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The Style of Official Documents

2Official documents are written in a formal, “cold” or matter-of-fact style of speech. The style of official documents, or ‘officialese’ as it is sometimes called, is not homogeneous and is represented by the following sub-styles, or varieties:1. the language of business documents, 2. the language of legal documents,
3. the language of diplomacy, 4. the language of military documents.

3Like 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:

a) the state and the citizen, or citizen and citizen (jurisdiction);
b) a society and its members (statute or ordinance);
c) two or more enterprises or bodies (business correspondence or contracts);
d) two or more governments (pacts, treaties);
e) a person in authority and a subordinate (orders, regulations, authoritative directions);
f) the board or presidium and the assembly or general meeting (procedures acts, minutes), etc.

4The vocabulary is characterized not only by the use of special terminology but the choice of lofty (bookish) words and phrases: plausible (=possible); to inform (=to tell); to assist (=to help); to cooperate (=to work together); to promote (=to help something develop);
to secure (=to make certain) social progress; with the following objectives/ends (=for these purposes); to be determined/resolved (=to wish); to endeavour (=to try); to proceed (=to go); inquire (to ask).

There are so many abbreviations and acronyms in official documents that there are special addenda in dictionaries to decode them. These 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: DAO (Divisional Ammunition Officer); adv. (advance); atk. (attack); obj. (object); A/T (anti-tank); ATAS (Air Transport Auxiliary Service).

As in all other functional styles, the distinctive properties appear as a system. It is impossible to single out a style by its vocabulary only, recognizable though it always is. The usual parts of the business paper are:

1.Heading.The heading, which includes the sender’s name, postal and telegraphic addresses, telephone number as well as reference titles of the sender and recipient, is printed at the top of the notepaper.

2.Date.The date should always be printed in the top right-hand corner in the order: day, month, year

3.Name and address, i.e. the inside address or the direction. The inside address is typed in three, four or more lines whichever is necessary, either at the beginning of the letter, or at the end,

4.Salutation.The salutation may be: Sir, Sirs, Gentlemen (never ‘Gentleman’), Dear Sirs (never “Dear Gentlemen), Madam, Dear Madam (for both married and unmarried ladies), or Mesdames (plural).



5. Reference. Underlined headingshould look as follows: Re: Your Order No 12345. Re is not an abbreviation of “regarding”, but a Latin word meaning “in the matter”.

6.Opening.If you are hesitating for a phrase with which to commence your letter, one of the following will suit your purpose:

7.Body.The body is the subject matter that should be concise but not laconic.

8. Closing or the complimentary close. It usually looks something like this: Yours faithfully / truly / sincerely / cordially (not respectfully as it is too servile).

9. Stamp (if any) and signatures.The closing, with the signature following it, is made to slope off gradually so that the end of the signature just reaches the right hand margin of the letter.

10.Enclosures. The Word “Enclosure “should be written either in full or in its abbreviated form “Enc.” Usually at the bottom left-hand corner of the letter.

Almost every official document has its own compositional design. Pacts and statutes, orders and minutes, codes and memoranda – all have more or less definite form, 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.

An official document usually consists of a preamble, main text body and a finalizing (concluding)part.

The preamble is usually a statement at the beginning of the document explaining what it is about and stating the parties of the agreement, e.g. “The States concluding this Treaty (Treaty on the Non-proliferation of Nuclear Weapons), hereinafter referred to as the ‘Parties to the Treaty’…have agreed as follows…”.

The main text body constitutes the central and most important part of the document. It consists of articles – individual parts of a document, usually numbered ones, which state the conditions on which the parties reach their agreement.

The finalizing part comprises the signatures of the duly authorized people that have signed the document; the amount of copies of the document; the date (more often than not, stated by words, not by figures); the place: “IN WITNESS WHEREOF the undersigned, duly authorized, have signed this Treaty.


Date: 2016-01-05; view: 1108


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