Words we use at work
So, what is this thing called Business English? What do companies do about it? And why does this lead to people in communications roles struggling to use the very tools in which they’re supposed to be proficient?
Some definitions of Business English
1: English as used in business; specifically: the study and practice of composition with emphasis on correctness, propriety, spelling, punctuation, and the forms of business correspondence
2: English as taught in non-English-speaking countries in courses that emphasize its commercial rather than its cultural importance and that are normally designed to produce conversational fluency within a limited vocabular (Merriam Webster).
A style of English suited or adapted to use in business; (in later use especially) a form taught to people (usually non-native speakers) who wish to conduct business in English (Oxford Dictionaries).
Ah, but such dictionaries are compiled by academics. And it’s this kind of definition that leads people to write formally, using ‘utilising’, ‘commence’ and ‘leverage’.
I prefer this definition:
Topics will be related to the work place or world of business - so instead of family and friends, a business English course book may contain topics like global business cultures, or a day in the life at the office (https://www.teachingenglish.org.uk/article/aspects-business-english).
At last – somebody who understands the world of work!
That said, what do companies do to ensure that employees communicate in Business English? They provide Tone of Voice Guidelines. Instructions for writing ‘on brand’.
The reality of words in the workplace
Now, I’m guilty of writing many such documents myself. Yet experience has taught me that very few people in an organisation can translate tone of voice guidelines into everyday Business English. ‘Write through the company’s values,’ we say. Be innovative. Write with passion. Introduce integrity.
‘But I’m writing an email about stock control,’ is the reality.
If we want to improve the performance of our communications teams, it’s important to realise that this is the place, the mindset we’re starting from and with. Everyday Business English. The words we use at work.