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Letters will usually bear the signature of the writer. Always type your name and, if relevant, your job title, below your handwritten signature. This is known as the signature block. Even though you may think your handwriting is easy to read, letters such as a, e, o, r, and v can easily be confused.

It is, to some extent, a matter of choice whether you sign with your initial/s, e.g. D. Jenkin, or your full given name, e.g. David Jenkins, and whether you include your courtesy title in your signature block. But if you include neither your given name nor your title, your correspondent will not be able to identify your sex and may give you the wrong title when he or she replies.

If the person signing is an authorised signatory of the business, the form ‘per pro’ or ‘pp G Jones & Co’ may be used.

However, sometimes other conventions are followed. A partner signing for his firm, for example, should use the firm’s name without adding his own name. This indicates that the letter is on behalf of the company as a whole, even though it has been written and signed by a certain individual. The business name should always be given here if the plural ‘we’ has been used in the main body of the letter. The company name is placed on the line immediately following the complimentary close and is usually in the form ‘G Jones & Co’ or ‘for G Jones & Co’. Sometimes a proxy signature may be necessary, for example when the writer is not available to sign urgent letters. In this case one of the expressions used below would probably be appropriate:

J. Jones

for Marketing Director

J. Jones

for E Reed,

Marketing Director

J. Jones

Secretary to Mr F. Reed

A firm’s rubber stamp in place of a signature is generally regarded as rather discourteous. Even for circular letters it is usually possible to include a printed or duplicated signature.

Sender’s name

Unless you are confident that your signature is readable, or it will be very familiar to your correspondent, it is as well to include your name immediately below the signature. This should match the signature in terms of use of first names or initials. If just initials are given the recipient will probably assume the writer is a man; in any case it is helpful if a woman adds Mrs, Miss or Ms to the name to show the style of address she prefers.

Sender’s office or department

This should be added, if appropriate, on the line following the name.

Type of company

The abbreviation Ltd after a company’s name indicates that it has limited liability. This means that the individuals who own the company, or part of it, i.e. the shareholders, are only responsible for their holding (i.e. the capital they have contributed) if the company goes bankrupt. In other words, it indicates to people giving the company credit that in bankruptcy they can only be paid back from what the company owns, and not from the personal funds of its shareholders. The abbreviation plc (public limited company) is used to show that a company’s shares can be bought and sold by the public, unlike the shares of private limited liability companies. In the USA the term inc. (incorporated) is used.

Compuvision Ltd

SP Wholesalers plc

Hartley-Mason Inc.

The abbreviation and (&) co. indicates that a company is a partnership between two or more people. (And is usually written as an ampersand (&) in English company names.) If the company is a family concern, Son/s, Bros (Brothers), or Daughter/s may be added. Partnerships may have limited liability or unlimited liability.

F. Lynch & Co. Ltd

R. Hughes & Son

If neither Ltd nor & Co. appear after a company’s name, then it may be a sole trader, i.e. a person who owns and runs a business on their own.

Below is the company’s reply to the letter from the prospective customer in Denmark. It shows some more features of a typical business letter.

Figure 3

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