Arab World English Journal (AWEJ) Volume.7 Number.4  December, 2016


Book Review


Writing Business Letters across Languages: A Guide to Writing Clear and Concise Business Letters for Translation Purposes


Author: Said M. Shiyab & Sonia Halimi

Title of the Book: Writing Business Letters across Languages: A Guide to Writing Clear and Concise
Business Letters for Translation Purposes

Year of Publication: 2015

Publisher: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, United Kingdom

Number of Pages: 160

Reviewer: Dr. Nadia Idri, Faculty of Arts and Languages, University of Bejaia

Language is generally a means of communication needed in professional settings. The written form of a professional remains crucial to make his/her ideas, arguments, motivations and products convincing. One of the means a professional is required to write is a business letter or a cover letter. This starts to be required in any academic or professional setting right from the early stages of ones’ career. Given that students are called to submit cover letters; sometimes in a language different from their first language (L1) make them meet challenges to effectively write their business letter. From this point, I personally agree with Shiyab and Halimi’s (2015) point that students and teachers whose filed is related to language/s need a textbook in business writing or business-related correspondences.

In its general form, the handbook is dedicated to students or teachers who need to write a business letter for translation purposes, the authors devoted seven chapters divided in 160 pages including references. Each chapter is with a useful checklist and a set of activities to help students practice. Regarding the used references, the authors relied mostly on a recent list of references that make 54 references in number. The book offers a rich glossary of the common business terms its users might need for a better comprehension. The authors provided rich examples of business letters in both languages; English and Arabic.

When the reader goes through the book, Shiyab and Halimi (2015) covered the “what” and the “how” of writing in general and writing business letters in particular. That is, the authors organized the chapters from general to specific going through the identification of writing as a process, to writing as an art moving to writing business letters in communication. In this, the authors related writing business letters to languages focusing on the writing process. They treated each stage in a chapter moving from components, to planning, to pre-writing, to writing and ending up with promotional tips. These, as one might notice, are the main stages we can find in the approach that deals with writing as a process.

As aforementioned, the authors open the book with an introductory chapter about the process. Any writer should consider important elements related to writing to reach an effective and clear written form that responds to the reader’s expectations. Hence, the use of the necessary writing mechanics, respecting language accuracy, spelling, appropriate vocabulary and the needed form should all be considered by the writer. For this the chapter puts focus on such parts as monotony, redundancy, clarity, coherence, cohesion, common knowledge, subjectivity, objectivity, straightforwardness and simplicity. This is one aspect in writing actually. That is, after this stage, the writer should have his/her artistic print and should accompany his/her writing smartness with good quality writing via specific mechanisms like style, organization and chosen content. All of the above discussed issues are successfully argued in the first chapter.

As for the second chapter, it is principally devoted to the nature and significance of business correspondence. It first introduces the notion of communication in business letters, then, to correspondence. To succeed in this type of writing, Shiyab and Halimi (2015) presented details about business communication and correspondence through sections that cover types of business letters with their inner and outer qualities. The last element of the chapter is considering “when writing business letters across languages”.

The authors are impeccably systematic in terms of chapters’ organisation. They move smoothly from general to specific. As a follow up of the second chapter, the authors offer an entire, well-illustrated chapter about types of business letter and their different formats. The chapter’s main objective is to suggest a range of formats used by various companies and organisations in both academic and non-academic settings. What is exceptional in this chapter is its diversified samples whether as a one-block format, a modified block or a modified intended block format.

After a general overview of the choice of the business letter format, one needs to consider the way he/she needs to employ in order to write the business letter. This is what the fourth chapter embeds as it goes through the main elements of the business letter’s form: heading, date, inside address, salutation, body, complementary close, signature block and enclosures copies. All of these indispensible basics of a letter form are illustrated through existing examples. The authors did not also neglect additional formal notes on spacing, letter font and headings. Finally, a quite interesting space to writing business letters in Arabic has been devoted at the end of the chapter.

The process of writing takes into account a number of stages. This comes after decision-making about the needed form and content. This chapter emphasizes the pre-writing stage of the business letter. Here, one cannot deny that the authors generously exposed the required foundations a writer needs when drafting his/her business letter across languages. According to Shiyab and Halimi (2015), any writer is in need of taking into account the language use and culture. That is, the author needs to reflect on the language clues imposed by the language he/she uses and adhere to its communicative rules. It is for these reasons that the authors insist on the use of the right method while writing. Within this line of thought, any writer should consider clarity of the goal, simplicity, conciseness and completion of his/her style. The pre-writing stage should be revised before moving to the final step; the writing stage.

The sixth chapter of the book leads its user to writing, finally, his/her business letter. The chapter details the discussion about the part of the letter and how to write clearly and explicitly each part; opening, body and ending through the usual samples (in both languages; Arabic and English) offered all along the book. One can need to write different kinds of business letters according to the message he/she wants to convey. Hence, the authors offered a range of letter types like request, complaint, apology, application letter, congratulations, thanks, memos, etc. this chapter contains about forty sample letters in both languages English and Arabic.

The last chapter of the book goes beyond writing and is expanded to what is purely bound to business correspondence. The chapter introduces the notion of promotional materials. Then, a number of arguments are presented to show how important it is to use creative and evocative language when advertising. For this, Shiyab and Halimi (2015) highlighted language styles and the needed language for ads, e.g. argumentative, declarative, incentive. The idea stems from having an impact on the receiver’s emotions and mind. For this, they went through figures of speech mainly metathesis, rhyme, alliteration, allusions, decoding. To enclose the chapter and the book, the authors added some aspects that make the receiver of the business letter understand better are added namely decoding, abbreviations, direct solicitations, transfer and publicity failure.

All in all, the book remains a necessary guide and textbook every student should have in his/her library. This book can be the student’s companion mainly when he/she is required to draft a cover letter or a business letter in either English or Arabic.

Dr. Nadia IDRI,

Faculty of Arts and Languages

University of Bejaia, Algeria