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The Parts of the Letter


a) The Heading. This has already been mentioned.


b) The reference. This is typed on the same line as the date, but on the left

and consists of the initials of the person who signatures the letter (in this case JAS) and those of the typist (DS). Sometimes other initials or figures are added according to whatever may suit the filing system of the firm in question.

It is usual to quote the reference initials of the addressee company in reply.


Telegram Telephone

(a) Grajo Leeds GARDEN & JONES Leeds 978653


Home & Overseas Merchants


Directors Upper Bridge St.

L.L. Graden, P.G. Jones Leeds 2


(b) JAS/DS (c) 13 July 1978


(d) Oliver Green and Co. Ltd.

25 King Edward VII St.

Manchester M24 BD


(e) Dear Sirs


We understand from several of our trade connections in Bolto that you are the British agents for Petrou and Gapitopoulos AE of Athens.


Will you please send us price lists and catalogues for all products manufactured by this company, together with details of trade discounts and terms of payment?

We look forward to hearing from you.


(f) Yours faithfully

Graden and Jones Ltd.


(g) J.A.Stevene

Chief Buyer


c) The date. The form in which the date is written in this letter

- 13 July 1998 - is probably the simplest and clearest of all current forms used in the English speaking world, out there are alternative ways of writing the date, for example July 13 1998 (Americans put the name of the month first) 13th July 1998 and July 13th 1998

Some still insist on a comma before the year, but others consider this unnecessary. It is important to note that the name of the town or city where the letter originates is not repeated before the date, although this is normally done on the continent. Another practice widely used in Europe is to write the date in a highly abbreviated form - 12.7.98, for example - but this should not be done in letters written in English, since in Britain

12.7.1998 means 12 July 1998, whereas in the USA it means December 7 1998. It is obvious that the use of such forms could result in confusion.


d) The inside address. A few points concerning the name and address

of the firm written need to be made. Firstly, they are typed on the left, normally against the margin. The diagonal grading of the name and address is rare nowadays, and the style shown in the example is neater, as well as being quicker for the typist.


Secondly, the use of Messrs. (an abbreviated form of Messieurs), the French word for - Gentlemen) should not be used in front of the names of firms which indicate their line of business and do not consist of family names. It follows therefore, that Messrs. will be used mostly when a partnership is being addressed e.g. Messrs. Hamilton and Jacobs 265 High Holborn London WC1 7GS

Note that the number of the street in the address always precedes the name of the street, and that in the case of large towns and cities in the UK the name of the county is not required. It is not necessary to add "Lancashire" to the address in the example. However, when the firm addressed is situated in a smaller town, the county name is necessary , and it should be remembered that in Britain there are 2 Richmonds, one in Surrey and another in Yorkshire, and several Newports, for example.


e) The salutation. Below the address a double space at least is left, and the words "Dear Sirs" are typed. This is the usual salutation in British business letters addressed to acompany rather than to an individual within the company. Very often a comma is typed after the salutation, out an increasing number of firms are eliminating this, considering the spacing to fulfil the function of traditional punctuation. Once again, there are no hard-and-fast rules, but every firm will have its own policy. In the USA the most common salutation is “Gentlemen:” Note that the salutation is typed against the left-hand margin. When writing to an individual within the firm addressed, the salutation is Dear Sir (Dear Madam, if the recipient is known to be a woman), or Dear Mr ....", Dear Mrs . . . , Dear Missor Dear Ms if the addressee is addressed by name rather than by position. In recent years the use of the form Ms has become quite common. It originated in the USA and, like its male equivalent Mr, it does not indicate whether the person addressed is married or unmarried


f) The complimentary close

This is typed above the name of the firm sending a letter, then the space is left for the signature. If the salutation is Dear Sir(s), the complimentary close will read "Yours faithfully" or less commonly "Yours truly". If the correspondent is addressed by his or her name - "Dear Mr Brown" etc. - the complimentary close will take the form "Yours sincerely"



Addressee Salutation Complimentary close
Messrs. A.Smith & Co., Ltd. Dear Sirs, Gentlemen: Yours faithfully Yours truly, Yours very truly
Mr. A.Smith A. Smith, Esq Dear Sir, Yours faithfully Yours truly, Yours very truly
Mr. A.Smith A. Smith, Esq Dear Mr. Smith,   Yours sincerely, Yours very sincerely
Mrs. B. Brown Miss C. White Dear Madam, Yours faithfully Yours truly, Yours very truly
Mrs. B. Brown Miss C. Brown Dear Mrs. B. Brown, Dear Miss C. White Yours sincerely, Yours very sincerely


If you address letter to some definite person the letter is marked:

For the Attention of Mr. D. Robinson

Attention of Mr. D. Robinson

Attention: Mr. D. Robinson

Salutation in this case is in plural, i.e. Dear Sirs etc., as the letter is addressed to the organization and not to a separate person.

Esq. is abbreviation of the word esquire and is never written as a whole word, but as Esq. with a full stop at the end, before his surname there should be either his name or initials. Capital letters following the name could indicate university education etc. For example: A.B.Smith, M.P.,(Member of Parliament), C.D. Brown, M.I.C.E. - Member of the Institution of Civil Engineers,

A.F. White, LL. D. - Doctor of Laws,

G.H. Black, K.C.V.O. - Knight Commander of the Victorial Order.

These letters are mentioned in the address.



Capital letters are used with the following:

1. Personal names and nationalities.

2. All words in the name of a firm or organization except conjunctions, prepositions, articles.

3. Abbreviations Mr., Mrs., Messrs., Esq. And Miss.

4. All words indicating position:


Chairman of the Board of Directors

Chief Accountant

5. All words in the name of department

Accounts Department

Department of Fire Insurance

6. All words of the address

Main Street, Grand Avenue, New York, N.Y.

Bush House, London, W.C.

Hotel Savoy, Room 28

7. Months and days

8. Words of Salutation: Dear Sir …

9. The first letter in the complimentary close

10. All indications to the subject of the purchase or selling

11. Words in subscription: Air Mail, Registered

Foreign learners of English commercial correspondence should beware of drawing a sharp distinction between British and American styles. The fact of the matter is that the similarities are more striking than the differences, and the differences between British and American English in general are fewer and less important now than they were, say, fifteen or twenty years ago. For correspondence purposes it is quite enough to be familiar with one particular layout and one particular set of conventions, since Americans have no difficulty in understanding British business letters, and vice versa. Another point to bear in mind is the fact that the majority of business letters today are written, not by Americans or British people, but by individuals and firms using English as a foreign language. This is another factor which has caused the two styles to merge to a very considerable extent, and provided you follow the advice given in this chapter and elsewhere, your letters will conform to modern business practice.

Abbreviations used in business letters:

inst. (instant)

ult. (ultimo)

prox. (proximo)

BTW (by the way)

F2F (face to face)

FCOL (for crying out loud)

FWYW (for what it’s worth)

FYI (for your information)

GG (got to go)

GOK (God only knows)

IMHO (in my humble opinion)

IMO (in my opinion)

OTOH (on the other hand)

PLS (please)

TAFN (that’s all for now)

TTFN (ta-ta for now)

Note the abbreviation usage in the following sentences:

1. We are in receipt of your esteemed letter of the 27th ultimo.

2. We beg to acknowledge receipt of your favour of the 15th inst.

3. Your favour of the 25th ult. has come to hand this morning.

4. We have before us your esteemed favour of the 10th inst.

5. Your letter of the 19th ult. came into our possession yesterday.


Date: 2016-03-03; view: 1933

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