Introduction: It is a world in which business is playing an important role, and foreign trade occupies a large part in it. So familiarizing with foreign trade correspondence is basic qualification for those who intend to enter the commercial world. My essay will introduce foreign trade correspondence through three most common categories: making enquiries, making offers and placing orders.

Foreign Trade Correspondence


Making enquiries

The organisational pattern of a trade pattern

Adopting the right tone

Making offers

Organisation of a quotation letter

Importance of accuracy in quotations

Placing orders

Contents of a purchase order

Replying to orders

Making Enquiries


Definition: Enquiry and quotation make up the first step of bringing a would-be buyer and potential seller together. An enquiry is usually a request for information on availability of certain goods or sometimes a request for the price-list, catalogue or samples. The same enquiry may go to several suppliers, and the most advantages offer will win the deal. Enquiry also refer to project investigation, conducted business transaction to find out the financial and business standing of a potencial business partner.

Example: [1]

An Example Letter
Kenneth Beare2520 Visita AvenueOlympia, WA 98501
Jackson Brothers3487 23rd StreetNew York, NY 12009

September 12, 2000

To Whom It May Concern:
With reference to your advertisement in yesterday's New York Times, could you please send me a copy of your latest catalog. I would also like to know if it is possible to make purchases online.

Yours faithfully

Kenneth BeareAdministrative DirectorEnglish Learners & Company

The organisational pattern of a trade pattern

A letter of enquiry is usually organized by following three-section pattern: the opening, the middle part, and the ending.

In the opening section, there are several things that you may do, such as:

  • providing some brief information about you and your firm;

  • explaining briefly the circumstance of writing;

  • stating how you came to know about the company.

The middle part of the letter is for you to set out in detail what you are enquiring about, be it service or goods.

In the concluding part, you may

  • restate the main point of the letter;

  • raise additional points;

  • express the desire for establishing further business relations;

  • mention that a prompt reply would be appreciated.

Adopting the right tone

Business English is always polite in language and neutral in tone. There are some stereotyped expressions for making enquiries or requests, such as

---- We should be grateful if you could ……

---- We should appreciate it if you could......

It is safe to use such structures and avoid cold and rigid expressions as well as intimate and informal languages.

Making offers


Definition: When receiving a trade enquiry, we need to reply immediately. The reply may take the form of a quotation, in which we set out details about prices, delivery schedule, terms of payment, discount rate, etc. If we do not have the commodity or service asked for, we still need to acknowledge the receipt of the enquiry, and even offer an alternative or refer the correspondent elsewhere.

A reply to an initial enquiry is the first impression that our customer will have of us, leading to their judgement. So, a direct approach--telling the customer what the product is, why he should buy it, how much it will cost, and what concessions we are offering--will create an impression of an efficient company that can handle his order smoothly.

Organisation of a quotation letter: [2]

o How you came to know about this company (through an ad / an exhibition/ catalogue/ another firm)

o What exactly you want : Name of the article / product

o Specification: quality(size, length, thickness); quantity (the number you want)

o When you want it

o Ask them to quote prices

o Ask for discount

o Ask for payment terms (cheque / letter of credit / DD )

o Mention the mode of transport

• Yours faithfully

• Signature

• Your name

Importance of accuracy in quotations

Good business writing is characterized by a standard layout, accurate expression and appropriate tone. It is important that every detail is accurate, in names, titles, addresses, numbers, amounts...etc.

This is particularly important when quoting prices or giving specifications; a careless error in writing might result in economic losses. Furthetmore, if we are careless in our writing, it may give an impression that the company we represent is likely to be careless also in manufacturing or delivering goods, which would be a disadvantage.

Placing orders

Definition: It is quite common for a buyer to place an order by a fax letter, accompanied by a standard Order Sheet, printed with all the necessary items. For small transactions, particularly those in which the deal will be completed in a short time, or for small orders from regular customers, the buyer may simply send a fax message, or an e-mail, as an order.

example 1: [3]

A: Our toner cartridges are already out of ink...Could you make an order for a new set?

B: We will need new cartridges for all of the office printers? That will be a large order, probably about two or three cases. The office supply store we usually go through might not have that many in stock.

A: You can double check with the housekeeping department, but I am pretty sure all of the machines will need new cartridges. Last time when we made our order to the supplier, the quantity was also especially high. They are used to receiving such bulk orders from us . As long as we give them a heads up a couple days in advance, they can usually fill the order.

B: OK, I will make a few calls and run our order by housekeeping first to make sure. Is there anything else we need to order while I am at it?

A: I think the only thing is toner. Try to see if they can deliver it before the end of business day tomorrow. We should really try to do better about waiting until the last minute to fill orders that are usually made on a monthly basis. Anyhow, see what you can do to expedite the order this time.

B: OK, will do.

example 2:[3]

A: May I help you?

B: Yes, I would like to place an order for toner cartridges. We have a standing agreement with you company, so we will need the same amount as last time.

A: Let me key in your information into my computer. I will pull up our records for you . Do you have an order number? What name is the order listed under ?

B: It should be under Leslie Smith. The number is 184796 A.

A: Yes, Mr. Smith. I have an order for three cases of cartridges, it that what you would like to refill?

B: Yes.

A: Is there the correct billing address?

B: No, pls post the bill to 124 Hildrod Lane, Milton County, 98830.

A: I will send you an invoice in the next few days. Your order should be delivered before the end of the day on Monday.

B: Thank you.

Contents of a purchase order: [4]

  1. goods and services;

  2. purchase price and terms of payment;

  3. method of shipment or packing;

  4. inspection and rejection;

  5. changes;

  6. maintenance and operation;

  7. warranty;

  8. confidentiality;

  9. indemnification;

  10. insurance;

  11. assignment;

  12. default;

  13. termination;

  14. force majeure;

  15. governing law.

Replying to orders

Once an order is received, it is proper for the sellers to acknowledge the receipt and confirm the terms and conditions of the deal. A useful structure to fulfill this purpose is:

  • We acknowledge with thanks receipt of your order for...(goods), dated...

It is also customary to add a word of appreciation or promise of good service in the concluding part of such acknowledge letters. Examples:

  • Thank you for your patronage. We are sure that the goods will be satisfactory to you.

  • Please be assured that the goods you order will be dispatched within the stipulated date of shipment.


More information and details about foreign trade corrrespondence:[]