SEPTEMBER 2000

Répondez s'il vous plaît

You never know when your company might want to hold an event to celebrate a particular achievement or anniversary. And an invitation can be just like a marketing text in making sure people will (want to) come! This means you have to get it just right.

As with any text, there are different types of invitations for different levels of formality. Let us start with the most official type where English has the odd tradition of using the third person. So you might say, for example:

'The Managing Directors of [name of organisation] request the pleasure of the company of Mr Smith at their dinner celebration to mark the 50th anniversary of the founding of our organisation.'

where Mr Smith is the addressee. Naturally, if you do not have the name of the person to hand you can use, '...request the pleasure of your company...'.

A less official approach, for guests that are better known to you or the person on whose behalf you are sending the invitation, could read as follows:

'Our Managing Director, Mr Brown, will be attending a lunch in London on Friday and we are intending to hold a small dinner party for him in the evening. We would be delighted if you could join us.'

Other information you might have to add to an invitation would be:

1. times - Both the 24-hour clock and the 12-hour clock are correct, but you must never mix the two together, for example 18:00 p.m. is wrong, it is either 6 p.m. or 18:00 hours.

2. dates - There are many different ways to write dates in English, such as 10 July 2000, seen in the UK, and July 10th, 2000, generally a US style. The main piece of advice here is to avoid using figures only, e.g. 10/7/00, as this could cause confusion with American guests arriving on the 7th of October - just a little late!

3. dress - Depending on the occasion, you might request that guests come in 'evening wear', 'formal dress' or simply 'casual dress'. This is often added under the main text of the invitation and is written quite simply: 'Dress: casual' etc..

4. partners - You might also want to let your guests know that they can come accompanied by a partner, whether this be their spouse or any other person of their choice. In such cases, your invitation would read, 'request the company of Mr Smith and partner' OR 'you and your partner'.

Finally, English often uses the abbreviation RSVP in one of the bottom corners of invitations to request that addressees reply to indicate whether they plan to attend. This stands for the French phrase 'Répondez s'il vous plaît'. Many invitations will also have tear-off or fax-back reply forms where the guests need only fill out their name and tick one of a choice of boxes, such as:
- [Name] and partner would be pleased to attend the dinner on the evening of 10 July 2000. - Yes, I will be attending the dinner on the evening of 10 July 2000.
- Unfortunately we will be unable to attend the dinner on the evening of 10 July 2000.
or similar.

Joanne O'Donnell