Business English involves a number of scenarios and all should be mastered for success.
It is so much more than merely holding a fluent, generic conversation. To be an expert you need to master every area, as they will all be necessary.
Effective Business English speaking requires that you not only be able to hold a conversation with a colleague at the watercooler, at the coffee station or even over lunch in the canteen but you should also be able to:
1 Discuss a topic comprehensively, yet concisely (fully yet briefly)
2 Argue a point decisively, yet politely
3 Persuade others to adopt your standpoint, without causing offense
4 Take a position and be able to accurately explain your reasoning, without being confrontational
5 Hold your audiences’ attention, while speaking to large groups
6 Command and maintain control of a meeting, without alienating fellow attendees
7 Fully explain something, without rambling, in order to correctly share information in a meeting
8 Comfortably talk through graphs, reports and other visuals, without stumbling over your words
9 Confidently give a presentation, whilst reading the room in order to adapt to your audience
10 Ask pertinent (appropriate) questions in a meeting or when holding a job interview to either aid the other person in seeing the error in their perspective or to get more information by digging below the surface to learn the truth
11 Share accepted greetings at special occasions, such as wishing a colleague on their birthday, or wishing your department a restful end of year break
12 How to get through airport customs questions
13 Booking a hotel room, renting a car or even reserving a restaurant table
14 Ordering a meal without embarrassing yourself in front of colleagues travelling with you or with visiting dignitaries whilst hosting them
15 Asking and giving directions or taking a phone message for a colleague
These are areas native English speakers take in their stride, yet for those whom English is a second-language, they can be extremely daunting and they may even offer severe pitfalls to success.
Business English reading requires you not only being able to understand the text but it also involves:
1 Being able to quickly process and repurpose the information (how to re-use it in a different context e.g. taking information from a lengthy Product Specification Word document and condensing it into one PowerPoint presentation slide)
2 Reading between the lines (e.g. Your boss responds to your very specific email question with a ‘half answer’ – know not to push for more as he / she may not wish to provide the entire answer, instead you should then continue on without it)
3 Reading to fully understand the details so that you can deliver what is expected of you (try to always have the 3 W’s and How: What is required, When is it required, Where is it required and How is it required)
Business English listening requires you to not only listen to respond or reply back but to also quickly understand. If your listening skills are too basic you may need to ask them to either speak more slowly or to repeat themselves and in a business setting this may be frowned upon, as it could be considered wasting time. However, not understanding fully and going off to complete a task incorrectly will be even worse as you would be considered incompetent and not good at your job. It may be important to sometimes ask questions to ‘clarify your understanding of what is required’ instead of asking someone to dumbly repeat themselves. Another strategy may be for you to send the person an email after the meeting, in which you briefly outline what was discussed and agreed, if they did not send out a summary themselves. That way, they would correct your misunderstanding, whilst viewing you as being very thorough. You, can then also share that clarity with the other attendees, ensuring that they too then also view you as being helpful and reliable, rather than an irritation.
Business English writing is more than using proper grammar. It is also the correct use of tone and being either formal or informal depending on your audience. For example, when emailing your boss you would not start with ‘Hi Buddie’, as you would with a friend.
Perfect grammar alone may not always ensure that your words are accurately understood, as you also need to be able to communicate clearly. For example, ‘Please send them the previous report, as I require it for analysis.’ That sentence has perfect grammar, however the person reading it would not understand what they need to do. Instead you could write, ‘Please email last weeks project budget report to the project team, by the end of today. I will then include that information in our departmental spending analysis report.’ This written request clearly answers the What, When and the How. There is no Where required in this instance. In business, it is vital to communicate clearly to save time and money, so as to ensure success, for if you’d used the first sentence the confused reader may have guessed at what you required and sent the incorrect report to another ‘them’, only to have to apologise and start again once you were forced to explain yourself better.
Writing an essay in an email, providing every possible detail with perfect grammar, is also not perfect Business English writing, if you could have said what was required in just two sentences. Or using perfect grammar, whilst giving an emotional plea for help, is also not perfect Business English writing because emotion has no place in business and only facts should be politely stated. Take responsibility but do not blame, beg or give excuses, simply get the job done and you will succeed.
Business English requires the correct use of language in a specific situation. It is as far from a Shakespearean play writing style as one can get, yet the language is still elegant and eloquent.
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