Enhance your career prospects by mastering the art of business writing. Learn to create precise, effective emails, reports, and client proposals that impress recipients and boost your professional reputation.
If you’ve realized that you need help with your business writing but aren’t sure where to turn to get it, this guide is designed to provide you with answers to your questions. It provides an in-depth look at the multiple ways to learn business writing, points you toward some free resources from which you can take advantage, and helps to explain why business writing is such an important skill to possess.
The qualities upon which business writing today most depends are concision and clarity. Learning to express oneself within those confines is an invaluable workplace skill, given that email has become the preferred inter-office communication method. There’s no office worker who doesn’t have to read and write emails; a study quoted by GreggU calculated that the average businessperson has to deal with a whopping average of 80 emails daily. And that’s just email: there are business letters, memoranda, reports, and proposals that all need to be written in business language as well.
Read more about what business writing is and why you should learn to do it.
Business writing is, in today’s commercial landscape, inescapable. Consider its most frequently encountered application, the email. A generation ago, people made internal calls for quick inter-office communication. They used to have secretaries who could return calls at the recipient’s convenience. Today, those calls have all but been replaced by internal email. Whether or not you perceive that as faster or slower, it’s an inevitable fact of life. Suddenly, people must be able to write in the language of business.
Above and beyond, emails, memoranda, reports, and client proposals all call for business writing that can impress the recipient. Little can make you look better today than being able to write well in the idiom of commerce. Learning how to write a good piece of business English has several other advantages. It will teach you how to organize your thoughts, which, in turn, will help you when it comes to oral presentations. You’ll also become a better writer in general: your social media posts will improve in quality and correctness, and who knows? You may even be able to write a convincing love letter that will capture the person of your dreams.
Business writing can’t be called a career per se, but there is nary a career today in which you won’t increase your chances of success by being an accomplished business writer. Writing skills are needed for everything from emails to memoranda to elaborate corporate reports and sales proposals.
“Writer” is also a job title in its own right. Writers often freelance, but many companies keep full-time writers on staff to take care of the more elaborate writing assignments that come the organization’s way. Another field in which professional writers are involved is the writing of blogs and content. Although content writing isn’t the same as business writing, the skill sets are related. If you distinguish yourself as a writer by some well-crafted emails, you may find that you’re given more writing responsibilities. You should also be aware that “copywriting” jobs are not the same as jobs that require you to write copy: copywriting is a term used to denote writers who specialize in marketing and PR or, perhaps more accurately, marketing professionals who specialize in writing.
Learning effective business writing will help you in your career like practically no other skill. Ironically, written communication is more important to commerce today than it was a generation ago, largely because email is the preferred communication between businesspeople today. Every time you send one, you’re exposing your capabilities. Supervisors and managers will judge you based on what you’ve written, and you can make even a great idea look bad if you can’t write it up properly.
If, on the other hand, you get a reputation for being a good writer, you may find that it works like an Open Sesame to further opportunities in the workplace. You’ll find yourself entrusted with greater responsibilities and be asked to write things that are more important than just emails. You’ll come off as professional, educated, and capable, three characteristics that can only help earn you advancement in the workplace.
Read more about why you should learn business writing.
The ways to learn to become an effective business writer break down into two categories: synchronous and asynchronous. Those two fancy words (probably too fancy for a business email) distinguish between classes with a real-time teacher and self-paced classes. Class with a real-time teacher is the type of class you’ve been attending since kindergarten: students and instructors in the same place at the same time, exchanging questions for information. In-person business writing classes are a time-proven teaching modality. The advent of the internet (and the recent pandemic) have opened the way to another approach to teaching: business writing classes that use the internet as the classroom. These classes have proven very effective for busy adults, and live classes can now be followed from anywhere, with the same level of student participation as in an in-person class.
For their part, asynchronous classes have their share of advantages, especially for highly busy people with schedules into which they can’t manage to cram a live class. With asynchronous learning, you’re working with business writing videos and written materials provided online for you to follow at your own pace. Some classes offer quizzes and teacher supervision, while others don’t. A further form of asynchronous class is the instructional videos that abound on YouTube, although these leave students completely to their own devices.
If you’re teetering on the verge of taking a business writing class but aren’t quite sure about taking the leap, you might want to consider a free online course. You can’t complain about the price and have nothing to lose. Udemy, for instance, offers a free “Better Business Writing in 35 Minutes” video that is designed to improve your skills quickly (and to tempt you to take one of Udemy’s more in-depth paid classes). Coursera offers an audit-type free option for its writing classes as well.
Those are only the tip of the iceberg. Type “business writing” into the YouTube search box, and you’ll come up with a modest plethora of videos that range in duration from a few minutes to an hour and a half. Some of these are better than others: with some of them, you get what you pay for, and with others, you can come away with a lot of good practical advice that might make you decide to take a more structured class.
Read more about free business writing videos and online tutorials.
Learning to write for business can be relatively easy or relatively difficult. The question is what kind of a writer you are in the first place: business writing classes are generally brief affairs that don’t leave a lot of time for teaching the basics of English grammar and syntax. If you’re already an acceptable writer (and most corporate email hasn’t set that bar very high), you should be able to quickly pick up business English conventions.
On the other hand, if your writing skills aren’t all they should be, you will have to put some energy into improving them before you tackle a business writing class. There’s no shortage of resources for that, but it does mean you’ll have to put in some extra effort if you want to reach your goal.
Because business writing classes are generally brief, they will not set you back thousands of dollars. Given the pervasive nature of business writing in today’s workplace, they're also one of the best investments you can make in your future. Moreover, class tuition is pretty much the only expense you’re going to have. Of course, you need a computer with an email and a word-processing program, but that’s really all. That’s one more reason why business writing classes represent a good use of your education dollar.
Read about how difficult it is to learn business writing.
There isn’t anything fully comparable to learning to write for business, partly because business writing is fundamental to just about any career today and partly because it involves more intangibles than learning a computer language. Indeed, writing for business in English for an English speaker will be much easier than learning Python or C++. It’s also going to be infinitely easier than trying to master the more advanced features of Excel.
The technophobic will probably be relieved to learn that business writing isn’t a tech skill at all. Yes, you will need to know how to use an email and a word-processing program, but the central command you will use is clicking Send. This is where the intangibles come into play. Of course, you must adhere to hard and fast rules, but business writing isn’t a scientific discipline like many others in today’s business world.
Becoming a proficient business writer also requires the ability to organize your thoughts and beat them into a beginning/middle/end format (and, generally, an essentials/details/call to action format as well). That’s a skill you may have picked up when you were learning to put oral presentations together, with or without PowerPoint, which is the tech side of another process involving many intangibles. If you haven’t learned it, you can rejoice that it will be a free bonus that comes with business writing.
To borrow the answer from Socrates, the best way to decide the best way to learn business writing is to know thyself. Having spent quite a few years in school, you should know by now how you’re most apt to learn a new skill, be it in a live class, online, a self-paced class, or just getting the book and figuring out business writing on your own. Odds are that one of those teaching modalities appeals to you more than the others, and you should bear that in mind as you continue reading about a few other factors to consider.
If you’re new to business writing and unsure whether to invest in a live class, you should probably begin by looking at some of the free resources on the web. These resources will not give you a complete education in how to write for work, but they will at least give you an idea of what business writing is and how it’s taught. There’s no risk involved, and you may even stumble upon something that proves highly useful.
Should you be more serious about business writing (and pretty much everyone has to be in today’s business world), you will likely want to commit to a live class. A few of these are of brief duration and don’t cost a fortune, which will put you on the right path. If your ambitions, for the time being, aren’t that enormous, such a course may suffice to get your writing up to snuff.
Finally, if you want to take your writing skills as far as you can take them, the best advice for you would be to enroll in a more extensive class or a so-called “bootcamp” that covers the subject in depth, from grammatical and spelling pitfalls to how to organize your thoughts and then your words for a formal report or other large written project. Given the importance of business writing to just about any career, committing to a longer class may be the best choice of all: you’re probably going to get better value for your money, and the skills you’ll learn almost certainly won’t go wasted as you progress in your career.
An excellent way to learn business writing is to take an in-person course such as those offered by Noble Desktop, a tech and IT school in New York City that offers in-person and online classes. Noble provides its students with expert and experienced instructors who are always ready to answer students’ questions, whether they’re posed in the physical classroom or online.
Noble Desktop’s classes offer several features, including small class sizes that guarantee you’ll receive ample attention from the instructor. The curriculum is hands-on, meaning that you’ll be making practical use of what you’re being taught while you’re still in class with exercises that allow your instructor to check on your progress. There is also a free retake option that enables you to repeat the class at no charge within a year of your first taking it. Far from just a means for those who fell behind to catch up, the free retake option makes it possible to cement what you’ve learned firmly in your mind. Classes are fast-paced, and you’re likely to discover that there’s some handy detail you missed the first time around.
Noble offers a Business Writing Bootcamp that begins by reviewing key points of grammar over which people are wont to stumble today. The course then delves into the hows and whys of written business communication in the contemporary world, be it for emails, reports, or other essential documents. And be aware that business writing is only one aspect of the business training classes offered by Noble Desktop.