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First impressions count!


Whatever the document, giving a good impression starts with the basics: paper and ink, or print. Finely honed text is all very well, but if it is badly printed or on scruffy, thin or unsuitable paper, all your efforts will be wasted. This is less of a problem with technological communication but even here the use of unsuitable typefaces, colour and graphics can cause the recipient of your carefully composed communication to consign it to the electronic dustbin.




Making a good impression starts with paper, ink, and the design of your communication. There are a number of aspects to consider.




Business notepaper should be of good quality. Paper suitable for letters is often described as 'Bond' or 'Script' and is classified according to its weight in grams per square metre – usually shown as g/m2, or simply as grams. A weight of 70-90 g/m2 is suitable for most purposes, but if you are using a computer printer make sure that you select paper of a weight and texture that your printer can cope with. Similarly, it does not give a good impression if your business communication is printed on photo copier-weight paper, which is a cheap alternative that does not absorb printer ink well – especially noticeable when using colour and images.




Paper of A4 size (210mm x 297mm) is most commonly used in business these days, in Britain and most of Europe. A4 allows adequate space for most letters and is best suited to standard envelope sizes, and most computer software assumes this is the size you want to use: templates for memos, faxes and letters are invariably based on A4 paper. A small stock of A5 paper (half the size of A4) is useful, particularly if you regularly send notes that are short and to the point.




Nearly all businesses, and many private individuals, have a printed letterheading on their paper. Like all other parts of the letter, the heading should present a suitable image, and give all the necessary relevant information. Most word-processing and desktop-publishing software these days contains a graphics or WordArt library from which you can import images or fancy text into your document to make up your own letterhead. On letterheads, all businesses should for obvious reasons include the business name and address and telephone number plus the fax number and e-mail address if you have them. Depending on the legal status of your business it may be necessary also to include other information – for example, a private limited company (Ltd) must show its registration number, registered office address and the names of its directors on its letterheaded paper, and if registered for VAT, the VAT registration number must also be shown. You should always check the precise requirements with your accountant and, if necessary, solicitor. In some cases it may also be useful to include a brief description of the business somewhere on the letterheading if it is not apparent from the company name, for example, R Johnson & Sons is not very informative; R Johnson & Sons (Builders) is much more helpful.

Here is an example of a heading that might be used by a British company:

Figure 1

1. First impressions count














Don't forget when ordering or designing headed notepaper that you will almost certainly need some continuation sheets – plain sheets of paper in a matching weight and colour – on which you can continue your letter should it run to more than one page. Some people use a lighter weight paper for continuation sheets but having equal weight paper gives an impression of quality and attention to detail.





Having given some thought to the type and size of paper, the next (and equally important) aspect of letter-writing to consider is the setting out of your letter.

Although there is no one correct way to structure or lay out a business communication, it is important to develop an attractive and consistent style, and one that your reader finds easy to read and understand.




It is important to achieve a good balance between the size of the sheet of paper and what is to be written on it. It will detract from the overall appearance if the first sheet is closely spaced, and only one or two short lines go over on to the second sheet. Try to space the letter more generously, so that more text appears on the second sheet.

Remember that a draft will make it easier to refine and correct the content before you begin to write or type your letter. The final letter, whether it is handwritten or typed, should be free of corrections and errors.

If you use a word processor – especially one of the newer word-processing programs available for use on personal computers, and incorporating some of the features of desk-top publishing – much of the setting-out and formatting can be done automatically by the machine.

The text of your letter should be positioned on the page with appropriate spacing. The print or handwriting should be neither too cramped nor too widely spaced. Use a two line space between paragraphs or individual lines if this will improve the general appearance. If the letter is short, the text should not be pushed up to the top of the sheet with a large area left blank at the bottom – leave some space at the top to balance that at the bottom of the sheet.

The letter below is from a private individual in Denmark to a company in the UK. It shows the basic features of a simple business letter.

Figure 2

1 Sender’s address                                                                       1  Bredgade 51

                                                                                                         DK 1260

                                                                                                         Copenhagen K



2  Date                                                                                         2  6 May 20—


3  Inside address                           3  Compuvision Ltd

                                                          Warwick House

                                                          Warwick Street

                                                          Forest Hill

                                                          London SE23 1JF



4  Attention lion                           4  For the attention of the Sales Manager


5 Salutation                                  5  Dear Sir or Madam


6 Body of the letter                      6  Please would you send me details of your

                                                         DVD video systems. I am particularly

                                                         interested in the Omega range.


7  Complimentary close               7  Yours faithfully


8  Signature                                  8  B. Kaasen

                                                         (Ms) B. Kaasen






























In correspondence that does not have a letterhead, the sender's address is placed in the top right-hand corner of the page. It is also acceptable, but less common, to place it in the top left-hand corner. Punctuation is rarely used in addresses these days.

The blocked style is the most widely used, i.e. each line starts directly below the one above.

In contrast with practice in some other countries, in the UK it is not usual to write the sender's name before his or her address.




The date is written directly below the sender's address, separated from it by a space. In the case of correspondence with a letterhead, it is usually written on the right-hand side of the page.

The month in the date should not be written in figures as this can be confusing; for example 11.3.03 means 11 March 2003 in British English, where the sequence is day-month-year, but 3 November 2003 in American English, where the sequence is month-day-year.

It is acceptable to write the date with or without the abbreviations -th and -nd, e.g. 24th October or 24 October, and to transpose the date and the month, e.g. October 24 or 24 October. These are matters of personal preference, but whatever you choose you should be consistent throughout your correspondence.

The year should always be included as it may be important for both you and the recipient if you need to refer back to your correspondence in the future.

Avoid using the term 'Date as Postmark' as the envelope is usually soon discarded, especially where companies have a post room that opens the mail and just delivers the letters to the recipients, so no one will know exactly when it was sent.




The INSIDE address is written below the sender's address and on the left-hand side of the page.

If possible you should include the name of an individual recipient or, at least, a specific job title. This makes the letter someone's particular responsibility and, hopefully, leads to a quicker reply. It may also be useful if you need to follow up the letter and want to know to whom you wrote in the past. However, as an alternative the name of the department and organisation, or just the organisation, may be given here. Sometimes a letter may say ‘All communications should be addressed to … ’, and in this case you should obviously follow instructions.

There are conventions for addressing each.






As a guide to use of first names and/or initials, follow the recipient's preferred style as indicated by past correspondence. Always use a courtesy title, and copy the spelling of names carefully.

If you know the name of the person you are writing to, write it as the first line of the address. Include either the person's initial/s or his or her first given name, e.g. Mr J.E. Smith or Mr John Smith, NOT Mr Smith.


courtesy titles used in addresses are as follows:

– Mr (pronounced /'mista/) is the usual courtesy title for a man. The unabbreviated form Mister should not be used.

– Mrs (pronounced /'misiz/, no unabbreviated form) is used for a married woman.

– Miss (pronounced/'mis/, not an abbreviation) is used for an unmarried woman.

– Ms (pronounced /miz/ or /mss/, no unabbreviated form) is used for both married and unmarried women. It is advisable to use this form of address when you are unsure whether the woman you are writing to is married or not, or do not know which title she prefers.

– Messrs (pronounced /'mesaz/, abbreviation for French 'Messieurs', which is never used) is used occasionally for two or more men, e.g. Messrs P. Jones and B.L. Parker, but more commonly forms part of the name of a company, e.g. Messrs Collier, Clark & Co. It is rather old-fashioned.

Other courtesy titles include:

– academic or medical titles, e.g. Doctor (Dr), Professor (Prof.), etc. Dr or Doctor can be used for a man or woman and is used for persons holding a doctoral degree as well as medical doctors. Most consultant surgeons traditionally prefer the title Mr. Some medical doctors prefer the letters MD after their name: do not use both Dr and MD;

– military titles, e.g. Captain (Capt.), Major (Maj.), Colonel (Col.), General (Gen.);

– aristocratic titles, e.g. Sir, Dame, Lord, Lady. Sir means that the addressee is a knight, and is always followed by a first name (not initial) and surname, e.g. Sir John Brown, never Sir J. Brown or Sir Brown. It should not be confused with the salutation Dear Sir;

– clerical titles, e.g. The Reverend (The Rev.), Father (Fr.), Sister (Sr.). Protestant or Anglican clergy should be addressed as The Rev J (or John) Smith, not Rev Smith; Catholic clergy as Fr John Smith; nuns as Sr Mary, with any job description added afterwards, such as Sr Julia, Mother Superior.

Esq., abbreviation for Esquire, which indicated the status of ‘gentleman’ in the past, is seldom used now. It can only be used instead of Mr, and is placed after the name. Do not use Esq. and Mr at the same time, e.g. Bruce Hill Esq, NOT Mr Bruce Hill Esq.

NOTE that Esq can only be used if you know the first name or initial, so Mr is generally the best courtesy title to use for most male correspondents.

If a woman has indicated her preferred courtesy title on previous correspondence, you should use this.

All these courtesy titles, except Esq., are also used in salutations.

NOTE that a full stop is often used at the end of the abbreviation if it takes the form of the first few letters of the word, e.g. Prof. (Professor), but is not necessary if it takes the form of the first and last letter of the word, e.g. Dr (Doctor). However, some people prefer to write, e.g. Mr., Mrs., with a full stop. Again, whatever you choose to do, you should be consistent throughout your correspondence.

Sometimes letters denoting honours, qualifications or professions may be used after the name. Indeed, some people insist on it and they will indicate so by always using them on their own outgoing correspondence. There are accepted rules for the order in which these are given. If a person has a number of ‘letters’ it is usual to use only one or two of the most high-ranking ones, and university degrees or professional qualifications ate not usually included unless they are particularly relevant. For example, you may add ARIBA to an architect's name when writing to him in his professional capacity, but you would be unlikely to add BSc to your landlord's name just because you knew he had a degree.

If there is likely to be any confusion between a father and son who have the same first and surnames then it is possible to add Snr (senior) after the older man's name or Jnr (junior) after the younger man's name. It is a common practice in the USA but elsewhere some men may baulk at such a designation. In France it is common to use M. (monsieur) Andre Rouge, Pere (father) or M. Andre Rouge, Fils (son). Another solution is to use the man's job title to show which man is to receive the letter, for example, John Smith, Chairman or John Smith, Managing Director.

In certain situations you may be unsure of the sex or status of a correspondent, particularly if you are corresponding for the first time with someone that you have not spoken to and who has not indicated these details in their correspondence. This is especially so with foreign names or names that can be used for either male or female, for example Lesley or Sam. If you cannot ask someone who knows the individual personally, then simply address them by their full name, without a courtesy title. It is quite permissible to address correspondence to, say, ‘Mabusak Randwhala’ or ‘Lesley Smith’; this is less likely to cause offence than an incorrect assumption of male or female, or of incorrect marital status. If this seems too informal, use the salutation ‘Dear Sir or Madam’ to balance it.




If you do not know the name of the person you are writing to, but know their job title, you can use that, e.g. The Sales Manager, The Finance Director, in the inside address.




Alternatively, you can address your letter to a particular department of the company, e.g. The Sales Department, The Accounts Department.

In both these cases an organisation name should be included as part of the address, as the address to which you are writing could be home to a several companies, situated in the same building and using a communal post room; therefore there could be several, say, personnel managers. So the correct form would be:


Mr John Smith

Personnel Manager

Avco Tools plc.




Finally, if you know nothing about the company and do not know which person or department your letter should go to, you can simply address the letter to the company itself, e.g. Compuvision Ltd, Messrs Collier, Clark & Co.

The organisation's name should be given as the version used in your correspondent's letterheading, including any designation of status, such as Ltd or plc. If writing to a partnership the form ‘Messrs Price & Green’ is correct.




This should be copied carefully from the previous correspondence if available and should be the same as the address to be used on the envelope. Avoid using abbreviations for road or town names, although it is acceptable to use the standard county abbreviations. After the name of the person and/or company receiving the letter, the recommended order and style of addresses in the UK is as follows:

1. Name of house or building. Avoid using just a house name if possible, and do not use inverted commas round house names.

2. The house or building number (and a flat, chamber or office number if appropriate) and the name of street, road, avenue, etc. No comma is needed after the number.

3. The village name, or a district of a town if there are several streets of the same name in a town.

4. The postal town (officially called the post town). This is the town where letters are sorted for local delivery. The Post Town name should be given in capital letters.

5. The county – unless the town is a major city or shares the name with the county (for example: Gloucestershire should not follow Gloucester).

6. The postcode. This consists of two blocks of letters and numbers, the first block indicating a major area of the postal town, the second identifying the address down to a group of 15 or so houses, or even in some cases an individual firm's offices. There should be no punctuation in postcodes.

7. If international, the country name, in English.

Each of these parts of an address is normally given an individual line and they should be given in the order listed above. However, inside the letter the district and town names, or town and county names may share a line (separated by a comma or extra space), or, more commonly, the postal town and postcode, or county and postcode, share a line (separated by between two and six spaces).

In foreign addresses both the postal town and the county/state are usually capitalised, and zip or postal codes should always, of course, be included.


Industrial House

34-41 Craig Road


BL4 stf



In other European countries, the number of the building may be placed after the name of the street. It is also common to substitute the name of the country with an initial before the district code number. These two examples are from Italy and Germany respectively.


Facoltà di Medicina

Via Gentile 182

1-70100 Bari


Lehrschule für Bodenkunde


D-8oooo München 40


It is simplest to follow the above order and style, though variations are possible: for example the name of the county, e.g. Lancashire, may, if known, be included on the line below the name of the town or city; the postcode may be written on a separate line; the name of the town, as well as the country, may be in capital letters.




This line, which is traditionally placed between the recipient's address and the opening greeting, is used when only the name of a department or organisation has previously been given for the recipient. The usual wording is ‘For the attention of  Mrs J King’ (underlined with no full stop) and an attention line should be used as an alternative to, not as well as, a recipient's name or job title. The ‘attention’ line can also be placed immediately before the recipient's department or organisation and in the fully blocked style is often typed in capital letters and not underlined.




The form of salutation used should be related to the way the recipient's name has been given in the address.

Dear Sir opens a letter written to a man whose name you do not know.

Dear Sirs is used to address a company. (In American English a letter to a company usually opens with Gentlemen.)

Dear Madam is used to address a woman, whether single or married, whose name you do not know.

Dear Sir or Madam (or Dear Sir/Madam) is used to address a person when you do not know their name or sex. Notice that Ms Kaasen in the letter above uses this form, i.e. she does not assume that the sales manager of Compuvision Ltd is a man.

When you know the name of the person you are writing to, but do not know them well, the salutation takes the form of Dear followed by a courtesy title and the person's surname. Initials or first names are not used with courtesy titles, e.g. Dear Mr Smith, not Dear Mr J. Smith or Dear Mr John Smith. Business associates who you know well can be addressed using just their first name, e.g. Dear John.

A comma after the salutation is optional, i.e Dear Mr Smith, or Dear Mr Smith. (In American English a colon is usually used after the salutation, e.g. Dear Mr Smith:, Gentlemen:).




Sometimes it is difficult to think of suitable words with which to start the letter. In general, you should always refer to any previous correspondence in the first paragraph and also try to get to the point of the letter reasonably quickly.

If a letter is long and complicated it may be useful to number points or to use paragraph headings, indicating them with capitals or underlining, although this can make the letter look rather formal. It is always best to start a paragraph with a topic sentence, introducing the subject of the paragraph, as this will help your reader to follow your train of thought. However, if the letter has more than one main subject it may be worth considering sending two separate letters as this will make it easier for both your recipient and you to consign them to the appropriate person and/or files.

Try to make the final paragraph positive and state what you hope the recipient will do. Include a personal pronoun in final statements, for example, ‘I hope to hear from you soon rather than ‘Hoping to hear from you soon’.




This should match the opening greeting. ‘Yours sincerely’ or ‘Yours faithfully’ will be appropriate in nearly all cases; other closes may be used for letters to friends, or to persons of title.

If the letter begins Dear Sir, Dear Sirs, Dear Madam, or Dear Sir or Madam, the complimentary close should be Yours faithfully.

If the letter begins with a personal name, e.g. Dear Mr James, Dear Mrs Robinson, or Dear Ms Jasmin, it should be Yours sincerely

A letter to someone you know well may close with the more informal Best wishes. Note that Americans tend to close even formal letters with Yours truly or Truly yours, which is unusual in the UK in commercial correspondence.

Avoid closing with old-fashioned phrases e.g. We remain yours faithfully, Respectfully yours.

A comma after the complimentary close is optional, i.e. Yours faithfully, or Yours faithfully.

The complimentary close is usually placed on the left, aligned under the rest of the letter.






married or unmarried male

Yours sincerely


married female

Yours sincerely


unmarried female

Yours sincerely


married or unmarried female

Yours sincerely


male – name not known

Yours faithfully


female – name not known

Yours faithfully


when unsure whether you are addressing male or female

Yours faithfully


e.g. Dr/Professor/General

these titles do not change whether addressing a male or female

Yours sincerely




Letters will usually bear the signature of the writer. Always type your name and, if relevant, your job title, below your handwritten signature. This is known as the signature block. Even though you may think your handwriting is easy to read, letters such as a, e, o, r, and v can easily be confused.

It is, to some extent, a matter of choice whether you sign with your initial/s, e.g. D. Jenkin, or your full given name, e.g. David Jenkins, and whether you include your courtesy title in your signature block. But if you include neither your given name nor your title, your correspondent will not be able to identify your sex and may give you the wrong title when he or she replies.

If the person signing is an authorised signatory of the business, the form ‘per pro’ or ‘pp G Jones & Co’ may be used.

However, sometimes other conventions are followed. A partner signing for his firm, for example, should use the firm's name without adding his own name. This indicates that the letter is on behalf of the company as a whole, even though it has been written and signed by a certain individual. The business name should always be given here if the plural ‘we’ has been used in the main body of the letter. The company name is placed on the line immediately following the complimentary close and is usually in the form ‘G Jones & Co’ or ‘for G Jones & Co’. Sometimes a proxy signature may be necessary, for example when the writer is not available to sign urgent letters. In this case one of the expressions used below would probably be appropriate:

J. Jones

for Marketing Director


J. Jones

for E Reed,

Marketing Director


J. Jones

Secretary to Mr F. Reed


A firm’s rubber stamp in place of a signature is generally regarded as rather discourteous. Even for circular letters it is usually possible to include a printed or duplicated signature.




Unless you are confident that your signature is readable, or it will be very familiar to your correspondent, it is as well to include your name immediately below the signature. This should match the signature in terms of use of first names or initials. If just initials are given the recipient will probably assume the writer is a man; in any case it is helpful if a woman adds Mrs, Miss or Ms to the name to show the style of address she prefers.


Sender's office or department

This should be added, if appropriate, on the line following the name.


Below is the company's reply to the letter from the prospective customer in Denmark. It shows some more features of a typical business letter.

Figure 3

















1  Letterhead                       1  Compuvision Ltd              Warwick House

                                                                                                                                       Warwick Street

                                                                                                                                       Forest Hill


                                                                                                                                       SE23 1JF


Telephone +44(0)20 8566 1861

                                                                                                                                      Facsimile +44(0)20 8566 1385




2  References                                                        2 Your ref.  6 May 20—

                                                                                 Our ref.  DS/MR


                                                                                   Date  11 May 20—


                                               Ms B. Kaasen

                                               Bredgade 51

                                               DK 1260

                                               Copenhagen K



                                              Dear Ms Kaasen,


                                              Thank you for your enquiry.


                                              I enclose our catalogue and price-list for DVD video

                                              Equipment. You will find full details of the Omega    

                                              range on pages 31-35.


                                              Please contact us if you have any further questions or

                                              would like to place an order.


                                              We look forward to hearing from you.


                                              Yours sincerely,


                                              Mary Raynor


3       Per pro                        3  p.p. Donald Sampson


4  Job title                        4  Sales Manager


5  Enclosures                   5  Enc.


Chairman  John Franks O.B.E.

Directors  S.B. Allen M.SC. N. Ignot R. Lichens B.A.
















































The abbreviation Ltd after a company's name indicates that it has limited liability. This means that the individuals who own the company, or part of it, i.e. the shareholders, are only responsible for their holding (i.e. the capital they have contributed) if the company goes bankrupt. In other words, it indicates to people giving the company credit that in bankruptcy they can only be paid back from what the company owns, and not from the personal funds of its shareholders. The abbreviation plc (public limited company) is used to show that a company's shares can be bought and sold by the public, unlike the shares of private limited liability companies. In the USA the term inc. (incorporated) is used.


Compuvision Ltd

SP Wholesalers plc

Hartley-Mason Inc.


The abbreviation and (&) co. indicates that a company is a partnership between two or more people. (And is usually written as an ampersand (&) in English company names.) If the company is a family concern, Son/s, Bros (Brothers), or Daughter/s may be added. Partnerships may have limited liability or unlimited liability.


F. Lynch & Co. Ltd

R. Hughes & Son


If neither Ltd nor & Co. appear after a company's name, then it may be a sole trader, i.e. a person who owns and runs a business on their own.



The name of the chairman (in the USA, the president), who runs the concern, may be given, as well as the names of the directors, who decide the overall policy of the company. The managing director (in the USA, and increasingly in the UK, termed the chief executive officer or ceo), who takes an active role in the day-to-day running of the company, may be mentioned if he or she is not the same person as the chairman. In the UK, the chairman runs the Board of Directors while the Chief Executive Officer runs the company.



In addition to the address of the office from which the letter is being sent, the letterhead may also give the address of the head office or registered office, if different, and the addresses of any branches or other offices the company owns.

Telephone and fax numbers will also be included and, if relevant, email and website addresses. A cable (telegram) address may also be included. It is important to remember that although the majority of companies are connected to the Internet, there are many countries where fax and cable are still important ways of transmitting information or, where banks are concerned, money.



This usually appears in small print, sometimes with the country or city in which the company is registered.

In the UK, the vat (value added tax) number may also be given.



references are often quoted in letters to help in filing or to indicate what the letter refers to (Your ref.) and the correspondence to refer to when replying (Our ref.). However, letters are often filed according to the recipient's name or organisation, which is already included in the rest of the letter, and there is no point in adding a reference code just to make the letter look more businesslike.

The reference code is usually given in the form ‘Ref’, ‘Ref:’ or ‘Ref.’ and may either appear in figures, e.g. 661/17, where 661 may refer to the number of the letter and 17 to the number of the department, or in letters, e.g. ds/mr, as in the letter above, where ds stands for Donald Sampson, the writer, and mr for his assistant, Mary Raynor.

If you are replying to correspondence that included a reference code you should reply as follows:


Our ref:

Your ref:


Note that the Your Ref. in the letter above is a date, as Ms Kaasen did not give any reference in her original letter.



The abbreviation p.p. sometimes appears in signature blocks. It means per pro, i.e. for and on behalf of, and is used by administrators or personal assistants when signing letters on behalf of their managers.



When sending a letter or email on behalf of your company, it is a good idea to include your job title in the signature block, especially if your recipient has not dealt with you before.



If there are any documents enclosed with a letter, although these may be mentioned in the body of the letter, it is also common to write Enc. (or ‘Encl.’, ‘Enc’, ‘Encs’, ‘Encs –‘ or ‘Enc:’) below the signature block. If there are a number of documents, these can be listed, e.g.:



Bill of lading (3 copies)

Insurance certificate (1 copy)

Certificate of origin (1 copy)

Bill of exchange (1 copy)


The final letter below shows some further features of a business letter.

Figure 4

                                          Compuvision Ltd              Warwick House

                                                                                                                                       Warwick Street

                                                                                                                                       Forest Hill


                                                                                                                                       SE23 1JF


Telephone +44(0)20 8566 1861

                                                                                                                                      Facsimile +44(0)20 8566 1385




                                                                                 Your ref. 

                                                                                 Our ref.  DS/MR


                                                                                   Date   21 September 20—


                                               Ms B. Kaasen

                                               Bredgade 51

                                               DK 1260

                                               Copenhagen K



1  Private and                    1  Private and confidential



                                              Dear Ms Kaasen


2  Subject title                   2  Non-payment of invoice 322/17


      It appears from our records that, despite several

      reminders, the above invoice remains unpaid. Unless

      the account is cleared within 14 days from the date

      of this letter, we shall take legal action.


                                               Yours sincerely


                                               Donald Sampson


                                            Donald Sampson

                                            Sales Manager


3  Copies                           3  c.c. Messrs Poole & Jackson Ltd,Solicitors


Chairman  John Franks O.B.E.

Directors  S.B. Allen M.SC. N. Ignot R. Lichens B.A.








































If your letter is personal and/or confidential, indicate this at the top left of the letter and, more important, on the envelope, in cases where the letter is intended to be read only by the addressee.

Use ‘PERSONAL’ if the letter must be opened by the recipient only; a ‘CONFIDENTIAL’ letter may be opened by his or her deputy but should, of course, be treated confidentially. ‘PERSONAL AND CONFIDENTIAL’ may be used together if it is imperative that only the recipient opens the letter and acts upon it. The words are usually typed in capital letters and/or underlined.

There are many variations of this phrase, e.g. Confidential, Strictly confidential, but little difference in meaning.



Sometimes it may be useful to indicate the despatch method to be used, such as: Recorded Delivery, Registered Post, Airmail, or Courier Delivery. Type this in capitals at the top left of the letter; a pre-printed sticky label may be used instead.



a subiect title at the beginning of a letter, directly after the salutation, provides a further reference, saves introducing the subject in the first paragraph, immediately draws attention to the topic of the letter, and allows the writer to refer to it throughout. It should be short and concise and should match that given by your correspondent if you are continuing discussion of the same topic. The subject heading may quote an important reference number, such as an invoice or order number. It should be underlined (in the fully blocked style it is often typed in capital letters instead) and have no final full stop. For example:

‘Delivery of goods for order no 192746’




It is not necessary to begin the subject title with Re. (with regard to), e.g. Re.: Application for the post of web designer. When sending email messages this may even be confusing as re is short for reply.



When copies are sent to people other than the named recipient, c.c. (casbon copy) is added, usually at the end of a letter, before the name/s of the recipient/s of the copies, e.g.:

If a letter is written to a certain person but is sent for information to others, it is helpful to all concerned to indicate who has been sent copies by using wording such as:

Copies to    Mr J Edwards,

                   Mrs R Richards


The copy for each individual can be marked by a tick against the name to save any confusion when sending the letters out.

Sometimes the abbreviation ‘cc’ is used in place of ‘copies to’, though in fact this relates to rather outdated technology; ‘cc’ stands for ‘carbon copies’ from the days when carbon paper was used to produce copies of typed letters.

Similarly, you may see ‘bcc’ on some letters. Use this if you do not want the recipient to know who has received copies: ‘bcc’ stands for ‘blind carbon copies’ – information hidden from the main recipient but shown on the copies. For example, ‘bcc Mr J Edwards’ would appear on Mr Edwards' copy of the letter, but not the copy sent to the addressee.

These abbreviations are used in email, and mean exactly the same thing.



Try to avoid postscripts in letters. If your letter has been well planned as suggested in the next chapter, last-minute thoughts and additions should be unnecessary.



There are three main layouts used in business letters; fully blocked, semi-blocked and fully indented. Nowadays, the majority of business letters and most other typed or word-processed letters are in blocked style. The indented style is a more traditional format and is now rarely used for business letters. However, some people still prefer the indented style for both formal and informal letters, especially those that are handwritten. We will look at them in order of popularity and formality.



This layout has been heavily influenced by American and European usage and therefore is ideal for international communications. ‘Fully blocked’ means that paragraphs are not indented and a double line space is put between each paragraph. Everything – even the signature block – is ranged to the left-hand side of the page.

The example also has what is known as an ‘open punctuation’ style; basically, it uses minimal punctuation. No punctuation is used outside the main text of the letter unless essential for sense (for example, if the town and county names in an address are put on the same line they should be separated by a comma or two spaces). Dates are shown without -st or -th endings, and no full stops are used in abbreviations, contractions or acronyms (for example, Mr Jones, NATO. BSc or MP).










Figure 5

42 Botley Close




                                                                                              R18 7QS

Your Ref 5/12A     

17 May 2000

Messrs Brown & Page (Builders)

28A Long Lane



R12 1AN

Dear Sirs,


Thank you for your estimate dated 5 May 2000.

I am sorry to have to tell you, however, that the figure quoted is in excess of others that we have received and we shall therefore not be pursuing the matter further with you.


Thank you for supplying the quotation, nevertheless.

Yours faithfully,

John Smith

John Smith






































This represents a compromise between the ‘fully blocked’ and the ‘fully indented’ style, in that some indentation is used for the main body of text. It is considered a little old-fashioned, nevertheless many established companies in the UK and parts of Europe prefer it as their correspondence style, along with what is called ‘closed punctuation’. An example is shown below.




Figure 6

42 Botley Close,




                                                                                             R18 7QS.


Your Rcf: 5/12A

                                                                                                      17th May 2000

Messrs Brown & Page (Builders),

28A Long Lane,



R12 1AN

Dear Sirs,

Quotation for extension at 42 Botlcy Close

Thank you for your estimate dated 5th May 2000.

I am sorry to have to tell you, however, that the figure quoted is in excess of others that we have received and we shall therefore not be pursuing the matter further with you.


Thank you for supplying the quotation, nevertheless.


Yours faithfully,

John Smith

John Smith


































You will note that in the above example the paragraphs have been indented, but there is still a double line space between each paragraph. Punctuation has been added to the peripheral parts of the letter: the addresses all have commas at the end of each line; the reference has a colon to separate the number from the words; the date has -th added; and the salutation 'Dear Sirs' is followed by a comma. In the main body of the letter, the subject heading is in upper and lower case letters and is underlined, rather than being in capital letters only. The signature block has been moved away from the left-hand side of the page.



This style, which involves graded indentations of all the parts of the letter, has largely been abandoned since the advent of the electric typewriter, since it involved setting up lots of complicated tabs to create all the different indents. It is now primarily used for hand-written letters only, but it is worth looking at an example to show how it differs from the other layouts.

42 Botlcy Close,




                                                                                                              R18 7QS


Your ref: 5/12A

17th May 2000


Messrs Brown & Page (Builders),

    28A Long Lane,



           R12 1AN


Dear Sirs,


Quotation for extension at 42 Botley Close

Thank you for your estimate dated 5th May 2000.

I am sorry to have to tell you, however, that the figure quoted is in excess of others that we have received and we shall not, therefore, be pursuing the matter further with you.

Thank you for supplying the quotation, nevertheless.


Yours faithfully,

                                                                                                     John Smith

                                                                                                        John Smith


Figure 7





























As you can see all the indents are stepped, even the signature block. This is very time-consuming to do on a typewriter, word-processor or computer, hence its fall from popularity.



The envelope provides the first impression of your letter, so it is important that it should be neatly typed. The wording of the address should be as given in the letter. The normal convention is to type the address lengthwise along the envelope, leaving the opening in long envelopes to the left. The address should start about halfway down the envelope, leaving at least 40mm or so above for the stamp and postal frank.

The post town should be given in capitals and all parts of the address should have separate lines as this makes it easier for the postal services to deal with the letter quickly and efficiently, especially where mechanised sorting is used. The postcode should always be the final line (except for overseas letters).

Any classification such as ‘PERSONAL’ or ‘CONFIDENTIAL’ should be indicated on the envelope (a couple of lines above the name and address) and you should also indicate, by typing or using sticky labels at the top left of the envelope, the postal service to be used (First Class, Recorded Delivery, Airmail, for example) especially if the letter will be posted by someone else or dealt with in a mail department.

With larger envelopes and packages, which tend to be more prone to damage in the post, it is particularly important to include the sender's address both on the outside and inside of the package so that it can be returned if necessary – for example if the recipient's address label comes off or becomes unreadable. The sender's address should be clearly differentiated from the recipient's address by its position and size and/or use of the word 'From'.



Envelope addresses are written in a similar way to inside addresses. But in the case of letters within or for the UK, the name of the town and the country are written in capital letters, and the postcode is usually written on a line by itself.

                                                                                                          Figure 8

1. First impressions count 











    Figure 9

1. First impressions count










The address should be aligned with the longer sides of the envelope. It should be positioned slightly to the left of the mid point between the two shortest sides, with the first line of the address about two thirds of the way down from the top edge of the envelope. This allows plenty of room for the stamp and postmark.

The address on the envelope should include: the name and title of the recipient; the house/building name or street number + street name; locality name (area of town or city); post town (in block capitals); country name or region (this is not required when the post town is a large town or city); and post code (always in block capitals with a space between the two parts of the code). Each element should he on a new line. Note that the post office prefers that no punctuation be used in the name and address on the envelope. This is so that the letter can be scanned and sorted electronically.



Many businesses use address labels with their own name and address printed along the top or bottom edge, or use envelopes printed with their logo and address. This helps the post office if the letter or package has to be returned to the sender for any reason. If you are concerned that your letter may not reach its destination, or that the post office will not be able to deliver it, you should write or print your own name and address on the back of the envelope, making it clear that you are the sender. This is standard practice in most EU countries and in North America.



Postage stamps should be affixed to the top right hand corner of the letter above and to the right of the address. The stamp or stamps should be stuck on the right way round, with the top edge aligned to the top edge of the envelope. It isn't necessary to emulate the overly-particular character in a well-known British TV comedy series, who uses a ruler to align the stamp perfectly – postal sorting offices use laser technology to scan, locate and frank the stamp on the envelope and their machines are quite capable of dealing with slight misalignments. However, for the sake of a neat appearance, don't stick the stamp on any old way!

If your letter is heavier than the maximum weight allowed for a standard first or second class stamp, make sure you affix stamps of the correct value.



In addresses, there are several conventional abbreviations used in customary titles (e.g. Dr, Prof, The Rev, The Right Hon) and in the street names (e.g. St, Ave, Blvd, Rd). There should be no full stops in these abbreviations when written on the envelope.









All correspondence should be long enough to explain exactly what the sender needs to say and the receiver needs to know. You must decide how much information you put in the letter: you may give too much (see Figure 9), in which case your letter will be too long, or too little (see Figure 10), in which case it will be too short. Your style and he kind of language you use can also affect the length.

The following three letters are written by different people in reply to the same enquiry from a Mr Arrand about their company's products.




1. First impressions countFigure 9

































Here are a number of things wrong with this letter. Though it tries to advertise the products, and the company itself, it is too wordy. There is no need to explain that stores are buying in stock for Christmas – Mr Arrand is aware of this. Rather than drawing attention to certain items he might be interested in, the letter only explains what he can already see, that there is a wide selection of watches in the catalog covering the full range of market prices. In addition, the writer goes on unnecessarily to explain which countries the company sells to, to give its history, and to quote its rather impressive motto.


TOO SHORT            

Figure 10

Dear Sir


Thank you for your enquiry. We have a wide selection of watches which we are sure you will like. We will be sending a catalogue soon.


Yours faithfully


There are a number of problems with this


1. It should have begun Dear Mr Arrand

and ended Yours sincerely as the writer

knew Mr Arrand's name from his letter of


2. Neither the date nor the reference

number of the enquiry are quoted.

3. Ideally, a catalogue should be

enclosed with a reply to an enquiry about a company's products or indication of a website if the company has one.

4. When a catalogue is sent, attention should be drawn to items which might be of

particular interest to the enquirer. New products should also be pointed out.

5. A price list should be included if prices are not given in the catalogue. Any

discounts should be quoted and, if possible, delivery dates.






Here is a more suitable letter. It is neither too short nor too long. It provides all the relevant information Mr Arrand might need, and draws his attention to some specific products which may be of interest to him.












Figure 11

Dear Mr Arrand

Thank you for your enquiry of 5 November.


We enclose our winter catalogue, and a price list giving details of CIF London prices, discounts, and delivery dates


Though you will see we offer a wide selection of watches, may we draw your attention to pp. 23-28, and pp. 31-36, where there are styles we think might suit the market you describe? On page 25 you will find our latest designs in pendant watches, which are already selling well.


All our products are fully guaranteed, and backed by our worldwide reputation.


If you need any further information, please contact us. We look forward to hearing from you soon.


Yours sincerely






















As well as containing the right amount of information, your letter should also make all the necessary points in a logical sequence, with each idea or piece of information linking up with the previous one in a pattern that can be followed. Do not make a statement, switch to other subjects, then refer back to the point you made a few sentences or paragraphs before, as in the example.



















Figure 12

Dear Sir / Madam


We are interested in your security systems. We would like to know more about the prices and discounts you offer.


A business associate of ours, DMS (Wholesalers) Ltd, mentioned your name to us and showed us a catalogue. They were impressed with the security system you installed for them, so we are writing to you about it. Do you give guarantees with the installations?


In your catalogue we saw the Secure 15 which looks as though it might suit our purposes. DMS had the Secure 18 installed, but as we mentioned, they are wholesalers, while we are a chain of stores. We would like something that can prevent robbery and shoplifting, so the Secure 15 might suit us.


How long would it take to install a system that would serve all departments? Could you send an inspector or adviser to see us soon?


If you can offer competitive prices and guarantees we would put your system in all our outlets, but initially we would only install the system in our main branch.


We would like to make a decision on this soon, so we would appreciate an early reply.


Yours faithfully





This letter

is difficult to


because there

is no clear

sequence or

logical order.















    Figure 13

Dear Mr Jarry


We are a chain of retail stores and are looking for an efficient security system. You were recommended to us by our associates, DMS (Wholesalers) Ltd, for whom you recently installed the Secure 18 alarm system.


We need a system which would give us comprehensive protection against robbery and shoplifting throughout all departments, and the Secure 15 featured in your current catalogue would appear to suit us. However, it would be helpful if one of your representatives could visit us so that we can discuss details of the available systems.


Initially we would test the system we select in our main branch, and, if it proves satisfactory, install it throughout our other branches. Our choice would, of course, be influenced by a competitive quotation and full guarantees for maintenance and service.


Please reply as soon as possible as we would like to make a decision within the next few months.


Yours sincerely





                                                                                                                Here is a better

                                                                                                                version of the

                                                                                                                same letter, in

                                                                                                                which the ideas

                                                                                                                and information

                                                                                                                are in a logical












The way to make sure you include the right amount of information, and in the right order, is by planning. Ask yourself what the purpose of the letter is, and what response you would like to receive. Note down everything you want to include before you start writing, then read your notes to check that you have included all the necessary information, that it is relevant, and that you have put it in the right order. Here, for example, is the plan for the letter Figure 11.


1st para.    Acknowledge enquiry

2nd para.   Enclose catalogue, price list

3rd para.    Draw attention to watches suitable for Arrand, and latest designs

4th para.    Mention guarantees and reputation

5th para.    Encourage further contact


First paragraph (introductory paragraph)

The opening sentence or paragraph is important as it sets the tone of the letter and creates a first impression. Generally speaking, you would thank your correspondent for their letter (if replying to an enquiry), if necessary introduce yourself and your company, state the subject of the letter, and set out its purpose.


Middle paragraphs (main paragraph)

The main part of your letter will concern the points that need to be made, answers you wish to give, or questions you want to ask. This depends on the type of letter that you are writing. In the middle paragraphs, planning is most important to make sure your points are made clearly, fully, and in a logical sequence.


Final paragraph (concluding paragraph)

At the end of your letter, if it is a reply and you have not done so at the beginning, you should thank your correspondent for writing. If appropriate, encourage further enquiries or correspondence, mentioning that you look forward to hearing from him or her soon. You may want to restate, briefly, one or two of the most important points you made in the main part of your letter.




Check that all the words you have used mean what you intend them to mean. Think carefully whether they will be understood by the reader, and whether they are suitable for the type of letter you are writing (not too informal and ‘slangy’, nor on the other hand too formal and pretentious). Avoid, if you can, jargon, clichés and repetition.

Writers of business letters, in particular, often fall into the trap of using formulaic or highfalutin expressions so as to create what they imagine is a suitably detached and business-like tone. However, many of these expressions are nowadays regarded as relics of a bygone age or just plain pompous. It is always better to err on the side of simplicity and clarity – don't use twenty long words where three or four short ones will do.

Try to get your message across using plain English: most everyday words are as appropriate in formal contexts as in informal ones. More often than not, the more familiar word will do the job just as well.


Figure 14

Dear Sir/Madam


I beg to acknowledge receipt of your letter of the 15th inst. in connection with our not clearing our account, which was outstanding as of the end of June.


Please accept our profuse apologies. We were unable to settle this matter due to the sudden demise of Mr Noel, our Accountant, and as a result were unaware of those accounts which were to be cleared. We now, however, have managed to trace all our commitments and take pleasure in enclosing our remittance for £2,120, which we trust will rectify matters.


We hope that this unforeseen incident did not in any way inconvenience you, nor lead you to believe that our not clearing our balance on the due date was an intention on our part to delay payment.


We remain, yours, etc...


In this letter,

all the writer is

trying to do is

explain why he

delayed paying

his account but,

because of the

style, it is too

long and is

difficult to












    Figure 15

Dear Mr Aldine


I am replying to your letter of 15 July asking us to clear our June balance.


I apologize for not settling the account sooner, but due to the unfortunate death of Mr Noel, our Accountant, there have been delays in settling all of our outstanding balances.


Please find enclosed our cheque for £2,120, and accept our apologies for any inconvenience.


Yours sincerely


    Here is a simpler version of the 

    letter. Mr Aldine will be

    satisfied with it because it tells

    him – simply and clearly – what

    he wants to know. First, his

    customer uses his name. Second,

    he has apologized. Third, Mr

    Aldine knows hiss was not the

    only account that was not paid

    when due, and knows why.

    Finally, he has his cheque.







Figure 16

Dear Mr Rohn


I've already written to you concerning your debt of £1,994. This should have been cleared three months ago. You seem unwilling to co-operate in paying us. We'll sue you if you do not clear your debt within the next ten days.


Yours, etc.


Your style should

not, however, be

so simple that it

becomes rude.

Here is an example

of a letter that is

too short and




Figure 17

Dear Mr Rohn


I refer to our previous letter sent on 10 October in which you were asked to clear the balance of £1,994 on your account, which has been outstanding since July. As there has been no reply, I shall have to consider handing over the matter to our solicitors.


However, I am reluctant to do this and am offering a further ten days for the account to be settled.


Yours sincerely


In the version of the same letter,

notice the stylistic devices that are

used to make it more polite:

complex sentences, joined by

conjunctions, rather than short

sentences (e.g. … the balance of

£1,194, which has been

outstanding … rather than … your

debt of £1,994. This should have

been cleared …); the use of full

rather than abbreviated forms (e.g.

I shall have to consider … rather

than We'll sue …); and the use of

passive forms and indirect

language that avoids sounding

aggressive (e.g. … for the account

to be settled … rather than … if you

do not clear your debt …).


Idioms and colloquial language

It is important to try to get the right ‘tone’ in your letter. This means that, generally speaking, you should aim for a neutral tone, avoiding pompous language on the one hand and language which is too informal or colloquial on the other.

You may set the wrong tone by using the wrong vocabulary or idioms, or using short forms inappropriately. Here are a few examples, together with a preferred alternative.



you 've probably guessed

you'll get your money back

prices are at rock bottom

prices have gone through the roof     

a copy of same  

at this moment in time

at your earliest convenience

due to the fact

enclosed herewith

inst., prox., ult. (Latin abbreviations used to refer to the current, next or previous month)

in early course

in the course of

Re your letter of …



you are probably aware

the loan will be repaid

prices are very low

prices have increased rapidly

a copy


as soon as possible or as soon as is convenient


name the month

soon or as soon as possible


I/We refer to your letter of …


On the whole, it is better to avoid using colloquial language or slang. Apart from the danger of being misunderstood if your correspondent's first language is not English, he or she may think you are being too familiar.



Your correspondent must be able to understand what you have written. Confusion in correspondence often arises through a lack of thought and care, and there are a number of ways in which this can happen.


Abbreviations and initials

Abbreviations can be useful because they are quick to write and easy to read. But both correspondents need to know what the abbreviations stand for.

The abbreviations CIF and FOB, for example, are INCOTERMS which mean, respectively, Cost, Insurance, and Freight and Free On Board. But can you be sure that your correspondent knows that p & p means ‘postage and packing’?

Some international organizations, e.g. NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization), are known in all countries by the same set of initials, but many are not. e.g. EU (European Union) and UN (United Nations). National organizations, e.g. in the UK, CBI (Confederation of British Industry) and TUC (Trades Union Congress), are unlikely to be familiar to correspondents in other countries.

A range of abbreviations are used in email correspondence, but many of them are not widely known. If you are not absolutely certain that an abbreviation or set of initials will be easily recognized, it is best not to use it.



Sometimes the use of figures instead of words for dates can create problems.

Numerical expressions can also cause confusion. For example, the decimal point in British and American usage is a full stop, but a comma is used in most continental European countries, so that a British or American person would write 4.255 where a French person would write 4,255 (which to a British or American person would mean four thousand two hundred and fifty-five).

If there is the possibility of confusion, write the expression in both figures and words, e.g. £10,575.90 (ten thousand five hundred and seventy-five pounds, ninety pence).



Special care should be taken when using prepositions. There is a big difference between

The price has been increased to £450.00,

The price has been increased by £450.00, and

The price has been increased from £450.00.


Words to avoid

Foreign words

Foreign words are superfluous where an English equivalent exists. They should only be used if they are commonly understood and impart a meaning which cannot be easily translated into English. For example ‘vice versa’ is acceptable, but ‘versus’ can usually be replaced with ‘against’ except when describing sports fixtures or legal cases.


Ambiguous words

You must use words that convey exactly what you want to say. Don't leave the reader in any doubt. For example;

‘We are uncertain that this course of action will lead to any benefits for the company’.

This suggests to the reader that you are open to persuasion. If you do not wish to be persuaded then say so:

‘We do not believe that this course of action is suitable for our company and therefore do not intend to pursue it any further’.

This indicates that your decision is final; no comeback is required or desired.


Vogue words

Vogue words, or words that are currently in fashion, do not last and can confuse. Remember, you may not be writing to someone of the same generation, who may therefore not understand you. For example, the following may not mean anything to a reader unfamiliar with hip words:

‘We think that your design for the front elevation is really cool.’

‘This is a wicked product.’


Redundant words

A clearer and more economical style is obtained by eliminating combinations of words and phrases that are tautological, i.e. not doing specific jobs or duplicating a meaning. If you remove the italicised words in the following examples, everything is more direct and uncluttered:

We first began the discussion

Very unique

At 5pm in the afternoon

Hot in temperature

Here is another, rather extreme, example: We must insist that immediate payment of all outstanding sums is made forthwith.


Incorrect use of words

There are several words that are often used incorrectly, where the writer believes the word to mean something other than its actual meaning. For example, ‘effect’ and ‘affect’, or ‘practical’ and ‘practicable’. It is recommended that you read and learn these, or at least refer to them before using one of these words to ensure your meaning is clear.






Careless mistakes in a letter can give readers a bad impression. Spelling, punctuation, and grammar should all be checked carefully. Many people have come to rely on the spellchecker in their computers to ensure that there are no spelling mistakes. But a word spelt incorrectly may form a completely different word, e.g. Please give it some though (the writer means thought); I saw it their (the writer means there). A spell checker would miss these mistakes. There is no substitute for carefully reading, or proofreading a letter that you have written,


Titles, names, and addresses

Use the correct title in the address and salutation. Spell your correspondent's name correctly (nothing creates a worse impression than a misspelled name), and write their address accurately.

If you do not know your correspondent, do not assume that they are one sex or the other, i.e. use Dear Sir /Madam rather than Dear Sir or Dear Madam. If you know a correspondent's name but not their sex, use Mr /Ms, e.g. Dear Mr /Ms Barren.



When replying to a letter, fax, or email, quote all references accurately so that it is immediately clear to your reader what you are writing about.


Prices, measurements, etc.

Special care should be taken when quoting prices or giving specifications such as measurements or weights. Quoting these incorrectly can cause serious misunderstandings.


Enclosures and attachments

Always check that you have actually enclosed the documents you have mentioned in your letter, or attached them to your email. Check, too, that you have enclosed or attached the right documents. If, for example, the document you are enclosing is invoice PL/231, make sure you do not enclose invoice PL/213.

When ordering, make sure you quote the order number correctly, especially in international trade where mistakes can be very expensive in both time and money.


Points to remember

1. Include the right amount of information. If you are responding to an enquiry, make sure you have answered all the writer's questions.

2. Plan before you start writing. Make sure you say everything you want to say, and in a logical sequence.

3. Use a simple but polite style of language.

4. Make sure that everything you write is clear and easy to understand. Do not use colloquial language or abbreviations that your reader may not understand. Write numbers in words as well as figures.

5. Accuracy is important. Pay special attention to details such as titles and names, and references and prices, and remember to check enclosures or attachments.

6. Check what you have written when you have finished. Make sure everything is as it should be.











& = ampersand 

& Co. = and company

@ = at price

¥ = yen

© = copyright

® = reserved


Attention lion                          

Attn = attention

authorised signatory


Ave= avenue

bcc’ ‘blind carbon copies’

Bcc= blind carbon copies


blocked style


Blvd = boulevard

Board of directors

Body of the letter                    



Bros (Brothers)

business name

c.c. (casbon copy)

c/o = care of

Captain (Capt.)


CBI (Confederation of British Industry)


chief executive officer = ceo

classification line

closed punctuation

Colonel = Col.


Complimentary close        

Complimentary ending                  

concluding paragraph

Copies / Copies line

copies to’‘cc’

Courier Delivery



dispatch method

DIY = Do It Yourself

Doctor (Dr)

ea. = each


enclosure Enc. Encl.Enc Encs

Esquire = Esq.

etc. = Et cetera

EU = European Union

Father = Fr.

First Class

For the attention of

General (Gen.);

head office


i.e. = id est

inc. incorporated



Inside address                          


introductory paragraph

Job title

Junior = Jnr




main paragraph

Major = Maj.

managing director



Monsieur = M.




NATO = North Atlantic Treaty Organization

No = number

nos = numbers

open punctuation

opening greeting

outside address

P.S. = post scriptum


per pro or pp

plc (public limited company

postage and packing’ p & p

postal codes



Private and confidential

Professor (Prof.)


proxy signature



Re. (with regard to

Receiver’s address


recipient’s address

Recorded Delivery


Reference code

References Ref, Ref: Ref.

Registered number

registered office

registered office address

Registered Post

registration number

Reply re


Sales Manager



Sender’s address                                                                      

Sender’s name



signature block

Sister (Sr.).

Snr (senior)

sole trader

St = street

Subject line

Subject title

Tab = tabulator

Tab = tabulator табулятор, клавиша табуляции


The Accounts Department.

 The Finance Director

The Reverend = The Rev.его преподобие

The Right Honourable = The Right Hon  достопочтенный

The Sales Department

The Sales Manager

TUC (Trades Union Congress

™ = trademark

Ult. = ultimo прошлого месяца ( в обозначении дат )

UN United Nations

vat (value added tax)

VAT registration number

vice versa

WYSIWYG = What You See Is What You Get

zip code


Abbreviations like Ltd or Corp. often appear after the names of businesses. They are usually required by law and tell you something about the type of company that has been established.







a company that is owned by a small number of people, often members of a family, and can be run by a single person

Компания с ограниченной ответственностью (лимитед)



public limited company


a large company that can sell its shares to the public and has a board of directors

открытая акционерная компания с ограниченной ответственностью





a business organization that has been officially created (incorporated) and is owned by shareholders. These abbreviations indicate that a business is a company but give no information about its size, number of shareholders or management.












Зарегистрированный в качестве юридического лица



limited liability company


a company owned by a group of people who usually also run the business

Общество с ограниченной ответственностью (ООО)





a large company that can sell shares to the public and is run by a group of managers

Акционерное общество (АО)



Gesellschaft mit beschränkter Haftung


a company with one or a number of shareholders. It cannot sell shares to the public

открытое акционерное общество (ОАО)




Australia and South Africa

used in for companies that are owned by a small number of people

Акционерное общество (АО)



Société anonyme (à responsabilité limitée)

France and Spain

a large company that can sell shares to the public and is run by a board of directors

Закрытое акционерное общество (ЗАО)



Société à Responsabilité Limitée

France and Switzerland

a company with a small number of shareholders

Общество с ограниченной ответственностью (ООО)



Societa per Azioni


a company with one or a number of shareholders. It can sell shares to the public and is run by a board of directors or group of managers

Акционерное общество (АО)



First impressions count!


Exercise 1. Read the following statements and decide which are true and which are false.

1. If a letter begins with the receiver's name, e.g. Dear Mr Floss, it will close with Yours faithfully.

2. The abbreviation c.c. stands for ‘correct carbons'.

3. If you were writing a letter to Mr Peter Smith, you would open with Dear Mr Peter Smith.

4. The head of a company in the UK is known as The President.

5. In the USA, it is correct to open a letter with the salutation Gentlemen.

6. The abbreviation enc or end means there are enclosures with the letter.

7. If you were writing to a Knight whose name was Sir Roger Dumont, you would open the letter Dear Sir Dumont.

8. In the UK, the abbreviated date 2.6.05 on a letter means 6 February 2005.

9. If a secretary signs her name on a letter and her signature is followed by p.p. (per pro) Daniel Harris, it means she is signing on behalf of Daniel Harris.

10. A Managing Director in the UK is known as Chief Executive in the USA.

11. The term PLC after a company's name, e.g. Hathaway PLC, stands for 'Public Limited Corporation'.

12. The abbreviation for the term 'limited liability' in the UK, is ltd.

13. If you did not know whether a female correspondent was married or not, it would be correct to use the term Ms, e.g. Ms Tessa Groves, instead of Miss or Mrs.

14. The following is an example of a blocked style:

Peter Voss

  Oberlweinfeldweg 33

     5207 Therwil


15. The above address is an example of 'open punctuation'.

16. The abbreviation in addressing a doctor, e.g. Doctor James Spock, would be Dt. Spock.

17. Rather than use the UK close of Yours sincerely/faithfully, Americans often choose Yours truly.

18. The abbreviation for 'company' is Co.


Exercise 2. Choosing from the words in the box, label the parts of the letter. The first has been done for you.

date                                        main paragraph                   letterhead

references                              salutation                             introductory paragraph

concluding paragraph            recipient's address               (sender's) address

(typed) signature                   complimentary ending         enclosures (abbreviation)

position/title                          signature










(1)                                                WIDGETRY LTD

6 Pine Estate, Westhornet, Bedfordshire, UB18 22BC.

(2)                Telephone 9017 23456   Telex X238WID   Fax 9017 67893


         Michael Scott, Sales Manager,

         Smith and Brown plc,

(3)    Napier House,

         North Molton Street,

         Oxbridge OB84 9TD.


(4)    Your ref. MS/WID/15/88

         Our ref. ST/MN/10/88


(5)    31 January 20--


(6)   Dear Mr Scott,


(7)   Thank you for your letter of 20 January, explaining that the super widgets,         catalogue reference X-3908, are no longer available but that ST-1432, made to         the same specifications but using a slightly different alloy, are now available         instead.


(8)   Before I place a firm order I should like to see samples of the new super widgets.         If the replacement is as good as you say it is, I shall certainly wish to reinstate         the original order, but placing an order for the new items. Apart from anything else, I should prefer to continue to deal with Smith and Brown, whose service has always been satisfactory in the past. But you will understand that I must safeguard Widgetry's interests and make sure that the quality is good.


(9)  I would, therefore, be grateful if you could let me have a sample as soon as        possible.


(10) Yours sincerely,

(11)  Simon Thomas


(12)  Simon Thomas


(13) Production Manager


(14) enc.


Exercise 3. This second letter has been revised so many times by Mr Thomas that it has become all mixed up, and his word processor has failed to reorganise it. Arrange the letter so that everything is in the right place.

1. First impressions count

(3)       6 Pine Estate, Westhornet, Bedfordshire, UB18 22BC

            Telephone 9017 23456   Telex X238WID   Fax 9017 67893



(4)      I look forward to hearing from you.



(5)       Your ref. MS/WD/22/88

            Our ref. JB/MS/48/88



(6)       Yours sincerely,



(7)      James Bowers, Sales Manager,

           Electroscan Ltd,

           Orchard Road Estate,

           Oxbridge UB84 10SF.



(8)       Production Manager



(9)       Thank you for your letter. I am afraid that we have a problem with your




(10)       6 June 20--



(11)       Unfortunately, the manufacturers of the part you wish to order have           advised us that they cannot supply it until September. Would you prefer us to supply a substitute, or would you rather wait until the original parts are again available?



(12)       Dear Mr Bowers




































Exercise 4. Replace the abbreviations with complete words.


1. Just as Rd is short for … , Ave is short for … , Blvd is short for … , St and Sq are short for … and … .

2. 12/7/99 means … 1999 in Britain but it means …  1999 in America.

3. # 24 in the USA and No. 24 in Britain both mean … 24.

4. On the envelope c/o means … and Attn means that the letter is for the … of a particular person.

5. In a report or textbook e.g. or eg means … , i.e. or ie means … and etc. or etc stands for … .

6. A British firm’s name may be followed by the abbreviation plc or PLC (short for …), Ltd (…) or & Co. (…).

7. An American firm’s name may be followed by Corp. (…) or Inc. (…). 

8. An Australian firm’s name may be followed by the abbreviation Pty. (…).

9. If you buy something by mail order the price may not include p & p (…) and VAT (…).

10. At the end of a business letter you may see the abbreviations c.c. (…), enc. or encl. (…). But only an informal letter would have a P.S. (…) at the end.

11. What do these abbreviations stand for?

@ ¥ 3,000 ea. ………

© Cambridge University Press 2000 ………

Apple ® Macintosh™ ………


DIY ………


Exercise 5. Put the following senders’ addresses on the envelope in the correct order.


Example: Search Studios Ltd./Leeds/LS4 8QM/Mr L. Scott/150 Royal Avenue


MrL Scott

Search Studios Ltd.

150 Royal Avenue

Leeds LS4 8QM


1. Warwick House/Soundsonic Ltd./London/Warwick Street/SE23 1JF

2. Piazza Leonardo da Vinci 254/The Chief Accountant/1-20133/D. Fregoni/Fregoni S.p.A./Milano

3. Bente Spedition GmbH/Mr Heinz Bente/D-6000 Frankfurt 1/Feldbergstr. 30/The Chairman

4. Sportique et cie./201 rue Sambin/The Sales Manager/F-21000 Dijon

5. Intercom/E-41006Sevilla/351 Avda. Luisde Morales/The Accountant/Mrs S. Moreno

6. Miss Maria Nikolakaki/85100 Rhodes, Nikitara 541 /Greece

7. Excel Heights 501/Edogawa-ku 139/7-3-8 Nakakasai/Japan/Tokyo/Mrs Junko Shiratori

8. 301 Leighton Road/VHF Vehicles Ltd./London NW5 2QEAThe Transport Director/Kentish Town

9. BN5 9KL / James Brown & Sons / Ms Gillian Jones / Brighton / 44-50 London Road / Personnel Manager / GREAT BRITAIN

10. 999 Park Avenue / Rockford / Mr James Green / IL 61125 / Marketing Director / USA / Green Industries Inc.

11. Rhône-Moteurs SA / Export Department / Mme Jeanne Thibault / 130 rue do professeur Nicolas / FRANCE / 69008 Lyon

12. JAPAN / Chiyoda-ku / United Products Ltd / Tokyo 101 / Publicity Controller / 13 Kanda Surugadai 2-chome / Mr Masako Saito

13. 12 Juniper Avenue / Windyhill / KT6 3AB / Dr Henry Fotheringay-Hunt / KETTERING

14. NEWCASTLE / Beechtrees / HR1 0ZZ / 14 Chester Avenue / Mr & Mrs J Brown

15. Mrs Leena Suominnen / FINLAND / Koivisto Kirja Kauppa OY / 20100 Turku / Kirkkokatu 28

16. Newcastle NE5 47G / Mr Hugh O’Shea / ENGLAND / 114 North Shields Road / Gloucester Products Ltd


Exercise 6. Due to a malfunctioning word processor, the following two letters have been mixed up. One is from an engineering company enquiring about a staff pension scheme. The other is the reply from the insurance company. Re-arrange the paragraphs and phrases to form the twp letters. Write a, b, c, etc. in the boxes, showing where each part of both letters should be.


(a) Yours faithfully,

      J Steward

      Company Secretary

(b) Please contact me, in the meantime,  

      if you have anything else you

      would like to discuss

(c) The enclosed booklet, PS 134, will

      give you details of the type of

      policy I think would suit you. The

      minimum age for joining would be

     18, with a retirement plan at 55 for

(d) UK engineering PLC

      Brunei House

      Brunei Street

      Liverpool L2 2ER

     women and 60 for men.



(e) Finally, as well as choosing a 

     retirement pension, we would also like

     a policy, which would include life

     insurance, so that in the event of an

     early death, the insured's dependants  

     would get a lump sum in benefit

   (f) Thank you for writing to us.







(g) On this basis, we would estimate

      those eligible at the present time to

      number about 300 or so, with ages

      ranging from apprentices of 16 to

      skilled operatives and     administrators in their early 50s.

(h) I am replying to your letter of 15 

      September concerning a 

      contributory staff pension scheme

      for your employees.


(i) I can arrange for an agent to call on

     you at any time, and will contact

     you in a few days after you have

     had time to consider this proposal.


(j)  The Company Secretary UK

      Engineering PLC Brunei House

      Brunei Street Liverpool L2 2ER



(k) Dear Mr Steward,




(l) If you have such a scheme, please

      let us have details, and we could

      possibly arrange a meeting with

      one of agents.


(m) Dear Sir/Madam





(n) Policies Manager

Associated Insurance PLC

153/8 Cressy Street 

Liverpool L2 3EB




(o) Employee contributions could be arranged at 7 per cent, and the policy incorporates life insurance and benefit payment in the event of death.

(p) We are a large engineering company with a staff of 400 including

administrative and shopfloor staff. We are contacting a number of insurance

companies to enquire about a contributory staff pension scheme to

cover people who have been with us for over a year.


(q) 19 September 20--











(r) Yours sincerely, Ralph Meeker

Policies Manager



(s) 15 September 20—




(t) Associated Insurance

153/8 Cressy Street

Liverpool L2 3EB 

A                                                               B

1. First impressions count 1. First impressions count
















Exercise 7. These two letters are on the same subject but the language used is very different. The first is from the Inland Revenue and is formal. The second is from a friend and is informal. As you read underline the language which is equivalent in meaning but not in formality.


Dear Mr Williams,


I am writing with reference to your letter of June 12 and apologise for the delay in replying. However, the following are my comments on the various points you raise.


А. UK tax assessment is at present based on £5% of earned income at the lowest threshold.


B. It would not be feasible to claim a rebate on any monies earned abroad.


C. You would be well-advised to claim for UK tax exemption and declare income, following the standard procedure, to the local income tax authorities in your country of residence.


I enclose a claim form (DST/659) for this purpose.


I trust you will find this information useful. However, should you have any further queries do not hesitate to contact me.


Yours sincerely,

     Robert Palmer

Robert Palmer

(Information Officer)



Dear Bill,


Thanks a lot for your letter which I got on Wednesday. Sorry I haven't got back to you sooner, but anyway, here are my ideas on the things you wanted   clearing   up.


A. You have to fork out about 1/4 of your pay packet for the taxman.


B. There's no way you can get anything back on money made abroad.


C. Your best bet is to ask not to pay tax in the UK and tell the tax people over   there how much you earn.


Hope this is OK.


If there's anything else you want to know drop me a line.


All the best.


























Exercise 8. Decide which of these sentences are informal and which are formal. Group together those with a similar meaning.

1. How about looking at Dimitri's idea?

2. Much as I would like to be of assistance, it is beyond my power to intervene.

3. Say 'hello' from me and tell Samira to get better soon.

4. As this matter is entirely beyond our control, we are unable to proceed with a reimbursement.

5. I suggest we consider Mr Bozena's proposal closely.

6. Thanks for your recent note.

7. We can't do anything about it, so we can't give you any money back.

8. I would be grateful if you would convey my best wishes to Mrs El Hazir and I hope she has a speedy recovery.

9. Before we said yes we'd have to work out how much it'd cost.

10. I acknowledge receipt of your letter of 5 January.

11. It's great to know you're backing us all the way.

12. I'd like to help, but I can't do anything.

13. I am pleased to learn that you are giving us every' encouragement.

14. Prior to any firm commitment on our part, we would have to assess the financial implications.


Exercise 9. Choose from the options in italics the expression you would use in the following text if you wanted to write in a formal style.


Было отмечено/Я отметил, что персонал выносил/изымал инвентарь со склада канцтоваров, не производя записей в журнале учета. В результате список товаров, подлежащих пополнению, который я подал/ был подан/ поданный в прошлом месяце, оказался неполным/ несоответствующим действительности, и в настоящее время весьма вероятно, что некоторых товаров/ряда товаров может сказаться недостаточно/не хватить до конца этого/текущего месяца. Просьба в дальнейшем придерживаться установленных правил/следуйте установленным правилам, или/в противном случае будет введена другая/иная система учета товаров.


Exercise 10. The following is a letter from a firm interested in becoming an agent in the UK for a Swedish manufacturer of garden furniture. Choose the language which is most appropriate for a formal reply.










Hi/Dear Mr Price,


Thanks/Thank you for your recent letter. We were happy/pleased to hear that you are interested in marketing our range of garden furniture.


But/However, before we make any firm decision/ make up our mind, we would be grateful if you would provide us with/give us further information concerning/about the organisation of your firm, the territory it covers, the number of retail outlets and your market share.


You would have to get us/We would expect a minimum turnover of £600,000 before being in a position to/we could offer you a sole agency. We would want to get/We would wish to achieve a market share of at least 10% in the first two years.


Anyway/This said, if you feel your firm is able to meet these targets it would be nice/it would be useful to arrange an appointment to have a chat about/discuss the project in a bit more detail/ further.


I will be in England from 5-12 May and suggest we meet/get together then, if this is convenient/OK. Please confirm with my secretary if this is all right/ satisfactory.


I look forward to hearing from you in the near future/Hope to get a letter from you soon.


Yours sincerely,/All the best,


Sven Jorgensen


Sven Jorgensen




























Exercise 11. In the following letter, select the item that is more formal.

Dear Mr Henderson


(1) It is with regret/We are sorry that we have to (2) inform/tell you that your phone (3) has been cut off/disconnected, (4) because you didn’t pay/due to the non-payment of your phone bill.   We have (5) made every effort/tried our best to (6) work out/establish a (7) means whereby/way in which you (8) pay/settle the bill in installments. (9) If you had/Had you answered our (10) enquiries/letters, (11) alternative/other arrangements might have been considered to (12) let you keep/enable you to keep your phone, (13) because/since (14) we are generally most unwilling/we don’t usually like to (15) do this thing/take this measure. However, we (16) got/received no reply. (17) So/Consequently, (18) we have no alternative but to/there is nothing else we can do but (19) close/terminate your account. We (20) intend to/are going to (21) put/place the matter in the hands of our solicitors.   However, (22) if you can/should you find yourself able to (23) rectify the situation/put the situation right, we would be (24) happy/pleased to hear from you. We (25) are anxious that you have/want you to have your phone (26) reinstalled/back as soon as possible.


(27) A great deal of inconvenience is/Lots of problems are avoided if bills are paid (28) on time/promptly.


Yours sincerely,


James Watt,

Accounts Division




















Exercise 12. Rewrite the following giving the passages a more formal style.

1. Ref. our telephone conversation of 5.4.2005, I should like to inform the quality of your service has caused us lots of difficult problems.

2. We’ve made lots of complaints to the Autocheck Manager about the work Autocheck is doing just now.

3. Whenever one of our reps attempts to get in touch with the Manager, either personally face to face or by phone, he’s always out.

4. We have noted that many employees arrive late for work. We can no longer tolerate this. We expect staff to arrive on time and to remain on duty for the full period which their contracts state. In future, you must enforce punctuality.


Exercise 13. Complete each sentence by using each word from the following list. Give their less formal equivalents. Make sure you use the correct form of the verb.






perceive purchase





1. He went into the jewellery shop to …… a brooch for his wife.

2. After talking to staff we can …… a need for a more efficient method of communicating decisions to the workforce.

3. A week …… before he contacted them again.

4.  Things should be easier now. The law they passed should …… the setting up of small businesses.

5. We shall …… more funding if this scheme is to succeed.

6. If deliveries do not improve, we shall be obliged to …… the contract.

7. We do not …… any problems at this stage.

8. They have …… to repay the money by the end of the month.

9. We feel that the Directors have completely failed to …… unsuitable the site is.


Exercise 14. This letter is too formal in tone. Re-write it in a more relaxed and friendly way.

Dear Mr. Evans,


I am writing in response to our recent conversation concerning the three possible choices for  the US market. I regret to inform you that I do not consider I am presently in a position to assume responsibility for such a major undertaking. I have a great number of pressing engagements and would not be able to allocate sufficient time.


However, should you make a decision to modify your policy for the Advertising Specialty Market in the USA I would wish to suggest an alternative proposal which we could discuss in Munich at the end of the month.


Sincerely yours,


Raphael Mazzi


Raphael Mazzi















Exercise 15. Rewrite the following request for payment in a more polite form.

Dear Sir,


Your have owed us £567.00 since February, which means you haven't paid us for three months.


We wrote to you twice and amazingly you didn't bother answering us, yet you've been a customer for years. Anyway, we're not going on like this, so if you don't tell us why you haven't paid, or send the money you owe us in ten days, we'll sue you. After all, we've got bills from our own suppliers, and besides we explained our rules for giving credit, i.e. payment on final dates, some time ago.


R. Lancaster


Yours, etc.


R. Lancaster


















Exercise 16. Translate the following letter fragments:

a. into English:

Уважаемые господа!


Мы получили Ваше письмо от 27 сентября 2000 г. и рады сообщить Вам полную информацию, касающуюся наших дальнейших переговоров. Наше расписание следующее....


Просим подтвердить Ваше согласие c предложенным расписанием встреч, а в случае необходимости получения уточнений обращаться к нам незамедлительно....


C добрыми пожеланиями,


Исполняющий обязанности менеджера по сбыту


А. Прохоров

















b. into Ukrainian:

Dear Sirs,


Thank you very much for the letter of 23 November, 2001, which we re­ceived this morning.


In reply to it we wish to inform you that our firm will consider your offer as soon as possible.


We much appreciate your interest in the matter. The moment we can let you have a definite answer, we will contact you. Thank you again for your help.


With compliments and best wishes.


F. Dowal


Assistant Manager













c. into English:

1. First impressions count 





















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