What makes one person better at communication than others? What are the key aspects of effective communication on the phone, in emails, online and in other formats? What are the latest methods being used by others which you can start using? These questions and more are answered in this Business English lesson.
Vocabulary – Expressions – Phrasal Verbs – Idioms:
Letter – A personal communication, printed or handwritten, usually sent by post, courier, or occasionally delivered by hand.
Private and confidential – This indicates that the communication is designed only to be read by the person or persons to whom it is specifically addressed.
Clarity – Clearness of expression, so that what is written can be easily understood.
Concise – A communication is concise when it conveys what is intended both briefly and clearly.
Purpose – Before you write anything, make sure that you, the writer, understand the main purpose of the communication. Examples of communication purposes might be, asking for a decision, apologizing for a mistake, inquiring about the availability of a resource, or arranging a meeting.
Subject line – Effectively, this is the title of your message – make it clear and effective. For example, a bad title is “Update”, a good title is “Latest information on competitor sales efforts.”
Active voice – This is a more involving and engaging form of writing than the opposite, passive voice. For example “We will send the consignment today” is active, “The consignment will be sent today.” is passive. It’s usually much better to use the active voice, unless for some reason you are trying to distance yourself from an issue.
Font – The typeface you are using for your communication. Avoid fancy typefaces, block capitals, garish colours and anything in fact which falls outside your company’s corporate identity standards.
Salutation – This is a formal way of describing the form of greeting you will use. For example, if you are writing to a person whom you have not met, you would use the form, “Dear Miss Smith”, “Dear Dr. Johnson”. If you are writing to someone you know well, then first names are permitted. The general greeting for someone whose name you don’t know is “Dear Sir or Madam” but this is generally to be avoided if possible. In an email, the salutation is usually omitted as conventions are more informal.
Formal – Formal style is restrained, very polite, and authoritative, and is the style generally used in letters. It should be used for important and significant communications.
Informal – Informal style is generally reserved for emails, and for communication between people who know each other well. It can sometimes be used in sales situations.
Copy in – To copy in is to send a copy of a communication to a third person, for their information or action.
Technical terms – Technical terms should only be used when necessary, and then only when you are sure that the reader will be familiar with them. If you are not sure, and the term is necessary, then the term should be explained, but not in a condescending way.
Jargon – All businesses and trades have their jargon – informal or even slang terms which are commonly used. Be sparing with the use of jargon, especially to people outside of your business.
Closing – The closing of a letter will depend on the formality of the letter. To someone you know, “Sincerely”, “With kind regards”, “Best wishes” or even a simple, “Thanks” is sufficient. “Yours faithfully” should only be used when writing to someone whose name you don’t know.
Enclosure – Something which you intend to include with a letter, for example, a brochure. At the bottom of the letter, the word “Enclosure” should be typed, along with a description of the enclosure, for example: “Enclosures: Draft Policy Document, Term, and Conditions, Brochure”.
Memo – Almost always an intra-company document, often circulated openly for anyone to read.
Circulation list – The list of people who are in receipt of a memo
War by memo/email – To be avoided – an angry and usually irate exchange of views, generally involving other parties that are not related to the situation by copying them in on the communications.
Header page – Sometimes called title page, this is the first page which is sent when sending a fax, with the “To” and “From” information, and the subject matter, so that the fax operator know for whom it is intended. Faxes are rarely used, and the rules for faxes are the same as those for letters and memos.
E-mail – Electronic mail, the most commonly used form of communication in modern business.
Hard copy – A printed out copy of an electronic communication – used for convenient reference.
In the average company, most communication these days takes place by email. Even business communication more often than not takes place electronically, rather than by letter. The letter till has an important place in formal communication, but you will find that within a company, e-mail and memos are still the principal way in which information, instructions, views and opinions are exchanged.
It makes sense to take a hard copy of important electronic communications, as a file of physical copies is still an effective way of preserving accessing information quickly.
When writing, it’s always a good idea to use the active voice – it generally has more impact, is more concise and is easier to understand.
Live Conversation Example:
Jamie Harris: Did you get my memo about the new parking regulations?
Gary Johnson: Yes, thanks. I passed it on to my circulation list.
Jamie Harris: Can you take a look at this letter? It’s to our new suppliers, inviting them to a meeting. Do you think it’s too formal?
Gary Johnson: To be honest, yes, I do. We’ve had quite a few meetings with them, we’ve even had a round of golf with them, so I think we can use e-mail. No need to write letters, they’re slow and cumbersome – and more expensive!
Jamie Harris: That’s good advice – I’ll send them an e-mail.
Gary Johnson: Keep it reasonably informal, we want them to feel part of the team.
Jamie Harris: I’ll copy you in on the emails.
What kinds of rules do you have in your company for written communications?
Under what circumstances would you use a fax, rather than a letter or e-mail?
Would you send a job application by e-mail? What are the pros and cons of this method?
How can you make sure your e-mail gets the attention it deserves?
When would you use technical terms and jargon?
Here is a good article on how to write effective emails.
Here is a video as well:
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