This page last modified Friday, 17-Oct-2014 19:19:28 MSK
Letter-writing as a form of social speech is an essential part of communication. It carries the principal functional language elements for realizing the communication art:
Letters, as is known, may be private, official (semi-official), professional. Each letter-writer has a characteristic way of writing, his style of writing, his manner of expressing his ideas, thoughts, facts, etc.; but it must be emphased that the routine of official, business, professional letters require as certain accepted idioms, phrases, patterns which are found in general use to-day.
Therefore, certain letter-writing skills must be acquired by practice, and details of writing must be carefully and thoroughly learnt.
Letter-writing, of course, is not the same as casual conversation, it bears only the same powers of thoughts, reflections and observations as in conventional talk, but the form may be quite different. What make the letter attractive and pleasing is not always the message of the letter, it is often the manner and style in which the message is written. For example, "I wish to express to you my sincerely appreciation for your note of congratulation" or "I am sincerely happy that you were elected President of the Biological Society." As you see such formulations show the attitude of the writer, his respect and sincerity.
The language of business, professional and semi-official letters is formal, courteous, tactful, concise, expressive, and to the point.
In the case of "scientific correspondence" (we take the liberty to call so), the majority of letters bear mostly a semi-official character and are concerned with different situations associated with scientific activities concentrated around the organization of scientific meetings (congresses, symposia, workshops, etc.), the arrangement of visits, invitation, publication, the exchange of scientific literature, information, etc. Letters of this kind have a tone of friendliness, politeness, naturalism. Modern English letters should not be exaggerated, overburdened, outmoted with time-worn expressions. The keynote is simplicity. Modern letters tend towards using the language of conversational style.
The body of a typical business, official or professional letter covers generally three major aspects:
Make-up of the Letter
A neatly arranged letter will certainly make a better impression on the reader.
The layout of business and private letters is more or less common in all countries.
There are seven parts in a letter:
The general pattern of a business letter will have the following picture.
1) Layout of a business letter with a printed letterhead:
2) Layout of a typed letter:
Here are some examples of standard headings that are used by Russian, British and American institutions, organizations, etc. and by private persons:
The opening salutation or greeting is flush with the left-hand margin under the inside address after leaving a double space. In GB the opening salutation is followed by a comma(Dear Sir,), in the USA - by a colon (Dear Sir:) and sometimes by a colon and dash (Gentlemen:-). The opening salutation is never followed by an exclamation mark or by a dash only.
When writing to persons the following salutation are used:
When writing to an institute, organization or business firm the official salutations: Dear Sirs, Messrs. (in addressing to a partnership), Dear Madam, Gentlemen (in the USA) are used.
The body of the letter is the text itself. Each paragraph should deal with one subject, brief, concise and accurate excluding all matters not relevant to the purpose of the letter, especially if it is a business or an official letter. It is best to avoid too long paragraphs. The style of letter-writing requires certain accepted phrase patterns. The writer must be tactful, courteous, sincere, respectful, etc.
The first paragraph usually starts two lines below the salutation: it is either aligned with the salutation, in block-style, the paragraph, being flush with the left-hand margin, without indention, or it may be in indent style, the first line of each paragraph indented, usually three to six spacing from the margin or immediately below the end of the salutation.
Block-style is generally used in the USA, indented style in Europe and other countries although there is growing tendency to use the block-style.
Short letters are usually double-spaced (two line); longer letters - single-spaced (one line) with double spaces between the paragraphs. Many-paged letters should be numbered; the number is written on the bottom of the sheet, in the middle.
See letter examples.
It is customary to close a letter with a closing salutation. The closing salutation is separated from the body of the letter by a double space (line) aligned with the date or immediately at the center of the page. It always begins with a capital letter and is punctuated with a comma. Most commonly-used closing salutations in business and official letters are 'Yours truly' or 'Truly yours'; 'Yours faithfully' or 'Faithfully yours'.
In letters addressed to person the following subscriptions are usually used: 'Yours truly' or 'Truly yours'; 'Yours sincerely' or 'Sincerely yours'. 'Yours truly' is proper closing salutation for impersonal business correspondence and communication.
'Yours sincerely' indicates a spirit of friendliness and informality. It is customary for colleagues, especially among scientists, to write 'Yours sincerely' rather than 'Yours truly' or 'Yours faithfully'.
Other salutations are: 'Yours respectfully', 'Yours cordially', 'Yours affectionately' is falling into disuse. 'Yours respectfully' is used when the writer expresses his sincere respect for the reader, especially from a subordinate to his superior. 'Yours cordially' is often used, especially when sending congratulations, New Year wishes, holiday greetings, etc. to your friends. 'Yours affectionately' is used among closely-related persons: wife, husband, children, and dear friends.
The subscription may be prefaced by a participle phrase:
Although there is a tendency to use a simple sentence instead of a participle phrase:
See usefull paterns.
See examples of closing salutation among letter examples.
The signature is written by hand immediately below the subscription. Formal and business letters require the full signature: the first line - the name of the institution (typed), the second line - the writer's name and the third line - the writer's title, scientific degree or position (typed):
When the letter is signed on behalf of another, especially an institution, organization or firm, it should have the following signature:
In many cases the letter is signed without giving the name of the institution, organization or firm, since it is already mentioned in the heading:
Informal letters to friends, acquaintances are simply signed by the writer without indicating the name of the firm, organization or institution the writer represents or his title, scientific degree or position. The first name can be written in the full or the initial:
A woman's signature usually includes the first name:
If the woman prefers signing without her first name she should write Mrs. or Miss to avoid confusion:
See signature examples among letter examples.
Supplements in Official and Business Letters
The address on the envelope should be written in full in order to ensure delivery.
The whole address of the recipient should begin from the middle of the envelope.
The sender's (return) address is written in the upper or lower left-hand corner of the envelope or sometimes on the flap of the envelope (if it is private letter).
In GB each line is usually stepped and set off by commas. In the USA the lines are blocked and without commas.
About Dates in the Letter Header and
The text of a telegram should be concise and to the point. This is achieved by writing in the so-called telegraphese style typical of lexical and grammatical specific features, for example: PLANE ARRIVING TOMORROW 10 AM.
The auxiliary verb 'to be' is omitted. The articles and prepositions are left out, where possible, for example: ACCEPT YOUR INVITATION TO CONFERENCE = I accept your invitation to the conference.
The letters in telegrams are capitalized.