Writing in Business

Introduction to Writing in Business

Business writing consists of many different types, all of which require a specific tone and organizational structure.

Learning Objectives

List the stylistic elements of successful business writing

Key Takeaways

Key Points

  • Business writing includes reports, memos, PR communications, email, social media, and much more.
  • Each type of business writing has a different audience, purpose, organization, and style.
  • Business writing is always formal and uses a third- person voice (“he,” “she,” “they”).
  • Concision is extremely important in business writing. Eliminate any language that is not essential to your purpose.

Key Terms

  • primary audience: The reader or readers for whom a piece of writing is intended.
  • secondary audience: The reader or readers who may also read a piece of writing, even if the piece was not originally intended for them.
  • genre: A category or type of writing.

Business writing has changed a great deal since the days of typed memos and reports. While reports and memos are of course still relevant, the world of business writing has expanded to include email, PR communications, social media, and much more. Each genre of business writing carries its own conventions of organization, voice, and audience. 


Some of the writing genres you will encounter in the business world include the following: resumes and cover letters, proposals, instructions, business and sales letters, emails, business plans, case analyses, memoranda, performance reviews, and professional biographies. The audiences and purposes will vary with each type of writing (and even within genres themselves).


Different types of business writing require different patterns of organization. Depending on whether you want to simply inform, convey good news, make a direct request, convey bad news, or persuade your audience of something, you might choose from any of the following organizational structures:

  • Direct and to the point; starts right away with a problem or request
  • Detailed explanation: state the problem and offer ideas for solutions
  • Present ideas and evidence first, then conclusions or recommendations

Style, Voice, and Tone

Writing in the business world is always formal and uses a third-person voice (“he,” “she,” “they”), although you may use contractions to sound more natural. In some cases, such as emails and sales letters, a slightly less formal tone (“I” and “you”) is permissible, but the subject and voice should always remain businesslike. Above all, less is more—be as concise as possible, eliminating needless words that are not essential to your purpose.


You probably already know how to properly address the primary audience (the person or persons who are the intended recipients). It’s also crucial to remember that any and all forms of business writing should be appropriate for secondary audiences as well (i.e., people or groups for whom the writing may not have been originally intended, but who might read it anyway). For example, you might submit a proposal to your direct supervisor (your primary audience), who in turn may pass it on to his or her supervisor, a task force or committee, or some other secondary audience.