Want Excellent Reading Comprehension? Here Are 15 Business English Terms to Know

Do you know how much your boss makes in a year?

What about his boss? What about your company’s CEO?

If you want to learn information like this—which is critical to working in the world of business—then you’ve got to boost your business English reading comprehension!

There’s tons of information being published by major business magazines, journals and newspapers, and much of this could be helpful as you advance in your career.

The New York Times recently published an article on the difference between a chief executive’s salary and the salary of a normal worker at the same company. It’s what they call the pay gap: The difference in income between two types of employees at the same company.

For example, the chief executive of Walt Disney, Robert Iger, made $43.7 million in 2014.

Guess how much the median worker in his company makes? $19,530. That means half of the employees at Walt Disney would have to work for more than two thousand years to match the CEO’s annual salary.


Now the article is interesting, but the vocabulary is above average difficulty. So, to get your business English to the next level, here are 10 vocabulary words and 5 phrases taken from this article in The New York Times.

This key language will not only help you understand the important issue this article is discussing, but it will also help you take your business English to the next level.

Before we get started, take a look at this article again. Read it once quickly and think about what you do and don’t understand. This way, you’ll truly get the most from learning the words and phrases featured below.

15 Business English Terms to Boost Your Reading Comprehension

In order to understand the following and many more business English terms, check out FluentU.

With FluentU’s videos, you’ll learn business vocabulary in a natural and engaging way. Give it a free try today and see for yourself!

In the meantime, let’s have a look at these 15 business terms to boost reading comprehension:


1. Information Overload

Let’s jump right in with a difficult one: information overload.

You might have guessed from the article that information overload is a problem, but it’s not just a problem for people in business. It’s a problem that everyone has to deal with. Now, this might sound like a computer virus or maybe a problem with your computer but it’s not.

It’s actually much worse.

Information overload is what happens when someone gets too much information and can’t understand everything at once. This can cause people to make the wrong decision or take too long to make a decision. It happens all the time.

It’s often said that we all get information overload from constantly using the Internet. Does that sound familiar?

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2. Limbo

To most people, limbo is a popular party game. Everyone stands in a line and tries to walk under a stick without bending forward or falling down on the ground. It’s more fun than it sounds, but today we’re not talking about that game.

Today we’re talking about business limbo. Limbo, in the business world, is when a project is left waiting for a decision. Until a decision is made, the project can’t move forward but at the same time it isn’t canceled.

For example, have you ever asked someone out on a date? The time between when you ask and when you get an answer is limbo. You might have to wait ten to twenty seconds—or you might have to wait three days. Some projects go into limbo for months or years which can cause all sorts of problems.

Many industries have their own vocabulary to describe limbo. For example, the software industry commonly uses the term “development hell” for projects that are never finished. Movie studios have “black lists” which are scripts and stories that are never made into movies or TV shows.

3. Advocacy

Advocacy is the public approval or recommendation for a policy, person or general idea. It’s an official way of showing support for something.

A person or group who supports a policy, person or an idea is an advocate. When election season starts, many groups start showing support for different politicians or policies. These “advocacy groups” work together to get a person elected or policy instated.

And speaking of advocacy…

4. Lobbyists

Lobbyists are professional advocates who support people or policies as their job. And that’s exactly what a lobbyist does. He or she is paid by a business or other group to influence people and/or politicians.

Most lobbyists are paid by business to influence politics in order to make life easier or better for those companies. And for that reason, many countries in the world don’t allow businesses to lobby inside of politics.

5. Rank-and-file

The rank-and-file is an idiom that was originally used to describe regular soldiers. It was a way to differentiate lower-ranking soldiers from officers like captains, majors or generals.

Nowadays, the rank-and-file are regular workers in a company. They’re different from managers, department heads and CEOs. Everyone from accountants to entry-level office workers can be considered rank-and-file.

The military vocabulary doesn’t stop there. You can also describe working in the lower ranks of the office as “working in the trenches” or show support for another coworker by “closing ranks.”

There are tons of military terms that are used every day in the corporate world.

6. Rough Estimate

An estimate is simply an educated guess, it might be right or it might be wrong but it’ll probably be close. In this case, “rough” means unfinished or messy. So a rough estimate is an estimate based on unfinished or messy information.

The opposite of a rough estimate is a precise estimate, which is an estimate based on definite information.

7. Compensation Package

Starting a new job isn’t easy. You have to learn new names, find all the bathrooms and sign contracts and notices. Among all those new things you’ll have to deal with, the most important is the compensation package.

A compensation package is everything that a company pays an employee to work for them. It’s the combination of a position’s salary, bonus, commissions, insurance, pension plans, stock options and vacation time.

It’s basically everything that you get for working a specific job at a specific company.

For everyday workers, it’s usually just a paycheck along with a few pension benefits and medical insurance. For CEOs and higher-ups, it can include a lot more like a company car, company credit card and other benefits.

Speaking of compensation packages, let’s look at a few things that are included in a compensation package.

8. Base Salary

A base salary is the lowest salary that someone receives for a period of time (two weeks, one month, etc.). This doesn’t including any extras like pension plans, stock options or overtime.

When a job listing gives numbers like $78,000 a year or $3,000 a month, they’re talking about the base salary. It doesn’t include bonuses, extra compensation or even taxes. It’s also known as “gross salary” and, after taxes are taken out, “net salary.”

9. Perquisites

You may not have heard of perquisites, but you have probably heard of “perks.” They’re the same thing and they refer to privileges, profits or bonuses that someone gets in addition to their salary.

In most companies, rank-and-file employees get the usual health insurance, performance bonuses, overtime and vacation days. But beyond the rank-and-file, managers and executives at big companies might get access to company cars, gym memberships and even month-long vacation times. Sounds good, right?

In a compensation package, everything outside the base salary is normally considered a perquisite or, as it’s more commonly called, a perk.

10. Stock and Option Grants

Before we start if you’re interested in stocks or you don’t know much about them, you might want to start studying. It’s also a good reason to take a break and watch “The Wolf of Wall Street.”

One you’ve got a handle on what stocks are, we can move on to stock grants and stock options. First, stock grants are when an employer pays an employee in stocks instead of cash. A lot of companies have been known to pay their employees in stock instead of (or in addition to) cash.

For example, the internationally popular coffee chain Starbucks has been offering their employees stock grants since 1991.

Stock options are contracts that allow employees to buy or sell stock from the company that they work for at a specific price at specific times. Many companies offer the stock to employees at a cheaper price to encourage employees to buy the company’s stock.  Employees can usually buy a limited amount of stock once a quarter or twice a year at a discounted price.

Stock and option grants are just one part of the compensation package. They’re perks (perquisites) of the job.

11. Jumble of…

A jumble is a messy collection or pile of things. Calling something a “jumble” is an easy way to call it an unorganized pile or mess. Things in a “jumble” are all mixed up together. A few common ways to use this are with papers, books, clothes, trash or files.

For example:

There are a jumble of files on my desk.

She lost her earrings in that jumble of clothes.

Just remember, you probably don’t want to be using this phrase to describe your office or your boss’s office.

12. Piece of the Puzzle

This is a pretty easy one to use. A piece of a puzzle is just one part of a bigger picture, but here it gets used a little differently.

In this article from The New York Times, they were talking about compensation or wages being one piece of the puzzle. That means that you need compensation to complete the puzzle, but there are other important pieces to consider as well.

If you wanted to, you could narrow down the subject by putting an industry or subject in front of the word “puzzle” when using the phrase.

For example:

Pricing is just one piece of the marketing puzzle.

Good coworkers and comfortable chairs are two important pieces of the workplace puzzle.

13. Ran into a Buzz Saw

There are lots of things we learn as children from not talking during a movie to not running with scissors.

I don’t know where running into a buzz saw is on the list, but I’d assume it’s near the top. But today we’re not talking about actually running into a buzz saw, or any type of saw.

“Running into a buzz saw” means to get encounter a hostile environment or face very strong opposition. Usually it means to get a very strong “no” for an answer so it’s no surprise that the article talks about “a buzz saw of opposition.”

As you might have guessed, it a very colorful way of saying that someone told you “no.”

I ran into a buzz saw when I asked my boss for a raise.

We’re going to run into a buzz saw if we ask for too much funding.

Remember though, you want to save this phrase for times when you get a lot of opposition. Running into a buzz saw is a big deal and you don’t want to use it to describe something small.

14. Rocketed (from…) to…

Rockets are known for one thing: moving upwards really, really fast. So it shouldn’t surprise you that describing something as “rocketing” means that it went up really fast.

The usual way to use this phrase is with numbers. You can use two numbers to show a large change or just use one number to show how high something is.

For example:

After only one year, he rocketed from 12th place to 1st place.

The price of gas rocketed up to $8.

While you don’t have to always include a “from,” you will have to always include a “to” for the phrasing to work properly.

15. Nail Down

To nail something down means to decide, arrange, or finish something completely. It’s a very general use phrase that can be used in a lot of different ways.

You can “nail down a number,” or get an exact number.

Two companies might “nail down a contract,” which means to decide the details of a contract.

Or, after a job interview, you might feel like you’ve “nailed down a job” which means you’re definitely going to get that job.

It’s just a colorful way of saying that something is decided or finished in an exact manner.


Here we are at the end. Don’t forget that reading articles on the internet is great practice, but there are a few things to remember before you start.

If you don’t feel like you’re improving much, take another look at how you’re reading the articles to change the way you learn. With a little bit of luck and effort, you’ll be improving in no time.

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