Business Writing: An Introduction


Preparing to write is as important as the act itself. There are three preliminary considerations that are fundamental to the task. You must establish a document's objective, identify its readers and determine its scope. All other steps in the writing process follow and develop from these determinations.

Establishing an objective will answer one critical question about your writing task. What do you want the reader to know or do, or be able to do after reading your document? The answer needs to be specific and detailed. If the objective is too general it will be difficult, if not impossible, to present a credible argument or a compelling reason to read the document. For Example:

Not So Good: To explain the proposed cafeteria at Better Widget Makers, Inc.

Good: To explain how the newly proposed cafeteria at Better Widget Makers, Inc. will benefit the employees, the company and the Silver City community.

A specific objective, simply stated, can be viewed as a thesis statement for your writing project. Notice how the above example includes three main topic areas and how easy it will be to convert them into main headings below the thesis statement in an outline.

Identifying your readers will answer another critical question about the writing task. How can you help them understand your objective? Knowing who your readers are and what they need from you is crucial to satisfying your objective. It will also determine the scope of your writing task. Successful business writers know that the answers to who and what will lead to how. So target your audience and get to know a few things about them.

Ask yourself some key questions. Who is going to read your document? Will it be one person or many? Are you writing a letter to a new client or a quarterly summary for the Chief Financial Officer? Are you writing a departmental memo or the shareholders annual report? What information will they need?

Notice the hierarchical status of different readers. Understand that this status defines the reader's relationship to a subject or topic. It indicates something about what their perspective or personal interest might be and something about how much they might already know, or how much they might need to know about the material.

Once you have a clear understanding of your audience you are prepared to determine the scope of your document, write effectively, both of which will help your readers understand your objective.

Determining the scope of your writing task will answer a final question? What kind of information is needed, and how much of it will be enough for the reader to understand your objective? In light of both the objective and the audience, this will either be elementary, intermediate or advanced?

What and how much to include is a decision based on who the reader is, why they were targeted and what relationship they have to your document's topic. Successful business writers keep all of this in mind as they gather information in the research step of the writing process.

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