By Singapore Teaching Centre, British Council

28 February 2022 - 10:00

Business English Skills

A strong command of business English communication can help you network, close deals, and advance your career. But where to start?

Here are ten words and phrases that will instantly upgrade your business English vocabulary - plus more information about why business English matters, and how to develop your skills.

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Why is business English important in Singapore? 

When companies are asked what they look for in employees, they consistently choose communication skills over anything else. The ability to speak and write clearly is essential for a successful career.

That’s especially true in Singapore - a modern, international hub for business from all over the world. English is the lingua franca that unites all those diverse business interests. It’s the universal language of success.

But let’s be clear. We’re not talking about English in general. We’re talking about Business English, which has its own specific vocabulary. So even if you already have good English communication skills, you can still benefit from learning a few business terms and phrases.

Ten essential words and phrases in business English

We’ve chosen ten words and phrases that you’ll hear in the workplace. If you can recognise these terms - or better yet, actively use them - then you’ll stand out to employers and business partners.

  • Guidance. In general, ‘guidance’ means information about how to complete a task or follow regulations. But it also has a specific meaning in finance. ‘Guidance’ for shareholders means an informal estimate of a public company’s earnings for the quarter or year ahead.
  • Clause. This is a key term if you sign or negotiate business contracts. A ‘clause’ is a single paragraph within a legal agreement. Each clause is referred to by a number so that you can refer to it easily.
  • Terms. We’ve used ‘terms’ in this blogpost to mean words or phrases. But again, it also has a legal meaning. The ‘terms’ are the contents of a contract, including details such as payment schedules, deadlines and guarantees.
  • Agenda. If you hate long meetings, you need to learn this word! The ‘agenda’ is a list of items to discuss during a meeting. It’s usually written before the meeting takes place, to make sure that everyone stays on topic.
  • Market research. Launching a product? Starting a business? You need ‘market research’, which tests whether a new product or service is viable. This can include running surveys, focus groups or product testing.
  • Commercial. This word has several meanings in the business world. It can simply refer to anything related to business, or that makes money. However, it can also refer to paid advertisements on television or radio. A ‘TV commercial’ is a TV advertisement.
  • USP. These three letters stand for ‘unique selling point’. What makes your product or service different from everything else on the market? If you work in sales or marketing, you need to know your USP.
  • End of play. This is a business phrase that means ‘the end of the working day’. So if someone asks you for a document by ‘end of play’, that means they need it today!
  • Annual leave is the business phrase for holidays. It refers to the paid time off you get each year. ‘Annual leave’ is most commonly used in the UK, while you might hear workers from the USA call it ‘vacation time’.
  • Touch base. This is a good phrase to use in company emails or instant messages. When you ask someone to ‘touch base’, you’re asking them to quickly update you on their work. 

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Grow your business English vocabulary

Are you ready to take your career to the next level? The British Council offers courses to help improve your business English communication skills, including access to MyNetwork weekly language, professional and leadership workshops, networking events and activities.