Business English / Practical B1-B2

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The business format – Tutorial

Moje EUO

It is essential to understand that writing for a business context can be very different than writing in the humanities, social sciences, or other academic disciplines. Writing for business should be clear and concise. It should be to the point, specific and accurate.

In most cases, the business letter will be the first impression that you make on someone. For this reason it is important that you are diligent in your task of writing an effective business document.

Business writing varies from the chatty, conversational style often found in email messages to a familiar co-worker, to the more formal, legalistic style found in contracts. In the majority of memos, email messages, and letters, a style between these two extremes is appropriate. Always remember, writing that is too formal can alienate readers, and an overly obvious attempt to be causal and informal may strike the reader as insincere or unprofessional. In business writing, as in all writing, knowing your audience is critical.

The use of personal pronouns is important in letters and memos. Do not refer to yourself in the third person by using one or the writer. It is perfectly natural and appropriate to refer to yourself as I and to the reader as you. Be careful when you use the pronoun we in a business letter that is written on company stationary, since it commits your company to what you have written. When a statement is your opinion, use I; when it is company policy use we.

Clarity should be the ultimate goal of your business writing style. One way to achieve a clear style, especially during revision, is to eliminate overuse of the passive voice. Although the passive voice is sometimes necessary, often it not only makes your writing dull but also can be ambiguous, uninformative, or overly impersonal. The active voice will keep the pace of the letter moving. Use of personal pronouns and a positive point of view will keep a reader interested. Two examples…

PASSIVE: It was discovered that the salary totals were incorrect. Who discovered it? The Accounting Department?

ACTIVE: The Accounting Department discovered that the salary totals were incorrect.



              Dear Mr, Ms X….. Yours sincerely / Sincerely yours

              Dear Frank …            Sincerely / Sincerely yours

              Dear Sir / Sirs / Madam / Sir or Madam … Yours faithfully / Faithfully yours

              Gentlemen / Ladies / Ladies and Gentlemen …

              To Whom it may concern … Sincerely / Sincerely yours

In emails you could also write:


  Kind regards

  Best wishes

THE OPENING LINES: introduction and reason for writing

THE MIDDLE: explain your reasons for writing in more detail, provide background information etc.

THE CLOSING LINES: summarize your reason for writing again and make clear what you want the recipient to do

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