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Business Letters

Ian McMaster ist Chefredakteur des Englisch-Magazins Business Spotlight.

Mehr Englisch im Netz: www.business-spotlight.de
Englische Geschäftsbriefe sollten klar, freundlich und nicht zu kreativ sein. Aber kennen Sie auch den Unterschied zwischen "Yours faithfully" und "Yours sincerely"? Ian McMaster macht uns den Letter-Man.
There are three golden rules for writing good business letters in English:

1. Never translate directly from German.
2. Learn the standard English letter phrases (see list on next page) and use them again and again. Don't try to be original.
3. Keep your sentences short and simple

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Letter layout
There are many different acceptable layout styles. For example, there is no single correct position for your company's logo and address, the date, the receiver's address or the subject line. The example shown here is simply one clear style that is often used

The date, the address of the person receiving the letter and the subject line all begin on the left ("left-aligned" = linksbündig). So do all the paragraphs

There is no "th" after the "5" in the date; this is unnecessary. Also, there is no full stop after the day of the month. However, always write the month out in full: "5 November 2004" (British English) or "November 5, 2004" (American English). If you write 5/11/2004, this could be confusing: in British English, it means 5 November; in American English, it means 11 May

"BA4 XDT" is called the "postcode" in British English (US: zip code)

There are various opening greetings. Some possibilities, from the most to the least formal are: "Dear Sir or Madam", "Dear Ms Smith", "Dear Pamela Smith", "Dear Pamela", "Dear Pam", "Hi Pam" and simply "Pam", a form often used in e-mails. "Ms" is a neutral form for addressing a woman, whether she is married or not. If you are unsure whether to address someone by their first name or with their title (Mr, Mrs, etc.), use both the first name and the surname (family name): "Dear Pamela Smith". Titles such as Mrs, Ms, Dr, and Mr are usually written without full stops in British English and with full stops (periods) in American English. Dr is used with the surname (Dr Smith) but not with other titles (Professor Dr). "Dear Sirs" (typically British) and "Gentlemen" (typically American) are very formal and considered old-fashioned and sexist by many people

Subject line
A subject line (Betreffzeile) normally comes after the "Dear" line

The first letter after the opening address is capitalized ("Thank you ..."). It is acceptable to begin a paragraph with "I", although "we" is often used instead in business letters

Commas are much less common than in German. For example, there is no comma in English before "that" in sentences such as "I am happy to confirm that ...". There is no comma after the opening greeting ("Dear Ms Smith") or the closing greeting ("Yours sincerely"). In North America, it is common to put commas after both, or a colon after the opening greeting

The letters "p.p." (or "pp"; per procurationem = in Vertretung) before the signature simply mean that the sender was not available to sign it. It does not mean that the signer has any special legal authority in their company. Many people now just write "for" in front of the typed name

"Enc." (also "encl", "encl.", "enc" or "ENC") shows that a document has been enclosed. Often, the document is not specified.

Saying Goodbye
In British business letters, a distinction is still usually made between "Yours faithfully" (in letters starting "Dear Sir or Madam") and "Yours sincerely" (in letters to a specific person). In US usage, "Sincerely (yours)" or "Yours truly" can be used in either case. Less formal closing greetings include "(Best/Kind) Regards" and "Best wishes". More informal still are "Cheers" and "Take care"

Standard Letter Phrases

Starting a letter
Thank you for your letter of 20 November, in which you ...
I am writing to you about your offer for ...
With reference to our meeting, I would like to ...
Further to our meeting, we would like to ..

Good news
We are pleased to inform you that we have reduced our prices.
We are pleased to announce our new product.
It is our pleasure to invite you to our conference

Bad news
We regret to inform you that your order has been delayed.
I am sorry to inform you that we cannot accept your offer.
I am afraid that we are unable to supply the books you ordered

We would like to confirm ...
We are pleased to confirm that ...
I can confirm my participation at your seminar

Could you please send us ... as soon as possible?
I would be grateful if you could send us ...
We would appreciate it if you could ..

I am writing to complain about ...
Please ensure this does not happen again

Please accept our apologies for ...
We apologize for any inconvenience this has caused you

Please find enclosed/attached ...
I am enclosing our latest catalogue for your information.
As you will see from the enclosed brochure, we have reduced our prices

Please let me know if Monday suits you.
Please let me know if Thursday at 10.30 would be convenient

Final comments
We look forward to hearing from you.
We are looking forward to meeting you.
Thank you in advance for your help.
If you have any further questions, please do not hesitate to contact us.
If you need some more information, please call me on ..

Dieser Artikel ist erschienen am 28.12.2004