Helping U.S. Facing Professionals Gain Confidence in Written Business English

Posted On: March 21, 2018

Writing emails or, sometimes even sending text messages and chats can be problematic for some offshore team members who were never taught how to craft professional messages in business English.

Many of those I have coached grew up in an educational system that may not have taught English students how to write or form their own sentences. Even if the school or college was taught in English medium, some or many students would have ‘mugged up’ answers on test papers throughout school and college. Memorizing and rewriting sentences, paragraphs and essays is not the same as learning how to write sentences on one’s own. Many who grew up in this system did not learn how to structure their thoughts in English. Hence, some or much of what is said could have a lot of Mother Tongue Influence (MTI)

How does MTI factor into the written language? 
Though, most people have heard about MTI in relation to accent or spoken English, here I am referring to MTI in language structure. Those who never really learned how to write in a second language, may write sentence in their second language in the structure of their first language. To complicate matters in some areas of India where I trained, people have confided in me that they neither felt totally literate in their mother tongue or in English. In their mother tongue, many noted, they could speak and read, but writing was a challenge, while in English speaking and reading were easier than writing. 

If this describes you or team members on your international, offshore teams, there is help available. 

Many US client facing individuals I have coached go to Google for help. I would not always recommend this because we don’t always know the reputation of the site – and again, it’s not ideal to cut and paste sentences, paragraphs or entire messages. I know from coaching professionals who face this that their literacy level is high enough to talk and write reasonably well in English, but the problem is that confidence is lacking. (This is because as a main criteria to get coached though Authentic Journeys, one needs basic English skills, assessed against the CEFR -Common European Framework of Languages – self assessment grid, as seen below.) 

In many cases, some I have coached who have Googled (read: cut and pasted) emails or answers to assessments, can actually write this better on their own if they had patience and confidence to do so. The confidence is often lacking because of over thinking when it comes to ‘grammar.’ And, in many times, ‘cut and paste’ was recognized because of two reasons, one being the cut and pasted text clearly was not in the voice or personality of the person submitting the information and, at times, the grammar was not good. In fact, if the person tried to answer themselves (taking less time than Googling it), the grammar would have been better. I am continually surprised how often this happens.

What are the other options?
In some companies I have consulted in India, we have implemented a few different strategies.

At the interview stage: During the interview, conduct an English Fluency Assessment. Typically, the best assessments will assess language structures that will be closest to how English will be used on the job. So, email assessments for typical client interactions is one example of this. I have been instrumental in rolling out a few of these programs at different start ups.

On the job: Have hard or soft copy resources available for the employees who need it, either on the internal cloud drive or physical books. If some resources are Internet based, assure they are reputable sources, not just Googled answers.

Soft Copy Resources for Business English Writing: 
Websites. Below, see a list of reputable websites that can help with English grammar rules.

Soft and or Hard Copy Resources for Business English Writing:
These are soft copies that will be hard to print out, refer online:
The Purdue Owl, which is a Purdue University online style guide based on the Chicago Style guide.
Virginia Tech Style Guide 
Voice and Tone – MailChimp’s Customer Facing Interactive Tone and Style Guide

These soft copies can be printed out into hard copies or downloaded to your local drive: 
IBM Corporate Style Guide for Business Writing 
The I Love New York Tourism Style Guide

What kinds of tips are in style guides? 
We can learn how to use English punctuation- like these posts on using the full stop (period), exclamation mark or question mark
How to brand e-mail IDs for impact. 
Dos and Don’ts for email (and text or instant messaging) – tailored to your company’s need

Learn about our Email Writing Program

Who can help my company or start up with creating a style guide? 
Authentic Journeys has worked with a few companies/professionals to create individualized, tailored style guides. Some style guides also helped with rules and guidelines for Software User Manuals. 

Contact us for more information on what is in this blog today! 

Jennifer Kumar, author of this post also provides individualized coaching sessions to your offshore team anywhere in the world over the Internet.

Other keywords: “IT Staff Augmentation” “Remote Team in India” “staff augmented team” “managed services provider”

Original Post: March 2018, updated Nov. 2020



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