Do you Speak ‘Business Speak’?

Pascale Chauvot

25 Nov 2010

We have all received business emails asking us to ‘touch base’, suggest a ‘ball park figure’ or to do some ‘blue sky thinking’ or been at meetings where we have been told to discuss ‘offline’ or ‘free up some bandwidth’ for a new project and many of us will cringe at the use of these corporate buzzwords.

‘Business speak’ has been around for a long time now and The Evening Standard recently drew our attention to its increase commenting that most of us prefer to be given our messages straight in plain and simple language.

User beware, these expressions are more often seen as clichéd and trite and an indicator of a lack of real substance. So, rather than presenting as someone who really knows about business and all its machinations, the use, or certainly the overuse, of these expressions is more likely to present you as a figure of ridicule.

Acronyms can be just as bad. They may serve a purpose as quick abbreviations but be careful when communicating with contacts from outside your organisation and sector, and be particularly cautious if your contacts are not native speakers of English. COB, AOB and POC are great for those of us that know but completely confusing for anyone unfamiliar with these acronyms and nobody likes to admit that they haven’t understood what has just been communicated.

Effective business writing and communication skills are about speaking your reader or listener’s language so try to tune into your contacts’ style. You may have colleagues who are overly fond of using these corporate clichés and while you wouldn’t want to mirror their usage in terms of volume, the use of an appropriate buzz word from time to time can act as a valuable form of shorthand between you and can demonstrate that you are ‘on the same page’ or even ‘singing from the same hymn sheet’! However, be aware that many of us prefer a ‘plain English’ approach to business communication and using these expressions can risk alienating or disengaging your fellow workers.

The best advice is to think about the language you use and its impact on your audience. This will enable you to adapt your communication style for each context ensuring that your messages are clear and easily understood by your reader.

 



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