Business Letter Part 3

 

High Quality Correspondence 2

 (Business Letter Part 3)

 

Hello Readers! In our previous English Please! section, we learned about the layout of business letters, which includes the formatting of correspondence and   font used in business letters. In this edition, we will discuss the other two aspects of correspondence: the logical sequence of ideas and the language.

Logical Sequence of Ideas

It will help the reader of your correspondence if you sequence the information it contains in a logical way.

For that reason, each letter that we write should has the following things:

a. an opening paragraph that states in brief and general terms your reason for writing

b. a middle paragraph or paragraphs that contain substantive information, background or elaboration of your opening paragraph

c. a closing paragraph or paragraphs that state the follow-up action you and your reader may need to undertake.

Let’s see the following letter taken from our sample in the previous edition:

INDONESIAN MINISTRY OF FINANCE

Finance Education and Training Agency

General Finance Affairs Training Center

Jl. Pancoran Timur II No. 1  Jakarta 12780

Our Ref: S-…/PP.7/2012

Mr. Joseph Powell

Director

ELT International

1000 KR Crescent

Singapore 119260

Dear Mr. Powell:

Re: Second Meeting of Curriculum Development for ESP Customs

I invite you or your delegate to attend the above meeting.

This is a follow-up meeting to the first we had earlier last month in Tangerang. The details of the next meeting are as follows.

Time                        :   10.00 am to 1.00 pm

Date                        :   February 20, 2012

Venue                        :  1st floor Meeting Room

PKU Main Building

Jl. Pancoran Timur II No. 1 Jakarta

What we hope to do at this meeting is to discuss further the draft of the curriculum for ESP Customs training developed by our widyaiswara (trainer) and ways of implementing some decisions that we reached at the earlier meeting.

Please let me know whether you are coming to the meeting or sending a delegate in your place.

Yours sincerely,

(signed)

Ilhan Lasahido

Head of Planning and Development Division

Direct Line: 021-7996109

Encl: Draft of Curriculum.

The sample letter in this edition illustrates the above logical sequence:

  1. The reason for writing

I invite you or your delegate to attend the above meeting

  1. The substantive information, background or the elaboration of the above

This is a follow-up meeting to the first we had earlier last month in Tangerang. The details of the next meeting are as follows.

Time                        :   10.00 am to 1.00 pm

Date                        :   February 20, 2012

Venue                        :  1st floor Meeting Room

PKU Main Building

Jl. Pancoran Timur II No. 1 Jakarta

What we hope to do at this meeting is to discuss further the draft of the curriculum for ESP Customs training developed by our widyaiswara (trainer) and ways of implementing some decisions that we reached at the earlier meeting.

  1. The follow-up action for the sender and for the recipient

Please let me know whether you are coming to the meeting or sending a delegate in your place.

The letter shows a logical flow in writing, and we would easily understand what the sender would want to convey to the addressee.

 

Plain English and reader-friendly language

Most of us sometimes ask: why should anyone use plain English and reader-friendly language? Well, most public and private sector businesses have taken up this kind of language as their standard. They do this because correspondence that avoid artificial, elevated language will make it easier for people to understand what we write and how to act on it. In addition, it will also create a friendlier relationship between our office and its users, and eventually improve the organization’s corporate image.

But as we are government agencies or institutions, there is the additional reason that it is official policy to use some more formal register in some of our correspondence. But for your information, other governmental institutions all over the world have already used plain register in their language. For example, in 1978, US President Jimmy Carter issued an executive order requiring government agencies to write in plain English language. The UK followed suit a few years later. In 1993, Australia also stated the policy of using plain English in their legislation, in order to reduce ‘unnecessary conflict and expensive litigation’. In this case, we must be careful in selecting the appropriateness of language register we use in our business correspondence. The Regulation of the Minister of Finance No.151/PMK.01/2010 concerning the guidance for official documents and correspondence within the Ministry of Finance only regulates the Indonesian language usage. Yet, since the regulation necessitates obedience to our standardized Indonesian (EYD rules), I can infer that we should also adapt the internationally recognized standard for our official correspondence in English.

The particular strategy to improve our language that I adopt from George Stern (2003) is as follows:

  1. while you are writing the draft letter, focus on two things: short sentences and plain or “Dear Sir” language. ”Dear Sir” here means that the language register is normal or daily English.

Here are some expressions that government officials mostly use. Next to them are the “Dear Sir” substitutes that I recommended for not ‘too-formal ‘correspondence:

“Yes Minister” Language

“Dear Sir” Language

I refer to your letter of 29 June.I would appreciate an early response.

This is further to my last letter.

I am grateful for your assistance

The project will proceed providing you agree.

You wrote to me concerning the grant.

I will inform you of the committee’s decision.

Please do not hesitate to telephone me.

I trust this addresses your concerns.

Thank you for your letter of 29 June.Please reply soon.

I am writing to you again.

Thank you for your help.

The project will continue if you agree.

You wrote to me about the grant.

I will let you know what the committee decided.

Please ring me up, if you like.

I hope this answers your questions.

  1. then edit and revise the draft, checking in particular following five style matters:

1)    keep your sentences to an average length of one-and-a-half printed lines—some fifteen words. But vary the sentence lengths and structures.

2)    Use “Dear Sir” principle. Write in a way that is normal, everyday, decent, and respectful. Use this style of language for any person you are writing to—because we are all of equal status as human beings.

3)    Use capitals only where modern spelling requires them. Start full formal titles with capital letters (the Training Implementation Division, the Department of Whatever); short informal ones with lower-case letters (the division, the department). But remember there are some exceptions to this rule (Governor, Golkar, Demokrat (party), Speaker (parliamentary), Prime Minister, Commonwealth …)

4)    Use first person (I, me, my, we, us, our …) and second person (you, your, yours), particularly in correspondence. This will make your writing more personal and, therefore, more reader-friendly.

5)    With some rare exceptions, change the passive into active. Do it in three steps:

–       identify the passive: a form of be + a past participle verb (a verb that ends in –n, -d, or -t)

–       after the verb, add by + an agent, but omit this step if the passive already has an agent

–       switch the sequence target-action-agent to agent-action target.

e.g. The recruits are to complete progress reports after the third week of training. These will enable the training officer to devise a suitable programme for a recall session. Your supervisor is organizing the recall session to allow for further discussion. I will notify you of the time, date and place of the session you are to attend.

The above example illustrates the five principles of plain English. Here is another sample letter (minus the address and signature blocks) that does the same.

Dear Mr. Sugeng Satoto:

This is to ask whether you could lend my division a copy of Deborah Phillips’ Longman Preparation Course for the TOEFLâ Test. 2nd Edition with CD-ROM. White Plains, NY: Pearson Longman, 2007.

I need the book fairly urgently but only for a few days. I wonder, too, whether you have any newer standard texts on TOEFL preparation.

Please ring me up, if you can, to let me know whether Phillips’ book is available on loan. I can then arrange to have my staff pick it up.

Yours faithfully,

Hercarmina

From the second letter, we see that the language can be easily understood: the main message is the sender wants to borrow a book from another division. The letter uses the fewest words possible without sacrificing clarity and completeness of meaning. Although the language is just normal and everyday, we can still feel that it is decent, professional and respectful.

The following table is some more examples of words or phrases that we can change from officially “too formal” to plain English (there are some 500,000 entries in the Oxford English Dictionary):

OFFICIAL (“YES MINISTER”) LANGUAGE

PLAIN “DEAR SIR” LANGUAGE

able toabove-mentioned

accordingly

additional

additionally

adjacent to

advice has been received that

advise you that  / of

all things considered

alter / alteration

anticipate

approximately

as a (result) consequence of

as noted previously

as you would appreciate

as you would be aware

at an early opportunity

at this point in time

attached hereto

by virtue of

capable of

commencement

concurrence

considerable amount of

dispatch

endeavour

falls within the responsibility of X

further to my letter concerning

henceforth

hereby / herewith

I acknowledge receipt of

I am directed to advise you that

I am grateful for

I will be pleased to

I would appreciate if / I would be grateful if

in a timely manner

in consideration of

in relation to

in view of the fact that

it appears to be the case that

it is my considered view that

notwithstanding

per annum

pertains to

prior to

regarding

subsequently

take the matter up with X

thereby

unable

verify

with due regard for (something)

with reference to

you may care to

you will be required to

canmentioned above

so / therefore

more

and

next to / near

my officers have told me that

let you know

so / therefore

change

expect

roughly / about

because of

as I have said above

you will understand

as you know

soon

now / at present

attached please find

under / because of

can

start / beginning

agreement

a lot / many / much

send

try

X is responsible for

I am writing again about

from now on

here / please find

thank you for

(the minister) has asked me to tell you that

thank you for

I will be happy

please / would you please / could you please

as soon as possible

for / because of

about

because

it seems that

I think that / I believe that

despite / although

a year

is about

before

about / for / in

later

contact X about the matter

so

cannot

check / confirm

taking (something) into account

about / for / in

you might like to

you should / you must / you need to

So now to sum up our discussion, I would remind you the things suggested on correspondence writing. After you first do a draft of your letter, then check the layout (or format), the language sequence of ideas, and finally the language. When we do all these, we can be sure that our correspondence is efficient and good enough. Then, we will boost our reputation by giving our institution a good corporate image with our better correspondence. Best of all, you will enjoy a sense of job satisfaction for a job well done.  ^_^

References

Peraturan Menteri Keuangan Nomor 15/PMK.01/2010 tentang Pedoman Tata Naskah Dinas Kementerian Keuangan.

Stern, George. 2003. Learner’s Companion Series Writing in English: An Invaluable Guide to Effective Writing. Singapore: Learners Publishing Pte. Ltd.

The Writing Lab & the OWL at Purdue and Purdue University. 2011. Writing the Basic Business Letter. Diakses 20 Desember 2011 dari  http://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/653/01/

One thought on “Business Letter Part 3

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