Business vocabulary itself isn’t necessarily difficult to decipher, but you need to be sure how to use it. Often using sector-specific terms is the most efficient way to get across a specific point, and in business-to-business communication it will certainly be expected of you. Business English jargon may often be avoided, using general terms which may make your writing clearer to a wider audience, but it is frequently necessary to use the vocabulary that a client demands and a readership expects. To make sure you’re doing it right, I’ve trawled through my books and internet sources to compile one ridiculously long list of the most common business vocabulary, divided by industry, with definitions and some examples. As a sturdy reference point, this is a post worth bookmarking!
I’ve divided this list by sector, so you can follow the links to jump to each sector directly:
The followings terms and phrases are commonly found in the advertising industry.
AIDA: Attention, Interest, Desire, Actions, the results that all adverts should aim for. Also a principle most copy should follow.
Benefit: The advantage of any given product or service – the reason that a feature is useful, the answer to the question ‘so what?’ For instance: If a car is made from a new lighter metal allow, the feature is its weight, a benefit could be that it consumes less fuel.
Billboard: a signboard, usually outside, for advertising posters. Also sometimes called a hoarding, which usually implies a large wooden board.
Campaign: a plan of action.
Circulation: the average number of copies of a piece of media that will be consumed in a given period of time. This can include, for instance, the number of magazines purchased or the number of flyers distributed.
Coupon: a promotional tool that usually gives the consumer access to an offer. Previously a printed part of an advert to be separated and handed over in exchange for the offer, more commonly now includes codes to be entered on websites.
Direct mail: advert sent to prospective customers in the post. Also called a mailshot, and now manifest in direct email (though you will often find internet marketing referred to by the same terms as post).
Eye-catcher: a noun formed from eye-catching, the object that grabs attention.
Generic advertising: adverts with a broad demographic, such as to cover a whole sector, as opposed to being product specific.
Hype: excessive or intense publicity that is often exaggerated.
Jingle: catchy tune to accompany a product or service.
Key words: main terms used to inform the most important content of a document. Now also words that SEO specialists aim to emphasise in web content, to improve online visibility.
Mass media: the mass communication spectrum. Previously TV, radio and newspaper, now also the internet.
Plug: favourable publicity, usually deliberately placed in the media. For instance a TV presenter encouraging viewers to read a book they enjoyed.
Slot: allocated time period for an advertisement to take place.
Spam: unsolicited advertising, particularly common in email.
USP: Unique Selling Point – the aspect of the product or service that makes it better than the rest.
Write copy: specifically in advertising this refers to text designed to sell (usually as part of an advert). As you can see elsewhere (LINK), copy can mean a lot more.
In contracts, the specific business vocabulary is very important. This is a breakdown of some of the most common expressions used.
Agreement: the arrangement between two parties, essentially the meaning of the contract.
Arbitration: the settlement of a dispute between parties, using a mutual contact, the arbitrator.
Article: a specific statement or stipulation within the contract, also called a clause.
Condition: a necessary precursor, a requirement that must be met to satisfy a further development. Similarly terms. Conditions must be fulfilled. Can also be a stipulation, where a stipulated condition is essential.
Force majeure: a superior power; usually refers to an unforeseeable event, and how the contract could be affected.
Herein: within, contained in, basically ‘in this document’. Hereinafter suggests it occurs in the following section, whilst heretofore is in the document leading up to this point.
Hereto: in additional, for instance an attachment is found hereto.
Null and void: invalid, cancelled and no longer binding (for instance as a result of a condition certain terms may become null and void).
Party: one side of the members obliged by the contract.
Warrant: full assurance or guarantee.
Whereas: on condition of; in the case that.
Employment vocabulary is used in general recruitment and staff management. This could be found in staff documents, contracts and negotiations.
Assessment: evaluation of ability.
Background: a candidate’s professional experience, educational and qualifications.
Curriculum Vitae: the written summary of someone’s background. Also a resume. Commonly now found in digital forms, for instance online portfolio websites and LinkedIn accounts.
Dismiss: to remove from employment service. Also fire, let go, sack.
Fringe benefits: additional advantages of employment, on top of salary. For instance a company car, medical insurance and pensions. Also called perks, short for perquisites.
Make redundant: to dismiss for economic reasons.
Personnel: those who are in a company’s employment, also the employees and staff.
Promotion: advancement in a company to a higher position.
Prospects: the opportunities for promotion within a company or career path.
Recruit: the act of taking on new staff, also recruitment the more general field of searching for new employees.
Resign: voluntarily leave employment.
Retire: leaving a job because of age.
Strength: a particular aspect or ability that makes a candidate stand out.
Unemployment benefits: a payment, usually provided by the government, for those out of work. Also (in the UK) called the dole and jobseekers allowance.
Vacancy: a position that needs to be filled.
Discussing investment requires a lot of specific business vocabulary to accurately define a very niche area of business.
Bid: the price an investor is willing to offer, usually for shares in a company.
Blue Chip Stocks: leading company shares, for those with a proven reputation and reliable record for growth.
Bond: certificates issued to shareholders as proof of purchase.
Capital: money and property used for business. Essentially funds, but not necessarily financial. Can be divided into stocks and shares, proportions owned by an investor.
Commodities: certain products in industry that are separately regulated because they relate to natural resources or agriculture.
Dividend: the proportion of a company’s earnings that are paid to shareholders on a regular (usually annually or quarterly) basis).
Equity: the value of stocks and shares, essentially worth.
Equities: specifically the stocks and shares representing portions of a company’s capital.
Futures: contractual opportunities to buy or sell at a future date.
Insider: someone with access to inside information. Insider dealing/trading is when that information is used for a financial gain.
IPO: Initial Public Offering – when stocks and shares are made publicly available on the stock exchange. Similarly issue is putting shares into circulation.
Liabilities: debts and obligations.
Mutual fund: savings fund used to buy securities as a group.
Option: the right to buy and sell securities within a specific period of time.
Penny stock: shares selling at under $1.
Porftolio: the collected securities held by an investor.
Securities: the ownership of stocks, bonds, options, shares etc (all investment opportunities), usually represented by transferable certificates.
Shareholder: owner of shares, someone who has a stake in a company’s success. Similarly, stockholder.
Speculator: someone who trades stocks and shares hoping to benefit from their changes in value. Similarly a trader, who usually buys and sells based on prices attempting to obtain short-term gains.
Stockbroker: essentially an agent for buying and selling stocks and shares, working for a commission fee. Should be licensed.
Trading session: time that the Stock Exchange is open for business.
Venture capital: capital raised by a company to finance new investments, usually obtained in exchange for part ownership.
Sales and marketing vocabulary is important in business-to-business transactions and any project where there is likely to be a financial transaction. You are likely to find this vocabulary in a variety of business settings, including the other sectors in this list.
After sales service: continuing interaction after the sale has complete, for instance additional maintenance or consultation services.
Benchmark: the industry standard quality that products aim towards. Benchmarking is attempting to reach that standard, to keep up with competitors.
Buyer: a consumer of the product or service, or a person employed to trade for a company.
Chain: usually in reference to a store, two or more outlets with the same owner and similar merchandise or services. For instance Starbucks run a (massive) chain of coffee shops.
Client: the person who buys services from a professional.
Close: to finalise a sale or deal.
Direct Investment: setting up facilities in a new market as a way of breaking into it. For instance, establishing a manufacturing plant in a foreign market.
Discount: reduction in price.
E-commerce: using electronic means to buy and sell, for instance making sales through an online store. Also e-marketing when using electronic means for promotion.
Franchise: subdivision of a larger manufacturer or wholesaler (franchiser) to give rights to an independent business person (franchisee) to operate under the same system.
Guarantee: the promise to replace or repair a faulty product. Also warranty.
Joint venture: entrance into a new market by partnering with another (usually already established) company.
Market leader: company with the largest market share in the sector.
Mark up: percentage of price added to cost.
Opinion leader: the respected body who influences wider opinions on the market’s product or services.
Product line: a range of products that are closely related.
Prospect: potential customer or client.
Retail: to sell directly to the customer, usually in small quantities.
Though these terms are mostly used in marketing, they deserve their own heading as they occur in general business communication.
B2B: business-to-business, interactions between multiple companies, or communication designed for use within the given sector.
B2C: business-to-consumer, services and goods directed from the business to the customer rather than other business.
Extranet: network connecting suppliers and distributors to a company.
Guidelines: advice or instructions laid out to suggest action.
Follow-up: continuing contact with a client or customer to ensure longer term satisfaction.
Intranet: network connecting people within one body, for instance within a company or within one company building.
Trade fair: an exhibition with a number of companies within a certain sector demonstrate their products or services.
Viral marketing: relatively recent phenomenon where marketing spreads exponentially thanks to the rapid communications of the internet.
The vocabulary used in negotiations can be similar to that in contracts, and it is worth being familiar with both when you are trying to reach a deal.
Agreement: arrangement between two parties.
Bedrock price: lowest possible price.
Commitment: an undertaking, usually the agreement to complete an engagement.
Compromise: giving up certain terms to reach a mutual agreement.
Condition: a requirement that must be reached to form an agreement (also see Contracts).
Counter-offer: an offer made by the other party.
Counter-productive: an opposite effect to the intended.
Estimate: predicted approximate cost. Similarly a quote.
Feasibility: how possible it is that something will be done.
Negotiate: the discussion held to reach an agreement.
Proposal: the plan put forward for consideration, can be as simple as suggested terms for an agreement or more formally found in a written document.
Rebate: reduction or discount.
Supply: as a noun, the source of goods or services; as a verb, to provide those goods or services. They come from the supplier.
This vocabulary is specific to giving presentations, but may be found in general terms for reports, meetings and project requirements.
Body language: communicating using the body instead of verbal cues, for instance posture, expressions and movement.
Chart: information in the form of a table, graph, diagram or other visual representation.
Flip chart: pad of large paper on a stand, for written demonstrations, usually with the ability to flip sheets over to continue writing/drawing.
Handout: written information (or other visual cues) made physically available to an audience.
Key point: an essential factor.
OHT: Overhead Transparency, a sheet of film used to demonstrate information on an OHP, and Overhead Projector. Also just transparency. These are quite old-fashioned now, more likely you will just find a projector, to attach to a computer. Increasingly popular are also interactive whiteboards or smartboards, large touchscreens connected to computers.
Objective: what you wish to achieve, an aim.
Overview: short summaries of the main points, sometimes as a section of a presentation, sometimes a short presentation in itself.
Signposting: using key words and phrases to focus on audience’s attention on specific points.
Slide: an individual displayed page of the presentation, for instance each individual OHT, or more commonly now a page of a Powerpoint (or other desktop publishing) presentation.
Visual aids: any visible tool to help explain the presentation, for instance charts and presentation slides.