The peculiarities in texts of business documents
The peculiarities in texts of business documents, problems of their translation, interpretation and analysis of essential clauses. The main features of formal English as the language of business papers: stylistic, grammatical and lexical peculiarities.
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Actuality: Nowadays due to the development of international business partnership the interpreters are faced with the necessity of translating official business papers from English into Ukrainian because English is considered to be the language of world business relationships. In comparison with literary texts the texts of official documents are highly standardized: it concerns both the structure of the whole text and the arrangement of special paragraphs.
The analysis of researches is devoted to the linguistic peculiarities of official business papers. And it shows that theory of writing business documents, on the one hand, reflects highly subjective approaches. On the other hand, such approaches are not unified in accordance with existing rules of formal English. Such influence really exists, but there are no accepted criteria for changes that should be taken into consideration. Thus, the main problems of people who write business papers are: how should they write it to sound correctly in the foreign language? How formal should they be in the content of documents, if even English-speaking people meet difficulties drawing a line between formal and informal English?
The language of documents is characterized by specific terms and expressions and also by those grammatical and syntactical patterns where translation can cause some difficulties. That is why we should know sufficient knowledge of grammatical, stylistic and lexical peculiarities of business papers to translate them correctly.
The object of the research is official business papers.
Its subject comprises investigation of linguistic peculiarities of official business papers and the specific character of translation.
The theoretical basis for the investigation is founded on the researches of well-known linguists: Arnold, Galperin, Gordon.
The Purpose of the research is to analyze peculiarities in texts of business documents, problems of their translation. It is performed through comprehension, interpretation and analysis of essential clauses.
The tasks of the research are:
to point out main features of formal English as the language of business papers;
to describe the peculiarities of official business papers' translation.
to expose stylistic, grammatical and lexical peculiarities of business papers.
In order to solve these tasks have been used the methods of studying and analysis of theoretical literature and practical manuals.
In fact, the linguistic peculiarities of the structure and function of contracts in the world of business have not been given a clear understanding of the subject. The main factors of the theoretical significance of the research is to state the connection between all types of business papers while describing and analyzing distinctive features of the content of documents.
The practical significance of the research is to underline the main rules of writing business correspondence for those who are concerned about drawing up the official documents. It also can be interesting for people studying problems of functional usage of formal and informal styles in English. The results of the research can be taken into consideration by students who are involved in studying English and English stylistics. As well it can be used for special courses of business English for students of Linguistics, Business and Economics.
business document paper peculiarity
1. General characteristics of official documents
1.1 The distinctive features of English language in official documents
It is quite obvious that any business deal cannot be done without documents. A document, in its any appearance, has always been an important part of business doing. Business contracts are impossible without correspondence all over the world. It does not matter, whether you communicate with your partner using the phone (orally) or telexes (in writing). All decisions and terms must be confirmed by documents.
Such business papers as correspondence (letters), telexes, enquiries, offers, claims (complaints) and contracts (agreements) are of legal importance. And as a result, business documents, written in accordance with some officially accepted forms, are the same for everybody.
As it has been noted, the official business language differs from other kinds of the English language, mostly because of the specific character of its functional usage that can be illustrated in classical terms of style, its predestination, and main features.
The style of official documents is the most conservative one. It preserves the structural forms and the use of syntactical constructions. Archaic words are not observed anywhere else but here. Addressing documents and official letters, signing them, expressing the reasons and considerations leading to the subject of the document letter are regulated as lexically as syntactically. All emotiveness and subjective modality are completely banned out of this style. It is represented by the following sub-styles or variants: the language of business documents, legal documents, diplomacy, and military documents. Like other styles of language, this style has a definite communicative aim and, accordingly, has its own system of interrelated language and stylistic means. The main aim of this type of communication is to state the conditions binding two parties in an undertaking and to reach agreement between two contracting parties.
Every subdivision of this style has its own peculiar terms, phrases and expressions, which differ from the terms of correspondence, phrases and expressions of other variants of this style.
The peculiar features common for all stylistic varieties of official documents are the following:
- the use of abbreviations, conventional symbols and contractions;
the use of words in their logical dictionary meaning;
absence of emotiveness;
general syntactical mode of combining several pronouncement into one sentence.
It also should be noted that the syntactical construction of this style is as important as the vocabulary.
The syntactical pattern of business correspondence style is made up from compositional patterns of variants of this style which have their own designs. The form of a document itself is informative, because it tells something about the matter dealt with. From the point of view on its stylistic structure, the whole document is one sentence. It looks like separate shaped clauses often divided by commas or semicolons, and not by full stops, often numbered. Every predicative construction begins with a capital letter in participle form or infinitive construction. For example:
any claim concerning the quality of the goods must be presented within two months from the date of delivery;
no one claim can be considered by Sellers after expiration of the above period;
This example while illustrating structurally illogical way of combining definite ideas has its sense. It serves to show the equality of the items and similar dependence of participle and infinitive constructions or predicative constructions.
One of the most striking features of this style is usage of words in their logical dictionary meaning.
Every type of business documents has its own set phrases and cliches, e.g. invoice, book value, currency clause, promissory note, assets, etc.
Indeed, there are many differences in the vocabulary between formal and informal business correspondence. The main part of vocabulary of formal English is of French, Latin and Greek origin. Often it can be translated into informal language by replacing words or phrases of the Anglo-Saxon origin. For example:
Formal style_____Informal style
commence begin, start
conclude end, finish, stop
prolong, continue go on
Let us compare examples where these words are used in different styles.
e.g. The meeting concluded with signing the contract (Formal style).
The meeting ended with signing the contract (Informal style).
Informal style is characterized by using phrasal and prepositional verbs. That is why they are not used in business correspondence. Their formal equivalents are used in official texts instead.
Formal style_____Informal style
explode blow up
encounter come across
investigate look into
Such expressions on informal style cannot be used in written business English, both logically and stylistically. They are logically excluded because they convey a little amount of information. Business documents, on the contrary, convey a lot of information almost in any word. Thus, a person should be aware of these factors and not mix up colloquial and business English drawing up a document.
Informal terms have emotive qualities that are not present in formal language. Formal language often insists on a greater deal of preciseness. But the problem is that not always can be found the proper equivalents in formal and informal English. The informal word job, for instance, has no formal equivalent. Instead of it, we have to look for more restricted in usage and more precise term, according to the context, among possible variants: employment, post, position, appointment, vocation etc.
As a rule, business English is formal. We mean using it in business correspondence, official reports and regulations. Actually, it is always written. Exceptionally it is used in speech, for example, in formal public speeches. There are various degrees of formality. For example:
After his father's death, he had to change his job. (Informal style)
On the disease of his father, he was obliged to seek for alternative employment. (Formal style)
These sentences mean roughly the same idea but would occur in different situations. The first sentence is fairly neutral (common core) style, while the second one is very formal, in fact stilted, and would only occur in a written business report.
In general grammar rules of spoken sentences are rather simple and less constructed than grammar of written sentences especially in agreements. It is more difficult to divide a spoken conversation into separate sentences. The connections between one clause and the other become less clear because the speaker relies more on the hearer's understanding of the context and situation as well as on his ability to interrupt if he fails to understand. The speaker is able to rely on features of intonation which tells us a great deal that cannot be reflected in written punctuation.
The grammar use in business correspondence is also differ because of the pronouns who and whom, and the place of prepositions. For example:
She wanted a partner for her business in whom she could confide. (Formal style) She longed for a partner (who) she could confide in. (Informal style)
In what country was he born? (Formal style)
What country was he born in? (Informal style)
Formal written language is often used like impersonal style. That means that one doesn't refer directly to himself/ herself or to his / her readers but avoids pronouns. Some of the common features of impersonal language are passive sentences beginning with the introductory word it and abstract nouns. The effect of the change into a passive construction is to reverse the focus from the subject to the object of speech.
The use of `might' characterize the business correspondence because it is more tentative way of expressing possibility than `may'. Let us compare two sentences:
It may have been an error in a business deal.
It might have been an error in a business deal.
In the second sentence might presuppose a greater degree of uncertainty and sounds more tactful than may.
Texts of business documents are specific and aimed at a definite purpose. In order to make one's business work and work effectively, one should possess knowledge of language standards in business letters. Skilful application of this knowledge is, somehow, determined by standards of documents' writing. If a document is written in an accepted way, it will be assessed by specialists. A unified business text takes up less time and work to compile in comparison with private letters.
Since a writer of a business letter has a unified form in front of him / her this person follows a set pattern while doing it. All the writer's attention is focused on major information and data which represent the subject of the document. In this way an addressee can decode the subject-matter faster because a document is written in the standardized form.
At the macro level an official document usually consists of a preamble, main text body and a finalizing part. Depending on the type of document the composition and content of its individual parts may slightly vary. In accordance with modern linguistics standard text structures intended for informational presentation at different language levels are called frames. The changeable elements within a text frame are called slots. Let us take a preamble to a commercial agreement as an example of a frame.
This Agreement is made this day of , 1999, by and between , [a corporation with its principal office at] or [an individual with an office and mailing address at _] ('Agent'), and [company name], a corporation organized and existing under the laws of , with its principal place of business at ().
Here, in the above frame of an agreement, the blank spaces represent the slots to be filled with slot fillers (by the date, company names, addresses etc. in this example).
But a text frame seldom has the form of a text with blank spaces. Often it can be a frame of a standard text with stable and changeable parts, for example:
Intellectual Property Rights.
by this Agreement does not grant to Agent any rights or license to
's trademarks, trade names or service marks. reserves all such rights to itself. Agent shall not utilize, without 's express, prior and - written consent, any trade or service marks on trade names, and will promptly report to any apparent unauthorized use by third parties in the Territory of 's trade or service marks or trade names.
Here the italicized text fragments are presumed to be changed depending on the subject and conditions of the Agreement, e. g. «prior and written consent» may be replaced by «oral consent», etc.
Written business English has got certain traits and problems of its usage not only for foreigners, but for English-speaking people.
A style of the language is a system of interrelated language means which serve a definite aim in communication. As has already been noticed, the style can be formal (business written English) and informal (spoken English). The difference of formal and informal English is a matter of style and attitude of people to each other. However, it is not an easy matter to draw an exact line between formal and informal English.
English of business correspondence possesses some important qualities, common for formal style of English as well.
The language of business correspondence is very bookish and remarkable for the usage of larger and more exact vocabulary in comparison with informal style of communication. Sentences in documents are longer and their clauses are grammatically fitted together more carefully that means a lot of practice for a person who draws up a document. Formal business correspondence should be more impersonal. It should not emphasize the individuality of the writer, taking into account the personal qualities of people who are going to make use of it. Thus, the speaker should not refer directly to himself or his readers, but avoid the pronouns /we, you/ and it can also bring some difficulties.
One more problem is that formal English lacks force and vividness. The fact that it is formal implies its great dependence on arbitrary conventions, rather than on natural speech habits. That is why it is so hard for non-business people to keep concentrating their attention on contents of documents all the time as their attention is diverted by intricate language use. Some of them will consider these long and complicated sentences rather confusing. Words of formal English must sound nice but their meaning is often hard to get through. Very often a person must read something all over again to make sure what it means.
Another chief problem concerning the business correspondence is that it is read by busy people who usually have no interest in either one's personality or his / her problems. Bearing in mind that one should not waste anybody's time and try to avoid unnecessary details. Common trait of any business document is to be as clear and brief as possible without sacrificing clarity.
These are some of the most frequent problems in the theory of business correspondence.
1.2 Types and peculiarities of business correspondence
Business correspondence is very significant in transactions. It includes all kinds of commercial letters such as enquiries, replies to enquiries, Letters of Credit, invoices, Bills of Lading, Bills of Exchange or drafts, letters of insurance, explanatory letters, orders, letters of packing, letters of shipment, letters of delivery, offers, letters of complaint, replies to those of mentioned above, etc.
Each type of correspondence has its own peculiar features. But they have much in common. Especially it concerns the style of business letters. Business correspondence often suffers from an old-fashioned, pompous style of English which complicates the message and gives the reader the feeling that he is reading a language he does not understand. At the same time the style of letter should not be so simple that it becomes discourteous. The tone of business letter should be neutral without pompous language on the one hand and informal or colloquial language on the other hand. The letter should be neither too long nor too short. The right length includes the right amount of information.
Here is an example of a letter that is so short and simple that it sounds rude:
Dear Mr. Rohn,
1 have already written to you concerning your outstanding debt of Ј591. This should have been cleared three months ago. You don't seem to want to co-operate in paying us, and therefore we will sue you if your debt is not cleared within the next ten days.
A letter may be given the wrong tone by the use of inappropriate vocabulary, idioms, phrasal verbs and short forms. Here are some examples of each, together with a preferred alternative:
You've probably knows - You probably know
You'll get your money back - The loan will be repaid
To go into property - To invest in property
A couple of hundred quid - Two hundred pounds
Prices are at rock bottom - Prices are very low
Prices have gone through the roof - Prices have increased rapidly.
These are the extreme examples but the general point is that one should be careful using idiomatic or colloquial language in letters. Moreover, there is a danger of being misunderstood or you may give an impression of over-familiarity.
No doubt it is very important to be clear. Confusion in correspondence often arises through a lack of thought and care, and there are a number of ways in which it can happen. Numerical expression can cause confusion. For example, the decimal point in British and US usage is a full point rather than a comma as it is used in most continental European countries, so that an English or American person would write 4.255 when a French person would write 4,255 (which to an English person would mean four thousand two hundred and fifty-five). That's it is better to write out the expression in both figures and words.
Very often abbreviations are used in business letters but both parties need to know what the abbreviations stand for; if they don't it can cause problems in obtaining the information. So if the author of a letter is not absolutely certain that abbreviation will be easily recognized he/she should not use it.
Special care should be taken while using prepositions. There is a big difference between / The price has been increased to Ј 15.00/ The price has been increased by Ј 15.00, and The price has been increased from Ј 15.00.
In business correspondence is very important to be tactful, in other words to avoid causing offence or distress. Sometimes it means disguising or covering up the truth. In such a case, the use of imperatives should be polite.
e.g. Would you like to stipulate details of the contract?
Let us compare some more examples.
e.g. I suggest that we postponed signing of the contract till tomorrow. (Tactful).
Could I suggest that we postponed signing of the contract till tomorrow. (Tentative and more tactful).
Every business letter is known to consist of three parts: introduction, main part and closing. The first sentence or paragraph of a letter is an important one because it sets the tone of the letter. It usually contains thanks to the correspondent for his letter, subject of the letter, the purpose of the letter. For example:
Thank you for your letter of 19 August which I received today. We can certainly supply you with the industrial floor coverings you asked about, and enclosed you will find a catalogue illustrating our wide range of products which are used in factories and offices throughout the world.
Middle part is the main part of every letter and it concerns the points that need to be made, answers which correspondent wants to give, or question he wants to ask. This can vary widely with the type of letter.
In final paragraph is necessary to thank the person for writing, if letter is a reply and it has not been done at the beginning. One should encourage further enquiries or correspondence. It also possible to restate, very briefly, one or two of the most important points made in the main part of letter.
For example: We are sure that you have made the right choice in choosing this particular line as it is proving to be a leading seller. If there is any advice or further information you want we shall be happy to supply it, and look forward to hearing from you.
In our research we have tried to investigate peculiarities of such types of business correspondence as letters of enquiry, order and claim.
Enquiries can take the form of telephoned, telex or faxed requests for information. These forms can be used only for brief enquiry. A letter of enquiry begins with telling to correspondent the name of your firm: we are a co-operative wholesale society based in Zurich. Then one should write how he/she heard about the firm he/she is writing to: we were given your name by the Hoteliers' Association in Paris. The content of enquiry varies depending on its purpose. For example while asking for catalogs, price-lists, prospectuses it is not necessary to give a lot of information about yourself. It would be helpful to point out briefly any particular items you are interested in.
e.g. Could you please send your current catalogue and price-list for exhibition stands? We are particularly interested in furniture display stands.
When asking for goods or services one should be specific and state exactly what he/she wants. Replying to an advertisement its better to mention the journal or newspaper, the date, and quote any box number or department number given.
Very often one asks in enquiry for samples and patterns before placing an order.
e.g. We would be also appreciated if you could send some samples of the material so that we can examine the texture and quality.
It is also possible to suggest terms, methods of payment, discounts in your enquiry.
e.g. We usually deal on a 30% trade discount basis with an additional quantity discount for orders over 1,000 units.
Sometimes wholesalers and retailers want to see how a line will sell before placing a firm order with the supplier. They may be able to do this by getting goods on approval or on a sale or return basis, one can ask about it in enquiry.
e.g. Your leaflet advertising your latest publications of History magazines interested us, and we should like to stock a selection of these. However, we should only consider placing an order provided it was on the usual basis of sale or return. If this is acceptable we shall send you our official order.
Usually a simple 'thank you' is sufficient to close an enquiry. It is possible to mention that a prompt reply would be appreciated and that certain terms or guarantees would be necessary.
e.g. Thank you for your attention. We hope to hear from you in the near future.
The letter of enquiry should make absolutely clear information. The tone of enquiry could be direct but still polite. It should leave no possibility of the recipient to write and ask for explanation or extension of any of its parts. It should be as brief as is in keeping with courtesy and clarity. Even when the matters of enquiry are of no interest to the recipient he should give the information as courteously and as fully as if it meant material profit to him. He should give not only complete information for every detail of the enquiry but also should give any additional information which the writer feels would make clearer the information desired.
In enquiries are often used passive constructions for soften a request.
Short sentences can create an abrupt effect, while a complex sentence can modify.
e.g. We are interested in your range of shirts is not as good as we are large wholesalers and are interested in your range of shirts.
Orders are usually written on a company's official order form which has a date and a reference number that should be quoted in any correspondence which refers to the order. Even if the order is telephoned, it must be confirmed in writing, and an order form should always be accompanied by either a compliment slip or a covering letter. A covering letter is preferable as it allows you the opportunity to make any necessary points and confirm the terms that have been agreed. This letter usually begins with explaining there is an order accompanying the letter. For example:
Please find enclosed our Order №B4 521 for 25 'Clearsound' transistor receivers.
Such types of letters can contain:
- confirmation of the terms of payment
e.g. We should like to confirm that payment is to be made by irrevocable letter of credit which we have already applied to the bank for;
- confirmation of the agreed discounts
e.g. We should like to thank you for the 30% trade discount and 10% quantity discount you allowed us;
- confirmation of the delivery dates
e.g. delivery before February is a firm condition of this order, and we reserve the right to refuse goods delivered after that time;
- methods of delivery
e.g. We advice delivery by road to avoid constant handling of this fragile consignment;
e.g. Each piece of crockery is to be individually wrapped in thick paper, packed in straw, and shipped in wooden crates numbered 1 to 6.
The letter ordering goods should be made so clear that it could not possibly be misunderstood. It should be exact and complete in every detail as to quantity, quality, size, number, catalogue page and number, shape, style, colour, piece of each, or other item helping toward exact identification. If the buyer is to pay transportation charges, he/she should specify how the order must be shipped - mail, express, or fright - unless he/she leaves this matter to the one who ships. Each item must be written on a separate line beginning at the paragraph margin.
A letter of complaint or claim should always be courteous, dignified and fair. It should state exactly the cause for complaint and should outline clearly the reasonable expected adjustment. The complainant that imputes blame or becomes sarcastic or abusive only emphasizes the author's own lack of refinement and makes less probable the adjustment he/she seeks. Terms like 'disgusted', 'infuriated', 'enraged', 'amazed' have no place in claim. Dissatisfaction can be expressed in such a way:
Unless you can fulfill our orders efficiently in the future we will have to consider other sources of supply.
Also such expressions as 'you must correct your mistake as soon as possible', 'you made an error on the statement', 'you don't understand the terms of discount'. We told you to deduct discount from net prices, not c.i.f. prices' can't be used in claims.
It is better to be as impersonal as possible to make the letter more polite. This can be done by using the definite article.
e.g. the mistake must be corrected as soon as possible instead of your mistake.
It is better to use Passive voice and modifying imperatives:
e.g. to be cleared, instead of which you must clear.
Words like 'fault' or 'blame' can't be used that's why one should write
e.g. The mistake could not have originated here, and must be connected with the dispatch of the goods
It is not our fault, it is probably the fault of your dispatch department.
It should be taken into account that complaints are not accusations; they are requests to correct mistakes or faults, and should be written remembering that the supplier will want to put things right. Therefore one should write calmly, clearly presenting all the relevant information and making any suggestions that might help put the matter right.
1.3 Main characteristics of contract as a type of official document
Contract is known to be a business document presenting an agreement as for the delivery of goods, services, etc., approved and signed by both the Buyer and the Seller. Legal contracts are made in writing. When striking a deal, standard contracts are widely used. Standard contracts are not a must. Some articles can be altered and supplemented.
The following items are of the greatest importance in any contract:
number of a contract;
place and date of signing;
names of the Sides which sign the contract;
subject of the contract;
quality of goods;
requirements for packing and marking;
conditions of submission and acceptance of goods;
transport conditions; warranty conditions and sanctions;
judicial addresses of the Sides;
signatures of the seller and the buyer.
all appendices form an integral part of a contract.
Contract must be drawn up in accordance with the established form, often on special printed forms filled in with basic information by one-time writing. Sometimes, when a transaction is small in volume, a contract may be concluded by telex.
Now the most significant clauses of contract should be regarded.
The subject-section names the product for sale or purchase. It also indicates the unit of measure employed in foreign trade for specific commodities.
The quality of machines and equipment must be conformed to the specification of the contract. The quality of raw materials and foodstuffs is determined by standards, samples, and description.
The price stated in a contract must be firm, fixed or sliding. Firm prices are not subject to be changed in the course of the fulfillment of the contract. Fixed price governs in the market on the day of delivery or for a given period. Sliding prices are quoted for machinery and equipment which require a long period of delivery.
There are some kinds of payment. A cheque is a written order to a bank given and signed by someone who has money deposited there to pay a certain amount mentioned in the cheque to a person named on it. In the place of the cheque system banks provide an international system of bank transfers. A draft is another order to pay. It is made out by the exporter and presented to the importer. It is sometimes called a bill of exchange. A sight draft is a bill which is paid immediately on presentation. A bill is to be paid at a later date is called a term draft. There are 30-day, 69-, 90 - and 120-day drafts. The payment is guaranteed with a letter of credit or a revolving letter of credit.
Transport and delivery terms. The so-called door-to-door transport is spread in shipping now. It involves a transfer of the goods from one kind of transport to another. The main carrier often prefers to assume through responsibility for the cargo he carries.
Packing goods for export is a highly specialized job. If the goods are improperly packed and marked, the carrier will refuse to accept them, or will make qualifications about the unsatisfactory condition of packing in the bill of lading. Packing can be external (crate, bag) or internal (box, packet, flask, etc.), in which the goods are sold.
Marking should be in indelible paint with recognized kind of marks. The cases in which the equipment is packed are to be marked on three sides: on the top of the case and two non-opposite sides. The marking have to be clearly made with indelible paint in the languages of the dealing sides.
Insurance of goods. The export trade is subject to many risks. Ships may sink or collide; consignment may be lost or damaged. While goods are in a warehouse, the insurance covers the risk of fire, burglary, as soon as the goods are in transit they are insured against pilferage, damage by water, breakage or leakage. The insured is better protected if his goods are insured against all risks.
Force majeure is a force against which you cannot act or fight. Every contract has a force majeure clause. It usually includes natural disasters such as an earthquake, flood, fire, etc. It can also include such contingencies as war, embargo, and sanctions. Moreover, there are some other circumstances beyond the Sellers' control. The Seller may find himself in a situation when he can't fulfill his obligations under the contract. While negotiating a contract, a list of contingencies must be agreed on and put into the contract. In case of a contingency the Seller must notify the Buyers of a force majeure right away. If it is done in due time the Buyer may take immediate action to protect his interest. A force majeure must be a proven fact. The Seller has to submit to the Buyer a written confirmation issued by the Chamber of Commerce to this effect. The duration of a force majeure is, as a rule, 4 or 6 months. After that the Buyer has a right to cancel the contract. In this case The Seller has no right to claim any compensation for his losses.
Claims and sanctions. It's a contract that defines rights and obligations of the involved parties. More often the Buyer makes quality and quantity claims on the Seller. The cause for complaint may be poor quality, breakage, damage, leakage etc. The Buyer must write a statement of claim and mail it to the Seller together with the supporting documents: Bill of Lading, Airway and Railway Bill, Survey Report, Quality Certificate are documentary evidence. Drawings, photos, samples are enclosed as proofs of claims. The date of complaint is the date on which it is mailed. Claims can be lodged during a certain period of time, which is usually fixed in a contract. During the claim period the
Seller is to enquire into the case and communicate his reply. He either meets the claim or declines it. If a claim has a legitimate ground behind it the parties try to settle it amicably. The Seller in turn is entitled to make a claim on his counterpart if the Buyer fails to meet his contractual obligations. The Seller may inflict penalties on the Buyer if there is a default in payment.
In order to speed up the preparation of contract documents and to minimize possibility of errors in them, a unified standardized form of contract documents, the Master Pattern for Contract Documents, has been developed. It establishes principles and regulations for the construction of standardized forms of documents used in foreign trade, like Supplement to contract, Order and Order confirmation.
Supplement to contract is a business document which is an integral part of the contract, containing amendments or additions to the previously agreed contract conditions. The supplement should be also agreed on and signed by both the exporter and the importer.
Order is a business document presenting the importer's offer for dealing which contains specific conditions of a future transaction.
Order Confirmation is a business document presenting the exporter's message containing uncaused acceptance of the order conditions. The Master pattern has also been accepted as a basis for standardized forms of enquiries and offers, used at pre-contract stages of dealing.
Different firms and organizations trading regularly, work out standardized forms of contracts for typical deals. Such standardized contracts are printed and include typical rights and duties of the contracting sides in selling and buying some goods and services. There are special columns for the names of Buyer and Seller, names of goods, their quantity, prices and delivery terms. In case of declining or adding some terms, people use supplementary columns in a contract form.
Standardized forms of export and import deals differ greatly and it makes them two general types of contracts. Thus, there are export and import contracts. They reflect different positions of buyers and sellers in trading. Contracts in import trade are called orders, and their submission warranty and delivery terms as well as sanctions are much harder towards the seller than those ones in export trade. Standardized forms of import contracts must be sent to potential buyers before getting commercial proposals and before striking a deal. The language of contracts is agreed upon on the both sides. It goes without saying that information and style are kept the same not depending on the language of contract.
As textual varieties, contracts are divided into administrative-managerial, financial-economical, advertising, scientific-technical, and artistic-publication contracts. Functional spheres of their circulation can be easily guessed from names of contract types in this classification, and are the subject of economic, rather than linguistic study.
Contracts may be differentiated by the subject of a deal. There are export contracts for the sale of oil products, machinery tools, grain, the supply of goods, etc. Orders in import trade deal with ordering and purchasing goods. They are often supported with requests, remindings, verifications of different terms, guarantee and waving inspection letters and many others.
In contracts delivery and acceptance terms are marked with the International Commercial Terms. So, contracts can be classified in accordance with the way of delivery. Most of Incoterms are represented as abbreviations.
The usage of abbreviations, conventional symbols and contractions is typical of all kinds of documents. On the whole, there are 14 official Incoterms of deliverance. They denote:
The point of deliverance. EX Works means that the seller's only responsibility is to make the goods available at his premises. EX Ship means that the seller shall make the goods available to the buyer on board the ship at the destination named in the sales contract. EX Quay means that the seller makes the goods available to the buyer on the quay at the destination named in the sales contract.
The way of deliverance. FOB means Free on Board. The goods are placed on board of ship by the seller at a port of shipment named in the sales contract. FAS means Free Alongside Ship. That means that goods should be placed alongside the ship to fulfill the seller's obligations. FOR / FOT means Free on Rail / Free on Truck. Truck here relates to the railway wagons, and that makes these abbreviations synonymous. FOB Airport is based on the same main principles as the ordinary FOB term. The seller fulfils his obligations by delivering the goods to the air carrier at the airport of departure.
3. Payment terms. C & F means Cost and Fright. The seller must pay the costs and fright necessary to bring the goods to the named destination, but the risk of loss or damage to the goods is transferred from the Seller to the Buyer when the goods pass the ship's rail in the port of shipment. GIF means Cost, Insurance and Fright. This term is basically the same as C & F but with the addition that the seller has to procure marine insurance against the risk of loss or damage to the goods during the carriage.
Having analyzed the distinctive features of English language in official documents and main characteristics of contracts and business correspondence we have come to the conclusion that the nature of the English documents' writing is determined by its stylistic realization in written English. The style of official documents possesses its own features which are reflected in standardized forms of different documents. They are peculiarities of the vocabulary, grammar and syntactic constructions, which are the subject of consideration in the second chapter of the research.
Formal style of business English is rather hard to obtain and to follow. It remains mostly in written form, and its peculiarities should be strictly observed. Some theoretical problems of its functioning have already been considered. Nevertheless, informal English influences it greatly, and even in routine papers we may find deviations from the accepted form.
It can be explained by the fact that business is made by people, and not robots. A person's individuality, as well as emotions and feelings, more and more often peer into a cool and logical world of business, creating new problems and possibilities of business English functioning in texts of contracts and other documents.
We have also defined contract as a typical realization of formal business English which possesses the same stylistic features and follows the same goals as business correspondence.
Contents of contract also have specific clauses and they ensure division of contracts into certain types in accordance with a side initiating a deal, a sphere of making a deal, types of goods and their delivery terms. Often a way of deliverance is encoded with a help of special abbreviations.
2. Linguistic peculiarities of official business papers
2.1 Stylistic peculiarities of contract and business correspondence
From the linguistic point of view a contract is a type of a document due to any agreement and a completed document fixing some information. As a type of text, contract has its own specific characteristics. The stylistic peculiarities of all document texts are:
concreteness, conciseness, clearness of the stated idea;
high capacity of information;
clear rhythm of sentences;
accenting on the main idea with the help of word repetitions;
absence of connotational information;
a special system of cliches and stamps;
usage of abbreviations, conventional symbols and marks;
usage of terms in their direct semantic meaning; preferential usage of monosemantic words;
division of a text into chapters, paragraphs, points, often numbered (clear compositional structure of a document);
- usage of definite syntactic models;
- graphic decoration of a document: quality of paper, quantity and quality of illustrations, size and kind of print.
The main features of the style of contract as a type of business official document are:
steady system of linguistic means in the text of contract;
lack of emotional colouring;
decoding character of language;
usage of a special symbolic system;
definite syntactic structure (the 12 above-enumerated items).
Let us analyze them in detail.
The style of contract defines some peculiarities and techniques of its writing. Making contracts differ in some points from writing business letters, such as an offer, an enquiry, a complaint etc. Some considerations important for business letters are not important for contracts. The main difference between them is that any contract is made up by two contracting parties and contains information about many subjects. So all points must be approved by both parties. There are certain clearly definable requirements for how to write contracts.
Generally contracts should be formal, complete, clear, concrete, correct and concise. In contracts all possible informational details are not suitable. So, while writing contracts we must observe all peculiarities of standard English grammar, vocabulary use and stylistic appropriation. A formal contract or agreement requires considerations of neatness and attractive arrangement. Completeness of any contract suggests the scope of all significant facts that have reference to the issue of the agreement. Actually, you are expected to explain what, how, and when you are going to deal with your partner.
The next element, - clearness, - is one of the most important, because much depends on it. Clearness could be reached by the use of simple short words, phrases and paragraphs where the both parties of a contract explain their intentions and issues. Clearness of any arguments actually defines your striking a deal or not.
The component which is closely connected with the previous one is concreteness. Concreteness of a contract or an agreement is a part and a parcel of any legal document. Besides that, the longer the document is, the more attractive and vivid its contents should be.
The next two components are also significant. They are correctness and conciseness. Correctness involves proper grammar use (tense-aspect forms of the verb, verbals, articles, etc.), vocabulary use, punctuation and formal style. Grammar should be checked with a special care, otherwise it may produce a poor impression of the document and non-seriousness of your interests. Conciseness is usually achieved by the use of minimum words to express maximum of information.
As it has already been noted, any contract should be simple and clear, concise and brief. Commercial correspondence often suffers from an old-fashioned, pompous style of English which complicates the message and gives the reader the feeling that he is reading a language he does not understand. Though the language of contract is perhaps the most formal among all kinds of business correspondence, and the vocabulary of such correspondence is very specific, which is connected with its character and a great number of legal terms, it should not be archaic. It should be clear enough in its meaning. The style, however, should not be too simple as it may become discourteous and sound rude. Some linguists (G. Leech, J. Svartvik, Ch. Fries, O. Jespersen, M. Joos, I.V. Arnold, B.A. Ilyish, E.M. Gordon etc.) recommend the following stylistic devices that might make agreements and contracts more polite:
- complex sentences joined with conjunctions are preferable, rather than short sentences;
- passive constructions rather than active;
- full forms rather than abbreviated forms, if necessary.
The right tone should be neutral, devoid of a pompous language on one hand, and an informal or colloquial language on the other hand. Therefore, inappropriate vocabulary, idioms, phrasal verbs are not allowed.
The both contracting parties should not experience any difficulties in obtaining information, they should be able to understand what is written. Misunderstandings are caused by a lack of thought and care. It may happen if we use a lot of abbreviations, figures and prepositions.
Abbreviations are very useful, because they are very quick to write and easy to read. But the both parties are expected to know what the abbreviations stand for. If one of the partners is not absolutely certain that the abbreviations are easily recognized he / she should not use it.
The symbol &, which means in English and, is used in some terms like C&F (Cost and Fright), C&I (Cost and Insurance). But is marked as # in contract texts. The symbol № is used instead of the word number. In American English the symbol # means number as well, but it is used in different tables and graphics, and not in the text. It is never used, however, to denote numbers of houses.
Very often in contracts Latin abbreviations are used, for example: e.g. (for example), et al. (and others), etc. (and so on), v.v. (quite the opposite), i.e. (that means). Also such English abbreviations ltd. (limited), Bros, (brothers), end. (enclosed), dols. (collars), etc. are used.
The use of figures instead of words for sums can create many problems for people. To avoid any possibility of confusion, it is recommended to write sums in both figures and words. A special attention should be paid to titles, names, addresses, references, prices, specifications, enclosures, etc., which are also of a great importance in texts of contracts
2.2 Grammatical peculiarities of contract and business correspondence
On the whole, grammar of any contract may be characterized as rather simple and formal. Here simple means lack of diversity of variants which occurs in every document which is not legal. As for the grammar tenses which are used in agreements, the most widespread are the Indefinite and the Perfect tenses, both in the Active and Passive Voices. In many points their usage is already part and parcel.
e.g. Sellers have sold and Buyers have bought… (Present Perfect)
The Agents shall bear all transport expenses from… (Future Indefinite)
Our firm informed the Suppliers that the general conditions were not contained in the order. (Past Indefinite Active / Passive)
Complex analytical forms of the verb, such as the Continuous and Perfect Continuous Tenses, are absolutely not used in any way. The specific character of any contract provides rare usage of the past tenses.
One of specific features of contract is usage of the verb shall. Though it is not used in Modern English, in business correspondence and documents it keeps being used.
The combination of the verb should and the infinitive also shows a future action, but with a less degree of probability. This construction usually occurs in subordinate clauses.
e.g. We hope that you will send as enquires should you need.
Should the above circumstances continue to be in force…
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