Business is all about numbers – data, finances, stocks, and audits, right? Wrong! While technical and quantitative skills (such as using SQL or interpreting a financial statement) rank among those most desired by employers, written and verbal communication skills are often equally important and critical to a new employee’s success. Familiarity with the various types of written documents used by those in business professions will always be highly beneficial to any emerging professional. Below are some of the most common types of business writing, which each serve a different purpose.
A business letter follows a specific format, and is often used for the purpose of making a formal request from another professional, making a formal complaint, or communicating the outcome of a major decision. Business letters aim to communicate one or a few specific points in the most succinct way possible, usually using active voice.
A memorandum, or memo, for short, is used for internal communications among the employees of a company or organization. A memo usually makes one, clear point – a set of instructions for all staff to follow, an assignment of responsibilities, or an announcement or plans, to name a few common examples. The subject line or heading of a memo often communicates the central point, and memos often appear in list, chart or bullet point form, to get the message across as quickly, clearly and accurately as possible.
A business proposal makes a persuasive argument, often one that is backed up by statistical evidence. Internally, this could illustrate a suggestion of a strategy for better allocating a company’s resources, maximizing return on investment, or improving the retention of employees. Externally, a proposal could be used to persuade a potential client to choose to use one company’s services over its competitors’ services. A proposal is often a set of plans – it begins by addressing a problem, and concludes with suggestions of possible solutions.
A report is often a summary of significant accomplishments within a specific time frame, or a statement of progress toward achieving a goal. Business reports often include descriptive data and are used as a valuable source of information when making important future decisions.
Meeting minutes are summaries of the key points addressed in a meeting and serve as valuable documentation of what was discussed. They also provide individuals who were unable to attend the meeting in person with the same information they would have received if they had attended.
Communication is one of the core skills employers who have hired UW graduates have listed as critical to a student’s success in a new role. Thus, honing your written communication skills and practicing clear, concise forms of writing, such as those mentioned above, will make you an asset to any organization.