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Business English

( Originally Published Early 1900's )



If there be human talent, let it get into the tongue, and make melody with that organ. The talent that can say nothing for itself, what is it? Nothing! - CARLYLE

THE ENGLISH used in business is like social conversation in many respects but there is one fundamental difference. Social conversation has no purpose beyond pleasure, whereas business English always has a definite purpose behind it—selling an idea or a commodity.

The language of business must be efficient; it must work. There is no place in the business world for laziness and slovenliness in speech or vagueness and looseness in writing. Good business English is clear, correct, direct, and forceful.

These qualities, you may say, belong to all good speech and writing. That is true, but there is special need to emphasize them in the business world. Every businessman can cite instances of actual loss due to misunderstanding, or of mistakes caused by someone's failure to make himself under-stood. Furthermore, poor speech in the business world can break down good will, lower prestige, and cut down sales. The total bill paid by any large organization for the speech inefficiency of its employees would be staggering if it could be reduced to figures.

Business English must be businesslike, but this does not mean that it should be mechanical in its efficiency, that it should be curt and brusque. Good taste and suitability are governing principles in the office as well as in the drawing room. The supervisor who gives orders sharply does not get the best results from those who work for him. The salesman who concentrates on hammering home his points and forgets to be courteous wins neither friends nor customers.

The tools required for business English are no different from those needed in social speech. They are a pleasant voice, clear enunciation, correct pronunciation and gram-mar, an adequate vocabulary, knowledge of your subject, and the ability to express your ideas effectively. The person whose usual speech is faulty and ineffective will naturally prove to be incorrect and ineffective in his business speech, for good business English is merely good English applied to business. One should have a knowledge of the basic principles of the language before making a special study of business English. If you haven't recently reviewed the essentials of English grammar, pronunciation, and correct usage, you are urged to study the course Practical English and Effective Speech before beginning this section or in connection with it. The purpose of this section is simply to help you use English more effectively in business situations.

It would be almost impossible to consider in detail every type of written and spoken English required in business, but a few typical illustrations should be helpful in meeting other situations successfully.

Nearly everyone needs to know how to apply for a position, both in person and by letter; everyone can profit from study of the principles of salesmanship, whether or not he ever expects to sell behind a counter or in the homes and offices of his prospects; the principles of successful adjustments can be applied in many situations other than those arising in a business. All these aspects of business English contain much of value for everyone whether or not he is engaged in business.

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