Keystone logo

Four Clear Communication Tips for Business Students

What's one thing all successful business students have in common? Good communication skills. But good communication isn't limited to motivational speeches and convincing prater. The ways that we use words and phrases have a powerful effect on our ability to communicate, and accuracy and precision in writing and speaking are essential tools in the corporate world. Here are some tips for perfecting your business communication skills.

Aug 3, 2016
  • Student Tips
Four Clear Communication Tips for Business Students

Business students may think that corporate success comes from understanding consumers, predicting market trends, or making big sales, but the real key to success in the business world is communication. The ability to communicate – brands, ideas, new directions, investment opportunities, and management strategies – is an essential skill, but one that is often overlooked, or worse yet, undermined by industry jargon, modern technology, and individual carelessness. Luckily, you can start practicing and implementing good communication habits as a student so that when it comes time to make that big pitch, outline a new corporate strategy, or frame your brand identity, your ideas and leadership will be clear and identifiable. Here are four ways you can start improving your communication skills in the boardroom and online.

Red pencil proofreading concept

1. Avoid obvious (and common) mistakes
The beauty of most languages is that they're always evolving. New words, phrases, and usages emerge constantly, and rules are bent and adapted to suit new concepts and needs. But not all rules are made to be broken, and when it comes to business writing and speaking, it's best to err on the side of caution. First things first: proofread everything. Simple grammar mistakes like misplaced apostrophes and confusing 'than' and 'then' will stand out in formal writing. Some words or phrases are used colloquially, but when used in professional speech or writing indicate a lack of grammatical finesse – avoid 'irregardless' (the 'ir' negates the word's meaning), know that one feels nauseated by nauseous things, and always remember the space in 'a lot.' When writing and speaking, beware of commonly mispronounced or confused words and phrases like 'hone' versus 'home' (the former means 'to sharpen' while the later can be used in place of 'focus,' as in 'home in on our goals). And take your communication skills one step further by analyzing the actual meanings of words and phrases to ensure that you say what you mean. Remember 'literally' means that something actually occurs, and there are 360 degrees in a circle, so if a company or individual has made a '360-degree turn,' you literally mean that it has returned to where it started.

Business woman with drawn powerful hands

2. Stop using 'actually' and 'just'
Speaking of meaning what you say, there are two words that are regularly used but can seriously undermine the credibility of your professional communication. While both 'actually' and 'just' have important and useful places in speech and writing, use them with caution and understand why you've included these qualifiers. According to business insiders, these two little words we use so flippantly in daily speech can indicate uncertainty, lack of confidence, or even attempted manipulation in business settings. At the very least, using 'actually' and 'just' to qualify an answer or preface a question adds clutter to your conversation. Instead, be decisive with your communication. Learn to answer questions directly without the need to explain using 'actually.' And while 'just' may seem to soften a request or direction, it can be unnecessarily deferential.

closeup of the various leters

3. Know when to capitalize and punctuate
Hopefully, we don't need to remind you that in online communication, all capital letters is the internet's equivalent to screaming. But misplaced (or missing) capitals and improper punctuation can be nearly as off-putting. Even in the most informal online communications, using full sentences, proper punctuation, and a professional style is advisable. When it comes to upper and lowercases, only the first letter of a sentence or phrase needs to be capitalized. This includes salutations and complimentary closes in formal correspondence. Rules for capitalizing and punctuating titles vary depending on whether the writer is using British or American English, but when in doubt remain consistent. This applies to words and spellings as well. British English often includes a 'u' in words like 'color,' 'harbor,' and 'honor,' and reverses the 'e' and 'r' in words like 'center' and 'theater.'

Passive - Active crossroad isolated on white background

4. Stay active
This is one that gets a lot of grammarians going – the constant struggle between the active and passive voice ('I walked the dog' versus 'the dog was walked by me'). While modern grammarians may allow its usage in certain literary and journalistic situations, old-school English teachers maintain that the passive voice belies weakness in writing and speaking which makes it unsuitable for savvy business professionals. Use active verbs to assert confidence and responsibility – 'I developed the idea,' and 'the team completed the project' both project strength and authority. And active verbs have the added benefit of being direct, which will help to improve the clarity of your communication.

Find your perfect program

Use our search to find and compare programs from universities all over the world!