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  ENGLISH  VOCABULARY  for ESL learners  


General guidelines for writing business letters.

If writing a business letter takes you much longer than in your own language, here are a few guidelines that you may find helpful.

  • Plan before you write.
    • Look up words you need before you start.
    • Note the points you want to make, and order them into logical paragraphs.
  • Tone
    • Write as you would speak in a business conversation.
      The tone should be friendly and polite.

  • Names
    • Make sure you check the gender of the addressee (the recipient), as well as the correct spelling of the person's name and title.
    • Use Ms. for women and Mr. for men.
      You can use Mrs. for a woman if you are 100% sure that she is married.
  • Dates
    • To avoid any confusion, write the month instead of using numbers
      (e.g. January 15th, 2012  or 15 January 2012).
  • Be concise and clear. The easier it is to read a letter the better.
    • Keep sentences and paragraphs short and simple.
    • Use straightforward vocabulary to avoid any misunderstanding.
    • Ask direct questions.
    • Rewrite any sentence that does not seem perfectly clear.
    • If the recipient is not a native English-speaker, it is preferable to avoid
      words or expressions that are too technical or complicated.
  • Remember this word order principle
    Subject Verb Object Manner Place Time
      Who Does  What   How Where  When

    Example :
    Mr. Brown will travel by plane to London on Monday, June 5th.
    A technician will install the equipment in your office on Tuesday.

  • Avoid old-fashioned words

    Although they are used in legal documents and contracts, words like 'herewith', 'herein', 'aforementioned', etc. are rarely used in letters.

    The following style of sentence is preferable :
    "You will find more information on our products in the enclosed brochure."

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Please note that British English spelling is used on this website.

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