Why effective business communications is difficult for some pros

The writing we all did in high school and college is vastly different than the writing we need to produce in the workplace. And yet, some things remain the same.

I had an epiphany about this first while editing pieces written by my two children when they were in college and then later while working with a university client.

In the business writing workshops I now teach virtually, I talk about the four differences and the four similarities between academic and business writing.

The Differences

For instance, in school, our teachers would give us a writing assignment with a required length. “Students, you need to write five pages about the history of racism in South Africa…”

We would do our research and probably come up with enough content for three pages. We would then do our very best to write long sentences and paragraphs to stretch our piece another two pages.

We would also use the most complex vocabulary we could think of to impress our teacher with our knowledge and intelligence.

Lastly, we would place our conclusion(s) at the end of our paper. “In summation…”

When we get to the business world, we’re not in Kansas any longer. We’re not even in Kansas State University. Your superiors and co-workers don’t want to read long memos from you. They want succinct communications, the shorter the better.

Multiple readership studies have proven that short sentences and short paragraphs are easier to both read and comprehend. That’s what we strive for in business communications.

Because we sometimes don’t know the level of education of our audience(s) in business communications, we need to use simple vocabulary and stay away from complex words.

Lastly, we need to lead memos and emails with our conclusions, not bury them at the bottom. The U.S. military calls this a “BLUF” (bottom line up front). Kabir Sehgal wrote an excellent article in the Harvard Business Review in 2016 about this.

The Similarities

Despite these four major differences, four things remain the same between the two writing styles.

For instance, in business writing, we still need to use:

  1. proper grammar,
  2. proper punctuation, and,
  3. proper capitalization.

We also need to avoid all typos and misspellings. We cannot get away from any of these four features of our writing.

Some folks have a difficult time making the transition to business writing. What can you do if you’re facing this challenge? My suggestion is to hire an award-winning business writing coach who can help you strengthen your skills. Just saying…

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