Making your message clear – Business English do’s and don’ts

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Using English as the language of business isn’t always easy. Speaking English on the telephone or sending emails in English can cause difficulties for you or your foreign colleagues if your message – or theirs – isn’t very clear. Sometimes native speakers use very complicated language that you may find difficult to understand. Sometimes you will need to deal with colleagues or customers whose English isn’t as good as yours.  It’s important to clarify and confirm your message to avoid misunderstandings that could waste time and cause problems.

Try rephrasing yourself to make sure the other person understands you, for example:

  • ‘To put it differently…’
  • ‘What I mean is…’
  • ‘In other words,…’

If you don’t understand, explain that to your colleague and ask them to help you:

  • ‘I’m not sure I understand. Could you say it in a different way?’
  • ‘I didn’t catch that: could you say it again?’
  • ‘I’m afraid I didn’t understand that ‘

Often you think you understood the general message but you need to check to be 100% sure. If that’s the case, here’s some helpful language:

  • ‘If I understood you correctly, you want to change our appointment’
  • Let me check I understood you, you’d like to change your order for Thursday.’
  • ‘Ok, so what you’re saying is that we need to deliver more quickly, is that right?’

The key to good communication is making your message clear!

Useful language:

  • Foreign colleagues – Ausländische Kollegen
  • Native speakers – Muttersprachler
  • To deal with – sich beschäftigen mit
  • Clarify – erklären, abklären
  • Avoid misunderstandings – Missverständnisse vermeiden
  • Rephrase – umformulieren
  • To put it differently – Anders ausgedrückt
  • In other words – Mit anderen Worten
  • I didn’t catch that – Das habe ich nicht verstanden
  • I’m afraid – Leider
  • Deliver – liefern

Practice the useful language here

Do you want to know more about do’s and don’ts of Business English? Contact me:


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