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the different between business writing and academic writing.

Read a article named “A new approach to business writing.” then use the memo format write a article about the different between

business writing and academic writing. and the length should at least 500 word.

A new approach to business writing
Michael Egan: Professor of English at the University of Massachusetts, MA, and is President of Michael Egan & Associates, Narragansett,

Rhode Island, USA
The professional study of great fiction, poetry and drama is by no means at odds withbusiness communications. On the contrary, since

all fine writing shares stylistic features (for instance, clarity, immediacy, specificity of detail, elegant form, etc.) major authors

like Faulkner, Steinbeck and Hemingway often provide the best and most powerful examples from which corporate writers may learn their

art. At the same time, honing the tools of literary-critical analysis helps them recognize the universal qualities of effective writing

and so bring them into their own work.
My point is that the distinction drawn between business writing and the academic study of literature, common enough in college and

corporate-training curricula, is asmisplaced as it is fallacious. If the goals of studying literature include understanding the craft

and nature of written excellence, then the best modern literature itself both can and should be central to acquiring business-writing

skills. More: learning to use thetechniques and methods of practical literary analysis in the spirit of Leavis, Empson and Brooks,

becomes a key learning strategy. The close study of a specific text, evaluating it for quality and backing up one’s judgements with

quotation and reference, is a matchless way to teach basic writing skills.
Here is an example. Suppose we put a passage like the following before a seminar of business writers and asked for their evaluation of

it as literature. Is it good writing? If not, why not? If yes, what makes it so?”
Toward the end of the master cycle, when the western islands were dying and the eastern were abuilding, a new volcano pushed its cone

above the surface of the ocean, and in a series of titanic explosions erupted enough molten rock to establish securely a new island,

which after eons of time would be designated by men as the capital island of the group. Its subsequent volcanic history was memorable

in that its habitable land resulted from the wedding of two separate chains of volcanoes.James A. Michener, Hawaii, Fawcett, New York,

NY (1959, p. 10).”
Practical criticism allows us immediately to note that the sentences are far too long – there are only two in the entire paragraph.

That first one, for instance, with its slab after slab of dependent clauses, comprises 64 words – nearly four times the optimum length

for any comprehensible sentence. Rudolf Flesch, father of bacon-crisp business writing, recommends averaging no more than 17 words per

sentence (wps). Anything longer he rightly considers impossible to swallow.
Let us see what happens when we cutMichener’s sentences into Flesch-sized bites, and then subject it to the same kind ofscrutiny. Do we

agree that the passage now reads better?”
It was toward the end of the master cycle. The western islands were dying and the eastern were abuilding. Suddenly a new volcano pushed

its cone above the surface of the ocean, and a series of titanic explosions erupted enough molten rock to establish a new island. After

eons of time men designated it the capital of the group. Its subsequent volcanic history was memorable – the wedding of two separate

chains of volcanoes.”
Note that the full meaning has been preserved. The only differences are that superfluous words have been cut, a dash inserted, and two

new sentences created. But suddenly there is active language where only the passive languished before. The average wps is now a very

manageable 14.4.
The literary judgement that follows from this is that good writing is clear, straightforward and active. Poor writing is convoluted and

semantically obscure. These stylistic guidelines emerge organically from theanalysis, silently recommending themselvesin a memorable

Content too
The initial demonstration may be built on by asking questions of increasing complexity. What is Michener’s subject, after all?

Actually, it is not that clear, though it helps to know his book is called Hawaii. So he seems to be talking about the origin of the

archipelago but look how flat and bland he makes it seem! Here is one of nature’s most fiery, spectacular events, a tropical volcano in

eruption, and the language is cool and colourless as NewEngland in the winter.
This purely literary judgement is taken another step by asking whether – and then, how – we might improve Michener’s paragraph further

by changing a few words. For example, what is the difference between “abuilding” and “building”? Would anything be lost by writing

“…when the western islands were dying and the eastern were building…”? On the contrary, there seems to be a gain in warmth, like

turning up the colour on your TV.
In fact, building and abuilding meanexactly the same thing; one is self-consciously “literary,” that is all, and the other plain,

straightforward English. The writing principle we derive is that archaic language reeks of lace doilies and stuffy, sunless rooms; you

feel chilled and formal in its presence and quickly want to leave. Unless this is the effect you are looking for – a remote possibility

for most business writers – it is best to update your vocabulary, style and references.
What is worse, “abuilding” serves mainly to distract, calling attention to itself and away from the paragraph’s subject. Likewise the

over-long sentences. The reader is being constantly reminded that Michener is an author, and the noticing clogs up the works. Instead

of his language channelling meaning, it gets continually in the way. The “literary” words are like sticks and brambles clotting and

tangling in a stream.
Close textual analysis, that is, one of the fundamental tools of practical criticism, enables us not only to pass these judgements but

to formalize them into general principles of sound written communications. In the process, we learn to understand the nature of

successful writing and apply it in our own work.
Facts and specificity
Let us take these ideas further. For example, what is a “master cycle”? Does Michener really think that at some point the Hawaiian

archipelago stopped growing, or at least commenced a minor phase? Surely not, since that is geologically untrue – the process has been

regular and consistent from the start. Nor has it ever stopped or slowed. The new island of Lo’ihi is emerging even now, and lava

pouring from Kilauea adds daily to the coastline of the Big Island.
Probably Michener means something like, “the end of the first or early stage”. But then why does he claim that at some time theearliest

islands began to die? When was that, and what can he really have in mind? Even today, the oldest, western islands like Kauai and

Ni’ihau are rich with life, vibrant tropical rain forests and bright green foliage. Vulcanologists are not even sure their most ancient

craters are extinct. And which new island is he referring to exactly – Oahu, Maui or Hawai’i, known as the Big Island, each of which at

different times has been “designated the capital”, and is geologically the product of two distinct volcanic systems?
But readers should not have to guess at or supplement a writer’s meaning. That is not their job. On the contrary, it is his or her task

to be clear, vivid and informative.
More questions arise. How long is an eon? Isthat not ust a posh word for “a very long time”? Could we not avoid all these questions and

simultaneously improve the writing by substituting a concrete, specific figure, say “40 million years”? And what would happen if we

replaced some of the bland, colourless language with words like “blam!” “smash!” “kaboom!” – vivid and appropriate in thecontext? After

all, what is being described is a series of deafening volcanic explosions sparkling with fire and the stink of sulphur, the scream and

splash of falling tons of rock and terrified sea birds whirling in the sky!
Now that we are rolling, how about using the active and graphic “thrust” or “burst” in place of that limp, unvivid “pushed”; an ear-

splitting “blasted” rather than the soggy, unpictorial “erupted” – and something zippy and colourful to replace eye-glazing phrases

like “enough molten rock to establish securely a new island”, and “designated by men as the capital island of the group”, etc.?
Other candidates for the surgeon’s knife are clauses like “…its subsequent volcanic history was memorable in that”, etc. He means

“afterwards”. When he writes “designated by men,” he means “called”. So why not just say so?
Let’s attempt a rewrite. Now what do you think of the passage?”
Hawaii, 40 million years ago. The western islands were already lush with vegetation, the eastern ones still youthful, still slowly

being built. Suddenly, from deep within the ocean’s boiling guts there burst a deafening, sulfuric crash – and then another and

another! Hissing and roaring, a seething, orange lava cone kaboomed! into the trembling Pacific air.
A new island! Its history was to be the most spectacular of all – a violent, bloody mating of two separate volcanic chains. A thousand

generations afterwards, the people who settled on its slopes called it Hawaii, the Big Island – the reigning monarch of the group,

destined to give its name to all.”
The version above was put together in just 15 minutes by one of my business-writing students at the end of a three-hour class. The

difference between her sparkle and Michener’s drab original justifies, in my opinion, what might be called the literary-critical

approach to corporate communications.
A real-life example
Here is how we might apply it. The following is a typical (and by no means “illiterate”) managerial memo. It is from the US Federal

Highway Administration.
Purpose of policy and procedure memorandum”
The purpose of this PPM is to ensure, to the maximum extent practicable, that highway locations and designs reflect and are consistent

with Federal, state and local goals andobjectives. The rules, policies and procedures established by this PPM are intended to afford

full opportunity for effective public participation in the consideration of highway location and design proposals by highway

departments before submission to the Federal Highway Administration for approval. They provide a medium for free and open discussion

and are designed to encourage early and amicable resolution of controversial issues that may arise.”
This is pure Business Michenerese. Average wps is 31, almost double what Flesch and others recommend. It stumbles painfully over its

archaisms – “purpose of this PPM…established by this PPM…are intended to afford…in the consideration of…before submission to…

provide a medium…are designed to encourage …amicable resolution”. The tone is smug, bureaucratic, an effect reinforced by fake

legalisms and redundancies such as “reflect and are consistent with…goals andobjectives…full opportunity for effective…free and

open”, etc. A count reveals nine redundancies in all, and six passives.
Here is how someone trained in literary analysis might express it. Again, the example is taken from one of my students.”
The Department of Transportation welcomes input from the public about locating and designing highways. We want to settle any problems

in a friendly way. This memorandum spells out the guidelines for that process.”
Total words equals 32, against 94 in Version One. The average wps is 16.5, and there are no redundancies and no passives. Its tone is

warm, partly thanks to the use of the first person “we”, and the message immediately comprehensible.
As a business reader, which version would you rather receive? As a writer, which would you rather sign?
Positive models
Because the heart of practical criticism is evaluation, that is, distinguishing between good and bad writing, it habitually

andnecessarily compares – this work with that, the lesser with the greater, etc. In so doing it establishes criteria, “touchstones”, in

Leavis’s vivid metaphor. So let us compare Michener’s style with that of another author:”
We walked on and circled the island. The river was dark and a bateau mouche went by, all bright with lights, going fast and quiet up

and out of sight under the ridge. Down the river was Notre Dame, squatting against the night sky. We crossed to the left bank of the

Seine by the wooden footbridge from the Quai de Bethune, and stopped on the bridge and looked down the river at Notre Dame. Standing on

the bridge the island looked dark, the houses were high against the sky, and the trees were shadows.Ernest Hemingway, The Sun Also

Rises, Pan Books (1968, p. 59).”
As soon as we do so, the value for business writers of learning practical literary analysis becomes immediately clear. Hemingway’s

writing almost self-evidently possesses the virtues Michener’s lacks. His sentences are crisp, short and comprehensible. Total up the

words, and you find him averaging 19 wps – right in the target zone, and without benefit either of DrFlesch’s good advice.
Notice too how grammatically simple and yet elegant his constructions are. We walked on and circled the island. The river was dark…we

crossed to the left bank…the houses were high against the sky, etc.
Of course, this is one of the thingsHemingway is famous for – economy andsimplicity of line, combined with sharply sketched images,

like the looming shape of Notre Dame cathedral. It is among the reasons we might commend his style to business writers. Additionally,

the point can be made that he is not the only successful modern writer to use this approach. Simplicity is the idiom of our century –

and the next.
Another characteristic quality ofHemingway’s prose is its pictoriality. All his details are hard, concrete, specific, vivid. The reader

can “see” the bright lights of the slowly moving tourist boat – maybe even catch a distant echo of its music and tinkling laughter. The

images are so clear and painterly we ourselves provide the missing elements. Despite the comparative ordinariness of Hemingway’s

subject (a stroll through a city at night versus “titanic explosions”, etc.) his writing is infinitely more graphic and tactile than

Form and content
The author of Hawaii, a nice man, would be the first to admit he is no Hemingway. But then neither are business writers, though many

still need to understand and acquire the force of brevity. Frankly, I still cannot visualize or even hear those caldera erupting enough

molten rock to establish securely a new island, which after eons of time would be designated by men as the capital island of the group,

etc., etc.
The pedagogical point is that Michener’s fuzzy sentences are far too long andconvoluted to be effective. Hemingway’s on the other hand

are almost all simple and straightforward Subject-Verb-Object (SVO) constructions, quick moving and easy to assimilate.
Hemingway’s lengthiest sentence – 26 words containing a main clause and two subclauses – describes the float-by of the brightly-lit

tourist boat. But notice how even this extended word string both subtly reinforces the writer’s overall meaning and is shaped by it.

The flowing sentence itself performs the movement of the craft, pulling the reader’s eye across the page until, like the deck lights,

the words disappear under the bridge, and just stop.
The sentence says what it does and does what it says; there is a subtle but obviously conscious relation between its content and the

form Hemingway selects. Michener’s prolix sentences, on the other hand, are at odds with their content, muffling the crash and

splatter, and obscuring the picture.
Can business writers learn from this? Of course they can. A single, isolated sentence acquires the force of emphasis.
Yes, it does.
Longer phrases confer calm and thoughtfulness. The use of typographic variety – bold, italics, CAPITALS and underlining – can both

enliven a dull-looking page and help writers focus and direct their readers’attention.
Language and trust
Notice also the effect of Hemingway’s general tone. He easily and naturally reaches for the first person (I/we), whereas Michener, like

the composer of the purpose and procedures memorandum, just as instinctively uses the more remote third person (he/she/it). The result

is that Hemingway’s projected personality is warmer and much friendlier than the others’ cold formality. At first glance,Hemingway

appears to be recording just the facts but you cannot help liking the author’s voice, the felt presence of the writer.
This is a response business writers want. Using the first person is relaxed, friendly and persuasive. The 1950s are long gone; it is

time to drop the distancing coolness of “thisinvestigator found that…” or “one is drivento the conclusion that…” etc. “I” and “we”

are sociable and immediate. If persuasion is among the principle objectives of mostbusiness writing, an amicable, conversational manner

is indispensable. Practical criticism enables us to establish this objectively, lifting instruction from the level of good advice to

clear demonstration.
The broad point is that Hemingway’s language encourages you to trust him; but when it comes to Michener, at best we respect only his

erudition (and at worst find him pompous and affected).
The pulse of good prose
Hemingway is not alone in his love ofgrammatical simplicity and the immediacy of the first person. In fact, most great modern writers

prefer it.
Here for example is an extract from William Faulkner, another winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature. Notice how his clear, Subject-

Verb-Object sentencing closely resembles Hemingway’s:”
Sam Fathers lit his pipe again. He did itdeliberately, rising and lifting between thumb and forefinger from his forge a coal of fire.

Then he came back and sat down. It was getting late. Caddy and Jason had come back from the creek and I could see Grandfather and Mr.

Stokes talking beside the carriage, and at that moment, as though he had felt my gaze, Grandfather turned and called my name.William

Faulkner, 1820: A Justice. (The Essential Faulkner, Chatto, 1967 p. 17).”
The average number of wps is fractionally over 14. Fourteen! Like Hemingway,Faulkner’s preferred grammatical constructions could hardly

be more straightforward.
“Sam Fathers lit his pipe again…Then he came back and sat down….It was getting late”.
SVO, SVO, SVO. Together with SVCSubject-Verb-Complement it is the preferred syncopation of the best modern writing.
Corporate writers may object that these examples are taken from narrative fiction, not business prose. My reply is that all good

written expression shares the same basic features, and that chief among them issimplicity. The genius of course lies in the content. As

Einstein once said, “Makeeverything as simple as possible, not simpler”.
Double sentencing
Let us clinch the matter with an example from another great twentieth-century writer, John Steinbeck, and his most famous book.”
Before Ma ate she put the big round washtub on the stove and started the fire roaring. She carried the buckets of water until the tub

was full, and then around the tub she clustered the buckets full of water.
The kitchen became a swamp of heat, and the family ate hurriedly, and went out to sit on the doorstep until the water got hot. They sat

looking out at the dark, at the square of light the kitchen lantern threw on the ground outside the door, with the hunched shadow of

Grandpa in the middle of it.
Noah picked his teeth thoroughly with a broom straw. Ma and Rose of Sharon washed up the dishes and piled them on the table.John

Steinbeck, The Grapes of Wrath, Penguin (1970, p. 96).”
In this case we have sentences scoring around 20 wps, a little higher than Flesch’s standard. But note too that almost all of

Steinbeck’s constructions (the only exception being the second-to-last) are actually just two or three short sentences of about ten

words apiece joined simply by the conjunction “and”.
The adults moved toward the lighted kitchen through the deep dusk, and Ma served them greens and side-meat in tin plates…”Ma and Rose

of Sharon washed up the dishes and piled them on the table”, etc.
Faulkner uses the same device in the longest sentence in his paragraph: “Caddy and Jason had come back from the creek and I could see

Grandfather and Mr. Stokes talking beside the carriage, and at that moment, as though he had felt my gaze, Grandfather turned and

called my name”.
I call this technique double sentencing – two or even three quick, sharp SVOs or SVCs lightly tapped together with a spot of verbal

glue. An elegant but simple strategy, it is a great way simultaneously to achieve variety and explicitness. It gives writing a welcome

element of texture – a sense of movement, change and stylistic diversity – while preserving clarity and cleanliness of line.
The K.I.S.S. of life
Like Faulkner and Hemingway, Steinbeck almost invariably opts for distinctness, lucidity and unembellished form. He gives his writing

the K.I.S.S. of life – Keeps It Simple and Straightforward. In a famous study, Francis Christensen of USC established that Steinbeck,

Hemingway, Faulkner and other top writers used SVO or SVC constructions 75 per cent of the time. (“Notes Toward a New Rhetoric”,

College English, October, 1963, pp. 7-18.)
Three-quarters of what they write, that isto say, could not be grammatically less complicated – and the balance is only slightly more

so. Of their sentences, 23 per cent, are also Subject-Verb-Object or Subject-Verb-Complement, with the small difference that they are

introduced by short, adverbial or adjectival phrases, like Hemingway’s “Standing on the bridge…” or Faulkner’s “At that moment…”,

etc. For the rest, they useinverted constructions, such as Object-Verb-Subject or Complement-Verb-Subject, or some other simple

variation. Total: 100 per cent simplicity, clarity and greatness.
Choose active over passive
Practical criticism also confirms the general superiority of favouring the active over the passive voice, with the important qualifier,

“in general”. There are circumstances – demonstrable by close analysis – when opting for the passive may be the smarter choice. Three-

quarters of the time, however, critical analysis shows that business writers should go with the active, or words that move.
Active writing moves in many senses. Like boiling water, it is usually warmer, faster, shorter and clearer than the passive…and

always appreciated by time-pressured business people. Active writing also tends to be more persuasive – that is, it is more likely to

“move” readers toward the action and results business writers are often looking for.
Active voice, passive voice
In the active voice, the subject noun performs the action of the verb (SVO). In the passive voice, the subject noun receives the action

of the verb (OVS). For example:
Active voice:
We have received your letter.
Passive voice:
Your letter has been received by us.
A simple count shows that the active-voice sentence has five words, the passive seven, or 40 per cent more, without any gain in clarity

or meaning. Conclusion: active language moves more swiftly than the passive, gets to its point with less waffle and grammatical

complexity, and is more likely to retain a reader’s interest and goodwill. Usually it requires fewer wps and so helps to keep the

overall word-count down.
A practical demonstration will show that the active is also generally easier to understand and easier to write – two overwhelming

reasons in its favour! – and, returning briefly to our discussion of Faulkner, Steinbeck and Hemingway, one of the chief

characteristics of successful modern prose.”
Faulkner: Sam Fathers lit his pipe again…Then he came back and sat down….Caddy and Jason had come back from the creek….

Grandfather turned and called my name, etc.
Steinbeck: Noah picked his teeth thoroughly with a broom straw. Ma and Rose of Sharon washed up the dishes and piled them on the table,

Hemingway: We walked on and circled the island. The river was dark…we crossed to the left bank…the houses were high against the

sky, etc.”
On the other hand, Micheneresefavours the passive, the third person and self-conscious, “literary” elaborations, the chief reasons for

its lack of impact and vitality. (Practical criticism, although literature-based, does not necessarily validate what is sometimes

called “high” art.) Notice for instance the passive way the land in Michener’s description receives the volcanic effects, when it

should itself be actively creative: “Its subsequent volcanic history was memorable in that its habitable land resulted from the wedding

of two separate chains of volcanoes”, etc. The voice-passivity is the source of almost everything that afterwards goes stylistically

Once again, here is our student rewrite, largely in the active. Business writers usually agree immediately that it is better – a key

heuristic step in practical critical methodology:”
A new island! Its history was to be the most spectacular of all – a violent, bloody mating of two separate volcanic chains. A thousand

generations afterwards, the people who settled on its slopes called it Hawaii, the Big Island – the reigning monarch of the group,

destined to give its name to all.”
As these examples show, what active-voice writing means in practice is consistently opting for straightforward, SVO/SVCsentences –

KISSing your words. Keep it simple and you will keep it active.
“Seize the subject and the words willfollow”, counselled the elder Cato, the most famous orator of his age. Good advice! We can

energize and add calories to cold, passive constructions quickly and easily just by identifying their subject nouns (the doers of the

action) and moving them up front. The SVO/SVC format intuitively follows. This is another sense in which active writing “moves.”
As the best companies increasingly become “learning organizations”, so the gap between the academic and the pragmatic gradually closes.

The insights and methodologies of practical criticism have a direct relevance in the honing of modern business writing skills.
Subject: Business writing; Training; Business education
Classification: 6200: Training & development; 8306: Schools and educational services
Publication title: Journal of Workplace Learning
Volume: 10
Issue: 1
Pages: 46-52
Number of pages: 0
Publication year: 1998
Publication date: 1998
Publisher: Emerald Group Publishing, Limited
Place of publication: Bradford
Country of publication: United Kingdom
Publication subject: Business And Economics–Labor And Industrial Relations, Business And Economics–Personnel Management
ISSN: 13665626
Source type: Scholarly Journals
Language of publication: English
Document type: Feature
ProQuest document ID: 198488437
Document URL: http://login.ezproxy1.lib.asu.edu/login?url=http://search.proquest.com/docview/198488437?accountid=4485
Copyright: Copyright MCB UP Limited (MCB) 1998
Last updated: 2014-05-24
Database: ABI/INFORM Complete


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