How to Adapt to New Writing Situations


—Bite-sized advice for better business writing—

May 13, 2021

How to Adapt to New Writing Situations

“Technology makes things faster and more cost-effective, but it's not perfect. It requires you to be as flexible as you can be.”

— John Phillips

Take a moment to consider the breadth of communication in the modern workplace. One moment you're writing a formal business proposal, and the next you're publicizing an event on your LinkedIn page.

Soon enough, you'll need to figure out TikTok.

These communication situations present different standards, audiences, and expectations. If you're adept enough to communicate effectively across mediums, you become invaluable to your organization.

How can I adapt to new communication situations?

Even though business communication is evolving, every communication situation includes five basic parts: sender, message, medium, receiver, and context. Analyzing each part will help you meet the demands of any situation.

Ask these questions to analyze each part.


  • What is my role, and whom do I represent?
  • How do I want to be perceived?


  • What is the subject? How serious is it? 
  • What is the purpose? Why am I communicating?
  • What information do I need to include, and where can I find it?


  • What form will work best for this message (email, phone call, Tweet)?
  • What issues of speed, permanence, privacy, formality, and precedence apply?


  • Who needs to receive the message?
  • What do I want the receiver to think or do?
  • What are the reader’s needs, biases, questions, and expectations?


  • What will success look like?
  • What are the history and current climate of the situation?
  • What deadlines exist for sending the message and receiving responses?

How can I select the best medium for my message?

Choosing the right medium is often the trickiest part of a communication situation. There's so much to consider: time, speed, formality, demographics, and so on. The table below helps you sort out the pros and cons of different mediums.

Casual, Spontaneous Options (Face-to-Face Conversations, Text Messages, Social Media Posts, Phone Calls)

These options are fast and convenient, and they allow a quick exchange of information back and forth. They are interactive and work well for brainstorming and decision making. For example, texting someone to meet for lunch may be better than emailing the person. These options are in the moment, which means you do not have time to think carefully about issues. For that reason, these options work best for minor or everyday subjects. Also these options may not preserve a permanent record of what was said.

Semiformal, Moderate Options (Email, Blog Posts, Meetings, Minutes, Business Letters)
These options are common, day-to-day types of communication suitable for most business applications. Though these options may seem casual, they do leave permanent records (for example, meeting minutes). So, they require a bit more time and care.

Formal, Deliberate Options (Management Writing, Presentations, Proposals, Reports, Instructions)

These options show your best thinking. Because you have taken care as you create these types of writing, they carry the most weight. They are also most likely to be published, read by a wide audience, and preserved. These options take work. They require focus and commitment, and they are judged most strongly because they are expected to be very well created.

Final Point

The best way to get to know a new medium is to immerse yourself in it, first as an observer and then as a creator. Use the five parts to help you learn. With your new knowledge, you can help your business reach a new audience.  


Try It Out!

Consider a recent writing task you received. In a sentence or two, answer each analysis question from above about the communication situation. Afterward, apply what you learned to your writing. (Make a copy of this Google Doc to respond to the questions.)


Get More Support

Refer to the Write for Business Guide, Courses, and eTips for advice and guidelines across the communication spectrum.