Communication in business English may take on many different forms. But do you know the right way to communicate at work? If you don’t, that can lead to some costly mistakes. In this article, we will take a look at some of the most important things to remember when communicating with clients, co-workers, and superiors.
Follow these tips and you will be able to avoid misunderstandings and build better relationships with the people around you.
Business English has evolved and changed over time, but it still follows some essential patterns.
Whether you’re working as part of a team or as an entrepreneur, you must communicate effectively. Otherwise, your ideas may be ignored. Or your products may stay unsold in the warehouse.
Here are some strategies for improving your business English communication skills.
Keep Your Writing Concise and Helpful
It’s important to be as brief and accurate as possible. Long sentences will make your message harder to follow and digest.
When you write a sentence, think about its purpose. Every word should contribute to moving the message forward. To do this, use strong verbs and avoid passive voice.
For example, say “We launched a new product” instead of “A new product was launched by us”. The first sentence is direct and active. The second is indirect and passive.
“The team is working on a project.” => “The team is developing a new product.”
In the first sentence, the verb “to work” is weak. This means it doesn’t give us much information about what the team is doing. The second sentence uses the verb “to develop”. This is a stronger verb because it tells us more about the team’s exact actions.
To sound even more concise and helpful, use “you” statements. These are statements that focus on the reader and what they need to do. For example:
“You can improve your communication skills using strong verbs.” (Instead of writing “People can improve their communication skills by using strong verbs”, or “The use of strong verbs is one way for people to improve their communication skills”.)
Vague statements are difficult to understand. They can also be interpreted in different ways. This can lead to confusion and misunderstandings.
It’s important to be as specific as possible when you communicate. This will help reduce the chances of miscommunication.
For example, say “I need the report by Friday at 5pm” instead of “I need the report soon”. The first statement is specific about what you need and when you need it. The second statement is vague and doesn’t give a specific time frame.
When writing to your superiors, use specific and concrete language. This will show that you know what you’re talking about. It will also make it easier for them to understand your message.
For example: “I’m sorry, but I can’t finish the report today. I’ll need an extra day.” (Instead of saying “I’m sorry, but I can’t do it today”.)
When you communicate, it’s important to explain why you’re doing something. This will help the person understand your actions and make them more likely to agree with you.
For example, say “We need a bigger budget for the project because we have to hire more staff” instead of “We need a bigger budget for the project”.
The first statement explains the rationale behind the request. The second statement doesn’t. As a result, the person may not understand why you need a bigger budget. They may also be less likely to agree with your request.
Use Simple Language
When you’re communicating in English, it’s important to use simple language. This will help ensure that your message is clear and easy to understand.
For example, say “We’re going to launch the product next week” instead of “The debut of the product is scheduled for the subsequent week”.
The first sentence is short and simple. The second sentence uses uncommon words.
It’s also important to use common words and phrases. These are words and phrases that people use in everyday conversation. Considering your target audience, you may want to also avoid jargon. This is language that’s specific to a particular field or industry. Ordinary people are likely to misunderstand it.
For example, “We’re going to beta test the product next week” is jargon. A non-technical person may not know what a “beta test” means. (Beta test is a test of a product before it’s released to the general public.)
Instead, you could say, “We’re going to test the product with a group of people next week”. This is simpler and easier to understand.
Use Positive Language
When you’re communicating, it’s important to use positive language. This is language that’s upbeat and optimistic. It can help create a positive impression and make the person feel good about what you’re saying.
For example, say “I’d be happy to help you with the project” instead of “I can help you with the project”.
The first sentence is more positive. It sounds like you’re eager to help. The second sentence shows less interest.
This goes without saying, but it’s important to be polite when you communicate. This will make the person feel respected and appreciated.
Moreover, business English is generally more formal than everyday English. This is because you usually communicate with people you don’t know well. It’s important to use polite language in these situations.
For example, say “Could you please send me the reports?” instead of “Can you send me the reports?”
You can also use polite language to soften the blow of bad news. For example, say “I’m sorry, but we won’t be able to meet your deadline” instead of “We can’t meet your deadline”.
The first sentence shows that you’re sorry about the situation. The second situation simply states the facts.
How Not to Be Polite
When communicating in business English, there’s a fine line between being polite and sounding obsequious. (Obsequious means trying too hard to please someone.)
For example, say “It would be my pleasure to help you with the project” instead of “I admire you and your company and I commit to serving you forever”.
The first sentence is polite. The second sentence is obsequious.
Here is another example:
“I would be honored to have the opportunity to work with you” is polite.
“I would be thrilled, delighted, and ecstatic to have the opportunity to work with you” is obsequious.
These are some important tips for communicating in business English. By following these tips, you can make sure that your message is clear and easy to understand. You will also come across as polite and professional.
Communication in Business English: Interactive Activity
Now that you read the tips, see if you can put them into practice with this interactive activity. In this activity, you will receive an example email text. Your task is to select the right text to make your email polite and professional.