18 HASKINS & SELLS March
Grammatical Construction and the Use of Words in Accountants'
By J . M . PALEN, of the New York Office
GEORGE BURTON HOTCHKISS has
written a book on business correspondence
which is built around what
he calls the "Five C's" of business English.
These five C's are, in the order of their
relative importance, clearness, correctness,
conciseness, courtesy, and character. Of
course, the book deals principally with
sales letters and other letters whose principal
object is the getting of business,
but these five C's are just as important
in the accountant's report as in any other
form of business correspondence.
It is true, however, that courtesy and
character are comparatively easy to attain
in the formal report, and for that reason
much time need not be devoted to
Courtesy requires the use of tact in making
criticisms and recommendations. Of
course, we can never withhold important
truths, however unpalatable they may be,
but where it is necessary to criticize we
may do so in as inoffensive a manner as
is consistent with truthfulness.
The character desired in a report is
that obtained by the use of a dignified,
impersonal tone. Outside the presentation,
never use the words you or your. Do
hot say "your books show," say "the
books show," or, if necessary to specify
further, "the books of the company";
say "employes of the company," not
"your employes"; and "Mr. John Logan,
secretary of the company," not "your
As much as is possible, the use of the
word "we" should be avoided. In many
* A talk before the Professional Training Conference, June 7, 1920.