Academic journal article International Journal of English Studies

Register Variation in Electronic Business Correspondence

Academic journal article International Journal of English Studies

Register Variation in Electronic Business Correspondence

Article excerpt


Electronic correspondence is a highly dynamic genre within the business world in which Register Variation (RV) is frequently used as a tool to improve communication but it often can lead to misunderstanding. In order to shed some light on this still unexplored area, the present study firstly offers a practical approach to classify and analyse RV within professional communication. After this, it reviews previous studies on email writing to apply their findings to this approach and, in the third part of the study, a corpus of recent business emails in English is analysed to examine how the key parameters of RV are currently used within this genre. The results will show that, not only the context, but also the roles and intentions of the senders influence an email's register, often causing internal oscillations between different registers within the same text.


Email, register variation, business English, corpus analysis, electronic correspondence.


La correspondencia electrónica es un género comunicativo de especial dinamismo dentro del mundo empresarial en el que la variación de registros se utiliza como herramienta para mejorar la interacción y las relaciones entre los interlocutores, pero que a menudo también genera confusión y malentendidos. Para aportar luz a esta área, el presente trabajo ofrece una aproximación práctica para la clasificación y el análisis de los registros lingüísticos dentro de la comunicación profesional. A continuación, revisa los estudios previos sobre este género con el fin de adaptar sus resultados a la teoría propuesta. Finalmente, se analiza un corpus de mensajes escritos en inglés para examinar el funcionamiento de los registros dentro de este género. Los resultados mostrarán que, no solo el contexto situacional, sino sobre todo los roles e intenciones de los emisores determinan el registro de un mensaje, provocando a menudo oscilación interna entre varios registros dentro del mismo texto.


Email, Registro Lingüístico, Inglés Empresarial, Análisis de Corpus, Correspondencia Electrónica.


As Danet (2001) states, in the last 20 years electronic mails have become the most widespread and frequent means of written communication. Although at the beginning this genre shared most of the characteristics of written formal correspondence (i.e. Hawisher & Moran, 1993), in recent years it has been increasingly moving towards other more informal forms of instant communication, such as mobile text messaging (SMS). In order to warn against the overuse and misuse of templates, shortenings, colloquialisms and other forms of free and fast language, many specialists inside the business world are emphasizing the importance of writing correct emails, following adequate etiquette rules to avoid damaging professional image and liability risk.

As previous studies have already indicated, this genre has its own discourse peculiarities (i.e. Baron, 2000); however, the capacity of writing correct texts also depends on other important parameters such as the role of the participants and the contextual factors surrounding the action of writing that particular message. These are two basic parameters which define the concept of communicative register (Giménez Moreno, 2006). Therefore, to a certain extent, the mastering of electronic business correspondence is dependent on the user's capacity to identify how registers vary inside this genre and how to use the most appropriate register criteria in each situation. An informal email addressed to a close friend does not follow the same criteria as an informal email addressed to a colleague. Formality and informality are two concepts which are very helpful when identifying Register Variation (RV) but they are also very relative and might be misleading when applied to specific settings and discourse types, especially within professional communication. …

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