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5 Business English Mistakes in Finance (And How to Avoid Them)
17 March, 2020
IMG 0742 min

From international placements to promotions, effective English is key to career advancement in finance. After all, business English is essential when it comes to generating and developing cross-border business.  

The Language Grid delivers business English training that makes you more effective in your everyday working life, from conference calls and emails to meetings and networking. Based on our experience working with major banks, we’ve identified 5 business English mistakes common among finance professionals. Avoiding them will help you position yourself for a fast-tracked career.

1. Not listening actively

This is usually a problem because you spend time formulating your response instead of listening to what others are saying. It’s particularly common on conference calls, where there’s no body language to aid understanding – and there’s pressure to answer quickly.

To avoid being caught out during conference calls or meetings, follow these active listening guidelines:

  • Don’t get distracted by devices or emails – it’s all too easy to miss something when your attention is elsewhere
  • Don’t be afraid to reflect before you speak – we recommend pausing for 3 seconds to collect your thoughts and plan what to say next
  • Take notes in English rather than your native tongue – trying to translate and listen at the same time makes it hard to focus on what’s being said
  • Never be embarrassed to ask for clarification – you’re probably not the only one who’s confused

For more practical advice on this topic, read this article with tips for successful conference calling in English

2. Not planning in advance

Planning is key to effectiveness in meetings and conference calls. Of course, this is important regardless of the language being spoken – but when you add a non-native language into the mix, it can cause bigger problems. 

Draw up an agenda that includes action points, and keep it on hand throughout the meeting or call. It’s also worth having a bank of key phrases to draw on if you feel things veering off track. For example:

  • Let’s get back to point x…
  • Not forgetting our key objective…
  • Let me sum up so far…
  • To recap the key point…
  • I’m aware that time is running short, so let’s focus on… 

3. Using long or convoluted sentences when speaking or writing

Business English differs from Italian and French in many ways – but most importantly in relation to sentence structure and tone. As a general rule, business English tends to be more direct and less formal. 

Students at The Language Grid are often tempted to use long, formal sentences. This makes your message less effective, and risks disengaging your listener. When speaking or writing, it’s best to keep the structure simple and the word count low. 

Follow these guidelines to make your sentences more effective:

  • Don’t translate directly from Italian or French – this makes sentences overly long or confusing
  • When writing, stick to short paragraphs and use bullet points to highlight key messages 
  • Less is more when it comes to PowerPoint – resist the temptation to crowd slides with words (for more advice on this, read these 3 essential presentation tips for non-native English speakers)

4. Needlessly using synonyms 

Business English tends to be more repetitive than Italian or French. It doesn’t use lots of synonyms. For example, if you talk about your ‘team,’ keep using the same word – you don’t have to come up with synonyms each time.

5. Incorrectly using abbreviations and phrases

Make sure you’re using the right phrases, and avoiding clichés and outdated idioms. For example, using ‘in a nutshell’ will make you (and your organisation) look old fashioned. Above all, keep cultural differences in mind at all times, and always pick your language according to your audience.

Use standard English abbreviations, always being consistent throughout your email or document. A common mistake is to use ‘mln’ for a million – ‘MM’ or ‘M’ is the correct way to write it in English.

Get business English training to make you more effective in cross-border business – and progress your career 

The Language Grid focuses on the practical skills you need to communicate effectively in English. Training replicates real-life scenarios, with lessons structured as conference calls, presentations and meetings so you can practice summarising, note taking, active listening, comprehension and speaking in a way that makes you more effective in your everyday working life.

As one student put it: “The Language Grid gives you the confidence to use English at an international level – not just in terms of language skills, but also from a networking and cultural perspective.”

Zoe Flaherty, Founding Director of The Language Grid

Find out more about our business English training.

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Companies we've helped
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Deloitte Consulting Italy
Triberti, Colombo & Associati
2iReteGas
Ideatech
SEA Milano
F2I
Ferrovie dello Stato
A2A
KPMG
JOBCODE
illimity
Agos