Click on the writing program

Improving writing skills is not an easy task. It takes a lot of motivation from individuals that want to improve. It is possible, though, and I've seen improvement.

Sometimes people just don't try hard enough believe it or not. And once you point out to them what is really required for good writing, they can begin to understand. Then they realize that they had more ability and skill in writing than they thought they did. You really have to be straight with them.

It’s something like this:  You did not proofread this, and you know how to create a better sentence here. So why don’t you give this more thought? Try it again, and then let’s see what you what you come up with. You can do it.

This is the key word: think. And click on the writing program in your mind.

The Four English Language Teaching Competencies

Know how to work from the concrete to the abstract. Understand how language functions by associating it with ideas, thoughts, and concepts that are more concrete and ideas, thoughts, and concepts that are more abstract.

Know how to establish trust and cooperation with English language learners. Find out what troubles ELLs, and work as a team with ELLs to improve and progress. Keep a strong focus on specific objectives and goals, and be able to understand and empathize in some way.

Know and understand that English is a means to an end. This means find out what the trouble and problems are, and progress and improve by working towards solving communication problems and eliminating trouble.

Know how to assess on your own, and draw your own conclusions about the right thing to do.  Forget about the plan. Know how to operate in a dynamic way; work and function in the moment. Pay attention to what's going on around you.

Don't let anyone tell you how to do it. Only you know how to do it.

Be a good listener. Empathize, understand, guide, and focus on the purpose of learning English.

English Language Programs and Apoplexy

No one wants to admit it because it makes administrators apoplectic, and it would make those that admit it "look bad". The fact is that, often enough, people just do not practice and study, at least not enough. So what is there to do?

It's up to the English language teacher, instructor, trainer, communication coach, specialist of some type, or whatever title you give yourself (or title others give you), to make it happen. People will always do some practice, look over notes, do some homework, do some writing, do some reading, or do whatever independent tasks they are given, but it's hardly ever at all enough. What’s there to do?

The meetings, classes, lessons, or sessions have to be so effective, so purposeful, and so focused that there's always something to take away. And the only way to make that happen is to be in the moment, be dynamic, improvise, be creative, and be your own resource - or choose the resources you use. Operating in this way makes English language teaching, English language training, and business English communication coaching effective, purposeful, and focused, and then there’s a greater chance of succeeding. The downside, or maybe it's the upside, is that operating in this way makes English language program administrators, coordinators, ESL academic directors, “executive directors”, and ESL department chairs apoplectic.

Use “the book” or rigidly "stick to the plan" because that's what the administrator filed and put on record. To some people, it does not matter what the people (ELLs English Language Learners)like and what it means to succeed in learning. What matters to some people is that the administrator filed something for the record and that's what you had better do.

So let's do our part to make program administrators, coordinators, ESL academic directors, “executive directors”, and department chairs apoplectic by doing what is right and works well in order to succeed. No, I am not going to write in a schedule, and in advance, the specific dates that I intend to work on specific phonemes (specific English sounds) with clients, end users, students, course participants, or anyone – no way - no how.  Doing that is wrong, mindless, and completely lacking in focus.

Learning English, or an English language program, is never about education. An English language program is a means to an end no matter what kind of English language program it is. And for an English language program to succeed, managers, buyers, decision makers, end users, training and course participants, and ELLs (English language learners) have to be happy and satisfied with it. If English language programs are about education, or about filing and recording information or checking off little boxes on a document, then that means they’re just about placating program administrators, ESL coordinators, ESL academic directors, “executive directors”, and ESL department chairs. If English language programs are about succeeding, moving forward, and making progress, then that means English language programs are about communicating with IMPACT.

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
Sincerely
Cheers
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:

Regards
Best

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.

Examples

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.

Examples

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...