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Getting down to the business of writing

Business writing is as varied as the number of businesses there are. Each one has its own style, its own template and its own focus but despite this myriad combinations there are four main categories into which business writing can be broken down, each with its own overall goal.

Understanding these categories can help you decide the best way to tackle the task and what you want to achieve with it. However, it’s also important to remember that while the goal of a business document may vary, the writing must still be concise, audience-specific, grammatically correct and support the communication purpose to the reader.

1. Instructional business writing
Instructional business writing provides information needed to complete a task. It is often used to break a process into a series of steps and needs to be able to predict any challenges the reader may have in completing the task.

Examples of instructional business writing are the user manual, specifications like a technical document for a product or process, or a memo which may also include a direct instruction or be a reference on how to complete future tasks.

2. Informational business writing
Not all business writing requires action – some writing is just for referencing or recording and although it may seem to be less exciting in the overall world of business writing it is, however, just as essential. Recording business information accurately and consistently is important for marking progress, predicting future work, and complying with legal and contractual obligations.

The types of writing that fit into this category include report writing which can cover everything from communicating business and technical information, the recording of incidents, finalising projects or even as part of an archive. A report needs to be able to convey information to a reader in a way that is easy to grasp so they can make informed decisions.
3. Optimising your headline
Persuasive business writing is probably what most consider the sexiest type of business writing and often is focussed on the sales side of a company. The style of writing needs to be direct, and focus on a specific item, or on developing a relationship with the reader.

This type of business writing has a two-pronged attack – to convince the reader they need what you’re selling more than what a competitor may be offering, as well as to build a rapport with your audience in the hope of building a lasting relationship.

Included in this category of business writing are proposals or documents that outline an offer on a product or service, the sales email written to a large number of people to pitch a product or service and the trusty press release to present a new product or service to the media.

4. Transactional business writing
Despite its rather imposing title, this type of business writing makes up the majority of all business communication. These documents are used to push forward ideas or projects, communicate good or bad news and more generally have to do with the human resources process than the product or sales. This category of business writing includes emails between staff or clients.

So, before you sit down to start writing a business document, determine which category it falls into so you can get a better understanding of your document’s goal. If you know what you’re trying to achieve before you start, it can alleviate the confusion and stress of which type of writing would best suit the task.
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