In communications, you spend a lot of time navigating the difference between written and verbal communication.
You learn, for instance, that you wouldn’t write a discussion post for your online class the way you would present those same ideas in a live classroom discussion. You learn that undergraduate programs today require new students to enroll in a foundational academic writing course signals that students do not, in fact, graduate high school with sufficient training in writing.
According to a 2006 survey conducted by the Chronicle of Higher Education, only 39 percent of American high school teachers have ever required their students to write a paper longer than five pages.
With all the focus on the virtues of STEM-education, it is not surprising, perhaps, that this vital component of students’ high school education is left unaddressed. It seems that colleges, at least, are reorienting themselves to help students meet gaps in writing, with both 2-year and 4-year institutions now adding remedial writing offerings to their course lists.
Utilizing available resources
Colleges also provide resources to help students excel at writing. At CTX, students can visit The Writing Center to receive feedback on writing assignments and valuable advice on improving their writing.
The Writing Center also helps students at all levels with determining audience and style, providing assistance with business and technical writing in addition to academic writing. What is the difference?
For starters, business writing is more technical than academic writing. The most common citation styles in Academic writing, APA and MLA, can be disruptive in business writing, with most companies favoring Chicago style footnotes for business briefs and other documents.
Long prepositions common in academic writing, ‘however,’ ‘therefore,’ ‘moreover’ are best avoided in business writing. Ironically, college students who have mastered academic writing often find it difficult to pare down their writing and make it more palatable to business audiences.
Academic writing vs. business writing
This is why professors in graduate business programs are encountering a different challenge with their students than their counterparts in undergraduate non-business programs. College graduates who progress into graduate education have likely mastered the art of academic writing, sometimes leaving them unprepared for business writing.
So what can graduate (and undergraduate) business students do to get better at business and technical writing?
Jo McIntosh, English professor at Concordia suggests you start by asking questions such as “is this piece of writing sensitive to the audience's needs, limitations and parameters?" and "does it offer all of the necessary information without excess, in a visual design that is easily understood?”
In other words, business writing must not only be precise, but also consciously targeted towards the desired audience.
“Business and technical writers must give equal time to mechanical accuracy and audience context, allocating time to edit, revise and write for the audience," McIntosh said.
Are you interested in more detailed guidelines on effective business writing?
Sign up for CTX MBA premium content here to receive a copy of the CTX MBA’s "Business Paper & Presentation Guide."
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