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Industry Approach to Business Writing (WAC)

Industry Approach to Business Writing (WAC)

Author: Soma Jurgensen

In this tutorial you will find the rationale for both instructors and students for using forms of business writing across the business curriculum. As our students become stronger writers they also become better prepared job candidates. If our students come to us expecting to transform their lives, we must in turn transform our approach to writing across the curriculum to match the needs of our industry.

Components of the tutorial include:

  • Rationale for writing assignments in business classes
  • How to explain the need for writing assignments to business students
  • An example of how to introduce a writing assignment to students
  • Outline of the types of skills students can/should develop by educational stage (freshman - senior)

Writing across the curriculum (WAC) is an essential component of college education. However, practitioners of business who teach at the college level often interpret this effort to mean the traditional research paper. Although intentions are good, this is not the genre of writing that most business professors are qualified to teach - nor are they invested in teaching the form. The reason? It's not used in the industry. The core reason for teaching writing across disciplines is to develop transferable skills:

  • Communication
  • Critical thinking
  • Information literacy (you will notice this does not say citation style)

Business forms of writing can develop the same skills when carefully designed.

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Why Assign Writing in Business Classes?

There are three main reasons to assign writing in business classes of all levels. Each point is both supported anecdotally and through survey research.

  1. Writing is a skills deficit within the business community.

In a survey of executives shows the writing is a skills deficit, even amongst their ranks. In fact, each year from 2008 this skill deficit has increased while the need for effective written communication has increased. ( With the increased expectations of education, it is more and more difficult to rise through the ranks without being able to communicate effectively in all forms.

  1. Career readiness requires application of material across disciplines.

Students often compartmentalize the composition and writing classes in their education, not understanding their necessity and application in their business classes. Through writing in business students can develop the skills employers have identified as most lacking and most critical to their success: summarization, audience analysis, evaluation, and recommendation.

  1. Business and academic writing differ.

This is obvious to anyone in the business profession, however, in college academic forms of writing take center stage. Students learn to demonstrate what they learned in class through their writing in a specific format that is counter to what their employers look for and expect. Through each business class, regardless of the content, as educators we can train the next generations of business leaders to become "multi-lingual" when it comes to their writing. The college or university will see the general education skills they are trying to instill in students reinforced in a variety of classes. All stakeholders win.

If you have an professor who still resists the inclusion of writing assignments in his/her classes it might sound something like this, "I don't have time to teach writing in my classes." My response is, "You don't have time not to teach writing."

In business effective writing and communication improves productivity. By introducing writing skills and developing them as student progress through their educational journeys we can see an impact in the kinds of feedback and time we give students in upper division classes. We wouldn't give keys to a teenager without supporting them with classroom and drivers training instruction. We would introduce complex skills slowly and develop them steadily before assessing their skills. Teaching writing has a similar process.

Selling Students on Business Writing Assignments

Students can tell when writing assignments are linked to course objectives. They have also been trained to "make it through" writing assignments in their English classes. How do you convey the import of writing for business to your students?

  1. Share the perspective of employers reinforcing competitive advantage.

If faced with a competitor for a job or promotion the candidate with clearly better communication skills has the advantage. Some people may have a natural talent for writing or communication, but the bulk of us need to learn, practice, and refine our skills. Competitive advantage is earned.

  1. Emphasize the ability to develop leadership skills.

Leaders to more than identify problems and offer their opinions. They develop a case, get buy in, and using supporting evidence to influence decision makers to their ideas. These, along with conciseness and clarity of thought, are the hallmarks of good business writing. 

  1. Acknowledge the benefit of practicing in a lower risk environment.

In order for students to feel comfortable developing skills they don't currently posses, it's important that the instructor create a low risk environment. Such an environment can't be established if instructors assign a paper at the beginning of a course and expect a deliverable at the end of the class that meets expectations for skills they have not developed in their students. In subsequent sections you'll find examples of ways to progressively develop writing competency in students within a course and throughout their educational journey.

Why is there so much writing in this class?

In this very short ppt I share with students the reason it's important to learn to write well in business. A video will follow.

Why you should learn to write in business classes.

Focus on business writing to improve your competitive advantage.

Example of writing assignment rationale

This PDF is an example of a rationale sheet I used to talk with students about the diversity proposal they'd write in a senior level class. You'll notice that I include both transferable and industry specific skills. I think there is more I could do, but it's a start. I'd love to hear what others might be using.


Bloom's Taxonomy and Business Student Development

There is a point on Bloom's where business students feel comfortable, because it's what they've been taught to do in high school. They've learned to remember and regurgitate information and been quite successful at it. Now we're asking them to demonstrate both industry knowledge and advance their their thinking skills. Take a look at this illustration for an overview of the kinds of writing/thinking skills that might be appropriate at different levels.

Source: Photo from