Want to Apply for a Job or Bid on a Contract in French?
Consult Le Français au bureau

By Barbara McClintock, C. Tr.

Noëlle Guilloton, Hélène Cajolet-Laganière (with Martine Germain), Le Français au bureau, 2014, Office québécois de la langue française, 985 pp, ISBN 978-2-551-25242-8. Pdf version available and website with downloadable letter templates.

Le Français au bureau—a 40-year old publishing franchise—is a treasure trove of information for anyone who needs to write in French, including Anglo translators in Quebec. The 7th edition is a revised and improved version of the book originally published by Hélène Cajolet-Laganière in 1977. The first books covered some of the same ground as their competition, Le Français, langue des affaires, by two former University of Montreal professors, Paul Horguelin and André Clas (third edition McGraw-Hill, 1991).

The 985-page Le Français au bureau, revised and expanded by Martine Germain and Noëlle Guilloton in 2014, contains guidelines on almost every type of document you may have to write in French in a business setting, from how to write an email, a job application, reference letter or collection letter, to new recommendations about the French language and much more. It is a well-organized encyclopedia of information, with coloured index tabs and a plethora of lists.

There is a list of names of cities and other geographic names in which I discovered that the name of the town where I grew up, inspired by Abbé d’Urfé, and previously written Baie d’Urfé (No capital D and no hyphen), is now Baie-D’Urfé. Geographical names tend to change frequently and need to be checked. You can find other handy information in the typography section about, for example:

I find the section Mots et expressions à connaître (p. 171 to p. 197) particularly useful. It lists expressions that should be avoided and what to use instead. Some of the recommendations were new to me. However, they reflect the OQLF’s recommendations on its website and are important to know. You will find a sampling below.

To avoid Preferable
bienvenue de rien
bon matin bonjour
Boxing Day Après-Noël
lendemain de Noël
soldes de l'Après-Noël
carte d'affaires carte professionnelle
ci-bas ci-dessous; ci-après
combler un poste pourvoir (à) un poste
construction (signalisation routière) travaux
cueillette de données, de fonds collecte de données, de fonds
faire affaires(s) au Québec être établi au Québec
l'assemblée est levée la séance est levée
le Black Friday le Vendredi fou
le Mégasolde d'avant Noël
lettre de référence lettre de recommandation
sans préjudice sous toutes réserves; sous réserve de tous droits
termes et conditions condition générales de vente
vente de garage vente-débarras
version finale version définitive

There is an emphasis on spelling and grammatical difficulties in this book. Some new additions include: sample letters and salutations; colour adjectives; country names; explanations about assurer / s’assurer; and compris / inclus / incluant; automobile brands (une Honda Civic, une Camaro); and definitions of generic and specific terms (in the toponymy section), e.g., rivière des Outaouais. The generic element is rivière and the specific element is Outaouais.

The feminine version of titles may come in handy, e.g., agente culturelle is the feminine form of agent culturel and contrôleuse aérienne is the feminine form of contrôleur aérien. Some of the abbreviations appear foreign to me, e.g., vte with a superscript for vente and Civil Code is abbreviated by C.civ. on p. 352, whereas Quebecers write CCQ for the Civil Code of Québec / Code Civil du Québec. Also, I couldn’t find the abbreviation M for million, only G for billion, on p. 358. Unfortunately, on p. 401, in the numbers section, the recommendation is to write telephone numbers without an initial hyphen (514 873-6565), which differs from the recommendation of federal terminologists for writing phone numbers in both French and English (514-873-6565). Federal-provincial terminology harmonization would be helpful. Despite these minor complaints, it is a wonderful reference book for all Quebecers in the 21st century.