Most of us learned to read and write in primary and secondary schools. Because these two important life-skills are correlated, when we worked on one we reinforced the other. In school, we were taught an
academic or essay style of writing.
In this style, the writing represents the writer and the writer's
ideas and ability to use language are evaluated. Often, the main focus is on the development of thoughts, ideas, argument, and/or opinions. The main purpose of this writing
is to promote study and thought; in the process, we also increase the breadth of our knowledge.
Because this style is usually written for a teacher or some other party that actually
has an interest in what is being created, this style of writing is often aimed at one reader - the instructor or some indefinite person.
The main emphasis may be subjective and sometimes emotional. Properly done,
essay and academic writing discusses the subject-at-hand and the writing
focuses on one main thesis.
Because the emphasis is on the prose writing form, few or no graphics
are utilized. Illustrations, if used, are usually decorative or supplementary in nature. As we
master the writing form, we create more elaborate, descriptive, and complex sentences. Paragraphs
are constructed with topic sentences and are often long to allow full,
in-depth explanations of the first sentence of each paragraph.
Usually, we are encouraged to start with an introduction that would tell the reader where our journey
is going. Then we write about our topic. At the end, we include a summary to reinforce and restate the main purposes of the writing.
Because one purpose of academic or essay writing is to discover self-knowledge, we
are probably encouraged to use elaborate and descriptive language. It is
possible to impress teachers if we use difficult words with colorful and imaginative writing styles.
In fact, in school, writing at higher and higher reading levels is prized. Complexity is encouraged - after all, we
are expanding our skills with the language arts.
We expect our teacher to read every word from beginning to end sequentially and evaluate us accordingly. Virtually always, the final product
is the result of one writer, because shared work is considered "cheating."
For many of us; this is a wonderful, rewarding, and valuable experience. In many ways; this type of caring, nurturing, and individualized attention
is an ideal way to learn, reinforce, and expand our skills using English.
As valuable as academic/essay writing is, it represents a style of writing that is rarely used in the
"real-world." Most people that get paid to write are representing a firm or commercial interest.
Unlike in academic and essay writing, the ideas being expressed need to
immediately grab and hold the attention of reluctant readers.
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Business/technical writing is focused on the needs of the reader and emphasizes information that a reader needs to know. It needs to make its point with precise clarity. The idea is to express information and conclusions - just the facts, please.
This is the style that is used on most Web pages. It is the style
that predominates in Writing Quick Tips.
Most business/technical writing promotes action, often in a hands-on manner. Because the information being presented
is important to the busy reader(s), the main idea of the communication must be presented in the first line. This information is usually being communicated to benefit an organization. The topic, however, may or may not be familiar to the reader. Therefore, each idea must be succinctly defined.
In order to encourage busy people to read something that they might not actually want to read,
business/technical writing is designed to pull the reader through. Formats serve the function of guiding the reader. Headings, bullets, listings, and graphics are important design elements because these types of documents are often not read in detail; rather, the reader quickly scans them.
The way material is presented or organized is determined by the purpose of the communication. Main ideas are presented up front and clearly - the rest of the document reinforces those ideas. Because this style of writing promotes ideas that readers need to know, more than one topic is often present and they are organized with headings to guide the reader.
Graphics are essential to quickly and efficiently communicate - in fact, when possible, graphs, charts, tables, bulleted lists, and the like often substitute for traditional writing formats. Sentences must be kept short, an average of about 15-20 words. Paragraphs should also not contain many lines of text - probably no more than eight,
fewer is probably better.
There are no topic sentences - it is more effective to just give people what they need to know. The
academic/essay style of introduction, thesis, analysis of subject, and
conclusion to restate the main points is not effective. Instead, documents get right to the point and end with a call for action.
The vocabulary used is dictated by the targeted reader's knowledge. While many topics require technical language that is specific to a given
field or body of knowledge; simple, clear words that are exact and concrete are more effective in delivering content. Because most
business/technical writing is written to stimulate action, the emphasis is on active verbs.
Unlike academic/essay writing, using the second person "you" is highly effective and
is used to engage the reader.
Deductive reasoning is commonly used because it draws the reader into a thought process and leads to a conclusion. In many cases, the "why" of results or conclusion is not
addressed. That is often left to the dreamers and intellectuals.
As long as the writer is not "writing down" in a condescending manner,
business/technical writing is written at lower grade levels than most
academic/essay writing. In this context, less is more. The
business/technical writer presents information so that it can be quickly skimmed or scanned and the organization allows readers to peruse the material in an order of their choice. Documents are often not read sequentially.
Because business/technical writing often represents an organization, it is
collaboratively or as a result of a group process. While editing and revising are important in all forms of writing,
business/technical writing is often reviewed and incrementally improved until the desired level of clarity and efficiency result.
In the business world, things are not perfect - there are always time and cost restraints. The standard
for this type of writing is, "pleasing to the eye." Documents that generate the desired results are considered successes, regardless of the merits of the writing. Most people that write for a living are writing in a
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