How Business Writing Differs From Personal Writing

When writing  for business purposes, you often have to consider many factors such as audience, document structure, and tone. Unlike any personal essay or fictional stories, business writing follows more formal procedures that require much practice.

Structure

Business writing has a strict structure that allows for users to have easy access to important information. It should include elements such as a table of contents and have clear and informative section headings with page numbers. This way, readers can find navigate it quickly. Users should be able to grasp the most basic and important information by reading an executive summary at the beginning of the document. Specific details should be found further down in your writing. 

Perdue Online Writing Lab emphasizes that business writing is user-centered. This means that you should always consider not only how your audience will be reading your text, but also how they will be using it. Many times in business writing, participants will be helping design the document so that the end product will be the most beneficial This concept is known as participatory design.

Understanding Your Audience

An important aspect of business writing is understanding your audience. Unlike personal writing, understanding your audience may require feedback from users during the process of production. The common stages of your document include the developmental stage, the reading stage, and the action stage. During all of these, you may consult with experts or your supervisor to help improve the document. You want to make sure you are getting the message across as effectively as possible.

Typically, the composition of a business piece follows these stages:

Development Stage

During this stage, it is common to perform an audience analysis to help develop an accurate profile. Start thinking about who, what, where, when, why and how. You can do this by meeting with members of your audience to discuss their needs.

Reading Stage

Your work will reach your primary, secondary audience and shadow readers.

Action Stage

After your work has been distributed it is important to listen to the feedback provided by stakeholders. Your work has the ability to affect decision-making, so it’s important to make revisions to make your communication as effective as possible.

Tone

Contemporary Business Communications defines tone as, “the writer’s attitude towards the reader and the subject of the message” (Ober, 88). In business writing, it is important to maintain a confident, courteous and sincere tone. You should address the audience with confidence and courtesy, which helps gain their trust and allows you to be a credible source. Your tone controls how your audience receives your message and you need to remember who you are talking to and what you want them to know.

Business writing should “aim to effect positive change, through both persuasive and informative strategies” (Perdue). Your document should be concise but provide essential background information to give your reader a full picture. The main purpose is to inform rather than entertain, so creative details take a backseat to readability.

Overall, business writing takes on a formal structure that allows the user to easily understand and apply the information given. Personal writing often takes on a more creative role that focuses on the role of entertaining the audience. Document elements such as a table of contents and clear, informative section headings are an important tool in business writing. Users want to quickly move through and get all the information they need and be able to apply it to their work. Because this is so important, audience feedback plays an important part in the creation of the document. In any personal writing, the main audience does not have any say in the writing process.

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