Home Random Page





There is one more style of language within the field of standard literary English which has become singled out, and that is the style of official documents, or "officialese", as it is sometimes called. As has already been pointed out, this FS is not homogeneous and is represented by the following substyles or variants:

1) the language of business documents,

2) the language of legal documents,

3) that of diplomacy,

4) that of military documents.

Like other styles of language, this style has a definite communicative aim and, accordingly, has its own system of interrelated language and


stylistic means. The main aim of this type of communication is to state the conditions binding two parties in an undertaking. These parties may be: the state and the citizen, or citizen and citizen; a society and its members (statute or ordinance); two or more enterprises or bodies (business correspondence or contracts); two or more governments (pacts, treaties); a person in authority and a subordinate (orders, regulations, instructions, authoritative directives); a board or presidium and an assembly or general meeting (procedures acts, minutes), etc.

The aim of communication in this style of language is to reach agreement between two contracting parties. Even protest against violations of statutes, contracts, regulations, etc., can also be regarded as a form by which normal cooperation is sought on the basis of previously attained concordance.

This most general function of the style of official documents predetermines the peculiarities of the style. The most striking, though not the most essential feature, is a special system of clichés, terms and set expressions by which each substyle can easily be recognized, for example: I beg to inform you. I beg to move. I second the motion, provisional agenda, the above-mentioned, hereinafter named, on behalf of, private advisory, Dear Sir, We remain, your obedient servants.

In fact, each of the subdivisions of this style has its own peculiar terms, phrases and expressions which differ from the corresponding terms, phrases and expressions of other variants of this style. Thus in finance we find terms like extra revenue, taxable capacities, liability to profit tax. Terms and phrases like high contracting parties, to ratify an agreement, memorandum, pact, Charge d'effaires, protectorate, extra-territorial status, plenipotentiary will immediately brand the utterance as diplomatic. In legal language, examples are: to deal with a case; summary procedure; a body of judges; as laid down in.

Likewise, other varieties of official language have their special nomenclature, which is conspicuous in the text and therefore easily discernible as belonging to the official language style.

Besides the special nomenclature characteristic of each variety of the style, there is a feature common to all these varieties—the use of abbreviations, conventional symbols and contractions, for example:

M. P. (Member of Parliament), Gvt (government), H.M.S. (His Majesty's Steamship), $ (dollar), £ (pound), Ltd (Limited).

There are so many of them that there are special addendas in dictionaries to decode them.

This characteristic feature was used by Dickens in his "Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club;" for instance,

P.V.P., M.P.C (Perpetual Vice-President, Member Pickwick Club); G.C.M.P.C. (General Chairman, Member Pickwick Club).

Abbreviations are particularly abundant in military documents. Here they are used not only as conventional symbols but as signs of the military code, which is supposed to be known only to the initiated. Examples are:

D.A.O. (Divisional Ammunition Officer); adv. (advance); atk (attack); obj. (object); A/T (anti-tank); ATAS (Air Transport Auxiliàãó Service),

Another feature of the style is the use of words in their logical dictionary meaning. Just as in the other matter-of-fact styles, and in contrast intrinsically to the belles-lettres style, there is no room for contextual meanings or for any kind of simultaneous realization of two (meanings. In military documents sometimes metaphorical names are given to mountains, rivers, hills or villages, but these metaphors are perceived as code signs and have no aesthetic value, as in:

"2.102 d. Inf. Div. continues atk 26 Feb. 45 to captive objs Spruce Peach and Cherry and prepares to take over objs Plum and Apple after capture by CCB, 5th armd Div."

Words with emotive meaning are not to be found in the style of official documents either. Even in the style of scientific prose some words may be found which reveal the attitude of the writer, his individual evaluation of the facts and events of the issue. But no such words are to be found in official style, except those which are used in business letters as conventional phrases of greeting or close, as Dear Sir, yours faithfully.

As in all other functional styles, the distinctive properties appear as a system. We cannot single out a style by its vocabulary only, recognizable though it always is. The syntactical pattern of the style is as significant as the vocabulary, though not perhaps so immediately apparent.

Perhaps the most noticeable of all syntactical features are the compositional patterns of the variants of this style. Thus, business letters have a definite compositional pattern, namely, the heading giving the address of the writer, the date, the name of the addressee and his address.

Here is a sample of a business letter:

Smith and Sons

25 Main Street


9th February, 1967

Mr. John Smith

29 Cranbourn Street


Dear Sir,

We beg to inform you that by order and for account of Mr. Julian of Leeds, we have taken the liberty of drawing upon you for £ 25 at three months' date to the order of Mr. Sharp. We gladly take this opportunity of placing our services at your disposal, and shall be pleased if you frequently make use of them.

Respectfully yours,

Smith and Sons

by Jane Crawford



There is every reason to believe that many of the emotional words and phrases in present-day commercial correspondence which are not merely conventional symbols of polite address, did retain their emotive meaning at earlier stages in the development of this variety of official language. Here is an interesting sample of a business letter dated June 5, 1655.

Mr. G. Dury to Secretary Tharloe,

Right Honorable,

The Commissary of Sweden, Mr. Bormel, doth most humbly intreat your honour to be pleased to procure him his audience from his highnesse as soon as conveniently it may be. He desires, that the same be without much ceremony, and by way of private audience. I humbly subscribe myself.

Your Honour's most humble and

obedient servant,

G. Dury.

June 5, 1655.

Such words and word-combinations as 'most humbly,' 'intreat' (entreat), 'I humbly subscribe', 'most humble and obedient servant' and the like are too insistently repeated not to produce the desired impression of humbleness so necessary for one who asks for a favour.

Almost every official document has its own compositional design. Pacts and statutes, orders and minutes, notes and memoranda—all have more or less definite forms, and it will not be an exaggeration to state that the form of the document is itself informative, inasmuch as it tells something about the matter dealt with (a letter, an agreement, an order, etc).

In this respect we shall quote the Preamble of the Charter of the United Nations which clearly illustrates the most peculiar form of the arrangement of an official document of agreement.




Date: 2015-12-18; view: 3953

<== previous page | next page ==>
D. SCIENTIFIC PROSE STYLE | Have Resolved to Combine Our Efforts to Accomplish These Aims.
doclecture.net - lectures - 2014-2023 year. Copyright infringement or personal data (0.018 sec.)