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What Type Of English Is This???

Category: Business English Skills, Language Training | 2018-10-04

I’ve had this talk many times with my students. When I first take on a new lesson, I’ll ask them what they want to focus on and what they would like to learn. Nine times out of ten, they’ll say, “Oh, I want to learn Business English.” As a native speaker, this used to confuse me, because I didn’t know there was a difference between Business English and General English. I had always grouped Business English and General English into the same category, and switched fluently between the two.

However, after a few years of teaching English, mostly to business students, I can now see the difference between Business English and General English. If you have also been confused as to the difference, or even just want to broaden your knowledge of English, then let’s take a look:

What’s the Difference Between Business English and General English?

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1. Formal vs. Informal

I would say that the biggest difference between Business English and General English is an issue of formality vs. informality. Business usually takes place in a more formal setting, and the language needs are no different. The way people talk in the office is much different than the way they speak in their private time.

You would never go up to your boss and say, “Yo, dude! What’s happenin’?” Instead, you would probably say something like, “Hello, Mr. Soandso. How are you today?”

In business situations, it’s always best to err on the side of too formal, rather than too informal.

Of course, business today is changing, and in some business cultures, informality is preferred over formality. However, this is still more rare, so risking being more formal is still the better option.

2. Jargon

There is a lot of jargon, or words specific to a certain profession, within different businesses. The jargon of a car company is going to be completely different to the jargon used at a start-up, for example.

Since English tends to be the lingua franca within business, it’s important to know your profession’s jargon in English. Once you learn the industry-specific vocabulary, you’ll be well on your way to speaking better Business English.

difference between business english and general english

3. Task-oriented

Of course you can say that all language is task-oriented, in that we need to communicate to get things done, but in Business English, speakers are usually speaking about things that need to be done in order to move the business forward. In this case, it’s important to know how to complete specific tasks in English.






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Putting it All Together

Knowing how to properly write an email, give a presentation, or make a phone call can be the difference between a successful and unsuccessful sale. Knowing things like this might not be so important when speaking General English, but they certainly are in the business world!

Can you give another example of a difference between Business English and General English? Share it with us in the comments below! And if you want to continue improving your Business English skills, sign up for our monthly newsletter. You’ll receive a 7-day free trial of our online English course and get more tips, articles and exclusive deals. Thanks for reading!


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