Writing for Business and Economics

Communicating with others is essential in every career, not only in business. A manager could have the best ideas in the world, but if he or she is not able to communicate these ideas to others, the ideas are of no practical use to anyone. It is a commonly believed myth among business students that writing skills are not of utmost importance; however, it is through writing that one is able to communicate with others. Whether it is through memos, e-mails, reports, or letters, business people use some form of writing each and every day.

Before writing:

  • Pay close attention when the assignment is given in class; professors may clarify certain points about the assignment verbally that may not be directly written on the prompt.
  • Understand and consider the business purpose behind the assignment. The professor thought the assignment was related enough to the business world to assign it, so make sure that your paper fulfills the requirements.
  • Be aware that there may be different names for the same paper structure. For example, an executive summary, transitional letter, and abstract are all approximately the same thing. All three precede a report and include a densely informative summary of that report.

While writing:

  • Make an outline that clearly lays out the structure of your paper while keeping the audience in mind, i.e., Are you writing to an executive? Shareholder? The formality and the length to which you explain business concepts will be altered depending on the audience you are targeting. For example, a memo to an executive will be brief, concise, and formal, whereas a letter to a shareholder may go more in-depth on company policy and be less formal.
  • Demonstrate in the paper any critical thinking completed. Professors assign reports in the business classroom to engage students in the readings; this ability to think critically is a characteristic that many employers look for in prospective employees.
  • To attain the minimum page length in assignments while writing in the business style, be sure to pick a topic that can be discussed in depth. Picking a topic that is interesting and that has information available will make writing the paper easier in the long run.

General hints:

  • Keep it simple. Business people are busy, and thus paperwork should be kept as concise as possible; however, do not be so formal as to alienate the reader and/or seem robotic. The use of personal pronouns (you) can assist in sounding personal but still be professional.
    Instead of saying: Ideally, it would be best to put the billing ticket just below the CRT screen and above the keyboard.
    Say: If possible, put the billing ticket between the CRT screen and keyboard.
  • Do not refer to yourself in the third person by using "one," and when discussing something concerning your opinion use "I." Using "we" implies that you are talking about your company or organization.
  • Avoid repetition and the passive voice. Instead of saying "The decision has already been made by the managers," say "The managers have already made the decision."
  • Proofread! This task is often forgotten once the paper has been completed. The quality of the paper may be greatly improved through proofreading for spelling, punctuation, and/or grammatical errors.

Additional tips:

  • In a business writing class, the teacher will usually give guidelines and hints as to what is important -- you will find them helpful, so use them!
  • Make an outline (or some other type of organizational scheme) of ideas you wish to discuss in your letter or memo.
  • Use the appendices in the back of the textbook (see below) to choose a format. Business writing textbooks contain appendices for both memos and letters, so there is no excuse for turning in a sloppily organized paper. DO NOT DEVISE YOUR OWN FORMAT.
  • Read and understand the assignment. Pick out issues from the assignment description that need to be addresed!
  • See a Writing Center tutor for assistance.
  • Proofread your paper and use Spellcheck (for the obvious reasons). Many students turn in papers with errors simply because they did not take two minutes to proofread. Teachers can tell how much effort you put into an assignment by the number of careless mistakes found in the paper.
  • Finally, if the teacher allows revisions of the papers to improve your grade, REVISE YOUR PAPER! Do it immediately after you receive your paper; the information will still be fresh in your mind. Use the teacher's comments to improve your paper.

Being able to write well in the workplace will make you stand out from others. Being able to write grammatically correct sentences will make you seem intelligent. Many extremely intelligent people cannot write a complete sentence, and, therefore, they do not seem as intelligent as they really are. Understanding grammar and other important principles of writing will give you an advantage over these people.

References:

Alred, Gerald, Charles Brusaw, and Walter Oliu. The Business Writer's Handbook. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin's, 2006.Print.

Kelbaugh, Paul. Personal email. 14 March 2010.

Locker, Kitty. Business and Administrative Communication. New York: Mcgraw-Hill/Irwin, 2003. Print.

McGrath, Glenn. Personal email. 9 February 2010.

Nathan, Maria. Personal email. 20 March 2010.

Rosson, Gerald. Personal email. 9 February 2010.

Sources of Memo and Letter Formats:

Bovee, Courtland L., and John V. Thill. Business Communication Today. New York:
Random House, 1989. 641-655.

Kolin, Philip C. Successful Writing at Work. 5th ed. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1998.
110-118; 140-154; 181-220.

Locker, Kitty O. Business and Administrative Communication. New York:
McGraw-Hill, 1998. 579-592.