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General guidance


Business Correspondence Guidelines

  • Always use company letterhead.
  • The inside address (the address of the person you are writing to) should be typed the way it will appear on the envelope.
  • Type the dateline a few lines below the letterhead.
  • The subject line is a courtesy to your reader. The use of a subject line is not required. It provides a brief statement of the letter's content. It can be either underlined or typed in capital letters (but not both).
  • Always use a colon with the opening address when writing a business letter. Commas are reserved for informal correspondence.
  • Leave room for the signature line on the close.
  • Letters should be single-spaced and double-spaced between paragraphs.
  • Make every attempt to identify a specific person to address. When the person's name is not known, the person's title is the next best term to use.
  • Reference initials (ZG/md) indicate who signed the letter (in capitals) and who prepared the letter (in lower case).
  • Enclosure reminder can be written as "Enclosure", "enc" or "encl"
  • Carbon copy notation "cc" lets the reader know who else has received a copy of the letter.
  • The use of carbon copy notation, reference initials and enclosure reminders are not required. They provide helpful reference notations for both the writer and the recipient of the letter.

Technical layout of a letter:


1. Rearrange the letters in the following elements which will constitute the formal outlay of a letter:


        enam and sesdrad




        stejcub temart




2. Fill in the texts with the words given:

a. 'if, on, name, email, telephone, for, include, number, of, may, your'

This will _____________ your company's _____________, address, _____________ number, fax _____________ and _____________ address. Include your web address _____________ available. Other information _____________ be required depending _____________ the legal status _____________ your business formation. Contact _____________ legal adviser _____________ exact details.

b. 'have, and, of, code, that, the, job'

Name and address:

Always include ________ recipient's name, address ________ postal _________. Add ________ title if appropriate. Double check ________ you ________ the correct spelling ________ the recipient 's name .

3. Place the vowels in the right position to get the three nouns and write them in the appropriate gap in the text:

enam omnth eltetr

Always date your _______s and do not abbreviate the _______s of the _________s.

4. Write the right grammar form of the words given:

These are ____________. They are a good idea if you have a large volume of ____________. These days ____________ word processors made this an ____________ task to complete and maintain.

The type of _____________ depends on your _____________ with the recipient. Always try to _____________ the  letter thus avoiding the dear sir/madam situation.

Subject matter:

Again this is optional, but its _____________ can help the recipient in dealing _____________ with the aims of your letter. _____________the subject sentence is _____________ by the word 'Re'. It should be _____________ one line below the _____________.














5. Rearrange the fragments in the sentences:


a)      dealing with

b)      and one point

c)      of paragraphs,

d)      one point

e)      contain a number

f)       each paragraph

This will . . . . . . only.




a)      you are interested

b)      should be clear

c)      and consequently

d)      and legible-showing

e)      in the letter

a)      of your name

b)      be followed underneath

c)      should also

d)      and your

e)      by a typed version

1. The signature . . . . . the recipient.

2. Your signature . . . . . job title.


If you include other material in the letter, put 'Enclosure', 'Enc', or ' Encs ', as appropriate, two lines below the last entry.


The address of the person receiving the letter, the date and the references are all on the left.

There is no "th" after "5" in the date. It is not necessary, so leave it out. Always, however, write out the month in full. For example: 5 March 1998 (British English) or March 5, 1998 (American English). If you write 5/3/98, this is confusing: in British English, it means 5 March; in American English, it means 3 May. Less importantly, note that there is no full stop after the day of the month: 5 March is correct, not 5. March.

There is no punctuation after the opening greeting ("Dear Mr Harper") or the closing greeting ("Yours sincerely"). In North America, it is common to put commas after both greetings or a colon after the opening greeting.

The paragraphs start at the left margin, and there is a line space between each of them.

There are a number of small but important differences between letters in English and other languages. In English, the first letter after the opening address is capitalized ("Thank you ...").

It is acceptable to start a paragraph with "I". Only an egomaniac, however, would start every sentence with "I". It is also common to use "we" instead of "I".

Commas are much less common.

"p.p." (or "pp) before the signature stands for the Latin "per procurationem", meaning "through  the agency of". This simply means that the sender of the letter was not available to sign it. Unlike, for eg.., the German p.P. (per Prokura), p.p. does not imply that the person who signed the letter has any special legal authority in the company. Very often "p.p." is written before the name of the person the letter is from, although this is not strictly speaking correct. Less formally, and particularly in North America, people simply write "for".


1.Choose the word that best fits in the blanks:

1. a) of b) on c) for d) -

2. a) a b) the c) an d) any

3. a) a b) another c) any d) an

4. a) are b) is c) been d) be

5. a) an b) a c) end d) and

6. a) into b) instead c) indeed d)in

7. a) are b) have c) has d) am

8. a) those b) this c) that d) the

9. a) through b) though c) throughout d) thus

10. a) also b) although c) all d) so

11. a)more b) much c)many d) or

12. a) at b)to c) on d) in

A lot __1__ time is wasted discussing __2__ differences between a letter and __3__fax. The main difference __4__ simple: a letter is put in an envelope __5__ posted; a fax is fed __6__ a fax machine. The content and layout __7__ often identical - many faxes are simply letters __8__ are then faxed. Some faxes, __9__, are shorter and less formal. E-mails __10__ tend to be __11__ less formal both __12__ content and layout.

2. Identify the eight spelling mistakes in the text and write the words correctly:

How formal should busines letters be? That deppends on the person to whom you are writting. If it is someone you have never delt before -  or you have no conntact name - you shuld be more formal than if it is someone whith whom you do business regullarly and have perhaps met personally.

___________, ___________, ___________, ___________, ___________, ___________, ___________, ____________.

3. Fill in each gap with one word only:

Looking at some _______ the most common phrases, "Thank you" is _______ formal than "Thanks"; "Yours sincerely" _______ more formal than "Best wishes" or "Best regards"; and "I look forward to ..." is slightly more formal _______ "I am looking forward to ...". Don't forget, however, that in both of these last two cases, if a _______ follows, it must be in the "-ing" form:

"I look _______ to seeing you soon."

"I _______ looking forward _______ seeing you at the conference next week."

Not putting this "-ing" on the verb is _______ very common mistake made _______ non native speakers. Another common mistake _______ forgetting the "it" in structures as "I would appreciate it if ...".


Even in formal letters, there is no need to be old-fashioned. For example, when you have no contact name, "Dear Sirs" and "Dear Gentlemen" are now considered sexist by many people. "Dear Sir or Madam" or "Dear Madam or Sir" is better. (Note also the use of "or" here, in contrast to the expression with 'and' more common in other languages, e.g. the German: Sehr geehrte Damen und Herren.)

If you are writing to a woman, use the neutral title "Ms", unless she herself has used either of the more traditional forms: "Mrs" for a married woman or "Miss" for an unmarried woman. Titles such as Mrs, Ms, Dr, and Mr are usually written without full stops in British English and with full stops (periods) in American English.

If you are unsure whether to address someone by their first name or with their title (Mr, Mrs, etc.), a useful compromise is to use both the first name and the surname; e.g. Dear Peter Smith, Dear Susan Brown.

" Match the beginnings of the following sentences with their endings: 1) - . 2) - . 3) - . 4) - . 5) - .

1)      There are lots of books that give advice on

2)      Many provide long, detailed lists of phrases needed for various

3)      This can be very useful if you

4)      The detail in these books,

5)      So, don't forget the basic points and

a)      areas of business, such as importing and exporting.

b)      don't forget to learn and use the standard phrases.

c)      how to write and lay out business letters.

d)      however, is also their danger.

e)      work in a specialized area.

Typical phrases for typical situations:



Thank you for your letter of 28 January, in which you enquired about our ... 
I am writing to you about ... 
With reference to our telephone call this morning, I would like to confirm ... 
We are a ... and would like some more information about ...


We are pleased to inform you that your order no. ... for ... has been dispatched. 
We are pleased to announce that our prices have been cut by 10 per cent. 
It is my pleasure to invite you to our conference on 21 April at ...


We regret to inform you that the goods have been delayed owing to ... 
I am sorry to inform you that we are unable to offer you the position of ... 
I am afraid that we are unable to grant you the 10 per cent discount you requested.


Could you please inform us whether you can deliver these items within seven days? 
I would be grateful if you could send me ... 
I would appreciate it if you could ... 
I would appreciate your sending ...


Please find enclosed/attached a copy of the following documents: 
I am enclosing our latest catalogue.


I am writing to complain about the delay in our order of 1 May. 
Please ensure that this sort of problem does not happen again. 
I hope that this will not happen again.


Please accept our apologies for any inconvenience this has caused to you. 
I am very sorry about the delay caused by ... 
This mistake was the result of ...


We can quote you a unit price of 7.29 for orders of 50 units or more. 
We can offer you a discount of three per cent for orders over 1,000.


With reference to our invoice no. ... for 557, we would like to advise you that we still have not received your remittance for this amount. 
If you payment has already been made, please disregard this letter.


We will be in Munich next week and hope that we can meet. 
I will be free on Monday. Please let me know if this suits you. 
Please let me know if this would be convenient. 
I will call you next week to confirm our arrangements.


If you have any further questions, please do not hesitate to contact us. 
Thank you in advance for your help. 
I look forward to hearing from you.

The parts of a letter (in a nut-shell)



         Reference line

         Inside address


         Subject line

         Body of the letter

     Opening line

~         First

~         Reply

~         Acknowledgement

     Conveying message

~         Agreement / Disagreement


~        General

~        Thanks

~        Wish for cooperation

~        Recommendation

~        Apologies

         Complimentary close


         Initials and postscripts


Pattern of a typical business letter

Courtney & Co. LTD

6, Stand Street


Telephone: Not978653

Telegrams: Springwood Nottingham

May 15th 1992

Our ref: CA/ER 45-P3-29

Your ref: Gh/SD 613


4, Piata Rosseti


Telex:10075-CRI-LTD GB

Code: Bentleys

1. Heading/


2. Date

3. Reference Line

4. Inside


For the attention of the Secretary

Dear Sirs,

Acknowledgement of letter and printed matters

We acknowledge receipt of your letter of May 10th 1992, and we thank you very much for the 10 copies of the newspaper "Furniture Today" which are really interesting and helpful to us.

We would appreciate if you would kindly continue to send us these newspaper in the future.

With best regards,

Yours faithfully,

Courtney & Co. LTD.

Per pro. John Brown

Selling Manager

5. Salutation

6. Subject line

7. Body of letter

8. Complimentary close

9. Signature


Grey Cat Real Estate

256 Dupont Lane

New York, NY 10011

(212) 777-5555

July 23, 2001

Ms. Hannah Smith

Big City Productions

822 Logan Place

New York, NY 10023

Dear Ms. Smith:

Subject: Finalized Leasing Agreement

Congratulations on your recent grand opening!

We are delighted that you chose to lease facilities from us and hope that your venture is a successful one.

As requested, I have enclosed a signed copy of a lease agreement which will extend your lease an additional six months beyond the original lease signed.

Please sign and date the document and return it to my attention.

If you have any questions or concerns regarding the enclosed lease please feel free to call at anytime. I can be reached at (212) 777-5523 or feel free to stop by our office.

If there are any additional services that we can provide now or in the future, please do not hesitate to call on us. We would welcome the opportunity to work with you again in the future.

All of us at Grey Cat Real Estate thoroughly enjoyed working with you and your team.

Best of luck on your new venture!

Zoe Grey

Vice President


Encl 2001 Lease Copy

cc Mr. Martin Toll


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