Five things to avoid in professional English.

Recently, I’ve been focusing a bit more on academic English in a business and legal context with some students. As such, I thought it would be nice to share some of those ideas here, with you. 

Keep in mind, every conversation is a little different and none of the examples below is striclty set in stone. 

man surprised by popups

1. Slang

Slang can be a lot of fun, but it has no place in formal writing and most business situations. It often sounds childish and silly. 

X Hey, we should try to hang out and go drinking Friday night. 
O Can I suggest meeting for drinks this Friday evening?

X This new service is friggin awesome, man. You’re seriously gonna love it. 
O This new service is outstanding. I believe you are going to be very satisfied with it. 

2. Idioms

Idioms are tricky business. In formal business writing, we should definitely avoid using idioms as they tend to be a bit informal and they may be used more or less often in different areas. That being said, sports idioms are very common in business settings. Sports and business are both forms of competition that have traditionally been dominated by men. As such, you will find a lot of sports idioms in spoken business situations. 

Speaking / Informal Writing
Let’s be sure to cover all our bases prior to the product launch. 

Formal Writing 
We should ensure all relevent aspects have been addressed prior to the product launch.  

3. Contractions

Contrations are incredibly common and even encouraged for naturalness when speaking. However, if you want to set a more formal tone, or if you are writing in a formal context like a legal document, they should be avoided. 

Informal Speaking
I’m afraid we can’t accept the terms of the contract as they’re unfair to the supplier. 

Formal Writing / Speaking
I am afraid we cannot accept the terms of the contract as they are unfair to the supplier. 

4. Regional Language

Some regional differences between British and North American English can be used in formal or business writing such as spelling, word, and grammar differences. For instance, we would say “apartment” in North America but “flat” in Britain. In NA we would spell the word “center” where in BE it would be spelled “centre.” Take care to use the correct spelling and grammar for your needs. 

That being said, most regional English expressions should not be ued to avoid miscommunication and to reduce the chance of sounding informal. 

X Y’all oughta come by the office sometime. 
O You would all be welcome to visit the office any time. 

5. Informal Grammar

You may hear informal styles of grammar in conversation or in writing. If your team uses a chat application like Slack, short, casual messages are probably the norm. However, in a formal written or spoken context, it’s always best to use proper grammar. 

On Slack
Hey team! Just a heads up, we have a quick meeting scheduled for tomorrow morning at 9. Thnx!

Formal Writing 
Dear Team, 

I would like to inform you that we have a brief meeting scheduled for 9:00 tomorrow morning. Thank you. 

Let's practice!

Do you like these examples? Did I leave anything out? Book a lesson today and we can start practicing to help your professional English grow. 

Scroll to Top