Do I have to have a coma here?

by Gisele Méndez edited by Lynne Hand

Amused by the title above? Don’t worry – the spelling mistake “coma” instead of “comma” is intentional, and it highlights an important point: If you’re writing a letter to a friend or relative, it doesn’t really matter if you make a silly mistake, but if you want to be taken seriously in business; errors – comic or not – can hold you back.

Perhaps you find yourself nervously rushing through a presentation, or you forget the pronunciation of an important word during a meeting. When English is your second language, it is all the more important to speak and write clearly and concisely in business to avoid miscommunication. Luckily, there are some simple ways to improve your skills and communicate more effectively.

Brush up on the basics


It might sound simple, but the majority of mistakes can be avoided if you simply take the time to check your spelling, grammar and pronunciation. Common mistakes often involve too many plurals, using the wrong tense, or the wrong spelling, so check your dictionary continually.
When writing, ask a native speaker to glance over your work, and always ensure you are using the correct register, informal slang in a business meeting or at a conference could be a problem.
When speaking, speak slowly and clearly and never be afraid to ask for help if you get stuck – it’s the only way you will learn!

Build your confidence

You will have heard the phrase, practice makes perfect, it might seem a bit obvious, but it’s true, especially when it comes to learning another language. Speak to everyone you can, about anything you want! If you are corrected, don’t be down-heartened – thank them for helping you learn more efficiently.

If you’re shy, try using a mirror to practise what you have to say in private first, it will help you feel more prepared and in control.

Try enrolling on an English course to make friends and practise with people who are also keen to learn. Using your language skills every day is essential for the learning process and can help you maintain a high standard of business English.

When you’re looking for a course you could consider incorporating your learning experience into a bit of holiday time.  Take a week long break and attend an English course in a country where English is the first language, visit the capital city, they can be wonderful places to explore.  If you go to England there are lots of English courses in London, but it doesn’t have to be England, it could be New York in America, or Canberra in Australia and even Cape Town in South Africa.  There’s a wealth of choice out there.

Make learning fun

Perfecting English for your career is hard work, but it doesn’t have to be a struggle.  Having fun while you try new things and make new friends will allow everything you learn to fall into place naturally.

With your new-found confidence, you can let your hair down once in a while and experience a bit of culture to learn as you go.
It’s a great idea to develop your skills in a country where English is spoken as a first language, preferably in a large city where you have access to different cultural events and more opportunities to practise what you’ve learnt in class.  Instead of going on a normal beach holiday, try going on a learning holiday.  Look into English courses in London, there are so many on offer and you will be speaking with real confidence in no time!

It is so important to learn how to communicate clearly in business, especially when English is your second language, but it doesn’t have to be a stressful process. If you enjoy exploring everything the language has to offer, it will come more naturally and you will be much better at it!





Checking your work is one of the most important aspects of learning – like the error in the first line, it’s so easy to avoid.  
Try these proofreading tips.