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10 tips to improve your business English

English is a vibrant and constantly developing language. Here are 10 general tips.

1 Keep the style simple, direct and to the point.

2 Plan each piece of writing to establish your objective and address your audience in the appropriate style and language. Ask yourself these questions before and after drafting:

  • What am I trying to say?
  • What words will express it?
  • Can I make it clearer?
  • Could I put it more shortly?
  • Do the heading and the first paragraph highlight the main point?

3 Make your printed text or web content more reader-friendly. Keep each blog, email or letter to a 300-word maximum and make only three points. This takes some effort.

4 Use the language of simple everyday speech – e.g. ‘buy’ is preferred to ‘purchase’,

5 Keep sentences short (maximum 25 words) and use only 2 or 3 sentences in each paragraph. Long sentences and paragraphs cause confusion.

6 Write with your audience in mind in terms of age, interests, possible prejudices etc.

7 Try to picture your reader – an experienced sailor reading a specialized article, or a young student seeking information. In both cases try to engage the reader.

8 Use correct but simple English.
For example, it is now commonplace to hear colloquial idioms such as ‘he was sat on the chair’. But this is incorrect and needs to be avoided. On the other hand many people believe it is grammatically incorrect to use And or But as conjunctions at the beginning of a sentence. However, this is a myth and was accepted by the expert grammarian Fowler when he wrote ‘Modern English Usage’ in the 1920s.

9 Write a draft and re-read before sending, especially emails. You are advised NOT to spend important emails and responses to an email without giving time for careful consideration. Move away from your computer and walk around before returning to read again what you have written.

10 Check, check and check again. Note that spellchecks on computers are often in a default American setting, so will not correspond with the native English style. 

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