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I was handed an example of a formal letter, which was written in reply to an advertisement. This is the starting sentence:

Dear Mr Madrick,

With reference to your advertisement in "The Times" of 6th January last,...

Is this sentence correct? Especially the final word, 'last', seems to be misplaced.

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Perfectly normal business-speak, and perfectly clear, except, of course, to non-native speakers, but the bureaucrats don't care. Don't expect standard idiomatic English from public or private bureaucrats. Expect what I like to call "idiotomatic English". –  user21497 Apr 1 '13 at 13:31
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3 Answers

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I'd assume you advertised with them, last January 6th, although the wording does seem a bit confusing, because you don't hear it expressed that way all too often.

As for the placement of the word, NOAD lists usage, right in definition #2:

last 1 adjective

1 coming after all others in time or order; final : they caught the last bus.
2 most recent in time; latest : last year | [ postpositive ] your letter of Sunday last.

So, yes, the word is valid where it is; sometimes last can come last. It might not be the most common way to use the word, but it’s a valid placement nonetheless.

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What's even more confusing is that it originally said '6th January 2012 last', I forgot to include that 2012. But in that case, it would be totally, totally redundant right (since there will be just one 6th January 2012)? –  DontTellAnyone Apr 1 '13 at 9:15
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Totally redundant? Not if they were trying to sound sophisticated or quaint as opposed to overly-businesslike. It's hardly necessary, but they might feel like it's a tone-setter. –  J.R. Apr 1 '13 at 9:29
    
Since 'last' here means 'the last 6th January we have had', it must actually refer to 2013 not 2012. See also english.stackexchange.com/a/63508/8019 (prox./inst./ult.) –  TimLymington Apr 1 '13 at 10:27
    
@TimLymington I know what last means, I meant that it literally said '6th January 2012 last', which I find weird, since there is just one 6th January 2012, so the 'last' part is redundant. You can replace it with any given year, in this case it was just 2012. –  DontTellAnyone Apr 1 '13 at 15:34
    
@DontTellAnyone: No, my point was that although '6th January last' is normal business-speak for '6th January', '6th January 2012 last' is not just unidiomatic but actually wrong, assuming the letter is dated this year. –  TimLymington Apr 1 '13 at 17:37
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The sentence immediately after the greeting should start with a capital letter.

The 'last' is redundant unless it is now between 1st and 6th January the following year.

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In my 'letter writing' syllabus, none of the sentences after the greeting start with a capital letter. Odd.. –  DontTellAnyone Apr 1 '13 at 9:05
    
@DontTellAnyone: That is odd – these all seem to start with an upper-case letter... same with these. –  J.R. Apr 1 '13 at 9:29
    
@DontTellAnyone: So if your homework is going to be marked by the person who set the syllabus, you'd better follow it, or be prepared to defend your answer. If you want to conform to normal practice (at least for BrE), it's a capital. If you want to refer to 2012 it's better to put that explicitly, or last year. If you mean the latest occurrence, inclusion of 2013 would be redundant but clear and not wrong. –  DavidR Apr 1 '13 at 13:36
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It's English sounding, but looks fine. The American translation would be:

In regards to your January 6th advertisement in "The Times,"...

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