Business writing isn’t quite the same as academic writing or blogging. When in a business setting, you want to make your point as efficiently as possible.
For example, if you publish a blog, your audience likely expects you to write casually. However, when starting a business, your colleagues and partners expect you to skirt the familiarity and write more formally.
Here, we’ll discuss different business writing types for small business owners, give you some common format examples, and share some best practices to improve your own skills.
The best place to practice your business writing? Your own business website. Start one today and start growing online.
What is business writing: a definition
Companies use business writing when communicating both internally to colleagues, and externally to partners and clients.
With business writing, purpose drives the content, whether an email, internal memo, report, or business proposal. The author writes concepts with a specific audience in mind, emphasizing its purpose or goal clearly and directly.
Types of business writing
Before we exemplify what business writing looks like, we need to understand the different categories business writing can fall under. Since purpose drives business writing, a writer’s goals break down into four types, each representing a specific professional goal.
Instructional business writing aims to help readers successfully complete an intended task, through outlined directions. For example, a user manual would qualify as instructional business writing, as would an email directing employees how to clock in for a shift.
Informational writing clearly educates readers about an aspect of a business. This writing type might comprise documents that contain plans for the business, financial statements, or reports about the company.
Rather than informing or instructing a reader, persuasive writing aims to make the reader feel or act a certain way. Marketers commonly use this business writing in their copywriting content, but others use it when drafting business proposals.
Most day-to-day business communications fall under transactional writing. This might include emailing a client or colleague to discuss a project, sending official business letters, and sending or receiving invoices and receipts.
8 business writing examples
Each of these business writing examples could fall into different categories based on the four above, but each one still serves its own purpose. While the tone might change slightly in one business writing type over another, you can apply best practices to all forms to help your message come across as clear and professional as possible.
01. Business proposal
A company uses a business proposal to convince a potential client to buy their product or use their services. By nature, this document uses persuasive business writing to sway a client or potential partner’s thoughts and emotions in a company’s favor.
If just starting a new business, you’ll find a well-written proposal can persuade a client to sign on or convince a partner to invest in your business growth.
02. Business letter
You may need to write several types of business letters in different scenarios, and each one serves a different purpose. Some business letters include:
A recommendation letter
A resignation letter
A thank you letter after an interview
An apology from customer service
A letter to offer a candidate a position
Business letters can be external or internal, but in both cases, the writing style should be the same as a professional document. They can also be transactional and meant to raise awareness, or persuasive, like a recommendation letter.
Business letters send a formal message. In most cases, it should follow the format of a traditional letter, so it should include elements like a date, the person or persons you’re addressing, the body text, and a signature.
One of the most frequently used communications in the business world, emails can take on many forms. Some may skew formal and ”‘by the book,” while others may take a more casual tone.
Still, emails are business writing and one should treat them as such—especially when reaching out to clients, partners, or other people with whom you don’t have a personal rapport yet. Always make sure to write a relevant subject line, and use proper punctuation, spelling, formal greetings and salutations.
04. Business plan
A business plan outlines a company’s overall goals for business development and states how it plans to achieve them. You might include similar elements to a business proposal, but internal employees usually refer to this plan when making important company decisions. Write out your business’s objectives and strategies clearly and precisely. Leave no room for interpretation when you need to refer back to them in the future.
05. Resume and cover letter
Your resume and cover letter give your potential employer their first impression of you, so use the appropriate tone and demonstrate your business writing skills to stand out. Even with the right experience, potential employers will likely reject a cover letter with the wrong tone and grammar mistakes. In fact, according to a survey, recruiters share the following common pet peeves:
Typos and grammar mistakes (59%)
Casual tone (50%)
Use of clichés and jargon (47%)
Brush up on your business writing skills to avoid making these mistakes on your resume and cover letter.
06. Business reports
A business report is an informational type of business writing that describes a project, investigation or performance summary happening within the company. With reports, the writer must remain objective and solely provide information on the subject, such as data, statistics, and background.
A memo, or memoranda, is an informational piece of internal communication on a topic. They’re typically briefer than other business writing types, like letters, and often provide instructional information, such as a department notifying employees of a procedure change. Memos’ internal can be slightly less formal than a letter or other external communications, but should still reflect professional language and formatting.
08. Press release
When a company needs to formally announce a new product, event, or company update, they’ll send out a press release. This document informs the public of important information related to your company. News and media publications often publish press releases on- and offline, and they play a large part in your company’s online reputation management.
Since press releases are public, you need to ensure accuracy and that you convey your intended message. For example, if you publish a press release to respond to small businesses challenges you’re facing, you must write professionally, empathetically and concisely. Using a too casual tone can turn a bad situation even worse.
Best business writing practices
Regardless of format, apply these best practices in your business writing.
Know your audience
You first want to identify your audience when writing for business. An internal email to a colleague will likely use a different tone than a business report prepared for investors.
Remember the five Cs
Always ensure you write:
Clearly: Be forward and precise in your message. Don’t talk around the subject—get straight to it.
Concisely: Time is precious, so don’t use a lot to say a little. Keep it brief and to the point.
Compellingly: Your writing should drive the reader to act. To do this, emphasize your core message and trim away the excess.
Completely: Ensure your message provides all the information a reader needs, when they need it.
Consistently: Keep your language, tone, voice, and format the same throughout all communications to avoid confusing or misleading the reader.
Edit and proofread
Always go over your text with fresh eyes to pick up on any typos or grammar mistakes and ensure you’ve addressed the five C’s. Don’t rely on spell checkers and grammar tools too heavily, as they don’t know your audience or intention.
Steer clear of jargon
Don’t use too many abbreviations or industry-specific terms that the average reader won’t understand. Unless you’re writing for experts who will have no issues understanding industry terminology, you should keep the language eye-level.
Keep a scannable format
Most times, readers will scan the headline and headers rather than read an entire piece of content. Use a format that allows your audience to grasp your intended message, even with just a glance at a document.
Tips to improve your business writing
You can’t master business writing overnight, but you can improve your skills right away with these helpful tips:
Make a plan: Before writing your message, make an outline or jot down notes. You might also want to write one or more drafts before the final version to test different messaging.
Practice: Even if you don’t have any projects on your tasks list, prioritize trying out different forms and writing for different audiences. Like anything else, business writing is a skill you learn with continued practice.
Find resources: Use online templates for anything from letters to business proposals, consult writing guides, and download third-party spell-checkers and grammar tools.
Take a course: Many digital learning centers like Coursera or Udemy offer business writing classes, allowing you to improve your skills at your own pace.