Business Etiquette

Check for understanding

You can confirm that you understand others correctly by summarizing what you’ve perceived them to say. Restate their message in your own words and ask if you got it right. Do this especially when talking to non-native English speakers. It’s so much easier if you can catch misunderstandings at an early stage!

You can also check meaning by asking questions. To clarify specific points, ask closed questions, those requiring yes or no answers, e.g., “So XYZ is your most profitable product line?” To gain as much information as you can, ask open-ended questions, e.g., “How do you think the advertisement would work in this market?”

Use simple English

To communicate clearly in the international arena, you must learn to use international English. You can do this by listening to the way non-native speakers express themselves.

Learn and adapt to the distinctive ways in which those with whom you wish to communicate use English

You can also simplify your communications by following a few basic rules.

Basic rules for simplifying your communications

You assist non-native english speakers in understanding you, when you

  • Keep your sentences simple
  • Avoid humor, irony, or idioms. These do not convey well across cultures and may offend
  • Repeat important points in different ways
  • Speak slowly, clearly, and concisely
  • Learn to recognize and interpret common mistakes, e.g., misuse of prepositions of time
  • Don’t use double negatives, such as, “It isn’t that I don’t believe you can do the job.”

Avoid Jargon

Jargon is often incomprehensible even when you speak the language. It excludes, because only the inner circle, those who work for the company, or know the technology or industry, can understand it. The purpose of communication is to include, not exclude, so it is wise to use alternatives to jargon.


Don’t expect your international associates to understand arcane technical terms or even jargon from industries most Americans are familiar with, such as “frequent flyer miles,” “web-surfing,” “PC,” or “CFO.”