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BUSINESS  ENGLISH  VOCABULARY

Writing Business Letters

General Guidelines

If writing a business letter takes you much longer than in your own language,
here are a few guidelines that you may find helpful.



  • Plan before you write.
    • Look up words you need before you start.
    • Note the points you want to make, and order them into logical paragraphs.

  • Tone
    • Write as you would speak in a business conversation.
      The tone should be friendly and polite.

  • Names
    • Make sure you check the gender of the addressee (the recipient),
      as well as the correct spelling of the person's name and title.
    • Use Ms. for women and Mr. for men.
      You can use Mrs. for a woman if you are 100% sure that she is married.

  • Dates
    • To avoid any confusion, write the month instead of using numbers
      (e.g. January 15th, 2012  or 15 January 2012).

  • Be concise and clear. The easier it is to read a letter the better.
    • Keep sentences and paragraphs short and simple.
    • Use straightforward vocabulary to avoid any misunderstanding.
    • Ask direct questions.
    • Rewrite any sentence that does not seem perfectly clear.
    • If the recipient is not a native English-speaker, it is preferable to avoid
      words or expressions that are too technical or complicated.

  • Remember this word order principle
      Subject Verb Object Manner Place Time
        Who Does  What   How Where  When

      Example :
      Mr. Brown will travel by plane to London on Monday, June 5th.
      A technician will install the equipment in your office on Tuesday.

  • Avoid old-fashioned words

    • Although they are used in legal documents and contracts, words like
      'herewith', 'herein', 'aforementioned', etc. are rarely used in letters.

      The following style of sentence is preferable :
      "You will find more information on our products in the enclosed brochure."


See also : useful phrases for writing business letters

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