商务信函的写作原则


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Most everyday writing is casual. Tweets, Facebook updates, holiday cards, friendly emails —these have their own simple etiquette, and we don’t spend a lot of time thinking about them before we lick that stamp or hit send.

  大部分日常写作都比较随意。社交网站碎碎念,节日贺卡或电子邮件都各有一套,写起来根本不费什么心思。

  Sometimes, though, the occasion calls for something more formal. Whether it’s a letter to your political representative about an important issue, a cover letter to a potential boss, or a business proposal letter, these require a bit more care if you’re going to be taken seriously. Here are a few points to keep in mind when you’re writing your own formal letter, whether it will go through the mail or via cyberspace.

  但有些场合,写作就得正规点。无论是写信给官方代表讨论重大问题,还是向企业老板提交求职信或业务建议书,你都应认真对待。在写正式信函或电邮时,以下几点可以借鉴。

  1. Understand your purpose

  明确目标

  Why are you writing? What do you want the reader to do after reading your letter? Do you want to change her mind or convince him to take a specific action? Are you seeking forgiveness? Do you mean to complain about bad service or a faultyproduct? Are you trying to get hired? What’s the “ask”?

  为何写信?你期望收信人看完后做什么?你想改变她的决意,还是希望他采取具体措施?抑或你在寻求宽恕?你要投诉糟糕的服务、劣质的产品,还是要谋取职位?你的“请求”是什么?

  Once you know this, you can —and should —cut everything out that doesn’t serve that purpose.

  一旦你明白以上问题,就能撇清所有无关痛痒的事了。

2. Identify your audience

  定位对象

  Knowing your audience helps you choose your language and target your ideas more precisely. I write differently in a letter to another lawyer than I do when the addressee is a non-lawyer executive or even an elderly “pro bono” client. In a letter to the editor, your real audience is the publication’s readers—who are they? Don’t use jargon that your reader won’t understand.

  明确收信人身份有助于更精准地表达意愿。同一封信,我写给律师是一种措辞,写给非律师出身的总裁、甚或年长的慈善客户,又会是另一种措辞。写信给编辑部,刊物读者才是最终收信人——那么,他们是什么样的人呢?千万别用读者看不懂的术语。

  3. Keep it short

  短小精练

  Most of us endure a constant flood of written communications, and we have a limited amount of time to spend reading it. You therefore have a better chance of being read if you keep your letter to one page. A multi-page letter with long paragraphsand complex sentences looks overwhelming. The busy reader will be tempted to set it aside for when she has more time—and she might never get around to picking it up again. Use short paragraphs, short sentences, short words.

  多数人周围文字泛滥,根本无法全部读完。因此,人们倾向先查阅较短信函。厚厚一叠长篇大论看上去真的很恐怖。忙碌的人一般会先放一放,等有空再看——而这一等可能意味着石沉大海。所以,写信要简洁精练。

  4. Use simple language

  言简意赅

  It’s the writer’s job to be understood. Even if your audience is highly educated, you should avoid big words and long, complex sentences. People aren’t stupid; they’re busy. Make our job easier, and we’re more likely to give your letter the attention it deserves. Formal writing does not require the use of big words. Don’t try to sound sophisticated; try to be clear. Use “ask” instead of “request.” Say “buy” instead of “purchase.” Instead of “enclosedherewith please find,” just say, “I’ve enclosed” or “Here is. . . .”

  信要让人读懂。哪怕收信人水平很高,也应避免使用行话冗句。人家又不傻,工作这么忙,干净利落点,事情都好办。正式信函不一定要讲套话,不必故作老练,讲清楚就行。用“请”,别用“恳请”;用“买”,别用“购置”;用“附上”或“以下是”,别用“随函附上,请查收”。

5. Lead with the most important point

  挑明重点

  As journalists say, don’t bury your head. Find a way to open with the idea or information that you most want your reader to focus or act on. The first paragraph might be the only one he reads, so don’t hide the “ask” in the last paragraph.

  如记者所言,不要埋头当鸵鸟。要设法亮出你最希望收信人注意到的信息。收信人可能只浏览第一段,所以,千万别把你的“要求”放到最后一段。

  6. Follow the rules

  遵循格式

  There are rules for formatting a business letter. You ignore them at your peril.

  商业信函有其自身格式,你若无视,一切后果自负。

  7. Proofread. Then proofread again

  检查再检查

  No matter how grammatically gifted you are, errors and typos can creep in. When you think you’ve finished writing, read your piece slowly and attentively, watching for those typos. Don’t trust spellcheck. If possible, print a hard copy of your letter and read it—out loud—with a pen in hand, marking those typos, awkward sentences, confusing lines. If it’s really important, have somebody else read it and let you know if you’ve missed something.

  就算你语法再好,也还会犯个小错、打个错字。信写完后,一定要慢慢细读,查缺补漏。别依赖拼写检查软件,最好对着打印稿检查——读出声来——同时圈出错词烂句。如果信函尤为重要,最好请别人替你再检查检查。

  8. Let it cool before sending

  三思而后“寄”

  Especially if you are writing to persuade or complain, you probably are motivated by some pretty strong feelings. Absolutely write your first draft in the white-hot heat of passion. Express your feelings. Get it all on paper. But then . . . before you print and sign, or hit send, walk away for awhile. Go do something else. Let that heat of passion cool. Then come back and re-read what you’ve written. Is it fair? Is it smart? Is it true? Is it kind? Would you regret having it read on television, in front of your boss and your grandmother? Make the changes that seem appropriate after your emotions have settled.

  写说服信或投诉信时,你的情绪想必很激动,甚至忿然作色。你洋洋洒洒、一吐为快。但是……在你打印、签名或寄出前,还是先放一放吧。先干点别的, 冷静冷静。回头再读刚刚写的东西,你觉得判断公正么?分析可否理智?是否言如其实?语气妥当与否?如果就这么在电视上、老板或祖母面前读这封信,你会不会后悔?情绪稳定后,做些适当润色吧。

  Then, and only then, hit send.

  然后,也就是万事妥当后,你才可以点击发送。