Archive for the ‘Business English’ Category

English Language Reference:Negotiations- The Language of Diplomacy.

In this blog we are looking at the language of diplomacy. When negotiating, diplomacy and polite language are  key tools in keeping the negotiation both, polite, and professional.

Your choice of language can have a powerful effect on the outcome of a negotiation. For example, compare the following:

We reject your offer.>I‘m afraid at this point we would be unable to accept your offer.

The use of softeners (I’m afraid), restrictive phrases (at this point), modal verbs (would) and rephrased negatives (unable to accept) in the second sentence make the rejection sound more acceptable.

Take a look at the following ways of making what you say in a negotiation more diplomatic:

1. Modals: would, could, may, might

  •  This is a problem.> This would be a problem.
  • Of course, there’s a disadvantage to this.> Of course, there could be a disadvantage to this.

In both examples above the speaker sounds less direct, but in the first example the message doesn’t change. This would be a problem still means it is a problem! But it sounds better.

2. Qualifiers: slight, a bit, rather, a few, etc.

  • There may be a delay.> There maybe a slight delay.
  • We’re disappointed with the discount on offer.> We’re rather disappointed with the discount on offer.

Qualifiers soften the impact of bad news, but don’t actually change it.

3. Rephrased negatives 1: not very, totally, completely+positive adjective

  • We’re unhappy with this arrangement.> We’re not very happy with this arrangement.
  • I’m unconvinced.> I’m not totally convinced.

Using positive adjectives makes you sound more positive – even when you use them in the negative!

4. Rephrased negatives 2: unable, not able, not in a position to

  • We can’t go any higher than 8%.> We’re unable to go any higher than 8%.
  • We won’t accept anything less.> We’re not in a position to accept anything less.

Try to avoid using can’t and won’t. They make you sound powerless and obstructive.

5. Negative question forms: shouldn’t we….?, wouldn’t we….? etc.

  • We should be working together on this.> Shouldn’t we be working together on this?
  • You’d be taking an enormous risk.> Wouldn’t you be taking an enormous risk?

Negative question forms are incredibly powerful in negotiations. Questions sound more tentative than statements and also more persuasive. Use them to make suggestions and give warnings.

6. Comparatives: -er, more, less

  • We’re looking for something cheap. > We’re looking for something cheaper.
  • Would you be prepared to consider this?> Would you be more prepared to consider this?

The use of comparatives makes what you say sound more negotiable.

7. Softeners: unfortunately, I’m afraid, to be honest, with respect, etc.

  • This doesn’t meet our needs.> Unfortunately, this doesn’t meet our needs.
  • You don’t quite understand.> With respect, you don’t quite understand.

Softeners at the beginning of a statement signal bad news. With respect is a particularly bad sign!

8. Restrictive phrases: at the moment, at this stage, so far, etc.

  • That’s our position.> That’s our position at the moment.
  • I don’t think we can go any further at this stage.

Using a restrictive phrase does not exclude the possibility of future movement.

9. The passive: it was understood, it was assumed, etc.

  • You said you were ready to sign.> It was understood you were ready to sign.
  • We thought you had accepted these terms.> It was assumed you had accepted these terms.

By avoiding the use of statements beginning You said…. and We thought … and using passive forms instead, you depersonalise the situation and reduce the amount of personal responsibility or blame.

* Remember NEVER get personal in negotiations or debates, it’s a non-starter and will only lead to conflict, hightened emotions and a breakdown in smooth communications.

10. The -ing form: were aiming, had been hoping, etc.

  • We aimed to reach agreement today.>We were aiming to reach agreement today.
  • We had hoped to see some movement/progress on price.> We had been hoping to see some movement on price.

Using the Past Continuous keeps your options open – you were aiming to reach agreement and still are. The Past Perfect Continuous closes the door a little more – you’ve stopped hoping, but could be persuaded to hope again.

From this blog on The Language of Diplomacy you are invited to consider the fact, that, it’s not what you say, but how you say it. The next time you are engaged in either a negotiation or a debate please consider the above information.

Speaking English as a second language is indeed an admirable achievement, however knowing how to use English in a professional way, requires an indepth understanding, and of course, lots of practise!

So good luck with your English language learning.


Ok English

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English Language Reference- Business English: Part 1

What do we mean when we say Business English?

What makes Business English any different from any other English?

Who uses Business English?

In this blog post we will explore all these questions and more. We will look at the vocabulary that is unique and specific to Business English, the phrases and expressions used by professional/business people and the different situations where knowledge of Business English is an essential component of effective communication.

Some situations:

* Giving presentations

* Negotiations

* Meetings

* Conference calls

* Client/Customer relations

* Emails and Telephone calls


OK let’s take a look at some language, expressions and vocabulary related to giving a presentation.

Business English Vocabulary:

accordance noun

accountancy n

acquisition n

adjustment n

administrative adjective

agenda n    

allocate verb

asset n

assumption n

audit n, verb

authorise v

These are just a few that begin with ‘a’ more to follow in Part 2.

When we give a presentation we also often use adverbs, such as : about, around, roughly, or the phrase in the region of to show that a figure is approximate:

There were roughly 200 people at the conference.

It will cost in the region of a billion euros.

We use or so after a figure or the suffix -ish to indicate that a number is only approximate:

Only twenty or so people attended.

We’ll meet back here at 4-ish.

We use the adverbs nearly, almost, or the phrases just under, just short of, or the best part of to refer to a figure that is slightly less than the one stated:

He bought almost 1,000.

We’ll be working on this project for the best part of two years.

The phrases upwards of, just over, a little over, and something over refer to a figure that is more than the one stated:

It will cost upwards of 10,ooo per month.

Some colloquial noun phrases can indicate that a figure is approximate:

I can only give you are a ball park figure.

Please bear in my mind that this total  is just a guesstimate,

The verbs reckon, project, and estimate can be used to introduce a guess or an approximation:

John reckons there will be about 150 people.

We project that this offer will attract 10,000 or more customers.

I have no idea how many we need- but I would estimate 2,000.


To conclude this blog post- a quick glance at health, medical and fitness vocabulary that  is often used to describe business situations and conditions metaphorically:

It’s only in Ireland and Wales that the picture is healthier.

I think the marketing department is in good shape.

There are no fewer than three ot four ailing firms in this sector.

We weren’t too worried when our main competitors caught a cold.


Good luck with your English language learning and Business English development.


Ok English









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English Language Reference- Presentations: Rhetorical Questions Part 2

A great technique that is often used when giving presentations is to first ask a rhetorical question to introduce an emphatic statement.

for example :

So, just how big IS the market?


* Notice how the adjective in the question is reinforced with a stronger adjective in the answer. Notice also how the verb and strong adjective are stressed.

Exercise One:

Match the rhetorical question on the left with their one-word answers on the right:

1. So, just how bad IS the situation?                            a ….. POsitive.

2. So, just how difficult IS it?                                        b ….. unPREcedented.

3. So, just how competitive ARE we?                          c. ….. specTAcular

4. So, just how sure AM I that we can do it?              d. ….. imPOssible.

5. So, just how good ARE the results?                         e. ….. STATE-of-the-ART.

6. So, just how unusual IS the trend?                           f. …..unBEAtable.

7. So, just how small IS the risk?                                   g. …..cataSTROphic.

8. So, just how new IS this technology?                       h. ….. NEgligible.

Can you notice the placement of word stress in both the questions and the answers? It’s an important point and well worth practising.

Extra question: How many adjectives above can be preceded by:

a. absolutely?

b. practically?

Exercise Two:

Now take a look at this pattern:

So, just how bad is the situation?

> I’ll tell you how bad it is. It’s absolutely catastrophic!

So, just how difficult is it?

> I’ll tell you how difficult it is. It’s practically impossible.

Notice how the second sentence reinforces the rhetorical question. Reinforce the other rhetorical questions in Exercise One in the same way.

According to scientists and scientific studies carried out on the effects and influence of Rhetorical Questions, the following has been observed:

Four experiments were conducted examining the effects of asking rhetorical questions on message processing and persuasion utilizing a radio commercial. Subjects exposed to questions were compared to other subjects exposed to content-equivalent statements across different message positions. The expectations of two different theoretical models of question effects are contrasted and compared. The results of all four experiments are consistent with the view that rhetorical questions elicit judgments on the topic of the request when they are received and that the availability of relevant information when a judgment is first requested is a critical factor determining whether or not message persuasion occurs. The pattern of results predicted by viewing rhetorical questions as elicitors of judgments is differentiated from previous views.

Learning a foreign language ( English for example) is not just about how to speak that language, but HOW to USE it. In professional life this is an all important factor in using the English language.

Good luck with your English language learning.


Ok English

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English Language Reference -Presentations: Rhetorical Questions part 1

When you ask a rhetorical question, you don’t really expect an answer. The answer is understood. Like when you ask, “Why me?!”

Rhetorical - adjective 1. (of a question) asked only to make a statement or to produce an effect rather than to get an answer.

When something is rhetorical that means it is made for style or effect, likewise a rhetorical question is a question that is asked for mere effect, rather than a question that needs to be answered. Questions like “Who knew?” or “Who’s better than me?” are often rhetorical. This is often a technique used in presentations or speeches to draw the audience’s attention to a specific point or result eg. ” as you can see from the chart July’s profits were up 25% on last year’s July results…why?… well I will  tell you.” So the question is not asked for the reason of receiving an answer from the audience but rather is asked to get attention….then the speaker quickly moves on to give the answer. Which was the speaker’s original intention. So the speaker’s question was rhetorical and required no answer. It was used for effect, that’s all.

It is often more interesting to present your ideas or information as questions rather than direct statements. Questions involve the audience, they are highly interactive and they get attention. They also make your presentation sound more conversational, more personal, and create anticipation in the minds of your audience. Which means you have a greater chance of keeping their attention..and keeping them awake !


The rhetorical questions below can be used in many different situations. Complete each of them using the following pairs of words:         

where+did      how long+ making   how+do   how much+ is

how+working   what sort+ looking   how soon+ seeing   what+waiting

what+attribute   where+go     how come+feeling   what+take

1. For the the fifth year running we’ve managed to increase sales volume.

So, ……….. did we …………….. it?

2. The opportunities in Eastern Europe are better now than they’ve ever been.

So, …….. are ………… for?

3. We’ve lost ground to the Swedes both in Scandinavia and at home.

So, ………… do we …………..from here?

4. We’ve spent the best part of a year ploughing money back into R&D.

So, ……….. do we…….from here?

5. This is the third time we’ve launched a new product, only to have to withdraw it within the first sixth months.

So, ………… do we have to go on …………… the same mistakes?

6. The 8 million Dollars they offered us is good, but not good enough.

So, ………… of figure are we …………….. looking for?

7. We offered them a very attractive package, but they turned us down flat.

So, …………… of figure are we …………….for?

8. As you know, we launched a strict cost-cutting campaign last year.

So, ……………..we’re not ……………………..the benefits yet?

9. Turnover topped 2 billion Dollars again this year.

So, ……………..of that …………………..profit?

10. In spite of the recession, the demand for luxury goods is increasing.

So, ………………… do we ……………………………..this to?

11. Unfortunately, this isn’t the first time our partners have been in breach of contract.

So, ……….action do we propose to ……………….?

12. Obviously, we won’t see the real results of the reorganisation for some time.

So, ………….do we know it’s ……………………………?

OK this was a brief look at rhetorical questions in the context of presentations, public speaking, essays and speeches. It’s great resource to add to your English language knowledge. So go through it try the exercises and please feel free to leave questions and or comments below.


Good luck with your English language learning.


Ok English




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Negotiations In The English Language. Why Do Business People Negotiate?

Read this text about negotiation. Fill the blanks in the text with the words from this list:

agreement - bargaining – compromise – concessions – deadlock – gain – offers – priorities – reactions

A negotiation is a way of reaching an agreement by means of discussion and___________. Each side has something the other wants and both sides are trying to reach an agreement. Negotiators bargain with each other as they make__________ ( ” we will … if you……?) and ask for_______( ” if we….., will you,,,,,?”). Negotiators don’t enter a negotiation expecting to get eveything they want, they know they’ll have to_________ . If they don’t there will be________ and the negotiation will break down.

The purpose of every negotiation is to reach an agreement. Usually both sides are meeting because they have something to______ . In a sales negotiation, the seller wants to sell the goods or services and the buyer wants to buy them. In a pay negotiation, the employer wants the workers to work and the workers want to work. Both sides want to reach an_________, but they have different________ .

A long, important negotiation is conducted differently from a smaller, less important one, but most negotiations include these stages:

1. Preparation – Both sides decide what they want, and prioritise their wants. They anticipate the other side’s _________ and decide what concessions they can make.

2. Proposal – Each side explains it’s proposal: our proposal is……

3. Debate – The sides discuss the proposals: Can you explain why….?

4. Bargaining – The sides make or ask for concessions: If we agree to…., are you prepared to….?

5. Closing – The sides reach an agreement: Do we have a deal then?

So this is just a very brief look at the language skills required to negotiate using the English language. There are many more expressions and vocabulary to use when negotiating in English, here I have just shared a few.

 In future blogs I will go into more detail on all the different expressions to use to be more effective, professional, and in control when you are taking part in negotiatons conducted in the English language. The business world speaks in English. International politics is communicated in English and even inter- faith/religious meetings/debates are in English. I have been trained in negotiation and conflict management, as have many of you. So the techniques required for negotiation,  I am sure are familiar to you, but what I am trying to highlight in this blog and future blogs is simply how to do it when you need to speak in English. That’s it. Simple as.

Good luck with your English language learning, and peaceful harmonious negotiations.                 


Ok English


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English Lesson On : How To Write Forceful Emails

This was a class I gave recently. The core purpose of this class was to cover language that gives the student of the English language information and techniques on how to be ASSERTIVE yet polite when speaking or writing emails. In this lesson students learnt how to make their message stronger. Being strong or direct does NOT mean being aggressive or impolite.

Assertive : expressing something strongly and with confidence, so that people take notice. ( Oxford Advanced Learners Dictionary)

Ok so this was  the class material I covered :

1. Which of these sentences do you think are assertive, and which are agggressive? What’s the difference?

There are some concerns being raised with the standard of your work.

I won’t be spoken to like that – I’m never going to shop in your stores again!

Please send me a full refund, and remove me from your mailing list.

Take your car out of our car park and don’t park it there again!

Your staff are useless – get rid of the lot them.

As a result, we have no option but to terminate the contract.



The language to use when being forceful, assertive, or direct but polite !

When writing a forceful email, you can use these phrases to get the recipient’s attention:

I am writing to remind you that….

I feel you should be made aware of….

I would like to point out that…..

You can use these phrases to make the consequences of the problem clear:

This has resulted in…

This has led to…

This has caused…

As a consequence/ result of this…

Make clear what the consequences will be if there is no action.

If immediate steps are not taken to rectify the situation, we will be forced to consider legal action.

Unless we receive the parts by Friday, it will be necessary to contact another agent.

Please send us assurances that this will not happen again, otherwise we will have no option but to cancel the contract.

So being assertive, strong and direct in our speech in  both spoken and written  English does not need to be aggressive or angry. It can and should be both polite and professional !

So give it a try.                                                  

More to follow on this topic. Just remember ” IT’S NOT WHAT YOU SAY , BUT HOW YOU SAY IT !

Good luck with your English language learning


Ok English







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Mediation, Conflict Management, And Using The English Language

Words can calm a situation…like pouring water on fire. Or they can make things much worse petrol on fire. Choose your words carefully and deliver them professionally and enjoy the results.

Learn vocabulary, expressions and phrases that help to resolve conflicts and misunderstandings. Saying the right thing at the right time and understanding both parties at the same time makes all the difference. Positive words…..positive results. In this class we can explore an extensive source of ways to communicate with the purpose of creating the perfect environment for negotiatons, resolving disputes and achieving resolutions.

Explore the language of compromise, assertive yet polite speech and expressions to use to show that you understand the other party’s point of view, even if you don’t agree. Negotiation is an art…”The Art of Negotiation” It’s all in the words we use. Preparing to Negotiate  – Lack of preparation in a negotiation almost always sets a person up for failure. First and foremost, each party must clearly define their own goals and objectives.                                           

Secondly, each party must anticipate the goals of the opposition. This may require doing some background research. Finally, each party must come up with various alternatives to their main objectives. Here are some preparatory questions to ask yourself before beginning talks with the other party: ·

  • What is my main objective?
  • What are all of the alternatives I can think of?
  • Why do I deserve to have my goals met?
  • What will my opponent’s counter proposal likely consist of?
  • How can I respond to this counter proposal?
  • When would I like to have this issue resolved?
  • What is my bottom-line?
  • What market research/homework do I need to do to back up my cause?
  • What is my bargaining power compared to my opponent’s?
  • What do I know about the principles of negotiating?

We will explore all the expressions, vocabulary and intonation of speech to reach the objectives of this class.

Good negotiations should end in good results. Knowing how to use assertive, direct yet polite words, phrases and expressions when speaking in  English can and will make all the difference. Take command of all your negotiating situations with elegant and sophisticated English language usage. Simply be professional.

Good luck with your English language learning.


Ok English

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Writing Emails In English With The Professional Touch

So to carry on from yesterday’s blog :

2. To write professional emails :

When writing emails there are two different styles ; one is formal and the other is informal.

With Formal emails/letters there are NO phrasal verbs!

In formal/professional correspondence we do not use phrasal verbs, we use a more sophisticated language.

It is important to be able to state clear, firm requests, demands and questions in a formal email without sounding rude.

Sentences with ‘I would’ can make a demand sound less direct. The structure- I would be grateful if you could/ would…is used to request an action:

- I would be grateful if you could confirm that you  will rectify the problem.

- Would you mind…is a polite way of introducing a request. It is often used with please and always needs a question mark:

- Would you mind sending the email again, please?

Make indirect questions with phrases such as I wonder, do you know. Could you tell me, followed by if/ whether or a question word ( who, what, etc) :

- Could you tell me how much it will cost?

. I wonder if you could tell me how much it costs?

Ok more to follow on this area of English language tomorrow.

Thanks for your attention. Once again good luck with your English language Learning.


Ok English


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How to give a presentation / How to structure a talk.

This morning I gave a class on words and expressions for linking ideas and information in a talk or presentation.

When we give talks, presentations or write in formal English, we use linking words to connect ideas or information and help the listener or reader anticipate what is coming next. This helps communicate the message clearly and coherently to the audience.

The following are some examples of  “Linkers” :

First, we will consider all the facts and look at all the statistics…..

Secondly, we will compare them to last year….

In addition, I will summarize the findings of our research team…..

Ok so now some other expressions :

Giving reasons:

so, as a result, as a consequence….etc

Highlighting information:

in particular, specifically, to outline the main points…etc

Contrasting information

in spite of, however, on the other hand…etc

Referring back:

as I said before, let me remind you…etc

Ok so these are just a few linking words and expressions that help to make the presentation we give have a form and structure and flow nicely. There are many more we can say from the categories above, so let me hear some from you!  Feel free to comment on my blog and share your knowledge of “Linkers” .


Good luck with your English language learning.


OK English

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