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Paul Sparks, Online Business English Lesson Plans, Lesson Material and Ideas for Grade 2 English Conversation Lessons at Xiangtan Normal University...




Lesson 13 - Business Communications


Lesson Objectives: To increase the vocabulary of students using a business communication theme. To increase the students knowledge of how British business works.


Lesson Activities: Discussion about the methods of communication available for business.


British Business Communication:
Many businesses have separate departments or divisions of the company, in order for the business to function correctly there has to be effective communication between these departments. The internal communication of a company can be in many forms (spoken, written etc.) but whatever method is used the employees must be able to communicate with each other effectively.


The external communication of a business must also be efficient, communicating with customers and suppliers must be a top priority for any company. The main methods of communication for any business are as follows:


Written Communication (Internal):

  • Letters
  • Memorandum (Memo)
  • Notices
  • Company Journal / Magazine
  • Meetings
  • Reports


Written Communication (External):

  • Invoices / Statements
  • Business Letters (To Suppliers / Customers)
  • Annual Report / Accounts
  • Verbal Communication:
  • Telephone
  • Meetings


Visual Communication:

  • Pictures / Photographs
  • Posters
  • Graphs / Charts
  • Presentations
  • Electronic Communication:
  • Facsimile (Fax)
  • Telephone
  • E-mail
  • Video-Conferencing
  • Office Network (LAN)
  • Internet / Intranet / Extranet
  • Computers (Word Processors / Office 2000 etc.)

Telephones: The telephone is the most common method of business communication. External telephone calls are used by a business to contact customers suppliers etc. A business could not function without a telephone. A business may also have an internal telephone system, so that employees can communicate with each other, this system is known as an intercom system or telephone network.

Telephone charges vary according to the type of call in the UK. A local call is the cheapest, with a further discount after 6pm or at weekends. The advantages of the telephone are that it is faster and more flexible than letters or memos, you can be sure that the message gets to the correct person. However the telephone does not keep a permanent record of the communication, so sometimes it may be necessary to use letters.

Fax Machines

A fax machine requires a telephone line in order to be used for communication. It uses the telephone line to transmit pictures from one fax to another fax machine or a computer. Like a phone call the communication is instant. Fax can be used to transmit graphs, charts, diagrams etc. The advantage is that a fax can be kept as a permanent record. Fax machines have been around in one form or another for over a century, and if you look back at some of the early designs you can get a very good idea of how they work today. Most of the early designs involved a rotating drum. To send a fax, you would attach the piece of paper to the drum, with the print facing outward. There was a small photo sensor with a lens and a light. The photo sensor was attached to an arm and faced the sheet of paper. The arm could move downward over the sheet of paper from one end to the other as the sheet rotated on the drum. 

To transmit the information through a phone line, early fax machines used a very simple technique: If the spot of paper that the photo cell was looking at were white, the fax machine would send one tone; if it were black, it would send a different tone. At the receiving end, there would be a similar rotating-drum mechanism, and some sort of pen to mark on the paper. 

A modern fax machine does not have the rotating drums and is a lot faster, but it uses the same basic mechanics to get the job done: At the sending end, there is some sort of sensor to read the paper. Usually, a modern fax machine also has a paper-feed mechanism so that it is easy to send multi-page faxes. 
There is some standard way to encode the white and black spots that the fax machine sees on the paper so that they can travel through a phone line. At the receiving end, there is a mechanism that marks the paper with black dots. The scanner in a fax machine looks at one line of the sheet of paper. The scan line is shown below in red. It sees a group of black and white spots, shown blown up in the red rectangle at the bottom of the figure. It encodes the pattern of spots and sends them through the phone line.


E-mail: The first e-mail message was sent in 1971 by an engineer named Ray Tomlinson. Prior to this, you could only send messages to users on a single machine. Tomlinson's breakthrough was the ability to send messages to other machines on the Internet, using the @ sign to designate the receiving machine. An e-mail message has always been nothing more than a simple text message, a piece of text sent to a recipient. In the beginning and even today, e-mail messages tend to be short pieces of text, although the ability to add attachments now makes many e-mail messages quite long. 

A business needs an "E-mail Client" this is a type of software (computer program) to enable a person to send and receive email. The most common email clients for business are Microsoft Outlook and Outlook Express. The email client will do the following things:

It shows you a list of all of the messages in your mailbox by displaying the message headers. The header shows you who sent the mail, the subject of the mail and may also show the time and date of the message and the message size.

It lets you select a message header and read the body of the e-mail message.

It lets you create new messages and send them. You type in the e-mail address of the recipient and the subject for the message, and then type the body of the message.

Most e-mail clients also let you add attachments to messages you send and save the attachments from messages you receive.

Once a business has set up an email client it then needs to use an "E-mail Server". Most businesses will have their own web server for internet and email. If they do not have their own server they can use a free service such as "freeserve" in the UK or "163" in China.

For the majority of businesses in the UK the e-mail system consists of two different servers running on a server machine. One is called the SMTP Server, where SMTP stands for Simple Mail Transfer Protocol. The SMTP server handles outgoing mail. The other is a POP3 Server, where POP stands for Post Office Protocol. The POP3 server handles incoming mail. 

Your e-mail client allows you to add attachments to e-mail messages you send, and also lets you save attachments from messages that you receive. Attachments might include word processing documents, spreadsheets, sound files, snapshots and pieces of software. 

Considering its tremendous impact on society, having forever changed the way we communicate, today's e-mail system is one of the simplest things ever devised! There are parts of the system, like the routing rules in sendmail, that get complicated, but the basic system is incredibly straightforward.


Email has many advantages to business including the following:

  • Email is instant
  • You can ask for a read receipt
  • Any documents can be sent or received as attachments (pictures, sound etc)
  • It is confidential (using encryption)
  • It can be used to send a message to any computer anywhere in the world
  • It can store any communications
  • Email reduces time spent on writing letters etc.
  • Email can be accessed from any machine (at home or work)
  • Email is very cheap

Instant Messaging: There is no doubt that the Internet has changed the way businesses communicate. For many companies e-mail has virtually replaced traditional letters and even telephone calls as the choice for correspondence. Every day, billions of e-mail messages are sent out. E-mail has been the most rapidly adopted form of communication ever known. In less than two decades, it has gone from obscurity to mainstream dominance. The newest development is Instant Messaging - a form of email, however instant messaging is interactive - you can chat in live time.

America Online's Instant Messenger (AIM) program is one of the most popular instant messaging utilities available. In business, sometimes even the rapid response of e-mail is not fast enough. You have no way of knowing if the person you are sending e-mail to is online at that particular moment or not. Also, if you are sending multiple e-mails back and forth with the same person, you normally have to click through a few steps to read, reply and send the e-mail. This is why instant messaging (IM) has gained popularity. 

Instant messaging allows you to maintain a list of people that you wish to interact with. You can send messages to any of the people in your list, often called a buddy list or contact list, as long as that person is online. Sending a message opens up a small window where you and your friend can type in messages that both of you can see.


Most of the popular instant-messaging programs provide a variety of features: 

  • Instant messages - Send notes back and forth with a friend who is online 
  • Chat - Create your own custom chat room with friends or co-workers 
  • Web links - Share links to your favorite Web sites 
  • Images - Look at an image stored on your friend's computer 
  • Sounds - Play sounds for your friends 
  • Files - Share files by sending them directly to your friends 
  • Talk - Use the Internet instead of a phone to actually talk with friends 
  • Streaming content - Real-time or near-real-time stock quotes and news
  • Companies are increasingly introducing customised versions of Instant Messaging programs to allow employees to communicate with one another.

Instant messaging really exploded on the Internet scene in November 1996. That's when Mirablis, a company founded by four Israeli programmers, introduced ICQ, a free instant-messaging utility that anyone could use. ICQ, a combination of letters that is shorthand for the phrase "I seek you," is a real-time tool that uses a software application, called a client, that resides on your computer. The client communicates with an ICQ server whenever you are online and the client is running. 

Not long after ICQ established the popularity of IM, AOL decided to enter the fray. Within a very short time, AOL Instant Messenger (AIM) supplanted ICQ as the leading IM utility. Like all of the other major IM utilities, AIM uses a proprietary protocol that is not understood by other instant-messaging services. A key reason why AIM is so popular is that it allows AOL members to communicate with non-members - other IM utilities have not been able to provide this link between AOL and the rest of the Internet. With more than 20 million subscribers to AOL, this is no small matter. In fact, one of the provisions of the recent AOL-Time Warner merger was that other services be allowed access to the AOL community and AIM protocol. 

The future of instant messaging is very bright. The Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) is developing a standard protocol for instant messaging, called the Instant Messaging Presence Protocol. Business users are discovering that instant messaging allows them to have virtual conferences and collaborate on projects very easily. In other words, if you have not tried IM, you're missing out on a whole new world of communication. 

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