Chapter 5 – Written Business Communication

Whether internal or external, business communication is essential to the operation of any business, and it takes many forms. Of greatest importance is that the writing is clear, accessible, and understandable. The writing should be clear – unencumbered with unnecessary pontification for the sake of pontificating. The best writing gets to the point, with enough background provided so the message conveyed is the message received. The writing should be accessible – having manageable language and unobstructed by unrelated data. Finally, the reader should be able to understand what is written – this requires that the writer know his or her audience and write to them. Whether the audience is your discourse community or a group of general readers, write to that group.

Business students should be aware of the different styles of writing required in their disciplines. Formal (structured and focused, such as a white paper, employment cover letter, or resume) and informal (casual, conversation, free slowing, such as a blog) textual matter each have their place in business writing, and the business student should seek to master them.

Textual conventions

Business writing is primarily informational, and most informational writing has several features in common, or textual conventions. Informational texts are usually written in the third person, not the first (it’s not a commentary) or second (it’s not a conversation) person. Other examples of textual conventions are section headings, illustrations and captions, charts, tables, and other diagrams. Some informational writing requires a table of contents, index, or glossary. It may be convenient to write according to train of thought, a continuous outpouring of thoughts with no concern for guiding the reader through the writer’s thought process – but that kind of convenience has no place in business writing.

Picture this: you are a busy business executive, and you have given one of your employees a task to report out on the latest marketing numbers. What do you expect to receive from your employee? Perhaps you want to see six pages of comprehensive facts and figures – but how do you want to see it? Should it be one long dissertation with no section breaks and no details about what is in each paragraph? Heavens, no! You’re a busy executive! You do not have time to wade through six pages to find the information you’re looking for. The report you want to read will have section headings to tell you what information is contained in each: executive summary (an overview of what is contained in the entire report); background (state of the market, past performance, perhaps); analysis of market trends; recommendations.

Can you see it? Business writing, which is informational, must have structure, logical flow from point to point and section to section, and it must clearly convey the message in an orderly fashion. Follow the textual conventions of business writing – even as a student. That is the training ground, after all…


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