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英文写作的第一铁律

英文写作的第一铁律,无非就是英文写作中顶顶重要的的规律,那肯定也是仁者见仁、智者见智。不过,既然是我们所认为的铁律,那就是我们所认同的顶顶重要的标准:reader-friendly,可以翻译成“方便读者”。我们之所以把它称为第一铁律,是因为一个人在动笔之前就应当从内容到形式的方方面面开始考虑如何方便读者,进而打动读者,并达到自己的写作目的。我在这里举一个实例。

我和一个跨国公司的高管(中国律师,但同时有美国纽约州律师执业资格)认识一个共同的朋友,该朋友姓王(美国公民)与其去年刚去世的先生(姓李,生前也是美国公民)早在2009年的时候与另外一个姓郑的美国人在越南成立了一家公司。郑在李去世后不久,乘着王忙丧事的档口,偷偷地把王及李在公司里的股权用伪造签字的方式偷偷地转到郑的中国亲戚名下。王请该高管友情帮忙处理一下这件事,该高管建议了一套“组合拳”,包括向越南公安报案、与王及其亲戚交涉、调查王及其亲戚在中国及其美国涉嫌违法犯罪的有关情况以及向越南的有关部门写信交涉。前不久王告知该高管,越南政府在接到该交涉信后不久就采取了措施将公司股权回复了原状。事后我与该高管交流,在讶异其一封信有如此之大的效果之余问他究竟有什么秘诀。该高管谦虚地表示:只是运气好而已。如果实在要问有什么秘诀,那可能就是reader-friendly。在征得当事人王女士及该高管的同意之后,我把这封信去掉一些个人隐私信息之后提供给大家,供大家参考:

Dear officer,

I am Ms. Wang (a US citizen with Passport #####) who is a legitimate shareholder of ##### Co., Ltd. with the investment certificate number as #### (hereinafter referred to as “Company”), a company registered with your governmental agency.  My shares under the Company were stolen under my name to someone else.

With the support of my late husband Mr. LI, Mr. Zheng and I jointly set up the Company on November 12, 2009 to supply some industrial materials to the factory that my husband set up in China.  Under the registration for the Company, I have 49% of shares; Mr. Zheng has 51%.  However, in the 51% of the shares that Mr. Zheng holds, my late husband actually had 13.5% according to the concerned contract that Mr. Zheng and my late husband entered into.  In other words, in the Company, Mr. Zheng actually holds 37.5% only while my late husband held 13.5%.  The remainder 49% belongs to me as registered.

In May of 2014, my husband passed away in China because of cancer leaving me behind as well as two teenage boys, before and after which I was busy with taking care of my late husband and his after-death matters.  Mr. Zheng then took away management and control of the joint venture in Vietnam.  Not long time ago, I found that my shares in the joint venture were gone.  The current shareholders are Mr. Zheng ### (9%), Ms. #### (49%), and Mr. &&& (42%).  As far as I know, Ms. #### is the sister-in-law of Mr. Zheng, and I do not know Mr. &&& at all.  All of the signatures of mine for the transfer, ####, are fabricated.

In the past several months, I contacted with Mr. Zheng about what was going on.  Mr. Zheng admitted that they did all of the share transfer, and the purpose is to evade the high tax in the United States.  I asked them to reinstate my shares and the shares of my late husband to me.  They refused, and were trying to settle with me by an extremely unfair offer.

Apparently, this is a crime committed against me and my late husband.  I am writing to you to reinstate my shares in the Company (49%) and the shares of my late husband to me (13.5%).

I am currently applying for visa to Vietnam.  I will come to your office in person to handle the matter once my visa is done.  In addition, I will file a criminal complaint with the Vietnamese police.  Your consideration in favor of my reinstating request is highly appreciated.

信的起草人不是native speaker,也许美国味道还不够十足,但这封信无疑超额实现了它所要达到的目的。在我的一再要求之下,该高管对其所认为的reader-friendly总结了这样几条。第一,读者是越南官员,英文水平也许不是那么的好,因此信件平铺直叙,用最简单的语言写清楚事实是最重要的。第二,这封信中把整个事件定性为犯罪非常重要。政府官员对发生在其眼鼻之下的犯罪事件视而不见或不闻不问恐怕都是说不过去的。对于该事件的定性,也是为下一步可能的处理手法的升级打伏笔。第三,这封信提了一句写信人孤儿寡母的窘境,旨在激起读者的同情心。事实上,好像也达到了这个效果。越南政府机构的回函第一句就表达了同情之意(信中人名都是化名)。

该高管说其没有指望通过这一封信毕其功于一役,但这封信所达到的效果应当说与其reader-friendly的写作方式是分不开的。当然,reader-friendly视读者不同而不同、遇情况的变化而变化。在本事件中适用的,也许在其他事件中未必适用;对于其他事件也许有更好的解决方案也未为可知。总之,我们对于reader-friendly作为一个写作经验将在以后的系列文章中继续介绍。

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