What is Business English?
The simplest definition of "business English" is English as it is used in the business world, e.g, in trade, commerce, and finance. It is a branch of ESP (English for Specific Purposes) because the combination of certain words, phrases, and politeness present in business English is specific to conducting business meetings, giving presentations, performing negotiations, and handling business correspondence and reports. Due in part to the dominance of the economy of the English speaking world (e.g., America and Europe) in the global marketplace, English came to be regarded as the international language of business. With the growth of global economic interdependence, learning business English has become necessary for anyone involved in the business. This is especially true for businesspeople in non-English speaking countries because it allows them to do business with the English speaking world or with non-English speaking countries with whom they do not share a common language. In short, business English has become a common language of business communication worldwide.
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This post was written by our TEFL certification graduate Jay B. Please note that this blog post might not necessarily represent the beliefs or opinions of ITTT.
When doing business, the message you send must be clear and easily understandable. Statements with ambiguous wording or grammar can be misunderstood and lead to wasted time by way of extra calls or emails that could have been prevented. Such mishaps in internal memos can confuse your colleagues, and it can cause lost business if it occurs while communicating with other companies or client individuals. The most effective prevention of such incidents is to ensure that anything written or said uses clear and simple language. This idea is at the core of business English.
Aside from industry-specific vocabulary terms, business English uses simple words that everyone understands in short simple sentences. Business communication should be information expressed clearly without being overly lengthy. Therefore use shorter sentences with simple commonly used words as a sure way of delivering a clear message with that project's professionalism. This means that casual speech such as slang words or phrases, complex words that may have multiple meanings, or lengthy sentences should not be used. To keep things simple is the best and easiest way towards effective communication, especially in business matters.
Grammatically, sentences using good business English should be short, with two clauses at most. Using more than two clauses can seem like you are unsure of what you want to express. The longer the sentence, the more likely it is that the reader or listener will not understand it. Worse still, if there is technical vocabulary involved, lengthy sentences can quickly cause boredom, especially to the non-native English reader or listener. Therefore, simple words structured in short sentences is the general rule for creating sentences that are straightforward in meaning and readily understood.
The best way to understand what business English is is to see it in actual usage. The ideal situation would be to observe business people around you during their day-to-day talks, phone calls, and email writing. If that is not an option, you can listen to business English being spoken on business news shows as they discuss current events of the business world. You can read business English on the internet or in printed form in business magazines and periodicals. If you live in an English speaking country and have worked for a sizable company, you've likely already received an email from your boss or the Human Resources department that was written using business English. If you replied to that email using some of the same wording and phrasing that was in the email you received, you may have already practiced writing in business English without being aware of it.
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