Communication vs. Business Writing
Hi everyone! Mary and Amy here. Somehow, we're almost done with this semester!
This week, we have the second installation of our series of posts that take a deep dive into the differences between writing in different disciplines. We talked to two of our tutors, Ethan Hulshizer (Finance), Luke Horst (Accounting), and receptionist Gracie Lee (Journalism) on what differences they've noticed between Business and Communications writing. Let’s see what they had to say:
Q: In what format would you say most of your writing takes shape?
Gracie: That's kind of hard because I feel like I do multiple things. But I would say because of the classes that I'm in, I had to write a lot of articles for either the school newspaper or just for professors. A lot of those are like APA style articles where I've had to go interview people, which of course means I've had to email them, so I do a lot of emailing too and then . . .it's a lot of APA style research papers.
Ethan: I think it depends. . . from a practical, general business world, most of the writing is emails, memos, or short notes within a corporation. Business articles that are written. . . about the stock market tend to be very short and to the point.
Luke: Yeah, you're gonna have some reports and those kinds of things to write. But, generally, it's a lot of professional communication kinds of writing.
Q: What is the main purpose of writing within your discipline?
Gracie: It feels like the purpose of it is communicating. . . But a lot of times with the research paper, you're doing secondary research. You're reading through the primary research, and you're basically summarizing what these other people have said either to prove a point or just to review. . . If it's a journalism class, then that's different. It's teaching us how to write like hard news or feature stories and that kind of thing.
Ethan: I think the majority of my writing is very similar in the sense that we are summarizing large amounts of information. So the most recent thing I have to write is a stock track report, which summarizes my trading portfolio. And I have to talk about why the trades were successful [or not]. And I have to look at a large collection of data: GDP, CPI, and it's a ton of data and you're pulling out the most relevant data to kind of summarize my portfolio.
Luke: Maybe two things, one is as part of the teaching process [or] learning process, by giving a writing assignment, it just makes you research about a topic or something. And so writing is a way that you just learn about whatever topic it might be. And then second, to like prepare for reports and presentations you might have to give. So even if at your job when you give a presentation, you don't necessarily write an essay or something, doing that now just kind of helps you with the preparation process of reports and presenting things.
Mary: It seems like maybe a point of convergence for the two is that they both want you to take data and be able to process that you've understood and thoroughly gained something from the [information], but also that you can communicate to the reader what it is that you actually learned. So. . . you're taking it but you're also expected to communicate it maybe to somebody else, so that they can also understand what it is that you've gained.
Q: What would you say is your biggest struggle when writing within your discipline?
Gracie: It's wanting to let my own opinions get into my writing or be a little too flowery. When I write articles, it can be a little more flowery, but you still want to make sure that you're sticking to all the facts. It's really easy if I feel like I need to meet a word count to fluff it up. And then accidentally, I've worded something to where it sounds like that's not really how it is. It's not untrue, but it's giving off the wrong vibe without meaning to, and the same goes for research papers because again, you're sometimes just trying to. . . get the right number of pages and you're spitting out words. Instead of actually [trying to] find a little more information about your topic. That way I can summarize another source. So that's probably my biggest struggle.
Ethan: So [for] business writing, I would say there are fewer struggles. Because in business writing, it's less so about spinning something but gathering facts, at least in what I've done. There's some analysis, but it tends to be very short and to the point. Business writing tends to be very short.
Mary: No, but that can be a struggle for some people - that struggle to be concise and to the point and not try to over-explain things when you don't need to.
Ethan: There are very few transitions, if any. It's almost like a bullet point.
Luke: I think in business writing too, it's a lot more on the writer to determine what you write about or what to include. There are fewer guidelines that are given. It's more of, this is the report that we need, and then you just kind of go on your own and decide what to include.
Q: What key differences do you see between a typical English paper or what you know about typical English papers, and the writing in your discipline?
Mary: It seems like you guys touched on it, [business and communication writing is] definitely a lot more concise. It seems less argument based and more fact based versus an English paper where you have a thesis, you're proving your thesis [with] evidence to support that, or would you maybe say that you are making an argument [that] isn't like a typical thesis?
Gracie: I feel like I don't have a thesis more often than not, and if I do, it's, it's just kind of a “this is this,” let's explain it a little more. It's not as much of a “I think this is this way because of this.” At least in some of my classes that I've had, when it's more just like research based writing, especially in journalism, you're not supposed to have any opinion.
Ethan: I think in business writing, the only time you're making a full argument is when you're doing an analysis. So if I'm examining a stock's performance, I will give my reasoning for the stock performance, but it has to be based on solid data. And most of the time, you're not giving an argument, just kind of giving factors that may have influenced it.
Luke: That's kind of what I was gonna say, [with] analysis, that's basically the only time you're actually using evidence or something to prove something else. A lot of it may be, something happened and so here's how it affected.
Mary: Sounds more summary based than analysis based.
Q: What is your most helpful resource or like a tip that you keep in mind while you're doing these types of writing? Is there a certain website you refer to, or a certain guideline that just has stuck with you throughout your writing?
Gracie: So I wish I could say it's my APA style manual, but it really is APA Purdue Owl. It really is. It has saved me so many times this semester, because I really feel like I should have all the formats memorized by now and for the most part I do, but there are just a lot of times that I really don't and so I'm always going and double checking. And library databases have a lot too. I like those as well because you can find online ebooks and limit your search words and all that kind of thing.
Ethan: Yeah, I'd say MarketWatch, Bloomberg, and Wall Street Journal are some great ones.
Mary: Do you use them often?
Ethan: Oh yes.
Luke: Yeah, I guess we have accounting principles and standards. . . for me, I guess it's more just thinking about who I'm writing to and what I'm writing about and why I'm writing it in the business world. And so it's just making sure you think through everything that's necessary, [or if] you really don't need it.
Ethan: Yeah, I think that's a great point there. When you're writing in a business context, you really want to make sure you have who you're writing to and the purpose, because in the business world, we don't want a flowery, “this is my idea.”
Mary: Something but it seems to me a difference is that speaking as someone who writes from an English perspective, it's so focused on my point and my analysis, versus business, it seems very audience driven. It's very much about who is it for? You could almost remove your name from the piece and it not really change it. Whereas if I were to remove my voice from my papers, well, that's one of the main criticisms I get for my papers is that I haven't included my argument or my voice or my opinion enough, because otherwise, I'm just summarizing.
Q: What is something that they should keep in mind? Maybe like a tip for anyone who would be venturing into your discipline?
Gracie: I feel like the more you write the better that you'll get at it. Which is funny, because there's that saying, practice makes perfect. . . well, the right practice makes perfect. You don't want to be writing things wrong all the time and learning bad habits. That's why you're in class with your professor. But I would say that the more you write, the better you'll get at it. Read good writing. That's what my teachers told me to do. Do I do that enough? No, but I know that that's a good tip. And I'm gonna try and do more. Also all those communication majors out there: go to Purdue OWL. Just go to it. It will really help you. Please use it. It's good.
Ethan: For writing, I'd say. . . think of writing as more mechanical than as a means of expression, just because that will be the focus in your career. As you continue to develop as a business major. And less so on your creativity. Do that on the side, but focus on developing a very mechanical way of writing.
Luke: I would say maybe one thing that's different is like in other writing, sometimes you'd like you're trying to reach a certain word count or like length of paper or something and you're like, you have to try to add stuff. With business, you have more information. . . evidence than what you really need, and from there, you can narrow it down to include what's really important. it's in that process of like, sorting through what's really important what's that you refine your ideas and are able to make your writing really more clear. And to get the point across that is the main point that you really need to get across. So start with more than what you need, and then kind of cut down on it. And I think that'll help you just sort through all of your ideas. and kind of iron out all the wrinkles.
Thank you to our tutors and receptionist Luke, Ethan and Gracie Lee for sitting down and discussing writing within their disciplines! We hope you find something helpful to apply to your academic endeavors.
Mary and Amy
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