Difference Between Academic and Business Writing


Writing is used on a daily basis, but several factors influence the type of writing that is most appropriate for each situation. In school, students are taught academic writing. However, in the workforce, employees are usually expected to use business writing, which is quite different.

Purpose of the Writing

  • Business writing is generally employed to help solve problems or to prompt action. Business writers usually write at their own initiative or because they are expected to do so by the company that hired them. Academic writing, on the other hand, is usually undertaken because instructors design the prompts. Students complete academic writing to demonstrate what they’ve learned and to expand upon those ideas. For instance, an example of business writing is a proposal for a new department within a company, supported by facts and statistics. An example of academic writing is the impact that the Civil War had on women. A business proposal might begin, "We propose to implement a new department based upon our research," whereas an academic paper might begin, "The Civil War impacted women in various ways."

Intended Audience

  • In academic writing, the intended audience is the instructor or other educated peers. With business writing, the audience is made up of coworkers, supervisors and subordinates. Business writing is generally intended for a broader audience, since it is subject to being passed on to other people within the business. The audience of business writing may or may not have the same education level as the author. Therefore, the writing should be relevant, clear and easy to read, portraying all essential information in the simplest, most concise manner possible. For instance, while an academic paper might pose a problem as a "paradox," business writing would simply say "problem."

Structure and Formatting

  • Academic writing tends to manifest itself in the form of essays, term papers, journals and reports, whereas the format for business writing is generally letters, proposals, memos, handbooks, manuals, marketing plans, performance reports, evaluations and sales presentations. Business writing tends to be more visually oriented as well. With academic writing, the contents of knowledge are more important than the visual appeal. Business writing contains more white space, lists and subheads so that it can be easily skimmed by busy professionals.

Language and Style

  • Business writing tends to be more technical than academic writing. With business writing, the style isn’t as elaborate as with academic writing. Business writing focuses on sticking to the facts, whereas academic writing generally allows writers to expand upon the ideas within the work. Business writing tends to be shorter and less complex than academic writing, because business writers aren’t focused on impressing readers with knowledge. Instead, they offer simple words and short sentences so that the information is easily digestible. Academic writing tends to focus on nouns, while business writing focuses on verbs. For instance, in academic writing, it would be more common to say, “A decision was reached,” where the emphasis on the noun, "decision." By contrast, in business writing, the preferred style would be, “We decided,” emphasizing the verb, "decided."


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