Even those who speak and write excellent English can make an unforgivable mistake in business correspondence with foreign partners. Formal communication has its own non-obvious rules, which many do not even suspect. Skyeng online school experts analyze the most common mistakes.
Lack of courtesy
In Russian, words of courtesy like “thank you,” “please,” and “please,” are generally used less frequently than in English. Phrases that sound quite correct and respectful in Russian, when literally translated into English, become very impolite. For example, where a Russian says “Take some more cookies”, an American or an Englishman will definitely add “Please”. Because in English, without this please, the sentence sounds like a rude order.
In English correspondence, please use please and could you much more often. Also, try to frame your requests so that they sound exactly like requests - for example, instead of I need to know, it is better to use the softer I would like to know (“I would like to know”).
How to address a person in a business letter - by name or surname? What if you don't know the name? And if you are not sure who will read the letter - a man or a woman? Business English has clear rules for this, so you don't have to reinvent the wheel. If you are not writing to a specific person, but to the marketing department, customer service or admissions office, start the letter with the formula Dear Sir or Madam (Dear Sir or Madam). In Russian, this phrase sounds a little strange, but in English it is customary to address a stranger in a letter that way.
If you know the name of the addressee, remember that it is completely unacceptable to address a person only by it. In Russian it is exactly the same - no one will begin a letter with the familiar "Hello, Ivanov!" In English, the surname must be preceded by either a first name or an appeal. A man should always be referred to as Mr. - "Mr". For example, Dear Mr. Brown. A woman can be approached Ms. or Mrs. Ms. - "miz", the standard address to a woman. If you don't know anything about the interlocutor, it is better to use it. Mrs. - "Mrs", an appeal to a married woman, can be used only if she herself signed it that way.
Addressing by name is permissible only in relatively informal correspondence - for example, if you have already met, talked, exchanged jokes and memes. In Russia, in such a situation, you would switch to you, but in English, where there is no difference between “you” and “you”, the interlocutors simply start calling each other by name and write Hello John and Dear Nataly at the beginning of the letter.
If you studied business correspondence from textbooks 15 years ago, you probably sound very outdated. Many words and phrases have already fallen out of use. And although they are grammatically correct, no one writes like that for a long time.
For example, the obsolete phrase You are kindly requested, which can be translated as "kindly requested": You are kindly requested to complete the registration form and send it by e-mail - "We kindly ask you to complete the registration form and send it by e-mail." This phrase is still found in manuals on business correspondence, although it has long been sounding archaic, something like "deign". The usual Please will be much more appropriate.
The same applies to the signature - it is not uncommon to add something like Sincerely yours or Very truly yours ("Sincerely yours") to the name. But native speakers haven't spoken for so long. Just like we do not sign the letter with the formula "For this I remain your humble servant." Sincerely, AnnPetrov looks much more modern.
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