It’s the dreaded red pen!
Feared by English students everywhere…
It comes out of nowhere, spilling ink all over writing assignments, making every English mistake bright and ugly.
Even if you’re not in a formal English language class right now, you probably remember the red pen from your own school days.
There’s a reason it’s so feared.
Nobody likes to make mistakes!
Especially business English learners.
In this post, we’ll give you some essential tips for clear business writing. Then we’ll show you six top-notch, often free courses that you can take to improve your English grammar in business writing.
And don’t worry, they’re all digital, online classes. No red pen needed!
Quick Grammar Tricks for Clear Business Writing
The classes below will give you the grammar, vocabulary and organizational skills you need for effective business writing, but there’s no reason not to get a head start. Here are some of the most important grammar tips to remember for writing that makes a good impression on your boss, coworkers and clients.
- Avoid long sentences. Yes, a lot of business and executive reports do contain long sentences. However, for language learners, it’s much easier to make grammatical mistakes that way. Stick to short sentences that you know are right. Having the subject, verb and object in the right places will go a long way.
An added benefit is that short sentences tend to be more direct and easier for the reader to digest.
- Think in terms of bullet points. Don’t waffle (go back and forth ; be indecisive) or beat around the bush (waste time talking indirectly or about irrelevant things). Before writing, make a list of points that you want to include and explore one to two ideas per paragraph. Be action-oriented—know your objective and your audience.
- Turn nouns into verbs. For example, instead of saying, “In this situation, my advice would be to…” simply say “I advise you to…”
That makes the sentence shorter, more direct and creates a stronger impact on the reader.
- Avoid contractions. You have to remain formal and courteous. So say “do not” instead of “don’t” and “it is” instead of “it’s.”
- Use the active voice. For example, instead of saying, “The project was completed by the management team in a week,” simply write, “The management team completed the project in a week.” Again, this keeps your writing direct and concise.
- Use transitional words and phrases. When you’re jumping from one point or paragraph to another, make sure you use words like “however,” “moreover,” “additionally,” “in this regard,” etc. to make the transition.
And remember, great business English writing isn’t only about grammar, although grammar is certainly an important part. FluentU can help you develop an authentic, fluent English voice alongside the grammar classes below. FluentU provides real-world business English dialogues specific to your industry, which’ve been transformed into personalized language lessons.
Each video comes with interactive captions, flashcards and exercises to help you actively build your vocabulary while you watch and listen. You can click any word for an instant definition and pronunciation, and FluentU will also show you other videos that have the word so you can understand how it’s used in different contexts.
There are videos for sales, hospitality, medicine, logistics and more, all organized by learning level. You can even bring your whole team onto the platform! FluentU will automatically track your progress and suggest new videos based on what you’ve already learned.
Best of all, you can boost your general English skills at the same time with tons of entertaining, authentic English videos like movie trailers, music videos, inspiring talks and more.
6 Free and Affordable Courses to Learn English Grammar for Business Writing
Below is a list of grammar courses I’ve curated to specifically help you improve your writing skills in business English. Some of them are free and some aren’t, but each has its own USPs (Unique Selling Points) so you can choose the ones that are best suited to your needs, language learning stage and budget.
This course is hosted on Alison, which is a great site if you’re looking for learning resources on a specific topic. Many of you may be familiar with speaking and writing in business English, but may not have a good grasp of some of the basic rules. So, for example, you may be able to communicate with your boss, but you’re still prone to make grammatical errors when writing reports.
You can turn around any negative impression by signing up for this free course that covers the fundamental rules of English grammar, including details like the correct usage of commas and colons.
This is a wonderful course offered online by the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. This course covers grammar and vocabulary basics so that you can write business emails and executive summaries with ease. You’ll learn the art of writing persuasively in correct grammar.
An especially helpful element of this course is the interactive grammar exercises, where you’ll make corrections to grammar mistakes in written texts and rewrite them correctly.
This course also covers more broad skills, like how to adapt your writing to different contexts.
It’s a six-week course and you only have to give three to five hours of your time per week. Because it’s hosted on Coursera, a popular online educational platform, you get helpful resources like reviews from previous students, personalized peer reviews of your assignments and even financial aid options. Coursera has hundreds of other courses offered by prestigious universities from around the world—you can explore them all here.
This is another Coursera option offered by the University of California, Irvine. It’s not just one course, but a specialized group of courses related to the theme of intermediate grammar.
It covers the nuances of English grammar including difficult-to-understand and obscure rules. They even have a special section on Tricky English Grammar, which is sure to clear up any confusion.
The truth is, the basics of English grammar are pretty easy. But once you get to the “intermediate” stage and start communicating with fluent English speakers across the business world, it can get pretty confusing. This course is sure to clear up all your doubts.
And while you’re at it, you can also check out the Learn English: Advanced Grammar and Punctuation specialization, which will help you polish your skills further.
Good business writing skills aren’t about writing paragraph-long sentences or using fancy jargon. It’s all about clear and effective communication. There are specific techniques and grammar rules that’ll make your essays and reports stand out from the rest—this intensive course created by the University of California, Berkeley will help you with just that.
Along with grammatical correctness, you’ll learn about different writing styles and how to edit your writing effectively. Better yet, this course helps you apply the grammar concepts you’ve learned by writing on a number of topics. There’s also a healthy mix of readings, videos, quizzes and longer assignments in the course to keep things interesting and challenging for the learner.
This course is free, but you can purchase a verified certificate after completing it for $49 and it’s sure to look impressive on your CV to prospective employers.
The Business Writing Center is perfect for all those who wish to master the art of effective business writing but can’t enroll in a traditional offline course or don’t have any mentors to guide them.
There are plenty of courses listed on the site, but I especially recommend that you check out this Basic Grammar and Writing Skills for Business course. It’s sure to cover all your bases.
The Business Writing Center senior instructor is Robert Hogan, Ph.D., who has more than 40 years of experience in this field. For $295, it covers grammar rules, sentence structure and spelling for a number of business related write-ups such as emails, memos and reports. The best part is that this course is pretty interactive. You can complete it at your own pace and you’ll get detailed constructive feedback on your writing assignments.
The Business Writing Center has been training people to be business writers since 1997 so you’re in safe hands.
If you’re looking for an intensive, beginner to upper-beginner grammar course, then this one from Udemy is a great option.
You’ll learn the core rules of grammar and how to use them in different contexts. The videos and quizzes have been created with the needs of beginners in mind, and you’re sure to find them informative and easily accessible. This, in turn, will make you a more confident person when it comes to business writing and you’ll be sure to leave a positive impression on your boss and co-workers.
Udemy is another high-quality online educational platform, and a nice option because they offer significant discounts on a regular basis. You also get lifetime access to the course material once you sign up.
It’s no surprise that knowing business English will get you places. The fastest way to master the art of business English writing is to understand the grammar rules that are involved and how to apply them in different contexts. Keep learning and practicing and you’re sure to be a better writer in no time.
Archita Mittra is a freelance writer, journalist, editor and educator. Feel free to check out her blog or contact her for freelancing/educational inquiries.
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