Lexico-sementic chartersticcs of business letter correspondence

"The figures must be approved" are obscure ones leaving unsettled who it is that delivers, who decides, and who

Lexico-sementic chartersticcs of business letter correspondence

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nish" It is a handy word which usefulness lies in the avoidance of worse alternatives. Suppose you transact to deliver a variety of elements as a package.

"Deliver" leaves out, even though it may well be implied, the preliminary purchase or engagement of these elements, and at the other end it goes very far in suggesting responsibility for getting the package unscathed to where it belongs.

Alternatives also may go wrong, slightly, each with its own implications.

"Assign" involves legal title; "give" is lame and probably untrue; "transmit" means send.

Thus each word misses some important - detail or implies unnecessary things.

"Furnish" is sometimes useful when more popular words fall short or go too far. It has a good professional ring to it as well:

"I agree to furnish all of the elements listed on Exhibit A annexed hereto and made part hereof by incorporation."

Who is responsible for non-delivery and related questions can be dealt with in separate clauses.

"Furnish" avoids jumping the gun. It keeps away from what ought to be treated independently but fills up enough space to stand firm.

The word is good value.

 

"Right but Not Obligation" One of the most splendid phrases available. Sometimes the grant of particular rights carries with it by implication a duty to exploit them. Authors, for example, often feel betrayed by their publishes, who have various rights "but do nothing about them." Royalties decrease as a result; and this situation, whether or not it reflects real criminality, is repeated in variety of industries and court cases. Accordingly it well suits the grantee of rights to make clear at the very beginning that he may abandon them. This possibility is more appropriately dealt with in separate clauses reciting the consequences. Still, contracts have been known to contain inconsistent provisions, and preliminary correspondence may not even reach the subject of rights. A quick phrase helps keep you out of trouble: "The Right but Not Obligation". Thus,

"We shall have the Right but Not Obligation to grant sublicenses in Austria"("But if we fail, we fail").

Even this magic phrase has its limitations because good faith may require having a real go to exploiting the rights in question. Nevertheless "Right but Not Obligation" is useful, so much so as to become incantation and be said whenever circumstances allow it. I the other side challenges these words, it will be better to know this at once and work out alternatives or finish up the negotiations completely.

 

"Exclusive" Its importance in contract English is vast, and its omission creates difficulties in good many informal drafts. Exclusivity as a contract term means that somebody is -barred from dealing with others in a specified area. Typically an employment may be exclusive in that the employee may not work for any one else, or a license may be exclusive in the sense that no competing licenses will be issued.

Antitrust problems cluster around exclusive arrangements but they are not all automatically outlawed.

It follows that one ought to specify whether or not exclusivity is part of many transactions. If not, the phrase "nonexclusive" does well enough. On the other hand, if a consultant is to be engaged solely by one company, or a distributorship awarded to nobody else except X, then "exclusive" is a word that deserves recitation. "Exclusive Right but Not Obligation" is an example that combines two phrases discussed here.

The linking of concepts is a step in building a vocabulary of contract English.

 

"Solely on condition that" One of the few phrases that can be considered better than its short counterparts. Why not just "if"? Because "if" by itself leaves open the possibility of open contingencies:

"If Baker delivers 1,000 barrels I will buy them" is unclear if you will buy them only from Baker. Therefore what about "only if"? Sometimes this works out, but not always.

"I will buy 1,000 barrels only if Baker delivers them" is an example of "only if" going fuzzy. One possible meaning is "not more than 1,000 barrels" with "only" assimilated with the wrong word. Here then a more elaborate phrase is justified.

"I will buy 1,000 barrels solely on condition that Baker delivers them" makes everything clear.

 

"Subject to" Few contracts can do without this phrase. Many promises can be made good only if certain things occur. The right procedure is to spell out these plausible impediments to the degree that you can reasonably foresee them.

"We will deliver these subject to our receiving adequate supplies";

"Our agreement is subject to the laws of Connecticut";

"Subject to circumstances beyond our control ".

 

Foreign esoteric words

 

Every now and then a scholarly phrase becomes accepted in business usage. "Pro rate" and "pari passu" are Latin expressions but concern money. "Pro rata" proves helpful when payments are to be in a proportion reflecting earlier formulas in a contract. "Pari passu" is used when several people are paid at the same level or time out of a common fund. Latin, however, is not the only source of foreign phrases in business letters.

"Force majeure" is a French phrase meaning circumstances beyond one's control.

English itself has plenty of rare words. One example is "eschew"; how many times we see people struggling with negatives such as "and we agree not to produce (whatever it is) for a period of X". The more appropriate phrase would be

"we will eschew production".

But here it should be mentioned that not everyone can understand such phrases. Therefore rare words should be used only once in a long while. Those who uses them sparingly appears to be reliable.

 

Some words against passive

 

 

Until now the study of writing business letters has consisted largely of contract phrases accompanied by brief essays evaluating their usefulness. The words are only samplings and are presented mainly to conduce writing business letters in a proper way. It will be wrong, however, to bring this list to an end without mention of a more general problem that arises in connection with no fixed word pattern at all. It arises, rather from using too many passives. Such phrases as "The material will be delivered";

"The start date is to be decided";

"The figures must be approved" are obscure ones leaving unsettled who it is that delivers, who decides, and who does the approving. Which side it is to be? Lawsuits are the plausible outcome of leaving it all unsettled. Passives used in contracts can destroy the whole negotiations. "You will deliver" is better for it identifies the one who will do delivering. Certainly, "must be approved by us" violates other canons. "We shall have the right but not the obligation to approve" is less unfortunate. There is no doubt that passives do not suit business letters, and if they go all the way through without adding something like "by you" or "by us" they are intolerable. Once in a long while one may find passives used purposely to leave something unresolved. In those circumstances they will be in class with "negotiate in good faith", which I've examined earlier.

 

 

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.

 

MATTHEWS & WILSON

Ladies' Clothing

421 Michigan Avenue

Chicago, III.60602

 

Messrs GRANT & CLARKSON

148 Mortimer Street

 

London WIC 37D

England October 21, 1993

 

 

Gentlemen:

 

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 q

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