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Write To Express, Not To Impress

In all my years of teaching business writing skills, I’m often asked, “Why don’t they teach us this at college?” Yes indeed, why not? There’s a huge difference between academic writing and business writing.

So let’s look at the differences between academic writing and business writing:

1. Students write to demonstrate learning

Schools, colleges and universities exist to share knowledge. The writing that students produce 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. Students need to persuade readers of a particular theory or develop information gained from research. They need to prove they can think about and apply what they have learned.

The writing that students hand to instructors indicates how their minds work, how much they know, and what they think and feel about particular topics.

In academic writing, students write to demonstrate learning – to impress!

2. 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, and so on. So writing in business can best be described as “writing to get things done.”

When we write in the business world, we need to give clear, concise information, and explain what we’re going to do, or what we want others to do. Business writers often recommend specific courses of action to their readers. The key here is clarity, and this should be the main focus in all business writing.

In business writing, we write to get things done – to express!

Here’s a golden rule from tip #3:

Don’t try to impress. Write to express.
In business today, we need to get things done quickly. So don’t try to impress. Aim to express yourself clearly.

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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

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