Speaking English is no longer a skill that gives you a leg up in the highly competitive job market. It is considered an essential requirement for a successful career. Not only does it play a major role in the hiring process, but it also greatly impacts the likelihood of advancing one’s career. The English required for the workplace varies from the English we use in our daily lives, at school, or on the internet, however. Here are a few tips on how to improve your English to appear more professional in the workplace.
Keep Your Language Plain and Simple
In 2010, the USA introduced the Plain Writing Act as a way to simplify the language used in legal documents. Following this law’s entry into force, government workers had to undergo training to simplify the intricate language they normally used in legal documents so as to make them more accessible to the general public. (To read the guidelines published by the government, click here.)
This regulation is a prime indicator of how important it is to use plain and coherent language. In the professional world, putting your ideas across in a straightforward manner is key to effective communication. In the book You’re Saying it Wrong, Kathryn Petras discusses how business world leaders might complicate their way of speaking by employing unnecessary terms and expressions. As this suggests, keeping our sentences short, simple, and concise is an essential part of getting our message across effectively in the workplace.
The following statement by former Vice President Al Gore might give us some insight into what the Plain Writing Act consisted of: “Here is a general guide to plain language: short is better than long; active is better than passive; everyday terms are better than technical terms, and you can use pronouns like ‘we’ and ‘you’; in fact, you should.”
Here are some examples of how the wording of legal documents were changed into plain language as part of this regulation:
Before: “The application must be completed by the applicant and received by the financial office by June 1st.”
After: “We must receive your application by June 1st.”
Before: “When the process of freeing a vehicle that has been stuck results in ruts or holes, the operator will fill the rut or hole created by such activity before removing the vehicle from the immediate area.”
After: “If you make a hole while freeing a stuck vehicle, you must fill the hole before you drive away.”
Use Professional Vocabulary
Using plain language does not mean you choose the first word that comes to mind. You can replace certain daily words with business English to give a more professional appearance. Here are a few examples:
tell -> inform
I told my boss that I was going on a vacation.
I informed my boss that I was going on a vacation.
help -> assist
I will help the design team with the selection of images.
I will assist the design team with the selection of images.
make sure -> ensure
Please make sure you arrive on time.
Please ensure you arrive on time.
Practice Your Speaking
According to research, a person can make a positive or negative judgment about you after only 30 milliseconds of listening to you speak. As this suggests, we only have a small window of opportunity to leave a good impression on people. That’s why it’s important to exude confidence while speaking English. And the key to that is practice.
Sticking to practice won’t just make you appear more confident while speaking English. Having a good accent will also make you look more professional. Studies show that people who speak English in a heavy foreign accent are overlooked in the workplace, while those who speak it in a neutral accent have more opportunities to advance their careers.
Research shows that motivation and effective practice are the two most significant factors that help improve your English and accent. That’s why it’s important for you to be in environments where you can speak English regularly.
Cambly offers programs for users of all competency levels to connect with native English-speaking instructors online and practice their conversation skills by talking about subjects related to their interests. You could choose to work on developing your oral presentation skills. Or, by selecting an instructor working in a similar field as yourself, you could improve your professional vocabulary as well as your accent.