The Benefits of Good English:
(or: Always Put Your Best Foot Forward)

When we use good English, we make a good impression.  Good English ensures clarity of communication, reflects professionalism on the part of the author, and is pleasing to read.

Clarity of the communication

Good English begins with ensuring good comprehension:  making sure that a communication has a clear and unambiguous meaning that is easy to follow and understand. 

Because of its dual Germanic and Latin roots, English has a far greater number of words than other European languages such as French or German.  This richness in vocabulary allows great scope for selecting words that most finely reflect the intended meaning and nuances, desired tone and contextual setting.  However, this is a “double-edged sword”.  With so many words to choose from, there is a greater risk of selecting an inappropriate one that doesn’t reflect the one’s intended meaning.

Grammar, word order and sentence structure are additional tools.  The finely adjusted use of these tools can ensure the reader understands the exact and complete intended meaning. 

Professionalism of the author

Good English conveys the author’s professionalism.  In communication, a high degree of professionalism indicates that:

  • the author is skilled and competent in his or her field, working to professional standard;
  • the author considers it important that the communication is understood correctly;
  • the author cares about the impression received by the reader. 

In other words, professionalism tells the reader: “I’m competent, I want you to correctly understand my message, and I care about what you think about me. 

Ultimately, professionalism is about respect for oneself and for the reader.

Good English is essential for conveying a high degree of professionalism.

Pleasing to read

Good English makes for a more pleasant reading experience. 

If the reader struggles to understand the communication due to lack of clarity, it will demand unnecessary effort and will lead to uncertainty concerning the intended meaning.

If the reader is able to understand correctly but notices errors or suboptimal language, it can be irritating and thus detract from the overall experience. 

Non-native speakers often don’t detect errors or suboptimal language and are less sensitive to them.  However, the abilities of non-native English speakers are improving all the time and they are increasingly able to sense language that isn’t right, even when they can’t identify the exact problem.

Most native-English speakers are sympathetic to the challenges of non-native speakers and usually don’t mind errors and suboptimal language.  However, it can still be distracting, and sometimes even simple errors will irritate the native ear of a reader, especially if the same error occurs repeatedly throughout a text.  Native speakers will also immediately recognise formulations that are comical, embarrassing, distasteful or offensive, and these will be hugely distracting.  Although most native speakers will react with a sympathetic “E for effort”, being admired by a reader for well-written text that is pleasing to read is far better than attracting someone’s sympathy.

Good English:  Your Best Foot Forward

Good English shows you at your best:  clarity of communication, professionalism, and pleasing to read. 

As a non-native-English speaker, finding your way to good English can be difficult.  You are faced with many challenges, in the form of a simple lack of knowledge about some things, common pitfalls that affect everybody, and linguistic traps that can be embarrassing.  It’s important to be aware of this and to always ask a native-speaker to review your communication. In all that you do, always put your best foot forward.

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