Sunday, August 21, 2016




BUSINESS English is the expression of our commercial life in English. It is not synonymous with letter writing. To be sure, business letters are important, but they form only a part of one of the two large divisions into which the subject naturally falls.

First, there is _oral expression_, important because so many of our business transactions are conducted personally. Thousands of salesmen daily move from place to place over the entire country, earning their salaries by talking convincingly of the goods that they have to sell. A still greater number of clerks, salesmen, managers, and officials orally transact business in our shops, stores, offices, and banks. Complaints are adjusted; difficulties are disentangled; and affairs of magnitude are consummated in personal interviews, the matter under discussion often being thought too important to be entrusted to correspondence. In every business oral English is essential.

Second, there is _written expression_. This takes account of the writing of advertisements, circulars, booklets, and prospectuses, as well as of letters. And in the preparation of these oral English is fundamental. It precedes and practically includes the written expression. For example, we say colloquially that a good advertisement "talks." We mean that the writer has so fully realized the buyer's point of view that the words of the advertisement seem to speak directly to the reader, arousing his interest or perhaps answering his objection. Oral English is
fundamental, too, in the writing of letters, for most letters are dictated and not written. The correspondent dictates them to his stenographer or to a recording machine in the same tone, probably, that he would use if the customer were sitting before him.

But in taking this point of view, we should not minimize the importance of written business English. In a way, it is more difficult to write well than it is to talk well. In talking we are not troubled with the problems of correct spelling, proper punctuation, and good paragraphing. We may even repeat somewhat, if only we are persuasive. But in writing we are confronted with the necessity of putting the best thoughts into the clearest, most concise language, at the same time obeying all the rules of spelling, punctuation, and grammar. The business man must be sure of these details in order to know that his letters and advertising matter are correct. The stenographer, especially, must be thoroughly familiar with them, so that she may correctly transcribe what has been dictated.

Business English is much the same as any other English. It consists in expression by means of words, sentences, and paragraphs. Moreover, they are much the same kind of words, sentences, and paragraphs that appear in any book that is written in what is commonly called the literary style. In a business letter the words are largely those of every day use, and but few are technical. It is the manner in which the words are put together, the idea back of the sentence, that makes the only difference.

We shall begin the study of business English with a study of words, for in all expression, whether oral or written, a knowledge of words, of their meaning and suggestive power, is fundamental. On the choice of words depends not only the correctness but also the effectiveness of expression--the courtesy of a letter, the appeal of an advertisement, the persuasiveness of a salesman's talk. A mastery of words cannot be gained at once. Every time one speaks, he must consider what words will best convey his idea. In this chapter only the barest beginning of such study can be made. The exercises show the value of the subject.

The study of words is interesting because words themselves are interesting. Sometimes the interest consists in the story of the derivation. As an example, consider the word _italic_. Many words in this book are written in italic to draw attention to them. Literally the word means "relating to Italy or its people." It is now applied to a kind of type in which the letters slope toward the right. The type was   called italic because it was dedicated to the states of Italy by the inventor, Manutius, about the year 1500. An unabridged dictionary will tell all about the word.

The word _salary_ tells a curious story. It is derived from a Latin word, _salarium_, meaning "salt money." It was the name of the money that was given to the Roman soldiers for salt, which was a part of their pay. Finally, instead of signifying only the salt money, it came to mean the total pay.

Practically all of this information a good dictionary gives. In other words, a dictionary is a story book containing not one, but hundreds of thousands of stories. Whenever possible it tells what language a word came from, how it got its different meanings, and how those meanings have changed in the course of time. For it is natural that words should change just as styles change, names of ancient things being lost and names for new things being made. As the objects themselves have gone out of use, their names have also gone. When a word has gone entirely out of use, it is marked _obsolete_ in the dictionary. On the other hand, new inventions must be named. Thus new words are constantly being added to the language and the dictionary because they are needed.

There is a large class of words that we shall not have time to consider. They are called _technical_. Every profession, business, or trade has its distinctive words. The technical words that a printer would use are entirely different from those which a dentist, a bookkeeper, or a lawyer would use. You will learn the technical terms of your business most thoroughly after you enter it and see the use for
such terms.

None of the words, therefore, that you will be asked to search out in the dictionary are, strictly speaking, technical. It is evident that it will do you no good to search out the words in the dictionary, unless you learn them--unless you use them correctly in speaking and writing. There is pleasure in thus employing new material, as everybody knows. Use your eyes and ears. When you hear a new word, or read one, focus the mind upon it for a moment until you can retain a mental picture of its spelling and of its pronunciation. Then as soon as possible look it up in the dictionary to fix its spelling, pronunciation, and definition. Do this regularly, and you will have reason to be proud of your vocabulary.

An excellent way to increase the number of words that you know is to read the right kind of books. The careful study of the words used in the speeches and addresses of noted men is good practice. The conditions that called forth the speech were probably important, and the speech itself interesting, or it would not be preserved. When a man has an interesting or important message to give, he usually gives it in clear, exact, simple language. Therefore the vocabulary that he uses is worth copying. As for stories, there is a kind that furnishes a wealth of material that modern authors are constantly using or referring to, and this is found in stories of the Bible, stories of Greek and Northern gods and goddesses, stories of the _Iliad_, the _Odyssey_, the _Æneid_, stories of chivalry--all old stories. Every one should know them well, because they are the basis of many allusions in which a single word oftentimes suggests a whole story. The meaning of the word _herculean_, for instance, is missed if you do not know the story of Hercules and know that he was famous for his strength.

=Exercise 1=

_Atlas_ is an interesting word. Originally it was the name of a Greek god, who carried the world on his shoulders. Then it is supposed that in the sixteenth century the famous geographer Mercator prefixed his collection of maps with the picture of Atlas supporting the world. Thus a collection of maps in a volume came to be called an _atlas_. Consult  an unabridged dictionary for the origin of each of the following:

    rival       fortune     cereal      boycott
    dollar      finance     china       derrick
    bankrupt    milliner    java        mercury
    cash        pullman     cashmere    colossal
    mint        grocer      macadam     turbine

=Exercise 2=

The days of the week and the months of the year are interesting in their derivation. Monday, for example, represents the day sacred to the Moon as a deity. Explain the origin of each of the following:

    Sunday       Saturday     May          October
    Tuesday      January      June         November
    Wednesday    February     July         December
    Thursday     March        August
    Friday       April        September

=Exercise 3=

Look up the derivation of the following:

    cancel        bead          ambition      hospital
    pecuniary     paper         influence     pavilion
    cheat         book          virtue        mackintosh
    speculation   bayonet       peevish       chapel
    phaëton       tawdry        disaster      omnibus

=Exercise 4=

Explain the origin of each of the following:

    curfew        tulip         turquoise     good-bye
    pompadour     aster         amethyst      dismal
    hyacinth      dunce         tantalize     titanic
    dandelion     humor         umbrella      volcano
    dahlia        villain       sandwich      tangle
    begonia       echo          lunatic       babble

=Exercise 5=

Name the image that each of the following suggests to you:

    howl        sputter     rasping     munch
    skim        prance      clatter     trickle
    squeal      click       wheeze      shuffle
    moan        thud        trudge      bulge
    squeak      patter      chuckle     gobble
    squawk      spatter     toddling    swish

=Exercise 6=

Bring to class a list of words which, because they are the names of modern inventions, have come into the language in modern time.

=Exercise 7=

How many words can you name which might be called the technical terms of school life, words which always carry with them a suggestion of the school room? Bring in a list of twenty such words.

=Exercise 8=

How many words can you name which are used only in the business world? Bring in a list of twenty such words.

=Exercise 9=

How many words can you name which apply particularly to money and the payment or non-payment of money? Bring in a list of twenty or more such words.

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