Shirley's Articles / Business Writing

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!

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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

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