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At some point in life, everyone has to write business correspondence of some sort: a job application, a letter to the bank manager, an invoice to a supplier, even a complaint to the council or giving notice to a landlord.

Business correspondence generates more paper world-wide than any other form of written communication. Even the e-mail revolution has simply generated more paper: we print out the communication appearing on our computer screens without a second thought, and download and print vast quantities of information from the Internet. In fact most telephoned and telegraphed communications have to be confirmed in writing.

Correspondence, whether it is by letter, fax, or email, is a key aspect of the world of commerce and business. It reflects on the competence and professionalism of the person who has written it and the company he or she works for. Clear, effective correspondence is an important part of running an efficient business, and can promote good relations. Unclear or confusing correspondence can cause many problems, and can lead to misunderstandings, delays, lost business, and poor relations between individuals, departments, and companies. Therefore, writing skills – what is written and how it is expressed – should be as much a part of a business education as accountancy or economics.

The Handbook of Commercial Correspondence is intended for people who need to write commercial correspondence in English as part of their work, and for students of business and commerce who plan to make a career in the business world. It aims to provide practical help in writing commercial correspondence of all kinds, including letters, faxes, emails, reports, memos, social correspondence, and application letters and cvs. It explains how to write clearly and effectively, and demonstrates how it is possible to be polite without seeming timid, direct yet not rude, concise rather than abrupt, and firm but not inflexible.

The book deals with the structure, presentation, content, and style of all kinds of correspondence. It covers various types of transaction including enquiries, quotations, orders, repayments, credit, complaints, and adjustments, and provides background information and examples of commercial correspondence from the main types of commercial organization, for example banks, insurance companies, agencies, and companies involved in transportation, including shipping.

Unit 1 First impressions count!

Whatever the document, giving a good impression starts with the basics: paper and ink, or print. Finely honed text is all very well, but if it is badly printed or on scruffy, thin or unsuitable paper, all your efforts will be wasted. This is less of a problem with technological communication but even here the use of unsuitable typefaces, colour and graphics can cause the recipient of your carefully composed communication to consign it to the electronic dustbin.

Think quality

Making a good impression starts with paper, ink, and the design of your communication. There are a number of aspects to consider.

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