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I've been attending translation courses, and our business writing teacher has been drilling us to avoid the repetition of subject nouns referring to the sender (a company, as a rule) - not in some clauses constituting a sentence, but across different sentences:

Dear Sirs,
We thank you for your proposal. [...] We would like to place an order for the following items: Item 1 (20 units), Item 2 (10 units). [...] If the products meet our approval, we shall place a larger order. We look forward to doing business with you.
Faithfully yours,
CopperKettle,
Manager
(mind that there are other sentences in the text, which I omitted, indicating them with [...])

According to the teacher, the text above is a no-no due to the repetition of "we". So every pupil has to remodel his or her letter in the following way, in order to refer to the company using different nouns and pronouns each time:

Dear Sirs,
Our company thanks you for your proposal. [...] We would like to place an order for the following items: Item 1 (20 units), Item 2 (10 units). [...] If the products meet our approval, the management shall place a larger order. Our firm looks forward to doing business with you.
Faithfully yours,
CopperKettle,
Manager

Is there really, or was there really, such a rule? Or does letter 1 look okay?

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    I've heard about that before. It is possible, however, that it didn't prohibit the use of the same word for a subject outright. The combination of the use of the same noun/pronoun and the same position of it in the sentence (lack of introductory clauses, phrases, other pieces that would break the monotony) what was frowned upon, I think. – Victor Bazarov Nov 2 '15 at 20:47
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    This pernicious doctrine is generally, almost universally, derided under the name Fowler gave it, "elegant variation". – StoneyB Nov 2 '15 at 20:58
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    Yes, to me it looks an over use of 'we'. In fact, I wont' be surprised if someone may even call it 'boasting' – Maulik V Nov 3 '15 at 4:31
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    There is no such rule, and I see absolutely no problem with using "we" repeatedly. The subject of each sentence is simply "we"; there is nothing boasting about it. – stangdon Nov 3 '15 at 15:25
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+50

There is no such rule. It may sound a bit repetitive if you use the same word with the same grammatical function in the sentence all the way through the letter. I see no problem at all with the original. Having said that, variety can enliven a boring business letter on occasion.

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Thank you for your proposal. [...] We would like to place an order for the following items: Item 1 (20 units), Item 2 (10 units). [...]
If the products meet (with) our approval, a larger order will follow/will be placed.
Our firm looks forward to doing business with you.

I don't think your first "We" is necessary, since thanks are usually given without any subject. (There might be a localized style preference, though.)

Changing the structure of the phrase "we shall place a larger order" helps break up the repetitive pattern. It is passive but unless very formal should be OK.

In the last sentence, I prefer Our firm, but more because it joins both companies formally, rather than using a pronoun.

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As others have said, there is no exact rule to that effect. In your example, 'we' is a particularly unobtrusive word, so both could be acceptable, although the second is marginally better.

Where it becomes clearer is if you used a more specific term like 'company' that number of times. Then you would definitely want to try to vary the terms.

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Your second message sounds perfect! Since it sounds like you are placing an initial order of these items, you might want to add the word, "initial" in the phrase, "We would like to place an initial order for the following items". Also, the word shall is a bit outdated, or else legal terminology. If you replace "shall" with "will" then it will sounds more fluid. Lastly, the phrase "Faithfully yours" sounds like your firm is subservient to the message's recipient. You make want to change this to "Best regards", which is still a very professional way to end a message. :-)

  • Thank you for your input, but I really wasn't asking for a proofread of the text. (0: I do ask people to proofread my texts at lang-8.com, but here I just wanted to tackle this exact point of subject repetition. – CowperKettle Nov 6 '15 at 17:56
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    Then to answer your question, there is no official rule saying you cannot repeat a subject. Technically, it is perfect English to do so but it sounds highly awkward if you do repeat subjects too often. Similarly, varying sentence structure is a sign of a good writer. – GracefulCode Nov 6 '15 at 18:14

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