We continue our series on business writing by examining more clunky and vague phrases.
What do you do when you wish to enclose /attach a document which the other party has requested? Do your write a covering message like this:
Further to your valued recent request, enclosed herewith, please find a copy of our most recent catalogue for your kind perusal and necessary action.
As per your request attached herewith please find a copy of the above-mentioned report for you attention and retention.
What is the weirdest phrase in both of the above examples? Surely it has to be please find! Extremely common, but weird! That enclosure/attachment is not lost! We only tell people to find something that is lost! It is amazing that this phrase is so meaningless, yet so standard!
Earlier articles of this column have already mentioned certain features which militate against effective communication; two of them are displayed here.
Redundancy: enclosed/attached herewith is unnecessary repetition. If the item is here with the covering letter, then, of course, it is enclosed/attached. If the document is attached, then it has got to be here with the e-mail! In this connection, don’t use “together with” as it is also redundant. The word “herewith”, like “hereby”, “hereinafter”, “heretofore”, etc, is extremely archaic.
Verbosity: How many words do you need? Whatever is a kind perusal? It sounds almost like a sweet little furry animal! Whatever it means, it is way out of date.
Please don’t use “for your further action”; “for your attention”; “for your necessary action” (as if the reader is likely to do something UNnecessary with it!). All of these fail to tell the reader what he/she has to do. If you are sure that the reader knows what to do with the enclosure, then there is no need to write “for your ...”!
What about the word “valued” as in “Dear Valued Customer”? Don’t use it! If you value your customer, show it, don’t write it! One way to show that you value the customer is to take the trouble to use mail-merge so that his/her name appears in the salutation rather than the low-value “Valued Customer”.
A common and risky scenario is when the manager of a department receives an e-mail, decides that his/her downliner should deal with this, so forwards it with the caption: Please do the needful/Please take the necessary action/Please act accordingly.
When forwarding e-mails for other people’s action, always specify the intended action, otherwise the downliner may act according to ... WHAT?
Then how should we refer to a document that we are enclosing or attaching? Consider these.
We are enclosing a copy of the catalogue which you requested. If you would like to appear more joyful, try: We are pleased to enclose a copy of the catalogue which you requested.
We are enclosing a copy of the ______ Report, as you requested.
Notice that these are all written in the Active Voice. It is normally preferable to use the Active Voice in correspondence and the Passive Voice in certain other types of documents.
If you don’t want to appear friendly, you may want to consider: “Enclosed is a copy of the_____ Report, as requested.” This is all in the Passive Voice and creates distance between the Writer and the Reader, but should generally not be used.
Dr Alistair King has over 25 years experience in education and training for multinational corporations and government departments in several European, African and Asian countries. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
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