: Examining english business letters


Now let's turn to the practical point of writing business letters. They may be divided into official and semi-official. The first kind of letters is characteristic of those people working in business: an executive, a department manager, a salesman, a secretary or a specialist in business and technology. But also many people may want to buy something, to accept an invitation or to congratulate somebody - this is a kind of semi-official letters. The first kind of letters may in turn be subdivided into such groups as: inquiries, offers, orders, and so on. I am going to examine this group more carefully looking at the correspondence of Chicago businessmen and English manufactures.

Example 1.


Ladies' Clothing

421 Michigan Avenue

Chicago, III.60602


148 Mortimer Street

London WIC 37D

England October 21, 1993


We saw your women's dresses and suits at the London Fashion Show held in New York on October 17. The lines you showed for teenagers, the "Swinger" dresses and trouser suits would be most suitable for our market.

Would you kindly send us your quotation for spring and summer clothing that you could supply to us by the end of January next. We would require 2,000 dresses and suits in each of the sizes 10-14, and 500 in sizes 8 and 16. Please quote c.i.f. Chicago prices. Payment is normally made by letter of credit.

Thank you for an early reply.

Very truly yours,




This is undoubtedly an import inquiry letter. In the first part of a letter there is a kind of introduction as a prospective customer approaches supplier for the first time ,and it is from this part that we found out that the correspondents are engaged in textile industry.

The second part expresses request for detailed information about the goods in question, their prices and terms of possible transaction.

In this example we come across the abbreviation concerning the terms of delivery, that is commonly accepted in the business world. It is interesting to know what this kind of abbreviations means:

c.i.f. - cost, insurance, freight.

If consignment is to be delivered according to c.i.f., then the supplier insures the goods and pays for the whole delivery.

f.o.b. - free on board.

If consignment is to be delivered according to f.o.b., then the supplier pays for transportation to port, steamer or air shipment and dispatch; and the customer pays for onward transportation and insurance.

f.o.r. - free on rail.

It is the same as f.o.b., but for railway transportation.

c & f - cost and freight.

If consignment is to be delivered according to c & f, then the supplier pays for the whole delivery and the customer - for insurance.

It is worth mentioning here that the whole letter is written in a highly polite way, nevertheless it is quite precise and sticks to the point.



148 Mortimer Street

London W1C 37D


Ladies' Clothing

421 Michigan Avenue

Chicago, III.60602 30th October, 1996

Dear Sirs,

We are pleased to make you an offer regarding our Swinger dresses and trouser suits in the size you require. Nearly all the models you saw at our fashion show are obtainable, except trouser suits in pink, of which the smaller sizes have been sold out. This line is being manufactured continuously, but will only be available again in February, so could be delivered to you in March.

All other models can be supplied by the middle of January 1997, subject to our receiving your form order by 15th of November. Our c.i.f. prices are understood to be for sealand transport to Chicago. If you would prefer the goods to be sent by air freight, this will be charged extra at cost

Trouser suits sizes 8-16 in white, yellow, red, turquoise, navy blue, black

Sizes 12,14 also in pink per 100 $2,650.00

Swinger dresses sizes 8-16

in white, yellow, red, turquoise, black per 100 $1,845.00

You will be receiving price-list, cutting of our materials and a colour chart. These were airmailed to you this morning.

Yours faithfully,


Export Department

As you can clearly see it we face the second phase of business correspondence - the answering letter. It is very important, because it adjusts the relationships between two partners. It does not only characterise the company, but also advertises it. The purpose of the letter is to persuade the partner that you are the best in business.

This letter contains the quotation in reply to an inquiry. In lots of similar letters the quotations are simply prices and another information asked for. But this sample is quite the opposite: it shows the customer that he met the sales-cautious businessman, who uses every opportunity to stimulate his correspondents interest in his goods by including the sales message. And the assurance that the customer will receive personal attention is read between the lines. In order to draw the attention of the customer to the products in question the supplier offers "cuttings of our materials and a colour chart". On the whole a firm offer is subject to certain conditions, a deadline for the receipt of orders, or a special price for certain quantities.

Example 3.

A business transaction often starts with an inquiry which may later be followed by an order.

Both inquiry and order are meant to arose and stimulate business activity on the part of recipient. They are typically asking letters. Orders convey the writer's intention to do business with his correspondent, usually to buy some goods from them.


Ladies' Clothing

421 Michigan Avenue

Chicago, III.60602


148 Mortimer Street

London W1C 37D November 4, 1996


Thank you for your quotation of October 30. We have pleasure in placing an order with you for

1,900 Swinger dresses at Price: $38,745

in the colours and sizes specified below:

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