Throw away your business English books

Professional throws away business English books. Business English is defined by experience and specific situations. And business English books have little, if anything at all, to do with real-life needs and expectations for business English. That's why business English courses and Business English classes should not use books. Books don't work for business English courses or business English classes. 

What is business English? Business English is specific language for specific situations. That's what a business English course has to be based on: specific language for specific purposes. And specific language for specific purposes does not come in a book.

Business English is ambiguous.
  1. Business English is direct and concise. Business English is indirect and less concise. 
  2. Business English is tactful. Business English gets to the point. 
  3. Business English is informal. And business English is formal.

Concise and Direct

Business English is concise and direct. Yet more is expected of communication in business settings than "just the facts".

Indirect and Less Concise

People say, “I was wondering.”

  • I was wondering if you've decided yet.
  • I was wondering if it would be okay if I didn't come to the meeting tomorrow because…
  • Would it be okay if I didn't attend the meeting tomorrow?
  • Will it be all right if I don’t go to the meeting tomorrow?

What about being more direct?

  • Do I have to attend the meeting tomorrow?
  • Do you really need me to be at that meeting tomorrow?
  • I don’t want to attend the meeting.
  • I cannot attend the meeting because ...
  • I want to skip the meeting tomorrow because ... Is that okay?
  • I won’t be at the meeting tomorrow.

Everything about a situation says what the language should be for that situation. And if it’s not quick and not automatic, then that's something to talk about.

This information determines what language someone uses to talk about not attending the meeting tomorrow.

  • Who is asking about or talking about not attending the meeting tomorrow? 
  • Who is listening? 
  • How important is the meeting? 
  • Is it the same meeting that takes place every week at the same time? 
  • Or is it a meeting for a specific purpose? 
  • Who’s going to be at the meeting? 
  • What’s the meeting for?
  • Is this a meeting with clients or customers? 
  • Is this is a meeting with business partners? 

Business English is tactful English.

Tell a client that you cannot get it done before, or on, the date that the client wants it. Be concise, but wrap the "no" in language that says you regret that you can’t get it done before, or on, the date that the client wants it. And then provide a reason.

  • I wish we could
  • I'd really like to say yes.
  • Unfortunately, we are not able to … because

Maybe, you can keep the possibility open.

  • That's all I can tell you for now. I'll find out what’s possible, and call you in a few days. Is that okay?
  • That's something I'll have to talk to our director about. I’ll get back to you in few days with an answer. Would that be okay?

it’s, also, possible to say, “No, we cannot do that.” But do you want to say that?

It's not advisable to simply tell the client, customer, or prospect No, that's not possible or No we cannot do that. Direct language like that might be preferable but that depends on the specific situation, who's involved, and how "equal" people are. Sometimes just No is better. It depends, again, on the situation and the the type of communication expected for the situation. The expectation is tacit. For an international navigating English in an English-speaking country, this sort of thing can be a discussion. But everyone's different, and that's the point.

Business English gets to the point.

  • Project update: Get to the point fast. Provide bigger pieces of information first and then provide reasons, explanations, specific information, and details as necessary.
  • Problem solving idea: Get to the point fast. Provide bigger pieces of information first and then provide reasons, explanations, specific information, and details as  necessary.
  • Present your idea as an alternative to someone else's idea. Tactful language, or less direct language, could be better. Direct language might be this: “I don’t like your idea. My way, or this other way, is better.” That's direct language, but that might not be the best language to use. Tactful language is better for something like this. Get to the point, but find another way to get there.

Business English is more formal.

No it’s not.

Sometimes some people say that business English is more formal. It can be more formal, but it does not have to be more formal. By definition or as a rule, business English is not more formal.

Hi, Kevin, here from Tech Solutions. I'm calling about the problem you have logging in to your application. Is now a good time to talk?
Yes, thanks for the quick response time.
No problem. Have you ever experienced this sort of problem before? Are you able to log in sometimes or not all?

That's everyday language for business English. Business English is everyday language.

Business English is specific language for specific situations. Can a business English book provide specific language for everyone’s specific situation? Target specific language for specific situations. And throw away your business English books.

Professional throws away business English books.

Business English does not exist

Professional throws away business English books.
Throw away business English books.
Business English does not exist, so throw away your business English books.

I define business English. But wait! How is it possible to define business English when business English does not exist? That's a good question. Let's get back to that later.

Business English is defined by experience with business English. Therefore, that's how a business English course must be made. Books written for business English have little to do with real-life needs and expectations for business English. Business English courses and classes that use books, therefore, have little to do with real-life needs and expectations for business English. So throw away all business English books.

What is business English? Business English is circular. Business English is the language of negotiating and making deals. It’s the language of business, and that’s not where it ends. Didn't I say it was circular?

Everything in business leads back to a transaction, but business transactions, that is making deals and signing contracts, are not part of most people’s work, either indirectly or directly. Business English is so much more than the language of doing business. Just because someone does not do business, it does not mean that they are not using the language of business. Business English is the language, or the English, that professional people use every day at work and in business. That's probably why it's called business English. Yes, that must be it. People call it business English because it's the language people use in business.

Business English has no particular boundaries or limitations. The whole idea of business English is circular. Here’s what I mean. Someone might learn beginner English and want to be a pastry chef in an English-speaking country because that's the work she did in the country she comes from. The language for basic beginner English minimally accounts for the professional language required to get training certificates, speak at job interviews, and then use English at work as a pastry chef. Yet it is not possible to do any of that without beginner English. And all of that is business English, which is dependent upon beginner English. And at this point it's not even business English. It's pastry chef English.

So beginner English is business English. Right? Right. Training employees to use specific workplace English, or workplace language, is dependent upon first knowing basic beginner English. That’s logical. Right? Right, it's logical. However, this logic may not always inform the delivery of workplace English for workforce development. Workplace English is business English. Right? Right. Again, workplace English is business for English. Or, maybe, workplace English is English for business.

Professional throws away business English books.
Throw away business English books.
English for professional purposes, English for professionals, English for work, workplace English, pastry chef English, project management English, and English for IT professionals are more accurate and more practical terms for what many people may call “business English”. And the list does not end there. It keeps on going. So throw away your business English books because business English does not exist.

Email and the valediction

How do you end an email letter or an email message? Here are some words and phrases to do this. They're very common.

Kind regards
Best regards
Best wishes
Thank you

And then there's Yours faithfully. I suppose you really have to know when it's best to sign off with something like Yours faithfully. Before signing off with Yours faithfully, I would just double check to be sure that there's reason to sign of with it in the first place.

Let's not forget this one: Respectfully. That's formal, and it's good for initial rapport building, presuming that there is a rapport to build in the first place. If you sign off with Respectfully, just be sure that it's not too formal for the occasion. Who are you communicating with, and why are you communicating? is the respect going to be reciprocal?

Now, I've saved my two favorite ones for last. And here they are:


When someone writes "Best", I really have to ask Best what? Maybe, someone means "All the best" by just typing, or writing, Best. Still, it doesn't matter what anyone means, Best by itself just isn't complete. Again, I ask Best what? And as for Regards, again, I can only ask Regards what?

Does anyone know what they mean or what they're really communicating by just writing or typing Best or Regards?

Use a complete phrase to sign off at the end of an email. It's not a lot to do. Otherwise, it's better not to sign off at all. Just end it with your name and whatever comes after that. After all, what's the valediction doing there, anyway? Does it always have to be there? The operative word here is always. Using a valediction, or signing off, somehow, seems to be, at times, more of a mindless reflex. It's something people do because they do it. Ending with a valediction is a habit, and we believe we're supposed to follow through with it. Maybe, just maybe, it would be better if we knew why. Have you ever asked why?

Speaking English in the office and at the workplace

Here are a few questions someone asked me about speaking to colleagues at work.

1) What can I say if someone criticizes something I've done? What can I say if someone asks me to check my work?

Here are a few possibilities.

A) Okay, I'll take another look at it.
B) You're right. I'll review it again.
C) Okay, I'll check that out again.
D) Okay, I'll check it out again.
E) Okay, I'll check it again.
F) Okay, I'll check that again.

2) What's the difference between "check" and "check out" in this context?

The choice depends on the speaker's viewpoint.

Check and Check out

Check - Use "check" to find out if a correction is necessary, to look at something that does not involve a process or some type of extended time, or to check one item or a series of items one item at a time. If you "check" something, it could mean taking a quick look at it or, depending on what you're checking, it could take longer.

Check out - Use "check out" when speaking of something that involves more observation or that takes longer to do.

Note that "check" and "check out" can be used interchangeably. The choice depends on the speaker's viewpoint.


A) Can you check this for me, please? - Is there anything wrong with it? Tell me if there's anything wrong with it.
B) Check this out. - Look at it and observe it. And maybe respond in some way.

3) What's the difference between "clean" and "clean up"?

Clean and Clean up

The choice depends on the speaker's viewpoint.

Clean up - This is less specific and usually refers to a whole activity. Here's an example: Let's clean up the lab.

Clean - This is usually more restrictive. I'm going to clean the refrigerator.

Use "clean up" after you use the kitchen to do a lot of cooking and it's a mess. You could say Let's clean up the kitchen.

Using "up" indicates or implies completeness and that the process could be longer or extended in some way.

Note that "clean" and "clean up" could be used interchangeably. It depends on the context. The choice depends on the speaker's viewpoint.

4) What's the difference between "see you later" and "see you later on"?

See you later and See you later on

The choice depends on the speaker's viewpoint.

See you later. - This could mean today or at some other time after today.
See you later on. - Using "on" indicates a progression of time. This could mean today or some other time after today.

Note that "see you later" and "see you later on" can easily be used interchangeably. The choice depends on the speaker's viewpoint. Though it could be that one is more likely or more usual in certain sentences or contexts, it's difficult to come up with specific guidelines for this.


1. Arriving in morning:

See you later on. The day is not finished. This could mean you're going to see the person at a meeting or before the day is finished.

2. Going home in the afternoon:

See you later. No time is specified. The day is finished. This likely means "see you tomorrow or the next workday".

English Language Skills Improvement

Everyone’s different, and there are certainly more than three types. Still, here are three types of people that improve English communication skills.

For some people it’s about building awareness with coaching, instruction, corrections, and practice: These people find that increasing awareness is a key factor. Following awareness, there’s remembering, practicing, and implementing new communication habits. Part of implementing new communication skills and speech habits is practicing.

Other people ask a lot of questions and analyze. These are people who want to know and understand the pieces and the details. They want to put together the pieces of the puzzle. And I like all their questions and inquiries. They challenge me, and I have to give good answers. They still require coaching, training, and instruction, however.

Others find interview style coaching and training builds confidence. Some people like a kind of instructive discussion. I leave them with recordings. The recordings are a demonstration of what I could say in their situation, and a demonstration of how to say it. The recordings may, also, be a type of coaching and training guide about what to say and how to say it.

Common threads for everyone are coaching, critiquing, instruction, and building confidence. These become communication competence for presentations, meetings, project updates, speaking with business partners, communication with clients, and office communication. This is English for professional purposes. It's business English.

What’s best for you? How do you improve your English communication skills? How do you improve speaking and pronunciation? How do you get better at using the English language?

What's going to take your English to the next level? How can your communication skills be more powerful? How can you have more impact as an English language speaker? How can you deliver stronger presentations and communicate more effectively at meetings? There's only one way to find out: Go to Impact Professional English Skills and Language. Or go to Contact.

Try to understand a fine grammar point

I tried doing it. I tried to do it.

What's the difference?

It's a fine difference to notice, but to say there's no difference is not correct. And while they can be used interchangeably often enough, this is not to say that they always have the same meaning. They don't always have the same meaning.

"I tried calling the center." What does it mean?

  • I tried the experience of calling the center. 
  • I wanted to find out if I would like calling the center. 
  • I wanted to know what it would be like to call the center.

"I tried to call the center." What does it mean?

  • I attempted to call the center. 
  • I wanted to find out whether or not I could reach the center. 
  • I was trying to call the center, and I was having a hard getting through. So I tried to call again. 

The first sentence can take on the meaning of the second sentence. But it's very unlikely that the second sentence could take on the meaning of the first sentence. In fact, I'll say it won't.

Syncope Accent Reduction Pronunciation

Syncope Accent Reduction Pronunciation: Syncope  The word "every" is pronounced ev'ry. The second e sound is eliminated. The technical words for the elimination o...

Interview Skills for Economics Graduates University College Boston Mass

Practice speaking for employment job interviews

Part A – Justification for Application and Hiring

1. Why did you choose to study economics? What made you choose to study economics?
2. Why did you choose to apply for employment at this company?
3. What skills will you bring to our organization?
4. How would you apply and utilize your skills and knowledge in this position?
5. Given that there are other economics graduates that are, also, eligible for this position, why should we hire you? What do you have that other economics graduates do not have? What’s special about you?
6. What are your career goals?

Interest Rates Words on Chart

Part B – Analysis and Explaining

1. Talk about a time you used quantitative reasoning to prove your point.
2. How would you manage costs for home health services?
3. What is transfer pricing? What are the different TP methods?
4. What is the difference between net present value and present value?
5. How would you budget money for a marketing research department?
6. The operations manager of a restaurant equipment supplier claims the department needs a 20% budget increase. How would you investigate the accuracy of this claim? Talk about how you would begin. What information would you gather, and how would you use it?

E-Commerce Word on Chart

Part C – Interpersonal Profile

1. Are you the type of person that likes to work alone or with a team? Please, explain.
2. How do you feel about interdepartmental communication?
3. Are you passive, assertive, or aggressive? Why would say so?
4. How do you deal with conflict? Describe a time that you had to deal with conflict. What was the outcome?
5. Describe a challenging situation and how you dealt with it.
6. Justify this statement: It’s good for departments in a company to exchange information.

Guy holding sales chart picture  

Part D – Worldview

1. How does the free flow of information on the internet affect local economies?
2. What’s your analysis of the economy? What are your feelings about the current state of the economy?
3. Do you feel that the removal of trade barriers and customs tariffs is good for the world economy? Why?
4. Talk about how the removal of customs tariffs was good for a country’s economy.
5. Talk about how maintaining customs tariffs is good, or was good, for a country’s economy.
6. What do you think about the latest reports on US jobless rates?
7. Do you think that a decrease in applications for unemployment benefits is a genuine indication that the economy is getting better? Why would you say so? Please, explain.
8. In which direction do you feel the economy is heading? Why do you say this?
9. In economics terms, what comes to mind when you hear, “Think globally, and act locally?”

Intercultural English and Cultural Context By: Wayne K. Johnson, Dr. Jana Silver, and Craig Sower

"I just published my latest paper in the Journal of Shujitsu English Studies, Shujitsu University, Okayama, Japan. Journal # 30, January 2014, p. 167-187. It is called: "Intercultural English and Cultural Context" My co-authors are Dr. Jana Silver, and Japan expert Craig Sower" Wayne Johnson

Intercultural English and Cultural Context By: Wayne K. Johnson, Dr. Jana Silver, and Craig Sower

Japanese Flag Intercultural Article

Japanese Sun in front of Mountains Intercultural Article

Japanese Sun over Mountains Intercultural Article

English Grammar - Be the linking verb and then be the Walrus

Use "I am the walrus" by the Beatles to show how stupid the so-called “rule” is for “be the linking verb” Yeah, that “rule”. This so-called "rule" is insanely pedantic and EVEN RIDICULOUS. I agree with the American Heritage Dictionary's usage note.

Even if everyone could follow it, in informal contexts the nominative pronoun often sounds pedantic and even ridiculous, especially when the verb is contracted, as in It's we.

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I am he as you are he as you are me and we are all together. < There's a good one. You all know the difference between "all together" and "altogether", right?

Okay, back to the point. But first, try not to become apoplectic: Be a traditional grammar myth.

I am he as you are he as you are me and we are all together.

So here he says (or sings) "I am he". Now, proponents of this "linking verb rule" would say "Bravo!That's correct". But what about this? Given that what's on one side of "be" should be on the other side of "be", we'd end up with this: He am I. That's ridiculous. Is it, then, "He is I"? Interesting. Well, not really. And it's quite be-sides the point, anyway.

Okay, next, there's "you are he". You can't say "he are you"? And that's just as ridiculous.

Finally, there's "you are me". What's this? A deviation from the linking verb rule. That's inconsistent. No too sharp #. Oh well.

Now, again, proponents of this ... .... 'linking verb rule with be' ... .... would definitely not like that. They would say that just as it's correct to say "It's I", not "it's me", it's also correct to say - wait a minute - are they serious? The linking verb rule people would say it's correct to say "You are I". And then there would be "I are you"? That's ridiculous.

USAGE NOTE Traditional grammar requires the nominative form of the pronoun in the predicate of the verb be: It is I (not me); That must be they (not them), and so forth. Nearly every speaker of Modern English finds this rule difficult to follow. Even if everyone could follow it, in informal contexts the nominative pronoun often sounds pedantic and even ridiculous, especially when the verb is contracted, as in It's we. But constructions like It is me have been condemned in the classroom and in writing handbooks for so long that there seems little likelihood that they will ever be entirely acceptable in formal writing. • The traditional rule creates additional problems when the pronoun following be also functions as the object of a verb or preposition in a relative clause, as in It is not them/they that we have in mind when we talk about "crime in the streets" nowadays, where the plural pronoun serves as both the predicate of is and the object of have. In this example, 57 percent of the Usage Panel prefers the nominative form they, 33 percent prefer the objective them, and 10 percent accept both versions. Writers can usually revise their sentences to avoid this problem: They are not the ones we have in mind, We have someone else in mind, and so on. See Usage Notes at I1, we.

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