Identifying, Analyzing and Using Writing Conventions in International Business


The word convention refers to a practice, method or style that is generally accepted norm or standard for completing a particular activity.  For instance, a worker wouldn’t respond with a 50-page pricing and vendor analysis to a manager who simply asks if a certain product is available from a particular vendor.  The proper convention would be to respond in-person or by e-mail with a simple “yes” or “no” on whether the product is available.

Conventions of Professional Communication

Professional communication also has conventions.  Conventions assist workers in identifying, generating and understanding business communications.  However, in international business, conventions can differ between companies, across borders and cultures sometimes complicating what practices are expected and by whom.  When working in a global setting, it’s important to understand the conventions embraced by foreign co-workers and stakeholders.  A good language translation company can offer insights and assistance into local conventions.  Further, international workers should understand that conventions differ based on the type of communication.  For instance, different conventions may exist with respect to resumes, persuasive messages, informative messages, good news and bad news messages, oral presentations and multimedia content.


International Business Conventions

In international business, conventions aren’t always obvious.  Consider how professional writing conventions in the United States tend to be direct, blunt and objective.  Depending on the culture and the way a message is communicated, this convention might not be appropriate for audiences in Japan, Egypt or Botswana.  Another factor that complicates convention is that they are constantly evolving.  For example, interoffice memos have become obsolete with the invention of e-mail and text messaging.

Using Conventions Correctly

Using conventions correctly can be tricky due to cultural differences and their evolving characteristic.  To minimize mistakes, it’s critical that meet the rhetorical situation.  Conventions should be customized for the audience, situation and objective.  In business, some cultures (and businesses) will use a more formal tone, some state undesirable information directly, while others take great care to be gentle.

Perhaps, the easiest way to identify the appropriate convention is to ask someone with firsthand knowledge or observe the behaviors of colleagues.  In particular, observe how your colleagues communicate among one another, with customers, suppliers, superiors and others.  Pay close attention to when they make use of e-mail, texting, letters and memos.

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