Great Expectations


—Bite-sized advice for better business writing—

Great Expectations

“Genres help us to make more efficient decisions when writing, as we can see how people have approached similar situations.”

— Kerry Dirk

In the workplace, you will encounter many genres of writing—emails, chat messages, reports, contracts, memos, executive summaries, proposals, thank-you notes, coffee lists, and so on. 

What counts as “good” writing in each situation? Well, it depends. The goals and expectations of business writing shift depending on the genre.

What is genre?

Genre is a fancy word for the specific form writing takes. Genres emerge in response to common communication situations, and present standard ways of responding to those situations.

In other words, genres set boundaries and expectations for communication.

Why does this matter in the workplace? Because unmet genre expectations lead to miscommunication and misunderstanding.

Say you need to write a thank-you note to a client. Genre expectations suggest you should mail a handwritten message on a sturdy card. Your message should begin with a formal greeting, express gratitude, use a warm and friendly tone, and end with a signature.

The standard practices of the "thank-you note" genre dictate the content, format, formality, and delivery of the message.  

If you instead used a sarcastic tone and sent your note via a text message, your client would likely be confused or offended, harming the relationship the note was meant to enhance.

How can genres help me?

Genres provide a roadmap for your writing. Rather than going into a new writing situation blind, you can study what writers have done in the past when dealing with similar scenarios. Genre expectations help you anticipate the appropriate ideas, organization, voice, and format for your writing.

How can I meet genre expectations?

First, get to know the common forms of writing used in your workplace. Pay close attention to their distinguishing traits and features. Then model those features in your own writing.

Refer to the Write for Business Guide for examples and guidelines for common genres of business writing:

You can also download and adapt numerous genre-specific templates.


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Take these courses to master the standards and expectations of essential workplace genres.