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.
- Business English is direct and concise. Business English is indirect and less concise.
- Business English is tactful. Business English gets to the point.
- 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.