Types of business writing
A “genre” is a socially agreed upon and recognized form of communication that a group of people has developed over time to communicate more effectively and efficiently with one another. There are many communication genres, including speech genres and genres of writing. A telephone conversation would be an example of a speech genre. Telephone conversations usually include generic beginnnings, modes of development, and endings. An email message would be an example of a genre of writing. Classroom genres of writing include exams, essays, and notes, for example. In businesses, written communication takes several different forms, including email messages, memos, resumes, letters, proposals, reports, advertisements, contracts, etc.
Individuals, typically, do not invent genres of writing. Instead, as they become members of certain groups they learn the habits and conventions that the group has developed over time to communicate with one another. These habits precede and survive any individual�s membership in the group. If you want to become a physician, you need to learn how to write a medical chart. If you want to become a lawyer, you need to learn how to write a legal brief. If you want to become Congressional representative, you need to learn how to write a law. Knowing the recognizable genres of writing used by members of your profession becomes of sign of your membership in that organization and enables you to write and read more effectively and efficiently. This course in business writing aims to teach you the genres of writing that will enable you to become a member of a business or a workplace. Typically, managers claim they spend between one-fourth and one-half of their time at work writing, reading, or editing the documents others write within the organization.
The term, “format,” refers to the spatial or visual design of a document. When you picture the visual design of a business letter � with the address of the receiver, the address of the sender, the date, salutation, message, and closing � arranged conventionally upon the page, you are picturing the format of a business letter. A format can easily be reproduced as a template, yet provides little or no assistance to writers for generating the content of their documents.
The term, “structure,” refers to the set of topics that readers of a particular genre of writing expect to find included. When you imagine an outline or a table of contents for a document, you are imagining a structure. Structures can help writers generate and organize the content of their documents but are less useful as templates for arranging information visually on a page. This guide uses the term, “superstructure,” to describe not only the set of topics typically including in a specific genre of writing, (a proposal for example) but also to suggest a logical order for arranging those topics.
It is important for business writers to remember this distinction between the format and the structure of a particular genre of writing, because the set of topics typically included in one kind of document may be formatted according to the conventions of another kind of document. In other words, the recognizable superstructure of a proposal can be formatted in several different ways � as an internal memorandum, a letter, or a short report, for example. Business writers make decisions about the format and structure of their documents according to their purposes for writing and the needs/expectations of their readers.
When you want to become a member of an organization, pay close attention to the genres of writing members of that organization typically produce, including their formats and structures. The best advice to follow when you need to write an unfamiliar document, is to collect similar documents produced by others in the organization. Observe these documents to determine what they have in common, how they differ, and most importantly, why they differ when they do.
You will find many templates readily available to you on the word processing software you use. Microsoft Word �97, for example, provides templates for the following kinds of business documents:
To access these templates in Microsoft Word, simply click on “File,” choose “new,” read the tabs on the file folders that appear, and click on the one that includes the template you want to use.
Every occasion for writing, every rhetorical situation or reason for writing, differs. Even though members of organizations share expectations about the genres of writing they write and read, no two documents are ever identical. The templates available through a particular software program reflect the preferences of the company that designed the software and may or may not meet the needs of readers within other organizations. When you consult models or templates to help you write documents within an organization, you will invariably need to alter those models or templates to meet your purpose for writing and the expectations of your readers. Also, models and templates tend to be more useful to help you format documents. The structure � the set of topics you include in any particular communication � will vary greatly depending upon your circumstances. This explains why software companies can more easily supply templates for memos and letters than they can for longer, more complex proposals and reports.
What is Business Writing?
Definition: Business writing is defined as a purposeful piece of writing used in business communication for conveying relevant information and details in an accurate, concise, clear, and effective manner to accomplish some business or operational goals. In general, four such types of writing – instructional, persuasive, informational, and transactional- are used.
For making business writing effective, the important skills that should be incorporated are clarity of thought, correct grammar and sentence structure, simple and concise language. As a highly pragmatic process, it enables the readers to know or perform an action. Such form of writing might flow up, down, internally, externally, or laterally depending upon where the target audiences are.
10 tips for improving your skills in each type of business writing
- Create a summary of the document – this might be included at the start of the final document, or it might just be a useful guide for you as the writer
- Use short sentences that are easy to read
- Avoid using difficult words or complex phrases
- Use headings and subheadings to help guide your reader
- Avoid long blocks of uninterrupted text – extra subheadings can break up those acres of text into smaller, more manageable chunks
- Write in the active voice rather than passive
- Keep your writing simple, direct and on-topic
- Keep your tone consistent throughout – if the document is fun and friendly, don’t suddenly turn serious and somber, or vice versa
- Consider using visuals if appropriate – bulleted lists, graphs, tables and even photos can effectively convey information or create the right feeling
- Proofread, proofread, proofread. Even minor mistakes can reflect poorly on your professional image and reputation
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Bennett R. Coles is an award-winning author of six books published through Harper Collins (New York) and Titan Publishing Group (London). He is also the publisher at Promontory Press, editor for multiple bestselling authors (including a NY Times bestseller), ghostwriter for CEOs and politicians and the founder of Cascadia Author Services, a boutique full-service firm that specializes in premium author services specifically designed for busy professionals. Our end-to-end services include writer coaching, ghostwriting, editing, proofing, cover design, book layout, eBook production, marketing, printing and distribution.