this also matters. Try to use a stronger verb:
He provided consultation – He consulted.
He came to the conclusion – He concluded.
4 Main Taboos of Business Correspondence in English
What words and phrases in a letter to a business partner can bury all your attempts to establish cooperation?
As you have already understood, the business correspondence is a capricious and exacting lady. You can communicate with your partners via e-mail or send official letters with the company logo in beautiful envelopes on corporate-colored paper, but just a few nuances can ruin all your efforts to communicate with the people you need.
To start a letter with regrettable words such as "I am sorry to inform", "Unfortunately", etc. However much you would like to inform first about the problem, do not do this immediately after the greeting, otherwise your "Dear Mr. Davis" can get a sudden allergy to opening letters from your company, despite the restraint of a real English gentleman.
To use farewell "Best wishes/Best regards" in a letter to strangers or unfamiliar people. Even if every Wednesday you send a letter to a certain Mr. Johnson, this does not do this Mr. Johnson your close friend. It is better to finish the letter with neutral "Yours faithfully" (if you do not know the recipient's name) or "Yours sincerely" (if you know the name of the recipient).
To forget to warn the recipient about the attached files (in electronic correspondence). In the paper version of the business letter, as a rule, large documents are also accepted to be accompanied with the short information about their content. If you send a letter by e-mail and do not focus on the fact that documents are attached to the letter, the probability that the recipient will open them is almost zero.
To write extensively and about anything. The brevity in the business world is not only the soul of wit, but also the best friend of effective cooperation. If recipients are not interested in your letter from the first lines, they are unlikely to trouble themselves with writing a response or considering your business proposal. If you are business partners, long messages can be perceived as a disrespect to the recipient – in fact, you are indifferent to one of the most valuable resources of the business world – the time. So is it worth keeping in touch with you?
We hope that these tips will help you improve your business correspondence skills. Nevertheless, this is a very extensive topic and it cannot be covered by one article. You can read more about this topic here.