There’s writing. And then there’s business writing.
In his book The Technique of Clear Writing, Robert Gunning wrote that “writing is an art. But when it is writing to inform, it comes close to being a science”.
Now, you don’t need to be the next Ernest Hemingway or prone to writing in any way to ace your business writing composition. All you need is to brush up on your existing writing skills (some may need a bit more than just “brushing” depending on where they stand), get comfortable with grammar rules and punctuation, research your subjects, and express your thoughts in a written form.
You also need an article such as this one - to get informed about the business writing basics and learn more about how to get better at it.
What Is Business Writing?
refers to professional communication including genres such as policy recommendations, advertisements, press releases, application letters, emails, and memos. Because business writing can take many forms, business writers often consider their purpose, audience, and relationship dynamics to help them make effective stylistic choices. While norms vary depending on the rhetorical situation of the writer, business writers and audiences tend to value writing that communicates effectively, efficiently, and succinctly.
In essence, business writing is supposed to convey a specific message in a clear manner. The way a particular piece of writing is structured largely depends on its purpose and the reader/recipient.
Below, we’ll go through several different types of business writing and we’ll provide actual examples alongside them.
Types of Business Writing with Examples
1) Business Letter
A business letter is a letter which can be written for many different purposes. It might be to strike a business deal, convey information, warn, give notice, decline, apologize, invite, and so on. Hence, each letter’s content varies depending on what the letter is supposed “to do”.
Business letters may be further subdivided into:
- Resignation letter;
- Recommendation letter;
- Cover letter;
- Letter of intent;
- Letter of complaint;
- Acceptance letter;
- Sales letter, and so on.
Letters typically contain the date, the sender and the recipient’s address, a salutation, a main body part, and closing remarks. To find out more about the specific letter parts as well as some useful vocabulary phrases, head over to our FAQ section and you’ll find all you need to craft a high-quality business letter.
Northern State University
123 Main Street
Anytown, CA 12345
March 5, 2020
Acme Graphic & Design
123 Business Rd.
Business City, CA 54321
Dear Mr. Lee,
I would like to invite you to attend our upcoming Liberal Arts department job networking event. The event will be held on the afternoon of May 1, 2020. We wish to provide our graduating seniors with an opportunity to meet business leaders in the area who may be looking for new hires who hold degrees in the Liberal Arts.
The event will be held at the Cox Student Center at Northern State University and will last about two to three hours. If you have an interest in attending or sending a company representative to meet with our students, please let me know at your earliest convenience and I can reserve a table for you.
Thank [you] for your time and I hope to hear from you soon.
(signature hard copy letter)
Liberal Arts Department Chair
2) Formal Email
Emails resemble letters a lot in the sense that they also have an opening salutation, main body, and closing remarks. That said, letters can be printed and sent in physical form, whereas emails are always in a digital form.
Formal emails are usually sent within a professional context and maybe even to someone we don’t know well (or at all). That’s why paying attention to the guidelines about writing emails is very important. Also, in formal emails we’re expected to avoid using abbreviations, slang and informal language, emoticons, and so on.
Formal emails are generally used for contacting colleagues, reaching out to both potential and current clients, applying for scholarships, jobs, internships, but also requesting information.
In the previous section we suggested heading over to our FAQ section, and we dare say you can use the phrases given for writing formal letters for emails too.
Subject: Web Content Editor position
With reference to your job ad in xxx, I would like to submit my application for the position of Web Content Editor in your company.
I graduated in Communication Sciences at the University of xxx and worked for several years in a Digital Agency as Content Specialist. I believe my skills and experience are in line with the requirements for the job position. I will be glad to introduce myself in an interview, that will allow you to better evaluate my possible recruitment.
Please find attached a copy of my resume. I look forward to hearing from you.
Business reports are usually collections of data and analysis and they help make important and highly relevant information easily accessible to individuals, organizations, and whole companies.
They’re usually considered to be official documents, as they’re frequently used in order to make significant decisions in business. They typically contain a lot of information, facts, stats, numbers, detailed analyses, and so on.
They also require a lot of prior research. In other words, individuals asked to write a report need to carry out a lot of research in order to craft the report.
What’s more, reports should sound as objective as possible. They’re supposed to convey information in an accurate manner, and not provide information about someone’s personal preferences and/or biased opinions.
In general, reports contain:
- a title page;
- table of contents;
- a summary;
- an introduction;
- a body (includes methods, findings, research, analysis, graphs, and so on);
That said, keep in mind that not all reports follow this structure. In other words, some may skip certain parts or they might have other aspects which aren’t on this list.
Report on Staff Turnover in GHS Corporation
Submitted Aug. 8, 2019
The human resources manager requested this report to examine the high turnover rate of employees at GHS Corporation. The information in this report was gathered by members of the human resources department over three months. The five-member team analyzed administration records and working conditions, as well as interviewed staff. In this report, recommendations are made to minimize the high turnover rate among the staff working at GHS Corporation.
GHS Corporation has been operating for 10 years. It employs 200 people, with most of the employees tasked with processing fees for insurance clients. Despite operating in a region with substantial unemployment, the annual turnover has been between 60 to 65% every year.
The most significant issue found by the HR team when interviewing staff was the lack of support to new mothers who require child care services to be able to come to work. Employees mentioned their frustration at not having an in-house child care system that could help them continue working.
Another issue mentioned by the staff was the lack of communication between employees and upper management. They expressed their concerns about receiving inconsistent and late instructions. They shared how they didn't know the main business objectives which led them to lose interest in the company and their jobs.
The main issues that we found were as follows:
- Lack of support to new mothers in regards to childcare
- Lack of communication between the staff and upper management
To address these two main issues, we recommend the following steps be taken:
- An in-house childcare center can be established at minimal cost to GHS, encouraging mothers to return to work.
- Each department should choose an employee ambassador to represent the interests of staff in management meetings. This ambassador can express concerns and relay outcomes to their teams to increase engagement.
In general, business proposals are professional documents whose function is to make a proposition, hence the name. For instance, a proposal could be used to persuade clients or a whole organization to purchase a specific service and/or a product, or to try a new strategy.
A lot of the times proposals seem to resemble proposal letters, however, they’re usually much longer and they also contain more elements. So, here are some of the most common proposal components:
- a cover letter;
- a cover page;
- an executive summary;
- a table of contents;
- an overview or a summary of the problem
- a strategy or an approach to resolving the issue;
- representative tactics;
- company qualifications;
- a schedule;
Finally, a business proposal can be as short or as long as it needs to be. In other words, its length is adjusted to the information the proposal is supposed to convey.
Proposal sample (an extract):
Food Services and Event Catering
SeaStar Film Productions is located in Blaine, Washington and wants to host a dinner party for their staff at their office space.
- Need #1: Great food, tables, and place settings
- Need # 2: Open bar with bartending service
- Need #3: Delivery, setup, and cleanup services for the evening
Riche Cuisine, Inc. is well known in the area for providing creative and delicious meals for special occasions. Riche Cuisine, Inc. offers a variety of menus from which SeaStar Film Productions can choose for the occasion.
- Recommendation #1: SeaStar Film Productions can choose from the attached menu and order the exact number and type of meals they want from Riche Cuisine, Inc.
- Recommendation #2: Riche Cuisine, Inc. will deliver and set up the tables and serve meals to the attendees, and set up and staff a full-service bar for the evening.
- Recommendation #3: Riche Cuisine, Inc will remove all furniture, meal items, and trash leaving the premises in the original condition.
Riche Cuisine, Inc. will provide the following services to SeaStar Film Productions.
- Preparation and delivery of meals from our menu
After you select appetizers, salads, main courses, and desserts from our menu to put together your event, we will prepare the food in advance at our facility and deliver it in appropriate containers (heated or chilled) in our specially outfitted delivery van.
- Setup services for the event
- Table service and bartending service
- Cleanup service
A memo (also referred to as a memorandum) is usually used for internal communication among peers. It can be used for some official business matters, procedures, ongoing discussions, and so on. You might also send a memo to inform others about upcoming meetings, events, and policies, to name a few.
Contrary to the email requirements, memos are actually messages sent to a larger group of employees (like an entire department or sometimes even the whole company).
A memo usually has “to”, “from”, “date”, and “subject” components, and several paragraphs (this may vary depending on the memo you’re trying to send and the information you’ve included in it).
To: Jane Addison
From: Mike Fitzgerald
Re: New Application Forms Date: January 4, 2010
Two new application forms will be ready for your use next week. The Executive Committee approved them late yesterday. I thought you would appreciate a follow-up report.
The Committee was grateful for the changes that you made to improve both forms. We are printing 500 of each form and should have them by Friday. Someone from shipping will deliver 250 of them to the plant so that you have them Monday morning. We will keep the other half here for our use and as reserve.
Carrie Olson is updating the electronic versions. She will contact you yet this week so that you can test them online before they are uploaded on Monday.
Thanks again, Jane, for your suggestions. Contact me if you have any questions.
A CV, short for curriculum vitae, is a written overview of all your work experience, education, and overall skills so far. A CV is usually needed when people apply for a job, a scholarship, or an internship.
There are a lot of suggestions as to what one should include in their CV, and while there’s not a fixed structure, here are the most important aspects:
- Personal details such as name, phone number, address, email;
- Work experience (usually listed in a reverse chronological order, meaning the most recent one comes first);
- Education and qualifications (also listed in a chronological order);
- Skills (such as computer skills, for instance);
- Hobbies and interests (optional);
- References (usually available upon request).
Also, make sure you keep things short and clear. Do you know that it only takes an employer 7 seconds to keep or reject a job applicant’s CV? So, make sure you include only relevant information. Moreover, don’t include a generic CV - ensure there’s a personal touch to it. Finally, tailor your CV to the job position/scholarship/internship you’re applying for.
3204 Windover Way
Houston, TX 77204
Hispanic Literature, Latin American Literature, Peninsular Literature
Ph.D. in Spanish (US Hispanic Literature), 2018 – University of Houston.
Dissertation: Quixote Reborn: The Wanderer in US Hispanic Literature. Sancho Rodriguez, Chair
M.A. in Spanish, June 2015 – University of Houston
B.A. in Spanish, June 2013 – University of Houston
Adjunct Lecturer: University of Houston, Department of Hispanic Studies, September 2018 to Present.
Gonzalez, Gloria. Quixote Reborn: The Wanderer in US Hispanic Literature. New Haven: Yale University Press (forthcoming)
Gonzalez, Gloria. “Mexican Immigrant Stories from the Central Valley,” Lady Liberty Journal, 6(1): 24-41.
Gonzalez, Gloria. “Comparing the Hispanic and European Immigrant Experience through Story,” Hispanic Literature Today 12(3): 25-35.
Gonzalez, Gloria. “Yearning to Be Free: 3 Hispanic Women’s Diaries,” Hispanic Literature Today: 11(2): 18-31.
- Gonzalez, Gloria. “Storytelling Methods in the Central Valley.” Hispanic Storytelling Association Annual Conference, San Francisco, CA
- Gonzalez, Gloria. “When Cultures Merge: Themes of Exclusion in Mexican-American Literature.” US Hispanic Literature Annual Conference, Tucson, AZ.
Adjunct Lecturer, University of Houston
- Mexican-American Literature, Spanish 3331
- Women in Hispanic Literature, Spanish 3350
- Spanish-American Short Story, Spanish 4339
Graduate Teaching Assistant, Northwestern University
- Elementary Spanish 1501, 1502, 1505
- Intermediate Spanish 2301, 2302, 2610
HONORS / AWARDS
Mexico Study Abroad Summer Grant, 2018
UH Teaching Awards, 2017, 2018, 2020
Dissertation Fellowship, 2017
Spanish (bilingual oral and written fluency)
Classical Latin (written)
MEMBERSHIPS / AFFILIATIONS
National Association of Latino Arts and Cultures
Asociación Internacional de Literatura y Cultura Femenina Hispánica
Modern Languages Association
Definition of Business Writing
Business writing is:
- used within professional settings (which is why this type of writing is often referred to as professional writing);
- direct and always to the point;
- effective, efficient, and accurate;
- easily readable;
- said to require consistency (for instance, if you’re writing an email to your employer and you use formal language, you shouldn’t also include some informal vocabulary and weird-sounding phrases, so it’s best to proofread);
- stripped off of obscure vocabulary;
- supposed to convey accurate and relevant pieces of information;
- always with a defined purpose (for instance, if it’s a CV, then it’s meant to help you apply for a job; if it’s an email, it’s supposed to help you get in touch with someone, and so on);
- something one can practice and get better at with time;
- said to come with specific guidelines, layout, and language (for example, CVs have one layout, whereas emails and letter have another one);
- also supposed to be proofread (like any other type of writing);
- usually said to fall into four categories depending on its purpose:
- instructional (such writing is directional and its function is to guide the reader toward a specific decision/task/opinion and so on - memos and user manuals are usually referred to as instructional writing);
- informational (denotes conveying information in an accurate manner - report writing, meeting notes, business plans, a company’s financial statements, and so on);
- persuasive (its purpose is to influence the reader’s decision and thoughts - it refers to proposals, press releases, marketing sales campaigns, and email sales);
- transactional (supposed to cover the daily communication among colleagues within the workplace - it includes emails, forms, official letters, and also invoices);
Business writing isn’t:
- metaphorical or abstract the way creative writing is;
- verbose and doesn’t include flowery language;
- creative in the same way as drama or prose are (it doesn’t follow the same form, style, patterns and so on; however, people are allowed to get creative when they write business compositions);
- only for those who have a special writing talent (as it’s usually the case with creative writers);
- boring (contrary to what many believe because they tend to associate business writing with strict style and a bunch of facts, business writing has its own creative and fun side);
- supposed to sound awkward, vague, and/or ambiguous (if it does, however, that is a sign that your piece of writing needs revision);
- quite the same as technical writing (the latter focuses on specific and technical topics such as engineering, technology, science, and so on);
- always written quickly (in fact, certain business writing compositions such as reports, proposals, and newsletters require a lot of research).
The History of Business Writing
When we talk about the history of business writing (in English) we talk about the beginnings of business communication in English. These beginnings go way back to the early 15th century England when the impetus for using English rather than French or Latin came from the central government. This was seen as a sort of a patriotic gesture during the war against France. Hence, business letter writers switched to English. However, they kept the formal style (which was characteristic for Latin writing, especially the ars dictaminis).
The earliest preserved private letter written in English is said to date back to 1392; however, letter writing on the whole didn't truly begin until the 1420s.
The following extract from a Chacenry Warrant is part of Henry V of England’s correspondence with his Chancellor Thomas Langley, Archbishop of Durham written in 1418:
By the king. Worshipful father in God, right trusty and well- beloved: for as much as we have been fully advised to make our Master Mason—as master Steven was—one called Colchester, who is master mason both of the church of York and of Westminster, we will that you send for the said Colchester and that you give him his charge and do make him a patent under our Great Seal such as has been accustomed before this time in that case. Given under our Signet [Seal] in our town of Bemay in Normandy the second day of June.
This extract sounds nothing like what one may encounter nowadays, which shouldn’t come as a surprise, as a lot has changed since 1418. Much of Henry’s letters were written in this style and due to many of the legalisms, they seem wordier than the content they provide.
Then vs. Now
So, how did we get from that to what we perceive to be today’s business writing?
Well, we have to consider how:
- society changed;
- technology appeared and developed;
- people’s jobs and workplaces underwent changes.
We need to understand the connection among these three first. For instance, let’s take telegrams. The first telegram appeared in 1837 and that made delivering messages a piece of cake. Plus, fax machines were developed in the 1800s, however, the first commercial fax equipment appeared a bit later on. Finally, the email was introduced in the 1990s. This brought the cost and the delivery time down to almost zero, which effectively eliminated the need for the previous two methods.
Now, if we consider all three options, we can conclude that each type requires a different style and different planning. For instance, although telegrams were used to convey information in a fast manner, you still weren’t able to get it done as fast as with email. Also, although telegrams were a preferred form of communication and a very effective one, the appearance of the email changed people’s way of communicating. Also, people don’t need to pre-plan as much as they used to - they know they’re always just a click away from reaching a person on the other side of the world, and so on.
Finally, it’s worth mentioning that each type of business writing came in its own time, as businesses changed and workplaces developed different demands. Namely, resumes and cover letters weren’t always a thing.
Let’s track the development of the resume in order to illustrate this. The term résumé comes from the French word résumé which means “a summary”. The person credited with creating the first resume is Leonardo Da Vinci. That said, his résumé version had a letter format and was sent to his potential employer Ludovico Sforza.
Then for the next 450 years or so, the concept of resume continued being a descriptive document outlining a person’s past working experiences and their abilities. Then, somewhere in the early 1900s, resumes started including details such as a person’s religion, height, weight, marital status, and so on. In the 1905s the resume also included hobbies and personal interests. Finally, in the 1970s the resume started resembling today’s resume in terms of professional layout, content, and presentation.
All in all, contemporary business writing is adapted to today’s professional contexts. That said, we all need to stay open and see how certain technological developments may bring about new formats and writing styles.
Why Is Business Writing Important?
Good writing equals good business. For instance, well-written business proposals and plans lead to more revenue, sponsorships and better partnerships; neat memos provide deeper insight; concise emails make professional communication flow smoothly; clever marketing campaigns attract more customers, build authority, raise brand awareness, and bring in more money, and so on.
Business writing skills help your thinking process too. They give you a chance to put your thoughts in a written form, and reevaluate and reconsider your ideas and opinions.
It also helps your persuasion strategies and negotiation practice. In essence, participating in email campaigns, posting on your company’s social media accounts, and planning your organization's next newsletter seem to be simply about having business writing skills, but there’s so much more.
And that’s what makes business writing so important. It’s the fact that the process of writing encompanses so much more than just sitting down and writing. It makes you a better:
- researcher (as you need to conduct some of research before you write anything);
- planner (each piece of writing requires a neat plan beforehand);
- professional (it gives you more credibility and confidence);
- team player (a lot of business compositions ask for peers to collaborate and write stuff together);
- reader (the more you write, the more you need to read to check what you’ve written and see whether it makes sense, needs re-working, and so on).
All in all, business writing is important because it’s one of the key ways of making your business work. And when you use these skills within your workplace, it helps make you a better communicator.
How To Develop Business Writing Skills?
There’s a somewhat pointless debate as to whether writing is learned or people are simply born with a talent for it. It’s pointless because when it comes to business writing, anyone can learn how to do it. In essence, anyone can learn business writing with proper practice, and by engaging in further education (such as taking part in business writing courses similar to the one we offer).
So, here are some tips on how you can work on developing your business writing skills:
- Embrace the process of producing drafts. While you probably won’t need drafts for emails or memos, they’ll come in handy with reports, proposals, and larger pieces of business writing.
- Read what others have written. For instance, if you’re supposed to write a business plan, then read a lot of business plans. Focus on their structure, overall layout, and style. See how long they are, what the main focus is, and so on. Also, pay attention to the language and the tone.
- Work on your critical thinking skills. Critical thinkers are always better writers regardless of what it is they’re expected to write.
- Learn to use tools to help you (for more on this, visit the FAQ section).
- Be comfortable with proofreading and editing.
- Don’t be afraid to experiment with styles and formats as long as your business composition makes sense.
- Enroll in a business writing course if you like you need further assistance.
Examples of Business Writing in Everyday Life
Almost every workplace will “test” your writing skills at some point, more or less. However, business writing skills are more than just useful. They’re essential alongside your qualifications, work experience, and abilities.
And although a lot of workplaces have recently become quite casual when it comes to communication and writing, knowing certain business writing “rules” and specific formats can be a huge asset.
Also, writing skills help demonstrate your skills and professionalism; they help you build a good online presence (especially companies whose online presence is crucial for attracting clients); and they help boost your overall confidence.
Plus, as we already said, each business composition has its own purpose. So, you write an email to reach potential clients, you craft a proposal to increase sales, you prepare a report to impress your employer, and so on. One successful business writing endeavor leads to the next one. And the whole process of writing just gets easier.
Now, different workplaces require different types of business writing. For instance, if you find yourself working in law, you’ll come across briefs, client correspondence, and various case studies.
Those working in marketing engage in writing proposals, reports, marketing analyses, advertising materials, emails, and so on.
Science and engineering employees write manuals, journals, and are on the lookout for technical data. Individuals working in the entertainment sector prepare reviews, books, contracts, proposals, and so on.
Publishers and editors are concerned with book editing, preparing web content, crafting proposals, and so on.
All in all, each profession comes with its own set of business writing requirements. Some formats may be more challenging than others, but the longer one works in a specific sector, the more comfortable one gets with the content they’re expected to write.
Applying for a job
That said, it’s worth mentioning that business writing skills are needed even before you actually start working somewhere. In essence, they’re needed when you apply for a job.
You need to prepare your CV/resume and submit it. A lot of companies also require cover letters and even recommendation letters, too.
Also, sometimes you may be the one required to write a recommendation letter to someone. For instance, if you’re an employer, you may need to write one for your employee; or if you’re a teacher, a student may approach you to get a recommendation letter as part of their university application.
Finally, no matter what you apply for - you’re more than likely going to have to write (at least) several emails. So, it’s very important to be comfortable with email phrases and formal and semi-formal vocabulary (we help you with this in the FAQ section).
Regardless of what piece of writing you’re supposed to prepare/submit, you need to pay attention to the following:
- Learn how to structure your arguments. Being able to share your ideas and thoughts in a structured and organized manner is one of the key things that make a job applicant stand out.
- Try to convey your points in an accurate manner. If you submit a cover letter, try to be as concise as possible. Include only the details that matter for the job position you’re applying for - don’t focus on irrelevant trivia.
- Always proofread your writing. Regardless of whether you’ve worked on a cover letter, a CV, or just an email - never skip proofreading as a step. This helps you catch grammatical errors, spelling mistakes, and any phrases and/or sentences which may not make a lot of sense. Using a grammar checker such as Grammarly, ProWritingAid,or WhiteSmoke may not be a bad idea as well.
How to approach this?
If you’re the employer:
- What type of business documents do you usually write?
- How satisfied are you with your current business writing skills? Do you think they could be better? If yes, what can you do to change this?
- Are you able to track your employees’ business writing skills? How?
- Should having solid business writing skills be a job requirement along with the rest of the skills, qualifications, and previous work experience?
- How bothered are you by spelling mistakes? Do you tend to make them? If you do, is it because you don’t tend to double check your emails before you send them or something else seems to be the issue?
- Have you ever fired someone through an email/letter? In other words, have you ever announced something like this in written form rather than facing your employee?
- How would you react if:
- you found out an employee has been sending a lot of emails with spelling mistakes and inadequate vocabulary to your clients?
- a client reached out to you to let you know that they’re not happy with the email correspondence they’ve had with some of your employees?
- you noticed some of your current employees lack in writing skills (for instance, they leave the subject line empty when they send emails, they don’t write any closing remarks, and so on)? How would you react? What would you say to them? Would you consider signing them up for an online business writing course or perhaps organizing some sort of training yourself? Do you think such problems are a valid reason to give someone the sack? Why? Why not?
- an employee sends an impolite message/email to you?
- you discover that a lot of clients haven’t received any kind of feedback from your employees (for example, they’re written several emails inquiring about a specific service your company provides, but received no reply)?
- you found out that some of your company’s documents and/or sent emails contain errors and nobody bothered to correct them (for instance, a document states your client’s company name, but their location is wrong; or the document states that your contract with a specific client expires in two years, but you come across an email which suggests an earlier date; your employee has been sending emails promoting your latest product, however, the website link they included within the email is broken, and so on)?
- That said, we realize such errors don’t really occur on a daily basis (especially if you’re running a successful company with great employees), however, we decided to give “exaggerated” examples to force you to think about the importance of writing and how a piece of writing may cause chaos if certain information gets neglected and/or conveyed erranousely.
If you’re the employee:
- How happy are you with your business writing skills? How important are they for your current job position? In other words, do you get to use them a lot on a daily basis?
- How anxious do you get when you receive an email from an “important” person (such as your employer, a very important client, and so on)? Do you spend more time responding to such emails than you usually would? Do you find yourself double-checking what you’ve written as part of your response before you send your reply?
- Have you ever asked a colleague to help you write something? If you have, what was it? Did you get the help you expected?
- Have you ever gotten into a fight with a colleague over some business composition? What happened? Whose fault was it? How did you resolve the issue?
- What type of writing do you enjoy doing the most at work? Why?
- Whenever you’re writing, do you take into account your company’s brand and overall style? In essence, there should be writing consistency among colleagues in order to authentically represent the company you all work for. Also, a lot of companies have so-called specific brand traits and they even offer specific guidelines and instructions to their employees when it comes to business writing so that they can include them.
- Have you ever been asked to write something and you didn’t really know how to do it? If yes, what happened next? Did you ask for help (secretly) or did you openly say that you didn’t know how to do it?
- Before you write a business composition, do you:
- think about the recipient of the composition?
- try to understand what it is you are trying to accomplish (i.e. inform someone, ask for data, propose an idea, and so on)?
- think whether the language and the phrases you’re planning on using are suitable for this type of writing and the person supposed to read it?
- think about whether the recipient is familiar with the “thing” you’re writing about? This will help determine how detailed you need to be (or don’t need to be, for that matter).
- After you’ve written your business composition, do you:
- re-read it to see whether it sounds coherent and cohesive? In other words, do you proofread and edit?
- check whether you’ve included all the relevant information?
- double-check if you’ve used appropriate language (for instance, if you’re writing a formal email you need to use formal phrases; if you’re preparing a Facebook post as part of your current marketing campaign you need to be concise and enthusiastic, and so on)?
- see if all the words you’ve used add value to the overall text? It’s more than likely that upon reading the text again, you’ll realize you can let some of them go.
Getting a University Degree
Many might find it unusual to read about getting a degree in business writing, as it’s not as common as hearing about degrees in economics, physics, languages, engineering, and so on.
However, business writing degrees and certificates are common and they offer a wide range of possibilities.
For instance, the Weissman School of Arts and Sciences offers a Business Writing specialization. This is an option for students who wish to combine business journalism with business administration.
The program provides students from various fields such as liberal arts, business, and public affairs with solid knowledge in professional writing for business purposes. This program dwells on marketing-related writing, legal writing, journalistic writing, internet communication, financial writing, and so on.
Some of the courses students are required to take are: Copy Editing, Advanced Reporting and Writing, Multimedia Reporting, Business Communication, and so on.
Also, the Northwestern School of Professional Studies provides a Business Writing and Communication certificate program.
The program is suitable for individuals interested in developing business communication (both within prospective clients/customers and within a company/organization). Candidates choosing this program may expect to take courses such as
- writing for media,
- bargaining & negotiation,
- theories of persuasion,
- introduction to public relations,
- intermediate composition,
- business communication, and so on.
All in all, such degrees and certificate programs enable students and professionals to enhance their business writing skills and then apply them across a wide range of business functions. Knowing how to tailor your writing to meet different needs and criteria takes time, but working on your writing skills can speed things up.
How to approach this?
If you’re the educator:
- What makes teaching business writing so:
- different from other subjects?
- fun and enjoyable?
- How do you prepare for your lessons? What does it mean to teach writing? In essence, how do you teach something so practical? How do you recommend that others should approach teaching it?
- How do you invite your students to take part in your lessons? What tasks do you give them? Do you collaborate with them? Do you ask them to engage in group projects? Or do you encourage individual work more?
- Is getting a business writing degree difficult? Why? Why not? Do you think some people consider it to be inferior compared to getting a STEM degree, for instance?
- How do you assess your educatees? Do the standard testing methods apply to business writing, too? Perhaps you have your own assessment methods?
- What kind of technology do you use in your classes?
- Do you think teaching business writing helps educatees work on their critical thinking skills?
- How do you feel about informal education (for instance, learning about business writing by signing up for an online course such as the ones we offer as opposed to learning about it at a school or university)?
- Apart from teaching, how do you use your business writing skills? In other words, getting to teach about business writing is one thing, but actually utilizing those skills in practice is another one.
- According to you, what is a business writing curriculum supposed to look like?
- How do you upgrade your business writing skills as an educator? What do you do?
- Have you ever received any negative feedback from an educatee? What was your initial reaction?
- Why should anyone consider obtaining a business writing degree/certificate?
- What qualities should a business writing educator possess? Make a list.
- Do you ever feel your educatees don’t take this subject seriously (for instance, they comment that there’s nothing to be learned and/or anybody could write a piece of business writing without putting in a lot of effort). How do you respond to such comments? Also, do you ever take these remarks personally? How can you stay detached?
- How much creativity is there in teaching business writing?
- What’s the main point behind teaching business writing? Is it to make sure your educatees write well-composed business documents? Is there anything else?
If you’re the educatee:
- What does getting a degree in business writing mean to you?
- Do you enjoy writing in general? Or do you just find it to be a practical skill?
- Do you think there should be any requirements when it comes to obtaining such a degree, or anyone who’s interested should be allowed to study it?
- What do you see yourself doing in the future? In other words, how does this degree play a part in your employment? What job positions are you considering? Think about your job prospects.
- Do you have any specific salary expectations?
- How does getting a degree in business writing help in your everyday life? Think of several examples.
- What other skills and qualities should prospective business writing students possess? Also, how can they work on improving them in the future?
- Is getting a degree in business writing truly worth it? Why? Why not?
- According to you, how should business writing be assessed? Do testing methods need to be different from the ones used in other disciplines? If yes, do you have any specific ideas?
- Apart from the tests and grading, should business writing students have their own portfolios they’ll update on an ongoing basis? Should they be assessed for that, too?
- How can potential educatees recognize a high-quality business writing program? What are the educators supposed to be like? How should classes be structured? What should be taught? How large should the groups be?
- Do you feel like educatees can learn a lot more on their own rather than by attending classes and following lectures in larger groups?
- How do you feel about the concept of informal education? Is this something that might work well when it comes to improving one’s business writing skills?
- Are there any shortcomings regarding getting this type of a degree?
- How much of a role does the educator play when it comes to teaching business writing?
- How important is the educator-educatee relationship in any kind of educational context?
- Since writing is a subjective matter, do you feel it’s adequate for someone (an educator) to assess it? As a student, do you take such things personally? Would you get easily offended?
- What kind of challenges might business writing students be faced with?
- What does it mean to be a successful business writing graduate? How would you define it?
- Do you think a lot of prospective educatees feel they need to be good at writing in order to enroll at such a program?
- Can you ever imagine yourself teaching business writing? Is this something you’d even like?
Finally, you don’t need to be employed or get a university degree to need your business writing skills. Sometimes, simple things like writing a complaint to an airline company or booking a hotel and having to send an email is enough of a reason to keep your business writing skills in check.
Each time we’re expected to use our business writing skills is a way to keep upgrading them. The more we use our business writing skills, the better we get at utilizing them.
Also, knowing how to be “good with words” and structure a composition properly can bring you many benefits. For instance, let’s say you wish to purchase an expensive product, but you can’t find any installment plan on the company’s website.
You decide to contact the company instead. You find their email address in the contact page on their website and craft a professional, yet sweet-sounding email. You say that you’d really like to buy this product, however, due to your current financial situation, you’re not able to afford it. That said, being allowed to pay in installments is something that works for you and you would be grateful if they were to grant you this wish.
How you structure this email will have a big impact on what feedback you receive. In other words, if you sound rude in their email, don’t bother to include opening and closing remarks, don’t include a subject line, and so on, they come across not only as unserious, but ill-mannered too.
That said, there’s no guarantee you’ll get an installment plan even if you write the perfect email (whatever that means), however, your chances are definitely better. Also, no one’s striving for perfection when it comes to punctuation and even spelling. Keep in mind that making a few unconscious mistakes and being completely oblivious to spelling and grammar and two different things.
All in all, having solid business writing skills can come in handy in life, even in the most random situations and moments.
How to approach this?
- On a scale from 1 to 10 (1 being the lowest, and 10 the highest), how comfortable are you with your business writing skills?
- When was the last time you wrote a formal email? Who was it addressed to? What was it about? Did you struggle with any aspect(s) of the email? If yes, which one(s)?
- What do you do when you’re writing something but aren’t sure about the specific rules that apply to that particular piece of writing (for instance, you’re writing a letter and you’re supposed to submit it, but aren’t sure where to place your address and where to put the recipient’s address)? Do you look for a sample or perhaps you consult someone? Maybe you even try googling it?
- Have you ever received an email with a lot of grammar and spelling mistakes? How did you feel after reading it? Were you able to understand everything despite the mistakes? Did you perceive the email as unprofessional? And more importantly, did you write a response? Did you mention the mistakes? Why? Why not?
- Before you send an email/letter/message, do you double-check what you wrote? For instance, if there are a lot of numbers and important information, do you make sure they’re written correctly? Have you ever sent an important document containing mistakes (for instance, a wrong ID number, wrong address, and so on)? If you have, what did you do afterwards?
- What would you if:
- you wrote an email to ask details about a specific product, but you never heard back from the company?
- you ordered something, but the item never reached you, so you wrote an email to enquire about it, but you didn't get an answer?
- you wrote an email to complain about a specific service, and you ended up getting a very rude response?
- you sent an email to the wrong email address?
- you received a scholarship document in your mailbox, but your personal information is incorrect?
- you received your neighbor’s bills along with other personal documents and this happens frequently? Do you contact your municipality? Perhaps the main post office in your city? What would you do? Call them? Write them an email? What would you say?
- you sent an email to a hotel that you’ve been eyeing for some time now, but they respond in an impolite manner and don’t even answer all your queries and requests? Sometimes they don’t even respond at all, so you need to send a follow-up email. Would you still be comfortable booking a room in that hotel? Or would you make changes to your holiday plans?
Famous Quotes About Business Writing
“But the secret of good writing is to strip every sentence to its cleanest components. Every words that serves no function, every long word that could be a short word, every adverb that carries the same meaning that's already in the verb, every passive construction that leaves the reader unsure of who is doing what--these are the thousand and one adulterants that weaken the strength of a sentence. And they usually occur in proportion to education and rank”.
“Say all you have to say in the fewest possible words, or your reader will be sure to skip them; and in the plainest possible words or he will certainly misunderstand them.”
“The reason business writing is horrible is that people are afraid. Afraid to say what they mean, because they might be criticized for it. Afraid to be misunderstood, to be accused of saying what they didn't mean, because they might be criticized for it.”
“When writing about science, don't simplify the science; simplify the writing.”
“I notice that you use plain, simple language, short words and brief sentences. That is the way to write English―it is the modern way and the best way. Stick to it; don't let fluff and flowers and verbosity creep in. When you catch an adjective, kill it. No, I don't mean utterly, but kill most of them―then the rest will be valuable. They weaken when they are close together. They give strength when they are wide apart. An adjective habit, or a wordy, diffuse, flowery habit, once fastened upon a person, is as hard to get rid of as any other vice.”
“Read over your compositions, and wherever you meet with a passage which you think is particularly fine, strike it out.”
“To write or even speak English is not a science but an art. There are no reliable words. Whoever writes English is involved in a struggle that never lets up even for a sentence. He is struggling against vagueness, against obscurity, against the lure of the decorative adjective, against the encroachment of Latin and Greek, and, above all, against the worn-out phrases and dead metaphors with which the language is cluttered up.”
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
What are some useful online tools to improve your business writing skills?
This tool is a great asset for every business out there. It can scan your business files to ensure they’re authentic. If they turn out not to be, then the website helps rewrite those problematic parts so that they’re unique. Plus, the team working there helps reduce redundancy, and make your document sound even more natural.
This website helps you ace the process of writing business emails. Upon first entering the website, you’re asked whether you’re a business leader, a training manager, or an individual. Depending on which option you choose, you’ll get distinct pieces of advice and various tools to assist you in writing effective and high-quality emails.
One Look Reverse Dictionary
When you know what it is you want to say, yet you struggle to find the right words, head over to One Look Reverse Dictionary. All you need to do is type in a description of the word you’re looking for (you can include a single word, several words, or a whole sentence), and you’ll get a list of words that match your description.
Quite a well-known tool, Grammarly is a platform that operates with AI to identify mistakes. It helps review grammar, spelling, punctuation, and engagement.
What are some common phrases for writing business letters?
- Dear Sir/Madam
- Dear Mr. Brown
- Dear Ms. Smith
- To whom it may concern
- Dear Sara
- Dear all
- Hi everyone
Referring to previous contact
- In reply to your previous request...
- Thank you for your letter of February 20….
- Thank you for contacting us.
- Thank you for your letter regarding….
- It was a pleasure meeting you last week in Paris.
- I really enjoyed our call last week.
- I would like to confirm the aspects we discussed last Tuesday regarding…
- In regards to the ideas we discussed last time,....
- We understand from your email that you’re interested in….
- In terms of what we talked about….
- I had fun talking to you last week.
- I enjoyed our meeting in Berlin last month.
- It was great we got to meet in Tokyo.
- Thanks for your message/letter/email/call last Monday.
- So glad we reconnected!
- Glad to hear from you again!
- Can’t believe it’s been ages since we last spoke!
- It was nice to catch up.
Reason for writing
Making a request
- I would truly appreciate it if you could…
- I would be grateful if you…
- Could you please send the materials/documents/images?
- Could you let me know if/when…
- What's more, I would like to receive/get/obtain…
- It would be really helpful if you could send…
- Would it be possible to…?
- I was hoping you could send the documents over.
- What do you want me to do next?
- Can you send me more information about…
- Can you please confirm the details?
- I just wondered if you could send over the notes from our last meeting.
- Please send me/let me know/tell me…
- Please answer ASAP.
- I’m interested in finding out more about….
- I want to receive…
- I regret to inform you I have remarks about the services you provide.
- I am writing to express my dissatisfaction with…
- Please note that the information you provided is false, and therefore I…
- The reason I am writing is to express how deeply dissatisfied I am with the services your company provides.
- To make matters worse, I had to….
- Although I was told there was going to be _______, I was appalled to find out…
- I was appalled at the customer service/poor quality/overpriced items/bad reviews...
- I’m writing to complain about…
- I was disappointed to learn that…
- Unfortunately, I can’t accept the fact that…
- I can’t believe that….
- I’m not happy with….
- I would be happy to assist you with….
- Our company would be pleased to help you.
- We are all quite willing to help you find a new apartment.
- Let us know if we can help you further.
- Do not hesitate to contact me if you require further assistance.
- Would you please consider accepting our help with this?
- If there’s anything we can do to help, just let us know.
- I’d love to help you!
- Let me know if there’s anything I can do.
- The good thing is that we can still….
Feel free to get in touch if you have any other questions.
- I apologize for the delay in replying.
- Once again, on behalf of the company, I would like to apologize for…
- I apologize for any inconvenience.
- I wish to apologize for any trouble our company may have caused you.
- Please accept our deepest apologies.
- We deeply regret having caused you such stress.
- I’m so sorry to hear that….
- I’m sorry if I caused you any trouble.
- Sorry once again for…
- Sorry for making you wait.
Giving good news
- We are pleased to inform you that you have been selected as...
- We are thrilled to let you know that you’ve received the award for…
- It is our pleasure to inform you that…
- It is with the utmost enthusiasm that we inform you that…
- We are absolutely pleased to announce our latest collaboration with…
- I’m delighted to inform you that…
- I’m glad to let you know that…
- I just wanted to tell you that…
- You’ll be pleased to hear that….
Giving bad news
- I regret to inform you that your application has been unsuccessful.
- I regret to inform you that due to a mistake in our system your data has been lost.
- Unfortunately, we cannot proceed with the…
- After careful consideration we have decided not to….
- I am afraid that your request was denied.
- Despite our best efforts, we regret to inform you that…
- Unfortunately, we are unable to meet such standards.
- I’m afraid I have bad news to give you.
- Unfortunately, the company decided not to accept your proposal.
- Unfortunately, I have to let you know that…
- I don’t really see how that’s achievable.
- I’m really sorry to have to tell you this.
- There have been some problems with….
Asking for clarification
- Could you please clarify your requests?
- What would you like us to do about the matter?
- Could please let us know how we are supposed to approach the issue at hand?
- When exactly are we supposed to hold this meeting?
- How exactly can our company be of assistance?
- Could you please be more specific?
- Could we please get more details regarding your latest proposal?
- I am afraid your last email/letter was rather vague and unclear, and we need more information in order to proceed with the application.
- Could you please elaborate more on your last message?
- Can you give me more details?
- I don’t really understand your point. Can you be more specific?
- I’m afraid I didn’t understand your last message. Can you explain things once again?
- I look forward to hearing from you./I am looking forward to hearing from you./ I look forward to receiving your comments/feedback.
- Do not hesitate to contact me if you need any further information.
- Let me know if I can help in any way.
- Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions.
- Let me know if anything sounds unclear.
- If I can be of any further assistance, please let me know.
- Should you require more information….
- I really appreciate you taking all of this into consideration.
- I really hope you are happy with this arrangement.
- I look forward to a very successful working relationship in the future.
- I am very pleased to do business with your organization.
- Let me know if you need any further information to proceed.
- I would appreciate a short reply at your earliest convenience. /A short reply would be appreciated.
- Let me know what you think about it.
- I hope our plan makes sense.
- I’d love to hear your feedback.
- I’d appreciate your reply.
- I can’t wait to hear how you feel about this.
- If there’s anything I can do for you, feel free to call.
- Tell me if you need more information.
- Is there anything else I can help with?
- Please confirm receiving my letter/email.
- Let me know if I can do anything else.
- What do you feel is the next logical step?
- Keep me posted.
- Hope to hear from you soon.
- Thanks for taking the time to…
- You can reach me at (phone number).
- Feel free to call me.
- It was really great of you to….
- Yours sincerely,
- Yours faithfully,
- Best regards,
- Kind regards,
- Warm regards,
- All the best,
- Thank you once again,
- Best wishes,
- Take care,
- Talk to you soon!
Suggestions for Further Reading
Stephen King once said: “if you don't have time to read, you don't have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.”
And while he may have had creative writing in mind, we dare say the same applies to those who engage in business writing, too.
Reading about email composition, report guidelines, email instructions, and so on, will not only help you understand how to improve your own writing, but it will show you what you’ve been doing “wrong” so far.
That said, when it comes to writing (which is something highly subjective - it’s not science), it’s difficult to talk about right or wrong, as we need to keep in mind each individual's personal style and expression. However, there are certain rules, criteria, and guidelines that do apply to business writing compositions (and not to the creative writing practice).
Here are some of our book recommendations to get you started on your business writing exploration:
- Writing That Works: How to Improve Your Memos, Letters, Reports, Speeches, Resumes, Plans, and Other Business Papers, by Joel Raphaelson and Kenneth Roman
- How to Say It: Choice Words, Phrases, Sentences, and Paragraphs for Every Situation, by Rosalie Maggio
- Words that Sell, Revised and Expanded Edition: The Thesaurus to Help You Promote Your Products, Services, and Ideas, by Rick Bayan
- Writing Without Bullshit: Boost Your Career by Saying What You Mean, by Josh Bernoff
- It Was the Best of Sentences, It Was the Worst of Sentences: A Writer's Guide to Crafting Killer Sentences, by June Casagrande
- Model Business Letters, Emails and Other Business Documents: Model Business Letters, Emails and Other Business, by Shirley Taylor
- Ultimate Guide to Business Writing: All the Secrets of Creating and Managing Business Documents, by Julian Maynard-Smith
- Faster, Fewer, Better Emails: Manage the Volume, Reduce the Stress, Love the Results, by Dianna Booher
- Technical Writing for Business People, by Carrie Marshall
- Words That Change Minds: The 14 Patterns for Mastering the Language of Influence, by Shelle Rose Charvet
- The AMA Handbook of Business Writing: The Ultimate Guide to Style, Grammar, Usage, Punctuation, Construction, and Formatting, by Jennifer Wauson and Kalpana Wilson
- Get to the Point!: Sharpen Your Message and Make Your Words Matter, by Joel Schwartzberg
All in all, business writing is writing used in a professional context. Its purpose is to convey relevant and concise information to the reader.
We hope that our article made things clear, but if you wish to go deeper, you can always join our business writing course. We’ll help you:
- communicate better in any professional environment;
- understand the purpose of your writing;
- learn how to approach grammar and punctuation;
- pay attention to your tone and style;
- write with greater clarity and precision;
- learn all about the Minto principle (hint: Barbara Minto shares all her answers and secrets in her book The Pyramid Principle).
We understand that the process of writing is ongoing . In essence, the more you do it, the better you’ll be at it.
So if you’re ready to write the best emails and reports your boss has ever read, you know where to find us!
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