At first glance, academic writing and business writing seem to have far more differences than similarities. The style guidelines are different, the tones are different and the audiences are certainly not the same. Yet, these two types of writing actually share many attributes, and learning to write in one can help you excel at the other.
In high school and college, your teacher required that every essay and term paper have a main premise, theme or argument. The premise of an English paper, for example, might be that the reason tragedies are tragic is that good does not always triumph over evil. The rest of your paper would support this main statement. Publishing academics follow a similar format. Solid business writing also requires a main theme. Say, for example, that you are writing a staffing justification for a new position. Your premise might be that the work generated by the new employee will justify the expense of the position. You would then build your justification around proving this statement.
In most cases, academic papers require you to support your ideas with something other than your personal opinions. Depending on the topic and intent, you might cite statistics from governmental surveys, research by other scholars or quotations from experts in the field. Business writing also requires you to support your claims, though your sources will be different. For example, if you write a benefit statement claiming to increase profits for your customers, you should support the claim with case studies or with testimonials from bona fide customers.
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Effective writing is well-organized by topic, and topics flow in a way the reader can easily follow. When presenting academic research, for example, you might begin by explaining why the research interested you, then move on to methodologies and then results. You might close with an impact statement. This structure essentially takes readers through your process in an orderly fashion. Business writing, too, should be orderly and organized. In a marketing plan, for example, you will begin with an executive summary, then write sections on goals, strategies, tactics, benefits and metrics.
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Spelling, grammar and sentence structure count, no matter what you're writing. Mistakes in this area will lose you points while still in school, earn the derision of your peers when publishing academic research and decrease customer confidence in a business setting. Technical details such as capitalization and comma placement vary from style to style, and you should always follow the correct guidelines. In academic writing, this generally means APA or MLA, while business writing usually uses The AP Stylebook or the Chicago Manual of Style.
Maggie Worth has more than 18 years of marketing and business management experience. She has conducted training classes in resume, fiction and web writing and has written textbooks, resumes, professional and technical documents, ad copy, video scripts and articles for lifestyle magazines. She is director of marketing communications strategy and special projects for a university.