Shirley's Articles / Email Essentials

“Shirley, why didn’t we learn this at college?”

“Why didn’t we learn this at school or college?”

This is a common question in all my email and business writing workshops. It always leads to a discussion about the difference between writing in academic settings, and the writing we do now in the world of work.

Let’s take a look…

In the academic world, our main aims are to pass exams. We have to demonstrate to our lecturers and examiners that we have learned something. We have to argue a case, show how our minds work, or persuade readers of a particular theory. To do this, we need to use:

  • more formal writing
  • long sentences
  • wide vocabulary
  • complex language
  • often third person
  • passive voice

Why? Because we need to IMPRESS readers to demonstrate learning.

In the business world, our main aims are to get things done. We have to solve problems, clarify issues, propose new strategies, negotiate deals, report progress. To do this, we need to get our ideas across quickly, so clarity is key. We must use:

  • less formal writing
  • short sentences
  • simple words
  • clear and concise language
  • bullets and numbers where possible
  • active voice

Why? Because we need to EXPRESS ourselves clearly to get things done.

So why are so many people today writing emails full of long sentences, big words, long-winded paragraphs, passive voice and redundant expressions? They are trying to use the same style of writing that they did in college. This just doesn’t work in today’s fast paced business world.

Roughly 281 billion emails were sent and received each day in 2018. This figure is expected to increase to over 347 billion daily emails in 2022. (

We just cannot afford to let this problem keep getting worse.

Whose responsibility is it?

It’s yours. It’s your manager’s. It’s your organisation’s. It’s up to every one of us today. Every single organisation in the world must get to grips with good business writing now. Let’s show our teams the benefit of writing in short sentences, using simple words, active voice, and clear, concise language… before it’s too late!

Want to learn more? Need help?

Email me today at… but keep it short and simple, please.

All articles are copyright © Shirley Taylor. All rights reserved. This information may not be distributed, sold, publicly presented, or used in any other manner, except as described here.

Permission to reprint all or part of any article in your magazine, e-zine, website, blog or organisation newsletter is granted, as long as:

  1. The entire credit line below is included*.
  2. The website link to is clickable (live)**.
  3. You send a copy, PDF, or link of the work in which the article is used when published.

This credit line must be reprinted in its entirety to use any articles by Shirley Taylor:

* Credit line:
© Shirley Taylor.
Shirley is an international bestselling author. She has established herself as a leading authority in email and business writing skills. Her international bestseller Model Business Letters, Emails & Other Business Documents 7th edition sold over half a million copies worldwide and has been translated into 17 languages. Her book Email Essentials reached #2 in the USA for publishers Marshall Cavendish International. Find out more about Shirley at

** The website link to must be clickable to receive permission to reprint the article.