First Advisor

Marjorie S. Terdal

Term of Graduation

Spring 1997

Date of Publication


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (M.A.) in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages


Applied Linguistics




Complaint letters -- Korea, Complaint letters -- United States, Business writing -- Korea, Business writing -- United States



Physical Description

1 online resource (iv, 129 pages)


The purpose of this study was to find out if Korean and American business people use different rhetorical patterns in business writing, and if so, how these patterns differ. Specifically, this study examined rhetorical organization and style patterns of Korean and American business letter writing in English to determine differences.

The data used in this study consisted exclusively of fax transmitted business letters of complaint written in English obtained from seven companies in Korea. The sample consisted of seven letters written by American business people and fourteen by Korean business people. They were analyzed according to a predetermined set of coding categories both for organization and style patterns. Organizational patterns were examined by the ways in which the two different groups of writers presented the complaint, relevant information, and requests for action. Style patterns were examined by the ways in which the message was delivered and referred to the reader and writer within the two communicative functions of complaint acts and request acts.

From the analysis of American and Korean rhetorical patterns, differences were found within organization and style. Regarding organization of business letters, the American rhetorical pattern was characterized as "direct" or "linear" and the Korean rhetorical pattern as "indirect" or "non-linear." Regarding style patterns, when presenting complaints American styles were consistently implicit; the complaint sources were impersonalized and the complaint message was hedged, yet clear. When requesting action, American styles were explicit and implicit; however, even when American styles were implicit, the message was still clear. On the other hand, Korean styles were not consistent. The complaint sources were more personalized making the complaint act explicit, and the complaint message was also hedged, yet this hedging caused "ambiguity." When requesting action, Korean styles were also explicit and implicit; however, when Korean styles were implicit, it generally led to "ambiguity."


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