What is Business English?
Business English is considered a specialism within the study of the English language. It is usually associated with commerce, as well as the financial industry and international affairs. In today’s world of global markets and digital communication, it is an increasingly important concept, as English is recognised as ‘the language of business’.Although business English is often studied by non-native speakers, usually with the aim of improving trade relations with English-speaking companies, it can also be studied by those already fluent in the language. In fact, many native English speakers can significantly enhance their employment prospects by mastering this area.
The specialist field of business English encompasses both written and oral communication. It places an emphasis on the skills required for workplace conversations. Students will learn how to write business letters and emails, carry out negotiations or how to communicate effectively in meetings or during a presentation.
Why is mastering business English so important?
English is the most widely spoken language in the world. It is especially prevalent in business, where even companies in non-English speaking countries often use it to conduct international trade. However, the business world is home to lots of jargon and field-specific phrases, which can be difficult for newcomers to understand.
In fact, many of those who consider themselves to be accomplished English speakers still struggle to communicate during a trade deal, or in a business meeting.
Mastering business English requires an intricate understanding of what tone or register to use, how to address people and what things to avoid saying or writing. For these reasons, a student who has studied business English in-depth can be of great value to an employer, giving them a competitive edge when it comes to seeking a job.
Specialised written communication
Becoming proficient in the written form of business English is extremely important in this age of instant global communication. Whether you are writing letters to clients, sending emails, or negotiating a trade deal with an overseas corporation, there are a few things to keep in mind.
Perhaps the most important part of written communication is getting the tone right. With business English, this usually means a more formal tone and structure than when you are writing to a friend or family member. For instance, “Dear Mr. John Smith” or “Dear Sir or Madam” are acceptable openings, while “Hey there!” isn’t.
Similarly, at the end of a letter or email, you should opt for a formal sign off such as “Kind regards” or “Yours sincerely”. Save less formal endings like “Thanks” or “Bye!” for conversations with close friends.
When addressing someone specific, you should pay particular attention to the title before their name, and you should use both their forename and surname in most cases. Be extra careful not to write “Mr.” when talking to a woman, or “Miss”, “Mrs.” or “Ms.” when talking to a man, as this can easily offend the recipient.
Try to present your message in a calm, clear and concise manner. Do not use capitals for entire words, avoid exclamation marks and try to keep your messages relatively short. In general, it is best to avoid unnecessary small talk or off-topic discussions. You should try to get your point across in the first paragraph when possible.
It is usually best to steer clear of office jargon and avoid overly technical sentences. Short, simple sentences which get the point across are preferable to longer sentences where you try to show off your vocabulary.
Differs slightly from written communication in that it is often less formal, due to its spontaneous nature. As a consequence, you may encounter jargon or unusual words and phrases and these may not be explained during the conversation. It is, therefore, important to build your business English vocabulary.
Useful business terms and phrases
As business English focuses on communication between companies, you are likely to find that some of the words and phrases are quite specific to that area. For this reason, you may not have encountered them either during your studies or through everyday conversation. Some common examples include:
- Ballpark figure – An inexact or rough estimate
- Cutting edge – Advanced or innovative
- Get the ball rolling – To make a start, or to begin something
- In the loop – Awareness of something only a select few people know about
- In the red – Used to describe a company operating at a loss
- Red tape – Regulations, restrictions or rules; especially those that provide an obstacle
- Think outside the box – Unconventional or creative thought processes; ideas which differ from the norm
Acronyms and abbreviations
When speaking to people in the areas of business, commerce and finance, you are likely to hear acronyms and abbreviations quite regularly. Common examples are listed below and some of these may also come in handy for understanding written communication as well.
- 24/7 – 24 hours a day, seven days a week
- 50/50 – Split evenly, 50 percent each
- AGM – Annual general meeting
- ASAP – As soon as possible
- ETA – Estimated time of arrival
- GDP – Gross domestic product
- GNP – Gross national product
- Inc. – Incorporated
Learn Business English with Lingoda
At Lingoda, we offer specialised business English lessons. Our classes will help you to brush up on your written communication and you’ll learn to communicate in a way that is appropriate for the situations you may find yourself in.
Our teachers can help you to learn the ‘ins and outs’ of business English quickly and efficiently. So whether you are a professional looking to improve trade relations with English-speaking companies, or a student about to enter the job market and hoping to boost your employment prospects, our classes will give you all the tools you need.