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Learn English with Steve Ford - Business English 14

Hello! Hello! Hello Everybody! Welcome to my newest video. Learning business English is a must for many professionals who are starting to work or already work for a company that requires them to speak English: on the phone, on skype, or face-to-face. Another challenge that many English learners face is having to find the right level of formality when they are e-mailing someone in English for business purposes. Sometimes you might sound too formal, whereas other times you might use the wrong word to communicate your ideas. Don’t worry because you are not alone on this one.

How formal should I be?

Well that’s an excellent question! If you feel unsure about how to address someone in an e-mail, it’s mainly because your way of dealing with people in your own country can differ from the more informal way that native English speakers do. For business students who have a lot of experience dealing with Americans and Canadians, they know that they need to be practical and maybe use half the words they might use e-mailing someone. Time is money and an e-mail needs to be as straight-to-the-point, even at risk of having to read implied meanings.

Is there any way to learn vocabulary for business?

The answer is yes. I learned all of my business vocabulary having worked in the past for a firm in Toronto, Canada. So I try to pass on as much vocabulary as I can so that you can benefit from my experience in the business world. Quite often specific vocabulary is used in business and even some phrasal verbs like “give the go ahead”, “get the e-mail to me”, are specific language references for the business world. You wouldn’t say for example, I got the go-ahead from my wife to take a few days off. But you could say, I got the go-ahead from my boss to take a few days off.

Is starting an e-mail with “dear” for business e-mails formal?

I talk about this in the video and from time to time I get an e-mail from someone who feels the need to be formal. I think it’s CLASSICAL in a way, but to be quite honest, I never saw it in my business experience. It can be indicative of someone who doesn’t use e-mail very much and they are just writing an e-mail the same way they would write a letter.

Would I use any of the e-mail vocab. from your video when I am speaking?

Of course! You will hear it being used by native speaking Business professionlas all the time. But, be careful! For example you could write something like:

Hi George,

As per our last discussion………

This “as per” means “in regard to” and would sound VERY formal if you used it in your speaking. So be careful!

Does formality differ from American to British business English?

That all depends. I get feedback from my students all the time and if you are working in a company that has a more open corporate culture, the answer is no. However, I have had some feedback from students working for more traditional corporate culture companies and the answer is a resounding yes. That was the feedback I got from a student who got his MBA from NYU and had problems switching back and forth between informal American co-workers and British co-workers who tended to be more formal. If this is your case, you will need to develop ways to switch back and forth between semi-formal or informal business culture to a formal business culture within the same company.