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The Four Types of Business Writing

And When Each One is the Right One


Business writing, like subatomic particles and Ben & Jerry's ice cream, comes in flavors. They're not all alike.

Different types of business writing perform different tasks, and you must know what you want to achieve before you pick one: Do you want to inform, instruct, instigate a transaction, or persuade?

1. Lemme Explain Something to You...


Instructional business writing explains things your customers or potential customers need to know about your business or industry in general. Ever go to a website (I don't mean a portal but a product or business website) over and over because they have so much good information there? Not sales, not great prices, but simply information? That's instructional business writing, and it's often undervalued because we're in too much of a rush to close the sale.

Instructional business writing can be very similar to technical writing. It can be user manuals, how-tos, and specification documents. It can be blogs and reports of latest trends or industry forecasts. Being able to explain something comprehensively and clearly to someone who may have no knowledge of your subject is an important aspect of instructional writing.

2. Going on the Record

Closely-related is informational business writing: creation of reports, recording of incidents related to the business, recording legal transactions, writing histories, meeting minutes and financial reports. Many companies keep this information on their website and it must be updated frequently. This particular type of business writing can be dry, but it is vital to any almost any business.

3. The Daily Grind


Transactional business writing is the everyday, often very mundane, writing of the employees, managers, consultants, contractors, vendors, et cetera. This type of writing can include memos, internal reports, HR documents, explanations, disciplinary report, terminations, and a host of other things. So often this writing is less formal, and is found in emails, text messages, and the like. It's the nuts and bolts, or the daily grind, of business writing, the sort everyone partakes in to some extent.

4. Express to Impress

Finally there's the most fun—for me at least: persuasive business writing, which aims to do ... just that.

Persuasive writing is trying to convince prospects and current clients, internal or external, that their proposition, whatever it may be, is the best value. The easiest solution. The fastest way. It's like a trial attorney advocating in court for his or her client. And just like in court, the judge—i.e., your recipient—is likely going to be skeptical. So your argument had better be sterling!

Therefore when writing persuasive content, it's important to focus on what the reader wants, the kinds of problems they are trying to solve, and the type of products or services you are offering. You can't know enough about your client, even if the client is you and you invented the product or even the industry. You may see things one way, but your users could have a completely different vision. And while sometimes you can impose your vision on the world (Think Steve Jobs), usually you can't. (And sometimes even Steve couldn't. If it were up to him, iPhones would still be their original size and you would not have been able to add expansion slots to the Apple II.)

There you have it. Some of these types of business writing are done by the employees themselves, and others are often freelanced out. And I'm still trying to decide if doodling on napkins is any sort of business writing at all. After all, a lot of life-changing creations began that way, often on barstools too. (Who needs office furniture?)



All types of business writing should have two qualities: They need to be clear and they should be as jargon-free as possible. If there is just one thing I would like to underline fifty times, it would be that last sentence. Remember it's not how many words you use, it's the impact of those words. How does the Bible describe the creation of the universe? In ten simple words, most of them one syllable.

If you master just that, you will be ahead of at least fifty percent of business communication out there. If you want to learn more about effective, persuasive and memorable writing to drive your business, visit me here.

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