Genre Analysis of Enquiry Letters across Cultures:Perspectives on Rhetorical Structures

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Department of English, NTNU


With the globalization of business interaction, writing business letters seems to be necessary as international networks continue to expand. Identifying specific content, organization of thoughts, ideas, and references of business letters becomes clear only if one maintains generic structures of letters; yet the schematic structure of such letters have not been broadly addressed across different languages. To this end, 200 English and Persian business letters were analyzed focusing on the purpose of enquiring information from local and international companies. These letters were investigated, following Santos’ (2002) model of negotiation, to explore the generic structure, lexicogrammaticality, and politeness strategies. With a few exceptions in some sub-steps, the two corpora were relatively similar in the exchange of information though they differed considerably in the use of positive and negative politeness strategies and in applying different forms of directives. The important role that an enquiry letter plays in the creation of organizational knowledge and in the functional work necessitates further cross-cultural investigations of such letters.