The reference mark in business letters

(Specifics of the reference sign in English business letters)

Table of contents – reference mark in business letters

On this page you will find the following:

  1. Use of the reference sign
  2. Further explanations

What are the specifics of the reference sign/mark?

In English business letters, you often find a line with a reference sign. Although there is no official rule on how the reference mark is composed, a generally accepted style has developed. This style includes the initials of the author of the message that are often followed by those of the secretary, for example, ‘JS/AH’ replacing John Smith and Anna Hammersworth. These letters may appear in upper or lower case. Additionally, numbers are also frequently utilised to indicate departments or files.

The position of the reference mark is slightly different in British and American English. In detail:

  • In British English, the reference line typically appears after the letterhead, above the date, and on the left margin.
  • In American English, it is usually left-justified and placed at the bottom of the letter.

Besides, the information ‘Your ref.’ or ‘Our ref.’ may be employed to indicate the reference. Consequently, a complete line may look like this:

  • BRS/rm
  • Your ref. JK/887 / Our ref. 54/hn

Further explanations referring to the ‘Reference in business letters’

The following explanations are related to the topic ‘Reference sign / reference mark in English business letters’ and could also be interesting: