Delores’ question: “In many of our communications, we need to specify a response within a certain timeframe. The format currently being used is ‘Please confirm your attendance by no later than (date).’ Could you also write ‘Please confirm your attendance by (date)’?”
BizWritingTip response: Both versions are correct. It all depends on the tone you want to create.
“By no later than” indicates any time up to and including that date. It is a more formal type of speech and emphasizes you are quite serious about your request. Some readers find it dictatorial. It works well in legal situations or when a non-response within a critical timeframe could have dire results.
Simply stating “by March 1” indicates any time up until that date but is a little vague on whether the date is also included. It is a much softer approach. As today’s business readers are often overly sensitive, I prefer this technique in regular correspondence. But I do enforce the deadline with a reason for my request. That way I am treating my reader as a team player – not as a child.
The restaurant requires us to commit to the number of people staying for dinner. Therefore, please confirm your attendance by Friday.