The following is a list of the most common mistakes made when writing business letters in English using a typical English layout and style. Most of the points apply to any formal writing, not just to letters.        

1) At the start of the letter, for example after "Dear Mr. Smith," , the next line should begin with a capital (large) letter.

eg:

Dear Mr. Smith,

With reference to our recent telephone conversation .....................

2) Never use short forms such as I'm, we'll, hasn't, I'd, or isn't in a business letter or any other formal writing. These forms are used in speaking and informal letters, to your friends for example. In formal writing we normally write the words out in full, so hasn't becomes has not.

3) You do not need to write the name of your town next to the date as you would in German.

4) "Eine Kooperation" (between two firms) is called a joint venture in English, not a co-operation.

5) Try to avoid starting sentences with the words 'And' or 'But'. This is not usually good style.

6) If you need to start a sentence with a number, then this number should be written as a word. e.g.:

Twenty-six people attended the meeting.

7) Remember to print your name (and job title) under your signature - some signatures are hard to read. e.g.:

Brian Smith (signature)

Brian Smith

Sales and Marketing Manager

8) Do not put a comma before the word 'that' in English as you would with "dass" in German. e.g.:

We informed our staff yesterday that the factory will close on March 31st.

9) Some months of the year sound similar but are spelt differently in English and German:

December, October, May.

10) Other commonly misspelt words in business letters include:

address, accommodation, telephone, Madam.

11) "We are looking forward to hearing from you" - not "to hear from you".

12) In addresses, put the person's name on the top line, above the company's name.

13) Avoid using the 'have got' form as this is considered to be informal, use 'have' instead e.g.:

Our company has a branch in Manchester.

NOT has got a branch

14) Similarly, use received instead of got e.g.:

I received your parcel yesterday.

NOT  I got your parcel yesterday.

15) Write 10th October NOT the 10th of October - we say this but do not usually write it.

16) In many countries the currency symbol comes before the amount of money, e.g. we can write £34 or $76 but we do not usually write 34£ or 76$.

17) The word "staff" is usually considered to be plural. So we would write:

The staff are well trained

NOT The staff is well trained.

18) In British English "accommodation" is usually uncountable, so we would write:

"I need accommodation for the night of 25th April"

NOT "I need an accommodation."

19) In American English accommodation is sometimes countable.

20) In British English we do not usually start a letter with "Dear Ladies and Gentlemen," we use "Dear Sir or Madam," instead.

21) The German word "aktuell" means current in English and not actual.

22) Adjectives of nationality start with capital (big) letters in English:

English, German, French, Japanese.

23) The German "Personalabteilung" is called the Personnel Department in English. Personal (in English) means "persönlich".

24) English words usually need an "s" on the end to make them plural. This includes words which are used in German and end in "er".

zwei Manager (German) two managers (English)

zwei Partner (German) two partners (English)

25) E-mail can be written with a small "e" (e-mail) but it always needs a hyphen, despite what you may read in newspapers, magazines or even BBC programme credits.

Don't believe me? Try looking up any of these:

xray, tjunction, aframe, olevel, Bsäule (German), dday, sbend, utube … and hundreds of other examples. They are all wrong, and so is email!

Sadly, so many people have copied this mistake from each other that I might be losing the battle on this one.

   
© M.Wigfall