Business English The business world has been my world


The business world has been my world throughout my career. I've been involved in virtually every aspect of it: from being a laborer digging ditches in the hot sun, to giving major presentations before company brass in elaborate boardrooms while wearing a 3-piece suit. I've been on both sides of the desk, with domestic and international firms, large and small. There have been many things learned, and one of them is the importance of 'relationship'. In the sales arena, it is well known that a purchase is made from a friend. That is, relationship is key. After all, business is all about money, about survival of the company, and that means making a profit. It's a simple arithmetic dynamic:

Income less expenses = 'the bottom line'

That bottom line must be a positive number for the company to remain financially solvent. So what does this have to do with Business English (BE)' Moreover, just what is BE, and what would be the point to separate it out from other types of language study'

The study of English, or any language, is to understand and apply the fundamentals of the language for the purpose of communication. BE is placing those fundamentals, e.g., punctuation, usage, intonation, capitalization, grammar, and idioms[1] into the business world in such a way as to not only achieve communication, but to build relationships. Though relationships have many levels in one's life journey, in the business world it's core is trust, and not much more is necessary. Respect is key in building trust. Respect happens when business people express their ideas clearly and correctly, and thus language basics are critical. Without respect, trust fails. Without trust, relationship does not develop, usually resulting in 'no sale.'

Today's work environment demands more communicating, more detail. There are meetings, reading/writing reports and messages, conversations[2], with large and small audiences. There is the mastery of tricky phrases that are so common in English[3]. For example, 'But everything costs an arm and a leg!' Hearing this could be quite daunting to someone unfamiliar! It's easy to recognize that language skills are very important. Some may say, 'But I know I have a good product; that should be enough.' However, it simply is not -- there is always competition. As a result, business people have become increasingly aware of their communication skills. Poor grammar, sloppy punctuation, misspelled or mischosen words ' all of these faults stand out glaringly in the unforgiving business world. Respect suffers.

Some examples[4]: 'Asking for information

oWhat your company do' (incorrect)

oWhat does your company do' (correct)



'Analyzing problems

oProblem' (incorrect) oThe main problem we need to solve is'(correct)

oOr, What is the main problem' (correct)

Other key BE areas are 'closing a conversation' and 'making appointments.' Because the emphasis is on exchanging information, language skills are relevant. People want to focus their precious time and energy on the task at hand, not being distracted and diverted by having to interpret and/or translate. This only exacerbates the difficulty of communication.

Other important areas are the improvement of pronunciation and accent reduction. Again, improvement in these areas enables greater focus on a challenging business situation, instead of wasting resources to overcome communication difficulties.

As a businessperson or professional, you will want to feel confident about your speaking and writing skills. Improving your language skills is the first step in improving your education, your career, and your life.[5]

References [1] Essential Idioms In English, R.J. Dixson, Pearson, 5th edition.

[2] Business English & Conversation, Armando Aceituno M., Universal Publishers, 2000.

[3] Speak English Like An American, Amy Gillett, Language Success Press, 2004, ch.1.

[4] Touchy Situations, G.A. Penrod, Dyman Publications, 1998, ch.12.

[5] Business English, M. E. Guffey, Thomson South-Western, 2004