Erkennen Sie die formalen Unterschiede im englischen und amerikanischen Brief?

Selbstverständlich sollen Sie sie auch nutzen, denn wenn Sie die Formalia richtig anwenden können, beweisen Sie, dass Sie auch der „Kür“ in der fremdsprachigen Korrespondenz mächtig sind. Wir erklären Ihnen die wichtigsten Aspekte.

Das Gute an dem Thema ist, dass es weder im United Kingdom noch in den USA Formvorschriften wie unsere DIN 5008 gibt.

Aber – wie so oft – gibt es auch eine schlechte Seite: Wenn man die paar „Üblichkeiten“, die es doch gibt, nicht kennt, sondern wild drauflos schreibt, entlarvt man sich eventuell als „Outsider“. Und das täte weder dem eigenen noch dem Ruf des Unternehmens gut.

Der perfekte Briefkopf

Dabei sind es nur vier Bereiche, in denen es sowohl für den britischen als auch für den US-amerikanischen Raum abweichende stillschweigende Vereinbarungen gibt, und alle betreffen den Briefkopf:

1. Adresse,
2. Datum,
3. Anrede,
4. Interpunktion.

Exercise: Postanschriften im UK und in den USA

Now it’s your turn again. Please put the following information into a British or an American letter head, in the correct order, address it not to the person as an individual but as a representative of the company:

1. United Kingdom:

Human Resources, Great Britain, Green Frogs Ltd., Ms Elvira Green, PG 1 D 5GF, Cornwall, Fowey, Fintry House (since some items go on the same line, we have made it easier for you by giving you the correct number of lines).

2. United States of America:

Marketing, USA, Mr. Bob McGuintry, Top Peaks Technical Gear, St. Paul, 5453 Fourth Avenue North, MN 32548

3. Name the difference:

The differences are not big, but as you know, expertise lies in knowing the tiny details.

Das richtige Datum

Where to put the date is easy. In business letters you put it on the left hand side, in personal letters on the right. This is true for Great Britain and the USA.

 

The order of the day and the month is more complicated. As it varies in the UK and USA here is our suggestion: 


To be on the safe side about the correct order you can write out the name of the month. This way you avoid any confusion.


Exercise: Dates

Now it is your turn:

Which is the American, which the British way? Just add an A or a B.

1. 24 December 2011 …..
2. December 24, 2011 ……
3. 24.12.2011 ……….

Some of us still use this form for dates: 24th December 2011. This is old fashioned. Use the form from the exercise instead.

And how do you write a date in the letter’s text? Like this:

  • Our parcel will arrive by 24 December at the latest.

Die korrekte Anrede

For the success of your letters the correct greeting and salutation are important. Here is how you can address different people:

A stranger, who’s name and sex you don’t know:

  • Dear Sir or Madam, Dear Sir/Madam (BE/AE)
  • Plural: Dear Sirs/Mesdames, Dear Sirs or Mesdames (AE)

In the UK even if there were more than one recipient, the salutation would not be in the plural. It would be acceptable to simply say “Dear Sir/Madam”.


  • To whom it may concern (BE)
  • Ladies and Gentlemen: (AE)

A person you know:

  • Dear Ms Blank, Dear Mr Blank (BE)
  • Dear Ms. Blank, Dear Mr. Blank (AE)
  • Plural: Dear Ms(.) Blank and Ms(.) Petris (BE/AE)
  • Messrs Blank and Petris (BE, if it referred to a company and not individuals)
  • Dear Mr. Blank and Mr. Petris (AE)

Die Grußformeln

One or more persons you don’t know:

  • Yours faithfully (BE)
  • Yours truly, (AE)
  • Sincerely, (AE)

A person you know:

  • Yours sincerely (BE)
  • Yours truly, Very truly yours, Sincerely (yours), Best regards (AE)

Answer key exercise: Please translate

Das 2012er Tattoo (3. – 25. August) wird dem Diamantjubiläum Ihrer Majestät, Königin Elisabeth, gemeinsam mit dem Jahr des kreativen Schottlands Anerkennung zollen, eine Feierlichkeit, um 60 Jahre Regierungszeit der Königin und der schottischen Kreativität und Kultur zu würdigen.

Mit Musik, Farben und Vorführungen aus dem In- und Ausland vor dem unvergleichlichen Hintergrund des Schlosses von Edinburgh werden zahlreiche Dudelsack- und Tambourcorps, Militärkapellen, Schaustellergruppen und Tänzer aus allen vier Ecken der Welt dargeboten – und vor allem die ergreifenden Töne des „einsamen Dudelsackspielers“ hoch auf dem Schutzwall des Schlosses. Answer key exercise Postanschriften

1. United Kingdom:

Ms Elvira Green
Human Resources
Green Frogs Ltd.
Fintry House
Fowey, Cornwall
PG 1 D 5GF
Great Britain

2. United States of America:

Mr. Bob McGuintry
Top Peaks Technical Gear
Marketing Department
5453 Fourth Avenue North
St. Paul, MN 32548
USA

3. The first difference is that houses in the UK often have names which are used instead of a house number. Second, the UK postal code is typed below the name of the city and the county, whereas US addresses have the postal code (called the zip code) on the same line as the city and state. The name of the state can be written out, but is usually abbreviated on the envelope, using the state abbreviations of the US postal service.

Answer key exercise: Dates

1. B, 2. A, 3. B

Persönliche Briefe

The greeting will be Dear Peter, Dear Clariss – in British and American English. The salutation varies:

  • Love (BE, personal letter), Yours (BE, more formal, ok. in business letters)
  • Best wishes (BE/AE)
  • All the best, Kind regards, Best regards, Best (AE)

Die passende Interpunktion

There are three current styles of punctuation for business letters:

“Open punctuation”:

In this style there is no punctuation at all behind the greeting or salutation.

This style is a result of increased electronic communication. It is used for more informal writing, such as e-mail, and nowadays is common for business letters in the USA and in the UK.

“Closed punctuation”:

In this style there is a comma behind each line of the address except for the post code, a comma behind the greeting (only in BE, in the USA a colon is used), and a comma behind the salutation (AE).

This style was mostly used in the UK and was rare in the USA. But styles are changing.

“Mixed punctuation”:

In this style there are no commas at the end of the address lines, the greeting ends with comma or colon (AE), and the salutation with a comma (AE).

This kind of punctuation is very typical for US business letters.

As we have seen, the differences used to be bigger than they are today. You will do fine if you use open punctuation for both countries, closed for the UK and Mixed for the USA.

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