If you're just starting out in the workforce or need a refresher course in business communications, there are certain things you should know. Although you may be adept at communicating socially, professional interactions don't always follow the same rules. Failing to apply industry-standard protocols to your communications can have serious career consequences. At the very least, failing to communicate properly can cost you job opportunities. In a worst-case scenario, it can even cost you your job.
One of the first differences in business communication is that it is much more formal than social communication. Using polite terms such as "ma'am" and "sir," as well as common sense words like "please" and "thank you" are absolutely necessary. Avoid slang terms whenever possible, and conversation fillers such as "like," and "you know." This may make you sound unprofessional and less confident in the thoughts that you are expressing.
Business communications often need to happen much faster than social ones. While it may be fine to get back to your friend about weekend plans in a few days, your boss may not want to wait that long for a project status update. If you delay your response, a friend may just assume you are busy or not interested. In business, a reply that is not prompt can be misconstrued as professional apathy or disrespect.
Hierarchy is important in business communications, whereas it may have less significance socially. If you're emailing your friends, for instance, they may not care which names go first in the address box. In a business setting, however, always put the name of the highest-ranking official first, then the next highest-ranking official, and continue down the line. Doing otherwise can be viewed as failing to display the proper deference to superiors. Some business communication hierarchies are reversed: for instance, if you have a problem or issue at work, always attempt to address it with the lowest-ranking person first and work your way up. Higher-ups often don't want to be bothered with problems that can be solved at a lower level.
Mistakes in spelling, grammar, and punctuation are acceptable in social communication. This is not the case in business settings. Failure to pay attention to these details may be viewed as sloppy and can cause a bad impression. Always read over work that you are presenting to others, from complex reports to simple emails.
- "Business Communication: Process and Product"; Mary Ellen Guffey and Dana Loewy; 2010
A professional writer for LexisNexis since 2008, Ilana Waters has created pages for websites such as ComLawOne.com and AndersonHome.com. A writing scholarship helped her graduate summa cum laude from Rutgers University with a Bachelor of Social Work. She then obtained her Master of Social Work from Monmouth University.