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English at Work

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Lecture 2. “Golden Rules” for writing letters and memos (from L. Jones and R. Alexander)
16.05.2012, 09:30

Business translation and the commissioner of translation.

There are freelancers and hired people in the world of translation. Business translation has no freelancers. Everything you are doing in the translation of business correspondence is commissioned to you by someone who places certain requirements to your work. If not instructed differently by the commissioner of translation you are expected to preserve meticulously the arrangement of the wording of the ST in the TT. Among the newcomers into the art of translation there are many those who dismiss preserving the vertical and horizontal arrangement of the material of the ST in the TT as a superfluous effort. With business correspondence this disregard for the format can be comparable to violation of the autonomy of the line in a stanza of poetry: apparently, no one would ever dream of remaking the column of verses into a prose text.

How to arrive at the best result

1. Type all letters on good quality business stationery, preferably matching your resume paper.

2. Use either block style or modified block style; do not use a memo format.

3. Use black ink only.

4. Limit your letter to one page, usually three or four paragraphs.

5. Write in your own words, using your own style.

6. Do not rehash the entire resume; instead, elaborate on specific points of particular interest to the employer; refer the reader to your resume for additional information.

7. Make it easy to read; use spell check and grammar check.

8. Make the format and layout attractive; center the letter on the page; allow ample margins; make it appealing to look at and inviting to the reader.

9. Watch your sentence structure; proof read the letter several times to be sure you are saying what you want to say.

10. Do not send photocopies or generic letters; you can create a model letter which can be used many times with slight revisions.

11. Do not e-mail or fax any business correspondence (resumes, applications, letters, etc) unless you are specifically asked to do so. Even then, follow it up with a hard copy in the mail.

12. Be sure to sign the letter before you mail it.

13. I recommend buying large envelopes (9x12) instead of matching business envelopes. That way you can mail your resume and cover letter without having to fold or crease them in any way. Be sure to add the extra postage for a large envelope.


"Golden Rules” for writing letters and memos

(from L. Jones and R. Alexander)


1. Give your letter a heading if it will help the reader to see at glance what you’re writing about.

2. Decide what you are going to say before you start to write or dictate: if you don’t do this the sentences are likely to go on and on until you can think of a good way to finish. In other words, always try to plan ahead.

3. Use short sentences.

4. Put each separate idea in a separate paragraph. Numbering each paragraph may help the reader to understand better.

5. Use short words that everyone can understand.

6. Think about your reader. Your reader…

… must be able to see exactly what you mean:

Your letters should be C L E A R

… must be given all the necessary information:

Your letters should be C O M P L E T E

… is likely to be a busy person with no time to waste:

Your letters should be C O N C I S E

… must be addressed in a sincere, polite tone:

Your letters should be C O U R T E O U S

… may get a bad impression if there are mistakes in grammar, punctuation and spelling:

Your letters should be C O R R E C T










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