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The Difference Between Academic Writing And Business Writing
In all my years of teaching business writing skills, I’ve often been asked the question, “Why don’t they teach us this before we leave college or university?” Yes indeed, why not? There is a huge difference between academic and business writing. Here are some of the main ones:
- Academic writing is formal, often using the third person and passive voice. Business writing is less formal, more direct and concise, using active voice.
- Long sentences are fine in academic writing, but they are very cumbersome in business writing.
- Students need to show a wide vocabulary so they use complex words and long sentences. Business writers must get their ideas across quickly, so they use simple words and short sentences.
Let’s look at these differences in more detail:
Students write to demonstrate learning!
Schools, colleges and universities exist to share knowledge and to help students do the same. The writing that students produce in academic settings can best be described as “writing to demonstrate what you have learned.”
Students write to discuss and explore different topics, to argue a case, to demonstrate what they have learned to teachers and professors. They need to prove they can think about and apply what they learned. Students need to persuade readers of a particular theory or develop information gained from
The writing that students hand to instructors or professors indicates how their mind works, how much they know, and what they think and feel about particular topics.
In academic writing, students write to demonstrate learning, to impress!
Business writers write to get things done!
In the business world, we write to share information, to solve problems, to propose new strategies, to negotiate contracts, to report progress to stakeholders, etc.
When we write in business – to managers, employees, customers, vendors, stakeholders, etc – we need to give clear information and explain what we want or what we want others to do. Business writers often recommend specific courses of action to their readers. Therefore, writing in business contexts can best be described as “writing to do.”
In business, we need to get things done quickly, so we need to express ourselves clearly! Clarity is key and this should be the main focus in all business writing.
In business writing, we write to get things done – to express!
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© Shirley Taylor.
Shirley is a high-energy, high-content speaker who is passionate about motivating individuals to make a real difference in our automated world. With inspiring stories and a fun style, she engages audiences quickly, and encourages them to embrace high-touch as well as high-tech so they can connect with heart.
Shirley has been a trusted member of the professional speaking and training community for many years, and has received several awards for her services in leadership. She served as Asia Professional Speakers Singapore President 2011-12 and as Global Speakers Federation President 2017-18. She has spoken in almost 20 countries all over the world.
Author of 12 books published by international publishers, Shirley has established herself as a leading authority in workplace communication, business writing, and email. Her international bestseller Model Business Letters, Emails & Other Business Documents 7th edition has sold over half a million copies worldwide and been translated into 17 languages.
If you would like Shirley to speak at your next event, visit shirleytaylor.com.
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