Brief Business Letter
— While brevity is one of the essentials of a business letter, it is to be secured, not by omitting subjects, articles, auxiliary verbs and prepositions, but by leaving out all unnecessary matter and by stating concisely and to the point what one has to say. The following cautions should be observed.
1. Do not omit the subject of a sentence when it is in the first person.
Poor : Have received your order of November 15.
Better : We have received your order of November 15.
Note — When the members of a compound sentence are short and closely connected, the subject of the second member may be omitted when it is the same as the subject of the first member as, "We have received your order of November 15 and will give it prompt attention."
2. Do not omit the articles a, an and the.
Poor : I was not aware of terms on which goods were sold.
Better : I was not aware of the terms on which the goods were sold.
3. As a rule, do not omit prepositions.
Original : Your note falls due May 10.
Improved : Your note falls due on May 10.
The Conversational Style
— One of the best means of increasing the effectiveness of a business letter is to give it the conversational style — the personal touch. To acquire an easy, natural, conversational style, imagine your correspondent across the desk from you and talk to him on paper, as far as possible, just as you would in a personal interview. The judicious use of such contractions as I’ll, we've, we’ll, you'd, etc., help to give a letter the personal touch. In the sales letter, such contractions may be used with good effect and sometimes in the collection letter or the letter answering a complaint. But in letters of application, introduction and recommendation, they would be out of place.
Tone and Individuality
— Too many business letters are devoid of tone and individuality. They follow the stilted, stereotyped style of twenty years ago. Instead of being natural, they are filled with such meaningless, tiresome, overworked expressions as contents noted, esteemed favor, beg to advise, etc. The business letter to be effective must be vigorous, original, clear and convincing. The following list contains some of the most objectionable stock words and phrases so often found in business letters.
Advise — Overworked and stilted…..It should be confined to the actual giving of advice. Use inform, tell or say.
As per — Of legal origin, stilted and overworked. Say according to or in accordance with.
At hand or to hand — Say, "We have just received your request for a copy of our catalogue," not "Your request for a copy of our catalogue is at hand.'
Beg — In the phrases beg to acknowledge, beg to state, beg to say, etc. the beg is a relic of early, formal courtesy, no longer used by good letter writers.
Contents carefully noted — Originally intended to show courtesy, but overworked and meaningless.
Esteemed — Meaningless and obsolete in such expressions as your esteemed letter.
Favor — Incorrectly used in the place of letter. Say…."We have your letter of August 5," not "We have your favor of August 5."
Hand you — Not to be used in the place of send you.
Herewith — Superfluous when used with enclose. When used in this connection, herewith means in this envelope, an idea already contained in the word enclose.
Inst., ult., and prox. — Abbreviations of instant, ultimo and proximo, meaning the present, the past and the next month. It is generally better to designate the month by its name…as, "We have your letter of June 5," not "Your letter of the 6th instant,"
Kind — Meaningless and obsolete in such expressions as your kind letter.
Oblige — A weak, meaningless close to a letter.
Per — A word of Latin origin and should be used only with other words of Latin form….as, per diem, per annum. Use a with week, day, month, year, etc.
Same — Incorrectly used as a personal pronoun. Say, "We regret the error and hope it has not caused you any inconvenience," not "We regret the error and hope same has not caused you any inconvenience." Same is correctly used when a noun is understood after it….as, "These prices are the same (prices) as we quoted you last week."
Stated — Stilted and overworked. Inform, say, or tell is usually better.
Valued - Meaningless and obsolete in such expressions as your valued letter.
Would say, wish to say, etc. — ^Wordy and generally useless. Say, "We regret that we can not comply with your request," not "In reply to your letter would say that we regret," etc.
Writer — Undesirable as a substitute for I, for the reason that it is awkward and fixes attention on the writer even more than the use of I. Say, "In reply to your letter of June 5, I have gone carefully over the matter," not "In reply to your letter of June 5, the writer has gone carefully over the matter."
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