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shagabutdinov
Member

Guide to be friendly and polite

I came across this article https://www.upwork.com/hiring/for-freelancers/how-to-create-a-proposal-that-wins-jobs and it recommends to be polite and friendly. I think that, as non-native English speaker, I can miss some rules and be rude just because I don't know some common patterns of communicating.

 

I have following questions:

 

* Can somebody advice any guide or book that describes rules of polite business writing?

* Does it harm strong if I do grammar mistakes in cover letters?

* Should I invest a lot of time to study grammar rules perfectly before starting to communicate?

* Can somebody advice a book on English grammar?

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cupidmedia
Member

Hi Leonid,

 

Like others have said, your communication skills are perfectly fine. I think that in general on Upwork clients will understand that applicants can come from all over the world and not be native English speakers. And for your niche as long as you can communicate well it doesn't matter if your grammar is not perfect.

If you're really looking for a book on grammar and business writing, the definitive book is called The Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr and E. B. White. But I agree with the others that the better way is to just read/listen/speak as much English as you can - books, movies etc. That will teach you a lot.

 

If your cover letters are clear, tailored for the specific job, and well structured (proper paragraph breaks, not ALL CAPS, that kind of thing) then you should be fine. 

 

Your English is definitely good enough to start making proposals now. Don't worry about trying to improve your English first - just get stuck in. Good luck 🙂 

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prestonhunter
Member

Leonid,

I don't think that non-native English speakers seem "rude" when thy make mistakes.

 

I think it is more common for them to seem overly polite.

 

No, the bigger risk is that they seem unintelligent and uneducated.

 

This is often not actually the case. Non-native English speakers may very intelligent, educated, skilled, etc., but when they make mistakes, it can cause native English speakers to think that they are unintelligent.

 

A bigger problem is that some non-native English speakers genuinely are dishonest when they claim to be native or fluent English speakers, despite demonstrating through their very words that they aren't.

 

Finally, let's not forget non-native (and native) English speakers who demonstrate that they are either lazy (or simply don't care about Upwork's conventions) by doing things such as formatting their writing in ways that is so obviously counter to standard norms. This includes people who type in all caps, refuse to use any capitalization in their names, or use punctuation in ways that are obviously not like anything else seen on the site or in published English texts.

re: "Can somebody advice any guide or book that describes rules of polite business writing?:

 

Answer: Yes, people are allowed to do so. Maybe somebody else will.

 

re: "Does it harm strong if I do grammar mistakes in cover letters?"

 

Answer: It depends. If you are promoting yourself as a writer of English-language books or article, then any mistakes in your cover letters will harm our prospects. If (like yourself) you are promoting yourself as a computer programmer, then a few mistakes won't matter to most clients. But as the number of mistakes increases, the chances increase that a client will regard you as either too unintelligent, too lazy, or too lacking in English-language communication skills.

 

re: "Should I invest a lot of time to study grammar rules perfectly before starting to communicate?:

 

Answer: It is up to you to decide how much time and effort to spend studying English. But as a non-native English speaker whose focus is on computer programming, you will probably never use English-language grammar rules perfectly. So that should not be your goal. Keep in mind that few native English speakers always use English grammar "perfectly." And those that do invariably will seem to many as if they don't.

 

re; "Can somebody advice a book on English grammar?"

Yes. I won't. But somebody can do so. And somebody else might do so.

Leonid, you asked some excellent questiions and Preston gave great answers. Speaking as a native English speaker, I can confirm that your writing here and in your profile contains minor errors, but everything is perfectly understandable. And Preston is also correct in stating that native English speakers make grammatical mistakes quite commonly. While it's commendable that you would consider improving your grammar, my suggestion would be to read English language books regularly, as long as they're not technical books. This is more enjoyable than studying grammar and it might improve your grammar by looking at examples of mostly proper English -- I have to say mostly proper because in works of fiction, characters sometimes use slang.

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"No good deed goes unpunished." -- Clare Boothe Luce
lysis10
Member

Please for the love of all that is holy don't put "sir" 45 times in a proposal. And don't assume I'm a sir and don't call me sir 45 times after you see that I'm female. Insta-rejection.

versailles
Member


@Leonid S wrote:

I came across this article https://www.upwork.com/hiring/for-freelancers/how-to-create-a-proposal-that-wins-jobs and it recommends to be polite and friendly. I think that, as non-native English speaker, I can miss some rules and be rude just because I don't know some common patterns of communicating.

 

I have following questions:

 

* Can somebody advice any guide or book that describes rules of polite business writing?

* Does it harm strong if I do grammar mistakes in cover letters?

* Should I invest a lot of time to study grammar rules perfectly before starting to communicate?

* Can somebody advice a book on English grammar?


First, I love your approach. If you are targeting clients that are native English speakers, it is always better to try to improve your English skills. First of all, there are many developers from Asia who would send proposals in bad English. If you manage to minimize spelling & grammar mistakes, your proposals will stand out.

 

I agree with Preston, you English don’t need to be perfect. However, more important than grammar is the ability to understand what you read, and to express yourself clearly. Especially when you need to explain a solution to a client who is unfamiliar with the technology (which is a consultation that you should charge for and never do for free, but this is a totally different topic).

 

In development, communication is fundamental, you developers know this very well. Hence the importance of the ability to express yourself in English while working with native English-speaking clients. And even while working with non-native English speakers actually. If both parties struggle in written expression, the project is bound to a sure failure.

 

* Can somebody advice a book on English grammar?

 

Not me, I burned all my English schoolbooks and I buried the ashes deep in the ground, thank you. But the Internet is full of resources. This site is one of them: http://www.grammar.cl/ but you’ll find many others. This one may help too: http://www.linguee.com/

 

Also, you may want to use some software to help you check spelling and grammar mistakes before you send out any written content. The Grammarly extension for Chrome will correct your typos, it has a free version but don’t rely on it too much for grammar. One software that I use intensively is Druide’s Antidote, it’s a Canadian software intended for French and English. Not the cheapest one but probably one of the best spelling and grammar software for those two languages. And it comes with dictionaries and comprehensive grammar guides.

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"Where darkness shines like dazzling light"   —William Ashbless

Leonid,

 

I wouldn't get too bogged down in grammar at the moment. As your English is already quite good, my advice to you would be to read as many English books (whatever subject appeals to you) as you possibly can, and watch as many English movies as you can. Novels (good novels - by US and UK authors), if you like fiction, will give you excellent insight to idiom and  US and UK differences. 

 

Don't look up every word or phrase you don't understand - flag it, but just keep going until you get to the end, and then go back to the bits you didn't understand. Very often though, the meaning becomes clear further along the line.

 

If you don't know it already, there is a very useful language site called Wordreference, and you will get a lot of help from the forum there.

cupidmedia
Member

Hi Leonid,

 

Like others have said, your communication skills are perfectly fine. I think that in general on Upwork clients will understand that applicants can come from all over the world and not be native English speakers. And for your niche as long as you can communicate well it doesn't matter if your grammar is not perfect.

If you're really looking for a book on grammar and business writing, the definitive book is called The Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr and E. B. White. But I agree with the others that the better way is to just read/listen/speak as much English as you can - books, movies etc. That will teach you a lot.

 

If your cover letters are clear, tailored for the specific job, and well structured (proper paragraph breaks, not ALL CAPS, that kind of thing) then you should be fine. 

 

Your English is definitely good enough to start making proposals now. Don't worry about trying to improve your English first - just get stuck in. Good luck 🙂 

evetodew
Member

As a non-native English speaker, I can advise reading news articles (Forbes, WSJ, NYT, etc). I like to read articles by Forbes' contributors. They have pretty rich vocabulary, and while staying professional they don't sound rigid. It's a great way to add more words to your vocabulary, without having to commit to an entire novel. Just read a few articles a day. Oh, and make sure you actually want to read them as a double benefit. 🙂

 

Also, don't read with English as your main focus. Let the language sink in while you're reading. Don't worry about unfamiliar words. Don't turn it into English lessons. Just enjoy the reading. I find that this non-forceful approach is much more satisfying and efficient than sulking over a grammar book.

 

When learning Swedish I built a fool-proof system. I realized I don't need a teacher. One of the things is that you need to emerge yourself into the language on a daily basis - listen, read, write and speak! All of them. Every day. Read complex articles and try to narrate them. Also, write down all useful phrases you come across. For example, sometimes some forum contributors offer sample replies to certain questions. If you like these sample replies, write them down and use them next time you are in the same context.

 

I can give you enormous amount of advice and tips, but I basically have to spend hours doing so. But the above tips, and as others already gave you theirs, I think you'll manage just fine. You're way ahead with the language than other freelancers. You may want to improve on that, but it will come with time. As pointed out, you're ready to bid. Don't wait for the perfect moment.