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Be On the Ball for Idioms in Business Writing

In the business world, it seems like the best way to turn around a business (make it profitable again) is to pull the plug on (discontinue) a project or strategy and come up with a new game plan (a strategy for reaching a certain goal or objective). And along the way, company leaders believe the best way to rally the troops (motivate employees) around the new initiative is to speak and write in language loaded with idioms.

Idioms are expressions for which a reader can’t easily predict the meaning by combining the meaning of the individual words alone. For example, the expression “jump through hoops” might create a nice visual, but it doesn’t literally mean that a person has to jump through a hula hoop to get the bosses at corporate to approve a new project. A nonnative English speaker doesn’t get that nuance.

The only way to really understand an idiom’s meaning is to place it in context and be familiar with the phrase. Idioms are important for nonnative English speakers to grasp to avoid confusion and literal translations, but also to use correctly in their own writing. Misuse of idioms and a total lack of idiomatic phrases in business writing or speaking can be a clue that English is not your first or only language. If you want your business writing to stand out based on its quality, and not on it appearing different or awkward, it helps to learn common business idioms.

Here are a few more to learn, just to score you some brownie points (impress the boss, get credit for doing something good) now:

  • Compare apples to oranges: Compare and contrast two unlike statistics or objects. Often used to point out invalid points and comparisons.

  • Bite the bullet: Take a difficult step or make a tough decision.

  • Fall through the cracks: A task or communication is forgotten or fails along the way.

  • Think outside the box: Look at a problem from a new and different perspective.

Keep pace (don’t fall behind others) and learn more about mastering idioms from our Business English Essentials Webinar (

for info).

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