Does your organization do business with Chinese companies? As you’re probably aware, business convention when it comes to letters, memos and other written correspondences aren’t exactly uniform across all countries and cultures. While standard American business writing is largely applicable to Chinese culture, there are certain things you may want to consider the next time you compose an email.
Pull up a reference. If this is a first communication, always preface it by using a reference. “Cold calling” is not as popular in Chinese business climates as it is in other areas of the world. As such, that brief paragraph explaining how you came upon their business can prove crucial.
Be conscious of addressing them as equals. When corresponding with personnel from other companies, always address them as equals. You’re neither their boss nor their subordinate, so the tone of your writing must reflect that. Be conscious of the words, phrases and clauses you employ, taking care that it communicates that you’re on equal terms.
Use titles and family names. Business correspondences must remain formal. As such, always refer to individuals using their title and surname (e.g. Dr. So, Mr. Chan), never their given names.
Make sure translators know the rules. We’re big proponents for translation software, but avoid using it for official emails and letters, as it’s prone to grammatical foibles and some mistakes – you don’t want to paint that kind of picture to potential business associates. If you’re hiring a translator to port your English correspondence to Chinese, make sure they know the importance of the above rules, as they can mean the difference between clear communication and misunderstandings.