Expressing yourself clearly in a foreign language is hard enough, but how about expressing yourself clearly while also not offending anyone?
Being as courteous as possible in your written English is the foolproof way to avoid offending your readers, right? . .
. . . wrong!
Last week, I ran a series of workshops on professional communication at the University of Cambridge. All the participants were new graduate students whose first language isn’t English and I introduced them to the “roundabout” nature of much English office speak. That indirect way we ask for things and give feedback that is designed to keep everyone feeling happy and good about themselves.
But it struck me that even native speakers can struggle to use language that builds bridges rather than barriers.
Here are five words and phrases that you might think sound courteous and professional, but that are guaranteed to get your reader’s back up (this reader at least). (more…)