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Academic vs. business writing

business writing

In our life, we do a lot of writing. We write personal letters to our family, reports to our supervisors at work, or research papers at college. Each of those documents has a particular style with its own rules and peculiarities. In this post, we are going to compare the academic and business writing styles. While sharing some common features, they also differ in a number of important aspects. The knowledge of those specific details enhances the writer’s ability to convey their message effectively.


1. Purpose

Writing a book report has a different purpose than writing a memo.

  • Professors want their students to write papers in order to see how well they have mastered the material and can express their ideas based on what they’ve learned. The students must also show to the teacher that they can persuade and impress the reader.
  • Writers of business papers are concerned about solving a working problem, reporting on a success or failure, or suggesting ways to improve the company’s operations. In other words, they write either to explain what they want to do or want others to do.


2. Audience

  • Type. College students write papers mainly for their professors or other people in the class. Thus, they know that the teachers or their fellows are well versed in the subject. As for business writing, it’s not always known who will read the paper. Those can be people with varied backgrounds and educational levels.
  • Number. In addition, the number of readers in business writing can be indefinite, too. You may intend your paper to be read by your supervisor alone. However, they may decide to ask their deputy to have a look at it as well. The deputy may show the paper to the accountant, and the chain will continue. The number of readers in academic writing is limited to the professor and other students.

in academic and business writing, there is an audience to consider

3. Content

  • Language. In business writing, facts and figures are what matters the most. There are no epithets, metaphors, and other language means that make the content more expressive. Business documents must be concise and clear. That’s why you will find no complex or long sentences and paragraphs here. In academic papers, using expressive means is important. Adjectives, adverbs, cliches, filler sentences: all work fine, helping the writer to impress the reader. Lengthy sentences and paragraphs are the norm as well.
  • Length. The length of a business paper is not formally restricted. Once the purpose is achieved, the writer puts the final period. Papers written in the academic style are as long as professors want them to be.
  • Structure. In business writing, a clear structure is of utmost importance. That’s because business people often have no time to read the whole paper. They should be able to skim the text and focus on essential facts. In academic writing, an outline is not so significant. The structure must be clear and logical, too. However, the writer knows that the reader will study the paper from cover to cover.
  • Style. Academic papers must conform to a particular style. That suggests a specific method of referencing sources, font, indentation, and other formatting elements. The person who determines the style of the paper is the teacher. In the business world, writers themselves decide how to format their papers, although their company may have corresponding requirements.
  • Point of view. Academic papers are written from the third person perspective. The writer plays the part of an impartial observer with a deep understanding of the subject. Passive voice structures are acceptable and common. In business writing, the focus is on actions. So, the active voice and first person are preferable.


4. Formats

The types of documents business people write are completely different from those students do.
Academic formats include the following:

  • essays
  • research papers
  • lab reports
  • abstracts
  • book reports
  • explications
  • dissertations or theses

Among business formats are the following:


1. Language

Both academic and business writing styles are formal. That means they are serious in tone and have no place for the following elements:

  • idioms (e.g., ‘snowed under’)
  • contractions (e.g., ‘it’s’)
  • slang and jargon words (e.g., ‘bang for the buck’)

At the same time, both types require correct grammar, punctuation, and spelling.


2. Structure

There are no ‘free form’ academic or business papers. All of them must follow a clear and logical structure.

3. Planning

Whether you are writing a business report or essay, planning is crucial. While writing a thesis, you need to study numerous sources of information to make your work credible. Before you write a press release, you need to know everything about new product, feature, or event, and have opinions of all involved parties gathered.

4. Audience

Without knowing the audience, your paper can be like a bullet that has missed the target. Whether it’s an academic or business setting, you must identify who you are writing for first.


Those are the basic differences and similarities between academic and business writing. Although many of them are quite subtle, they can determine the success of the paper. Here, you can compare the samples of business and academic writing.

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