Tag Archives: business

New Links

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bookmark-new from openclipart.org

I’ve added some new links to the sidebar on the left.

Here’s some information about each one.

  • Learning English from Friends: Terry is a non-native English speaker from Korea who’s been working in the US as a systems application engineer since 2006. This cool blog is about his and his friends’ experiences learning English. (The way you really learn a language when you live overseas is that you talk with people, you make mistakes, and you learn new things from your friends. That’s what he’s writing about. It’s fun!) I really like this blog. Terry is a great example of an enthusiastic language learner who likes thinking about language.
  • Jukugo: If you are Japanese and use Twitter, you probably know about Jukugo already. This blog is bilingual (English/Japanese) and focuses on idioms. The author includes cute drawings with each post.
  • Business English in 5 Minutes: Naturally, this blog is about business English. Each post is short.
  • ESOL Courses Blog has short posts to help you study English.
  • ESOL Courses – Free English Lessons Online has grammar practice, vocabulary, and other activities.
  • Listen a Minute: This site gives you listening practice. You can listen to a short speech about something (Harry Potter, the World Cup, fast food, etc.). You can read the words, too, and test yourself on it. The English is at an low-intermediate to intermediate level. There are no definitions or explanations, so you might have to use a learners’ dictionary.

I’m going to change the organization of the site when I have time. If you like these links, you should save them. I recommend using Delicious, Xmarks, or another bookmark manager. If you do that, you can have the same bookmarks on every computer that you use.

Contractions Aren’t Slang: “It’s” is Okay

Do you often use contractions when you speak? Contractions are words like it’s, I’m, they’re, we’ll, couldn’t, etc. (standing for the phrases it is, I am, they are, we will, could not, etc.). You probably quickly learned to use contractions in spoken English.

You may have been told that contractions are slang or informal language. That’s not really true (at least for the USA). If you go to a formal presentation at a conference, the speaker will almost always use contractions. Contractions occur in most forms of writing, too. If you’re writing a blog or e-mail in English, you should use contractions normally. If you’re writing a regular e-mail to your co-worker, professor, or friend, contractions are 100% fine to use. If an e-mail is extremely formal, such as proposing a new contract for a business, you might not use contractions. If you’re writing an essay or paper for school, you will probably not be allowed to use contractions. Here are some examples of e-mails using contractions:

Hi, Naomi–

I haven’t received the report from XYZ company yet, so I won’t be able to send you the data today. I hope that’s all right. Please let me know if there’s anything else I can do.

— Clarissa

Dear Dr. Lee,

Thanks for sending us the website about the museum exhibition. It sounds like something we shouldn’t miss, so I was wondering if I could e-mail the other students and arrange an informal trip. I’d be willing to drive, since I’ve recently gotten a new minivan. Would that be all right with you?

Thanks again!

— Clarissa

These e-mails are neither formal nor casual, but they use contractions in order to sound natural and friendly.

Caution: “Reduced speech” is different from contractions. You should not use reduced speech in business or school writing. Reduced speech includes words and phrases like gonna, woulda, hafta, ’em, etc. We frequently use these when we speak, but they are considered too casual for most forms of writing. (It’s OK to use these in e-mail to your close friends, of course, especially if your friends also use reduced speech in writing.)

Tip: If you work for a company where the main language is English, look at some e-mail and memos from the important people at the company. If they use contractions, and you don’t, you should probably start to use contractions. Why? Well, when most people in a group use contractions and one person doesn’t, it makes that person look unfriendly, awkward, and tense. (Unless you’re the boss, of course!)

In the USA, most companies and universities have their own “culture,” and it’s important to pay attention to that culture. When you read a book on American manners or business, you should always remember that your company’s (or school’s) culture is more important than any rule given in the book. I often laugh at books on American manners and behavior, because their advice is sometimes not true for everyone–the writer came from the East Coast, but I live and work on the West Coast (where we do things differently). Sometimes the writer’s advice is old-fashioned.

This is why, even if your books or teachers told you that contractions were bad, you should think about using them more often. Remember, always check what you’ve learned against what you see in the real world. If the real world seems different from the rules you learned, you should ask somebody to explain. If you can’t ask anybody, then it’s up to you to decide which way is right for you.

Next time, we’ll talk about some things that are NOT okay in business or school e-mail. If you have questions, leave me a comment or e-mail me at clarissa ( at ) readableblog ( dot ) com. What do you want to know about?

P. S. Send is a good book on current e-mail etiquette. It’s written at an advanced level, for native speakers, but it’s a very useful book.