8 Common Mistakes in Business English

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business englishThe business world is highly competitive and you want to make sure you get every advantage you can. Speaking fluent English is one such advantage that can give you the edge because non-native English speakers can often sound abrupt. It’s often because the language they use is quite direct and doesn’t have the necessary distance from the listener. Your language usage has to be polite and it’s particularly true with Business English as you want to impress your clients. It’s possible to do that by avoiding a few common mistakes that often creep up.

1. Proper Use of Indefinite and Definite Articles

Indefinite articles (a, an) are used when you present something for the first time in a sentence. It can also be used for something that is not known to both, the reader and the writer. On the other hand, definite article (the) should be used when something is known to both, the reader and the writer. Definite or indefinite articles should not be used when you are using a plural with a countable noun or when a singular is used with an uncountable noun.

2. Do Not Overuse Slang and Texting

There are many English learners, especially the young ones, who often use slang or texting language. They are only trying to show that they have a hold on idiomatic language, but the problem is that it can often lead to series of mistakes. You can get around this issue by simply not using this type of language in blog posts, comments or any kind of written communication. You can use it when you are texting, of course, but other than that you should avoid it. Slang is a part of spoken English, but not often written.

3. Proper Use of Punctuation

Cadence, pauses and even the tone of a sentence in English, can be marked by punctuation. Thus you know when to stop between fully formed ideas while speaking and to get your thoughts together when writing. However, English learners often struggle with punctuation marks. There are many blogs and email conversations to be found where there is no space before or after punctuation marks. You have to remember this simple rule: The punctuation mark should be right after the last letter of a word and then followed by a space.

4. Capitalization

It’s understandable that as an English learner you are confused with the rules of capitalization. But some of the common mistakes made are with national adjectives, nouns and language names. You have to pay attention to these rules because they help you avoid mistakes. Capitalize ‘I’, capitalize nations, national nouns and adjectives, for example, Italian, French, German, and Russian etc. The first letter of the first word in a new sentence should be capitalized; common nouns shouldn’t be. Nouns, only when they are names of people, institutions, festivals; should be capitalized.

5. Affect vs. Effect

business english worldThese are two words that are often misused, probably as much as who and whom. To make things simple; in most conversational writing Affect will be used as a verb and mean “to influence” something.

Effect on the other hand is used as a noun and would mean “result”. Effect can also be used as a verb; as in “to cause”. But this type of usage is quite rare and so is the use of the word affect as a noun.

6. Ensure, Assure and Insure

This problem is also understandable because they can be used interchangeably in a context to mean “guarantee an outcome”. Ensure however, can be used to imply virtual guarantee, assure when the doubt from someone’s mind is removed and insure when you are talking about insurance for some reason. There are style guides that will suggest that you can use the word insure when taking the right measures beforehand. However ensure works a lot better and keeps things uniform and you can save the use of insure for insurance related matters.

7. That vs. Which

If you are talking about an object, the usage depends on whether the clause is essential to the meaning of the sentence. Essential clause can be introduced with that. Take for example the sentence, “The client that Freestyle served has declared bankruptcy”. Here the clause that Freestyle served is critical to explaining, which client declared bankruptcy. Use of which is meant for non-essential clauses and a group of words giving additional information about something you already know from the sentence. It should be preceded by a comma.

8. Unclear Vocabulary

Non-native speakers are not expected to be 100% proficient in English all the time. However, your speeches and presentations should have correct vocabulary and the ability to communicate effectively. If you want to use a word in a speech, you should check it in a bilingual and also a monolingual English dictionary. If you are not sure, then you can easily opt to use another word in its place. Alternatively you can change Google’s settings to English and look for the word used in a sentence by non-native speakers. You can then input your sentence into Google and if you get high number of results, you are probably using it correctly.

By following these rules you will be able to cut down your mistakes. Proofreading is also important and you can take help of professionals, if need be.