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business writing


business writing

The Business Writer's Handbook, 9th ed., by Gerald J. Alred, Charles T. Brusaw, and Walter E. Oliu (St. Martin's Press, 2008)


Memorandums, reports, proposals, and other forms of writing used in organizations to communicate with internal or external audiences.

See also:

Examples and Observations:

  • "Throughout the globe, the written word, in both paper and electronic forms, is seen less as strictly a way of archiving the business already completed and more as a vital, creative means of problem solving, collaborating, and actually doing business."
    (R. Inkster and J. M. Kilborn, The Writing of Business, Allyn and Bacon, 1999)

  • Purposes of Business Writing
    "Business writing . . . is utilitarian, aiming to serve any one of many purposes. Here are just a few purposes of business writing:

    • To explain or justify actions already taken: "Given that situation, we have determined that the best course of action is to reject all current bids and to seek others."
    • To convey information, as in a research report or the promulgation of a new company policy: "Management wants all employees to know that the floggings will stop as soon as we have evidence of improved morale."
    • To influence the reader to take some action: "I hope that you will find that our new, Web-based cash management services can reduce your capital requirements and save you money."
    • To deliver good or bad news: "Unfortunately, the engine fire you reported occurred one day after the expiration of the warranty period."
    • To direct action: "Your team should complete and deliver the product specifications by May 1."
    So the first thing you should ask yourself is, "What is my reason for writing this document? What do I aim to accomplish?"
    (Harvard Business Essentials: Business Communication, Harvard Business School Press, 2003)

  • Business Writing Style
    "Business writing legitimately varies from the conversational style you might use in a note sent by e-mail to the formal, legalistic style found in contracts. In most e-mail messages, letters, and memos, a style between the two extremes generally is appropriate. Writing that is too formal can alienate readers, and an overly obvious attempt to be casual and informal may strike the reader as insincere or unprofessional. . . .

    "The best writers strive to write in a style that is so clear that their message cannot be misunderstood. In fact, you cannot be persuasive without being clear. One way to achieve clarity, especially during revision, is to eliminate overuse of the passive voice, which plagues most poor business writing. Although the passive voice is sometimes necessary, often it not only makes your writing dull but also is ambiguous, uninformative, or overly impersonal.

    "You can also achieve clarity with conciseness. Proceed cautiously here, however, because business writing should not be an endless series of short, choppy sentences. . . . Don't be so concise that you become blunt or deliver too little information to be helpful to the readers."
    (Gerald J. Alred, Charles T. Brusaw, and Walter E. Oliu. The Business Writer's Handbook, 8th ed. St. Martin's Press, 2006)
Also Known As: business communication, professional writing
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