Professional Writing Prose Style

What is a Professional Writing Prose Style? How can I adopt a more professional rhetorical stance? What are the differences between a professional writing prose style and an academic prose writing style? Review related research and theory.

What is a Professional Writing Prose Style?

A Professional Writing Prose Style is a style of writing that typifies the texts of professional and technical writers.

Writers, speakers, knowledge workers . . . are said to have a professional writing prose style when their texts are

A Professional Writing Prose Style may also be described as

  • Technical Writing Prose Style
  • Workplace Writing Prose Style

Related Concepts: Rhetorical Stance; Persona; Style; Styles of Writing; Tone; Voice; Workplace Writing Studies


Similarities of a Professional Writing Prose Style with an Academic Prose Writing Style

The texts of academic writers and professional writers are somewhat similar: both academic and professional writers aspire for

And, in most academic and workplace contexts, writers are expect to conform to discourse conventions, especially

Not surprisingly, critical readers across discourse communities abhor vagueness, unsupported claims, and a lack of organization. No one likes a sentence that goes on and on in multiple directions. People don’t want to be bored or confused. And they expect attributions for citations.

Yet there These distinctions are largely tied to audience but as discussed below other rhetorical constraints may shape what and how you communicate to academic and workplace contexts.

Professional Writing Prose Style vs. Academic Prose Writing Style

Below are some important distinctions between academic writing and professional writing.

When planning a text, it’s wise to consier these rhetorical constraints:

Audience

The audience for a lot of academic writing assigned in high school and college settings assumes the teacher as examiner. When teachers serve in the role of examiner, they are reading your work to grade it. They are checking to see whether you can demonstrate what you know or have learned. Thus, a lot of academic writing in school settings assumes a shared understanding and perspective.

Academic writers are aware of the ongoing scholarly conversations about a topic. They know when they need information, where to get information, how to assess information, and how weave the work of other researchers into the fabric of their arguments. They are conversant with the research methods, the knowledge-making practices of the discipline.The audience for academic writers at the graduate, post doctoral, and professional level tends to be well educated.

In contrast, the audiences for professional writing are considerably more varied. Often, though, the writer is the authority in professional writing and the reader is less knowledgeable.

Topic

Academic writing is largely about problematizing and exploring ideas.

Professional writing is fundamentally transactional: usually if you are writing it is because you are trying to solve some kind of a problem. Your audience — the people you are writing to — probably needs to do something in response to your writing. They may not be expecting your writing. They probably don’t want to read your writing. Your writing is interrupting their day.

Content Attributes

Effective professional and technical writing is honest, accurate, correct, and complete.

Readers and users of technical documents need to be confident that they can rely on the information being provided. Your own ethos and the ethos of your company is always on the line, and never more so than when you are producing documents for external audiences.

Readers and users rely on you to be

  • truthful, evidence-based
    • lying about the facts seldom helps a company prosper. You need to check and double check your facts. Check all of the details for accuracy
  • complete
    • Avoid lawsuits! Ensure you have included all of the information the audience needs
  • accessible
    • produce readable, legible, understandable texts that are physically available to readers and users.

Formatting & Visual Language

Academic writing tends to focus on traditional alphabetical language.

In contrast, professional writing uses visual language rather than alphabetical language whenever possible. There really is truth to the old truism that a picture tells more than a thousand words.

Sentence Structure & Sentence Patterns

Academic writers may communicate in long, complicated sentences and long paragraphs. It’s not unusual in professional-peer review journals, to see paragraphs that are 300 to 500+ words long.

In contrast, professional and technical writing rarely deploys long paragraphs.

Media

In terms of channel and medium, professional and technical writers are more flexible, less convention-bound than academic writing. IOWs, they are likely to be willing to move beyond traditional genres and alphabetical text to embrace the possibility of new media.

Point of View

Because professional and technical writers presume their audience — which they tend to call users rather than readers — are reading the text to understand how to do something or how something works, they generally keep the spotlight on the topic rather than the writer’s thoughts or feelings about the topic.

Organization

Professional Writing is nearly always organized deductively. A deductive strategies is employed in technical documents

Most often, business and technical style values direct organization, especially in correspondence-like letters, memos and emails. This strategy presents the purpose of the document in the first paragraph (sometimes the first sentence) and provides supporting details in the body.

[ For more on direct organization, please see Deductive Order, Deductive Reasoning, Deductive Writing ]

Professional and technical writers employ a direct organization in reports and other long documents, which may begin include an executive summary that provides an overview of the entire document. Typically, reports and other long document will also begin with a summary and/or direct statement of the purpose of the document before moving into the main body.

In contrast, an indirect approach to organization leads with relevant, attention-getting details that do not directly state the purpose of the document.

[ For more on indirect organization, please see Inductive Order, Inductive Reasoning, Inductive Writing ]

Most often, in business and technical communication, indirect organization is employed when the writer is delivering bad news or anticipate an audience that is resistant to the main message and may require some persuasion.

Conciseness

Because of the transactional nature of professional and technical communication, it favors conciseness. Time is money. Readers aren’t reading for pleasure. All they want is to get the information they came for as quickly as possible.

Technical audiences are fickle, distracted, and easily confused. Unlike the teacher-as-examiner audience of school-based texts, technical audiences know less than the writer. They aren’t looking to see whether the writer understood the lecture or text. Instead, they are trying to understand a topic or process.

Professional writing is all about conciseness, active voice, direct writing, and short paragraphs with a clear, and single main idea.

[ Sentence Schemas |Sentence Order within Paragraphs | Topic Sentence ]