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Business English Vocabulary and Grammar
May 11, 2023
English ranks first among the most commonly studied foreign languages worldwide. This is because many non-native English speakers opt to study English to find better education and employment opportunities.
English is widely accepted as the standard language of international business communication. As a result, most companies use English as their primary language for internal and external communication. Being fluent in English allows employees to communicate well with teams worldwide and work across international borders. It also helps companies understand their client’s business requirements and cater to them more efficiently.
However, the English that businesses use to communicate is different from the conversational English people use in their everyday lives. Business English is a more refined and formal style of English used almost exclusively in business contexts. But what exactly is it, and how can you learn to use it in your workplace? Here’s everything you need to know.
What is Business English?
Business English is a particular type of formal English used in business contexts by organizations that deal in international trade, banking, finance, and other similar sectors. Business English is characterized by a relatively limited but refined vocabulary, accurate grammatical structure, and sentence construction rules that ensure clear communication. The key thing to remember here is that business English is more formal than regular English. This means that it does not use slang, idioms, and contractions common in everyday usage. Let’s try and understand the differences with the help of a few usages.
He isn’t the sharpest tool in the shed - Regular English
He is not qualified to do the task - Business English
Oh, what a great idea that was! - Regular English
That was an excellent idea - Business English
While some organizations might use certain phrases and contractions while communicating (especially within teams), they largely aren’t considered a part of the business English vocabulary. The use of specific terms and phrases within an organization depends completely on the context in which they’re being used.
Characteristics of Business English Vocabulary
Here are some of the defining characteristics and rules of business English that you should keep in mind while speaking with or writing to people at work.
Sentences short and to the point
There are several elements in regular English like idioms, exclamations, slang, and cultural terms that can help add flavor to speech and make it more engaging. However, business English does not typically use any of these elements. The only goal of business English is to aid straightforward communication that helps get ideas across and enable people to work together more effectively. This requires sentences to be concise, which is why the average sentence in business English is generally shorter than that used in regular English.
Jargon is used
Jargon is vocabulary that is specific to a particular occupation or field of knowledge. For instance, the term ‘spam’, which means any unsolicited digital communication, is an example of jargon. ‘Substance use’, likewise, is medical jargon for drug or alcohol dependence. Business English is used almost exclusively in professional contexts and so it makes abundant use of business jargon. Terms like ‘sundries’, ‘deliverables’, and ‘service offerings’ are often used while communicating in business English. You need to understand the meaning and correct usage of these terms (both grammar and context-wise) to be able to speak fluently in business English.
It is always polite and cordial
Certain elements of regular English like sarcasm and humor make everyday conversations light and engaging. However, business English strictly avoids the use of such elements because they are often digressive and open to subjective interpretation. While humor and sarcasm have their merits in literary and everyday English, business English is more focused on getting the point across politely and cordially.
Aim is clear, concise communication
In standard spoken English, the goal of the speaker is to communicate ideas as accurately as possible with all of their emotions and context intact. That is why descriptive tools like exclamations, slang, and cultural expressions are widely used in this format. Business English, on the other hand, has one overriding goal - facilitating clear and concise communication. Elements like idioms and sarcasm can be misinterpreted by speakers who aren’t familiar with the context, which can lead to a loss of time and money in corporate settings. This is why business English makes use of a minimalist vocabulary where there’s little to no room for miscommunication.
Intonation is primarily used in general English to communicate feelings and emotions and to lay emphasis on certain ideas. While business English speakers may vary their intonation a little to highlight certain ideas, they tend to avoid using it to show emotion. That is because emotional speech might be considered inappropriate in the workplace, where the only goal of the language is to communicate ideas effectively and concisely.
Business English vocabulary and grammar are extensively used by people in work emails, texts, and audio-visual presentations. Both native and non-native English speakers need to understand the nuances of this style and become fluent in business English to excel in professional environments.
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