These days, business is global. If you truly want to be competitive, you’re going to have to embrace the global community. This involvement can range from hiring a virtual assistant to collaborating with a foreign associate.
As a young entrepreneur, you are very interested in making a name for yourself, branding your business, and making valuable contacts. You want to know how to determine your target audience and grab their attention.
There is a right way and a wrong way to do this. You don’t want to grab someone’s attention because you are being offensive and ignorant.
The internet makes it possible to connect with people from around the world. Since a business associate on the other side of the globe is easily accessible by email, we forget that simple communication isn’t really so simple.
Just because it’s in English Doesn’t Mean the Context is Universal
Yes, most international business correspondences are in English. However, the genres and conventions of English business writing might be unique to a particular location.
It is essential to create appropriate formal and informal written business documents. Not only will these culturally specific documents make you more efficient in your business ventures, they will also help you appear more knowledgeable, culturally sensitive, and trustworthy.
Different cultures have different norms. You must be mindful of this when writing. Let’s take a look at the writing standards for communication in two of the world’s leading business markets – India and China. Use this reference sheet as a guide for foreign business communication.
Indian Business Audience
There are a few notable differences when writing to an Indian audience. Let’s take a look at some of the specifics.
A formal letter is formatted differently than a North American letter. For Indian communications, put the subject at the top of the page (a North American correspondence would have the subject between the salutation and the body of the letter). The date is located at the right side of the document.
The rest of the letter is formatted similarly to a North American Document. There is a salutation, introductory paragraph, body, closing paragraph, sender’s name and signature, and standard abbreviations for enclosures (Encl.) and a notation of additional copies distributed (CC).
Dates are displayed in the Day-Month-Year format. Also, dates do not use commas. For example, both 21.02.13 and 21 February 2013 are acceptable.
Like North American standards, Indian audiences expect a clear, concise and well-structured writing style. However, there are other things that differ between North American and Indian compositions.
People who are accustomed to writing in North America might not be aware of the Indian expectation to use simple, direct phrasing. Jargon and unnecessary elaboration is avoided.
Try not to engage in direct refusals; instead, opt for a more indirect approach. Avoid something straightforward like “We won’t be able to meet your deadline. The product won’t be ready by 31 February.” Instead, go with, “We will try to meet your deadline; hopefully the product will be ready by 31 February.” Also, be cautious when offering individual criticism. Use a face-saving approach.
Always use titles in your writing. This is true for even the most informal types of communication – like email. When applicable, use Doctor or Professor. Otherwise, use Mr., Mrs., or Ms.
Chinese Business Audience
When writing to an audience in China, you’ll want to keep a few things in mind. Note: these suggestions pertain to mainland China, not Hong Kong or Taiwan. Also, while English is very common in India, it isn’t as prevalent in China. English is a foreign language and hasn’t been adopted as a second language as it has in other countries.
You’ll want to use a letterhead when writing a letter. If your letterhead doesn’t include a fax number, type it directly beneath the letterhead. Fax is still a popular form of communication in China.
Type the name of the addressee’s organization, but not the address. Then, follow with the name and appropriate title of the person you are writing to.
The rest of the letter is formatted similar to North American style – a salutation, introduction, body, closing paragraph, and a notation carbon copies (a list of enclosures is not necessary). There is no need for a complementary close (for example, sincerely). The sender should type his or her name at the right side of the page. The date will immediately follow the sender’s name.
Dates are listed in a Year-Month-Day format. Numbers are usually used instead of the month names – 2013-02-21
It is custom for Chinese individuals to write their surname (family name) first. The second name is actually the given name. Always address a person by their title and family name. Never address a person by their given name alone.
“Cold calls” are not common in China. Business people do recognize the need to occasionally contact someone new. However, these forms of communication are usually reference a commonality they share – a common acquaintance, for example.
The Chinese have three forms of business communication:
- Superior to subordinate – Xiaxing
- Equal to equal – Pingxing
- Subordinate to superior – Shangxing
Sales writing and official letters usually fall into the pingxing category. When navigating this relationship, remember to remain conscious of the language you use. Convey deference, respect of leadership or equality of status.
As your business audience expands to a global level, be mindful of your international writing style. Acknowledge the difference among cultures and show respect to your new business acquaintance. Draw attention to yourself by doing things right – not offensively wrong!
Steve is a SEO and a full-time freelance writer for Fresh Essays, a company that provides professional letter writing assistance and help with business papers writing. He is an author of numerous articles on social media, education and university hints for students. Follow Steve at Google+.
Image Credit: Shutterstock.comSubscribe to the Podcast