The subject matter of the course paper is the role of lexics and semantics in the case of business letter correspondence. The question of the history of official communication, the main stages of business transactions, the role of person's feeling for the proper use of phrases as well as his knowledge of grammar are highlighted. Moreover, those phrases which are more often used in business letters are examined from the point of view of their appropriateness in different situations. The practical part contains several examples of business letters; the occasions on which they were written and some of their characteristics are observed.
Letter writing - is an essential part of communication, an intimate part of experience. Each letter-writer has a characteristic way of writing, his style of writing, his way of expressing thoughts, facts, etc. but it must be emphasised that the routine of the official or semi-official business letters requires certain accepted idioms, phrases, patterns, and grammar which are found in general use today. Therefore certain skills must be acquired by practice, and details of writing must be carefully and thoroughly learnt.
A cheque, a contract or any other business paper sent by mail should always be accompanied by a letter. The letter says what is being sent so that the recipient should know exactly what you intended to send. It is a typical business letter which some people call "routine". The letter may be short or long, it may contain some very important and much less important information - every letter requires careful planning and thoughtful writing.
In recent years English has become a universal business language. As such, it is potentially an instrument of order and clarity. But words and phrases have unexpected ways of creating binding commitments.
Letter-writing, certainly, is not the same as casual conversation, it bears only the same power of thoughts, reflections, and observations as in conversational talk, but the form may be quite different. What makes the letter so attractive and pleasing is not always the massage of the letter, it is often the manner and style in which the massage is written.
E.g.: "I wish to express to you my sincere appreciation for your note of congratulation."
"I am sincerely happy that you were elected President of 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. A neatly arranged letter will certainly make a better impression on the reader, thus good letters make good business partners.
In the case of "scientific correspondence" the majority of letters bear mostly a semi-official character and are concerned with different situations associated with scientific activities concentrated around the organisation of scientific meetings (congresses, symposia, workshops, etc.), the arrangement of visit, invitation, publication, the exchange of scientific literature, information, etc. Letters of this kind have a tone of friendliness, naturalism. Modern English letters should not be exaggerated, overburdened, outmoded with time-worn expressions. The key note is simplicity. Modern letters tend towards using the language of conversational style.
Writing is not only a means of communication and contract, but also a record of affairs, information, events, etc. So it is necessary to feel the spirit and trend of the style in order to write a perfect letter.
Business-letter or contract law is a complex and vastly documented subject, only a lawyer can deal with it on a serious level. A number of basic principles, however, can be outlined sufficiently to mark of encounters that require the use of specialised English.
Doing business means working out agreements with other people, sometimes through elaborate contracts and sometimes through nothing but little standard forms, through exchanges of letters and conversations at lunch.
Nowadays more and more agreements are made in English, for English is the nearest thing we have to a universal business language. Joint ventures, bank loans, and trademark licenses frequently are spelled out in this language even though it is not native to at least one of the contracting parties.
As a beginning I am going to look at the subject of writing of business letters generally. In the main there are three stages transactions involving business contracts: first, negotiation of terms, second, drafting documents reflecting these terms, and third, litigation to enforce or to avoid executing of these terms. To my mind, a fourth might be added, the administration of contracts.
I am going to look through the first two since the third and the fourth are related only to the field of law. A typical first stage of contract is two or more people having drink and talking about future dealing. A second phase might be letters written in order to work out an agreement.
In these two early stages it will be helpful to know something about rules of contract. But what rules? Different nations borrow or create different legal systems, and even within a single country the rules may vary according to region or the kind of transaction involved.
It is worth knowing that the distinctions in legal system of England are mainly historical.
The history of writing business letters is undoubtedly connected with the history of development of legal language. English is in fact a latecomer as a legal language. Even after the Norman Conquest court pleadings in England were in French, and before that lawyers used Latin. Perhaps, some of our difficulties arise due to the fact that English was unacceptable in its childhood.
Contract in English suggest Anglo-American contract rules. The main point is always to be aware that there are differences: the way they may be resolved usually is a problem for lawyers. With contracts the applicable law may be the law of the place where the contract is made; in other cases it may be the law of the place where the contract is to be performed. It is specified in preliminary negotiations which system of law is to apply.
Diversity is characteristic feature of English; here is a wide range of alternatives to choose from in saying things, although the conciseness is sometimes lacking. Consequently, the use of English is a creative challenge. Almost too many riches are available for selection, that leads occasionally to masterpieces but more frequently to mistakes. English is less refined in its distinctions than French, for example, and this makes it harder to be clear.
That does not mean that English is imprecise for all things are relative. If we compare English with Japanese, we will see that the latter possesses enormous degree of politeness to reflect the respectiveness of speaker and listener as well as of addresser and addressee.
Here I cannot help mentioning the fact that as contracts are so unclear in what every side intends to do, a contract can sometimes put a company out of business.
Thus everybody who is involved in any kind of business should study thoroughly the complex science of writing business letters and contracts.
BUSINESS LETTERS THROUGHT LEXICS
From the lexicological point of view isolated words and phrases mean very little. In context they mean a great deal, and in the special context of contractual undertakings they mean everything. Contract English is a prose organised according to plan.
And it includes, without limitation, the right but not the obligation to select words from a wide variety of verbal implements and write clearly, accurately, and/or with style.