Posted by: Idioma Extra | August 14, 2013

Grammar Guru

Five Simple Techniques to Write in Business English like a North American

Imagine being able to write so well at work that people think you are a native English speaker. Your customers and colleagues worldwide would feel at ease and never doubt your professionalism as you correctly and clearly express your ideas in English, always conveying the perfect and appropriate message. Your supervisors would be thrilled to know that your emails, reports, and presentations are indistinguishable from your North American colleagues. In essence, your value as an employee in a global economy would increase substantially if readers could not detect that English were not your native language.

With Spanish and English differing in structure, terminology and style, even the most advanced non-native English speakers can fall short of achieving natural and accurate North American business English prose. Grammar intricacies, tone, context and cultural subtleties all make reaching native proficiency in written, North American business English extremely difficult.

At the same time, drastic improvements can be made in your business English writing by understanding some of the common mistakes that native Spanish speakers make and adhering to English language rules and style guidelines. Below are five simple writing techniques compiled by experts in the field that can ensure your audience stays focused on the substance of your text rather than the differences that may exist.

Follow The Five C’s and make sure you always write:

  1. Correctly. The easiest way to detect that a text was written by a non-native speaker is by the accuracy of the grammar and word choice of the document. Making literal translations from Spanish to English can often cause unintended errors and confusion. Even native English speakers make writing mistakes, but these are often confined to spelling or punctuation errors which can usually be overcome by any reader. It is therefore critical as a first step to have extensive knowledge of advanced English grammar and vocabulary in order to write like a native speaker.
  2. Concisely. The Spanish language usually requires more words than the English language to express the same idea. Additionally, long sentences in Spanish are grammatically sound while in English they can be considered run-ons. English writing, especially in business, aims to communicate by using the least words possible by giving purpose to every selected word. Business English writing emphasizes short and meaningful sentences and paragraphs so that the message is clear and focused.
  3. Clearly. North American business professionals value efficient writing, so it’s important to avoid indirect communication. The elegance and poetic nature of the Spanish language does not translate well into English. Also, North Americans value honesty and transparency, so emphasis should be made on getting to your point quickly while avoiding figurative language that requires reading between the lines.
  4. Courteously. As mentioned earlier, North American business executives appreciate concise and clear communication, however, they also value politeness and professionalism. Putting emphasis on writing with limited text often results in an inappropriate or rude tone, because of the exclusion of pleasantries or cordial styles. A rule of thumb in English is to write in a style and tone that you would be completely comfortable with when communicating face to face.
  5. Customarily. Literal translations from Spanish to English can result in offensive or  awkward text since idioms, phrases, and vocabulary can vary greatly between Spanish and English, linguistically and culturally. Mastering the business protocols of customary introductions, salutations, pleasantries and closings in North American business English writing helps to achieve a native English style.


Brian Logan

General Manager
Idioma Internacional Costa Rica
Web site:
Twitter:    @idiomacr


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