BUSINESS WRITING By: Bree Gregory

Business writing is “nonfiction about a business-related subjects, addressed to a particular audience to achieve a particular purpose. In other words, the content and form of any document are determined by the context, that is, the person or persons the document is intended for and the writer’s reason for creating the document” (8, Markel).

Characteristics


Business writing is meant to get the job done. There are 7 basic characteristics of business writing.
1. Clarity: the written document must be unambiguous and easy to understand. This is because teams of people could be working off of the information contained in an unclear document (Markel 3-6). Favor topic-action structures (focus the meaning on the main parts of the sentence). Avoid more than two nouns in a row, break up long sentences, and position phrases and information effectively (Marsen 52-59).
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Status Report showing clarity, comprehensiveness, and accessibility (Roll Up Project Status Reports)
This example of a status report (below) shows clarity used in business writing. Since this document would be distributed to multiple employees, needs to be clear. It gives the name and description of the action that is to take place, as well as the people responsible for carrying out steps to complete this task.

2. Accuracy: one must record his/her facts carefully. Business writing must also be as objective and unbiased as possible. You don't want to reader to see that you are slanting the information and then question the validity of the document (Markel 3-6). Favor quantification - give numbers/measurements if possible. For example, if you were to write “effective for several years,” that wouldn’t be very specific. Instead you should write “effective since 1995”. Also, avoid words with multiple meanings and define terms (Marsen 52-59).

3. Comprehensiveness: a document must provide all the information that a reader could possibly need. It must provide background information, a clear description of the methods used to carry out the project, and a complete statement of the results and conclusions. This status report (above) shows comprehensiveness by giving a clear description of the task at hand and the different actions that need to be executed in order to complete this task.

4. Accessibility: this means that the document must be structured so that it is easy to locate information quickly. Memos and reports tend to be broken up into sections (with headings) so a reader can find the specific section they are looking for with ease. In this status report (above) headings like "name" "description" "responsible" "action date" make it easy to locate the information the reader is looking for.

5. Conciseness: documents should be as short as possible and to the point without sacrificing the other criteria of effective writing. Don't use flourished wording; all words used should serve a purpose. As long as the report contains all the necessary information, people refer to read short ones (Markel 3-6). But make sure not to "just delete multiple syllables. Find the right words to put in their place" (Hogan). One cartoon uses irony to emphasize the importance of conciseness in business writing. See the cartoon at: http://www.glasbergen.com/images/g442.gif (Glasbergen)

6. Correctness: proper spelling, grammar, punctuation and word choice should be observed. Favor active voice over passive voice (Markel 3-6). The writer should avoid "there is/are" at beginning of sentences. Use modals such as could, may, might, must, and should when possible. Also, use verbs instead of nouns where possible and avoid weak verbs. Using punctuation strategically is good as well (Marsen 52-59).
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Thank you card (Thank You Cards)


7. Courtesy: people like people with manners. If you treat people politely clients will do more business with you and your business will be more successful (Markel 3-6). Many businesses send thank you cards to their clients (right). Also, things like "saying you are sorry about a situation does not mean you are guilty or liable for it. It means you care" (Gaertner-Johnston).

When writing, concentrate on content and organization; generally paragraphs are 75 – 125 words (Markel 42-44); be clear and concise when writing. And, as in legal and scientific writing, do not use suspense; say what you mean from the beginning and use concrete words versus abstract words open for interpretation (Baugh, Fryar, and Thomas 32-33). Also, in business writing, avoid jargon, wordy phrases, clichés, pompous words (Markel 49-55), and sexist language (Baugh, Fryar, and Thomas 10-15).

Strengths


Business writing is strong because it is clear, accurate, and concise. Also, business writing is organized so that it makes sense for the specific topic. This makes it easier for readers to understand, which is a good attribute. When writing, find a format that suits your audience (Smith and Bernhardt 6-7); certain patterns work in certain situations. Chronological describes a process or event - how something happened. A spatial format is a description of the physical relationship of things to each other. This is good for describing physical things like a layout of a building. A general-to-specific format is used to relate sales literature and reports for a large audience. A more-important-to-less-important format describes a process or event like chronological formats, but is used when you need to know more of what you found versus how you found it. The problems-methods-solution format is used in memos and reports on projects like the scientific method. There is a problem, method to solve, result, and recommendations (Markel 19-23). Also, the writer should think about active vs. passive voice; first, second, and third person; headings and lists that make organization easier (Markel 34-39).

Graphic aids are also a nice break from text for the reader. They help the reader more understand what the author is trying to say. They are only use if they are appropriate for audience and purpose, clear and complete, in a good location, relate to the text. Aids include tables, bar graphs, line graphs, and charts (Markel 69-85). Here are some examples of graphic aids.
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Bar graph (Tanah Emas Corporation Berhad)

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Line graph (Business Intelligence)

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Pie graph (Pie Chart)

Another strong point for business writing is its diversity; it can be used from many purposes (Smith and Bernhardt 7-8). Memos are very common. They are less formal and briefer than letters but still legally binding, and are only distributed among own business employees. Minutes are a written record of a meeting. Proposals are recommendations for improvement within the business. There are also two types of formal reports. Informational reports only give the information with no personal input or opinions. Analytical reports provide the information as well as interpretation. Formal reports present certain information in different places in the report as well as in varying levels of detail. The abstract is a short technical summary, 200-250 words, for the already informed readers. The executive summary is a nontechnical summary of report, for a basic understanding. The letter of transmittal introduces the purpose and content, in format of letter or memo. And, the references provide a bibliography, footnotes, and endnotes (Markel 137-154).

Absences


Sometimes business writing can be very bland. It often lacks emotions, interpretations, and opinions. This is different fro
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(Thinking Outside the Box)
m journalism, which uses figurative language and other literary elements in order to support the purpose.
Business writings, like minutes and progress reports, only state facts without opinion or interpretation, lacking creativity (Marsen 201-210). This can be a negative attribute in some cases, because the reader could benefit from not only learning the facts, but also the authors interpretation or opinion. Business writing only emphasizes what is important and ignores what is not. Sometimes people can benefit from understanding not only the argued point, but also the counter points that could be made (Smith and Bernhardt 11). It also lacks creativity. Business writing is meant strictly to get the job done. It gets to the point as quickly and coherently as possible, without thinking outside the box with creative means. Sheldon and Willett express the need for business writing to become more personal. In their opinion, business writing should be allowed to use the word "I" as well as everyday English, but it should still maintain the basic characteristics of properly addressing the audience, directly stating the message, and keeping it simple (102).

Creation of Reality


There are a few ways in which business writing can create a reality. The different formats of business writing often are descriptive of reality. Chronological format describes a process or event, how something happened. Minutes (example shown below) are often written in this format when describing a meeting: the date, who was there, old business, new business, a summary of what happened, and the date of the next meeting. These minutes do not create a new reality, but recreate an existing reality. However, the spatial format in business writing can be used to represent a budding reality. If a business were planning to construct a new building, spatial formatting would be used to describe the layout of the new building, and therefore would be a written representation of the future building. Sheldon and Willett sum up the role business writing nicely in saying, "A business has a heart and soul. That is its mission. It has a brain. That is its strategy. It has a body: employees, customers, suppliers, and investors—all part of a shared culture. Business also has a face. That is its brand image. But does business have a voice? Yes—you hear a bit of it in advertising, although advertising is more about attitude and image. The voice of a business calls its employees and customers to action. To be effective, the voice must be consistent, believable, and compelling" (100). Business writing completes the existence of a business by providing the voice to convey all of the thoughts and ideas.
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Minutes (Wilson Business Park)

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Minutes (Wilson Business Writing)




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Works cited


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