Chapter 10: Writing at Work

Learning Outcomes

By the end of this chapter, the reader will be able to:

  • Identify the audience, purpose, and tone in writing
  • Plan a writing task
  • Describe strategies for writing in different formats
  • Practice revising writing

Terms to Know

Audience – The reader of your writing. The audience can be specific (like your supervisor) or more general (like customers at your workplace).

Copy – The meaning of the term as it is being used here means written material that is to be published. A short form of copywriting.

Editing – Making changes to your writing to more clearly emphasize the audience, purpose and tone while improving clarity, consistency and organization.

Proofreading – Updating your writing to ensure it is free of grammar, spelling, typos and other minor writing errors.

Purpose – The reason why you are writing. Purpose focuses on action. Some common purposes for writing are to request information, to provide information, to make a complaint or to persuade.

Revision – The process of editing or refining your written work before you share it with your intended audience.

Tone – The way you sound to your audience. It summarizes the attitude of your writing. Professional writing tone typically is direct, confident, sincere, and positive.

Case Study: Aimee (She/Her) Begins her New Position as Communications Assistant

Aimee has just been hired as a Communications Assistant for the airport. She will be supporting her supervisor Mark with a variety of initiatives to help encourage people that airports continue to be a safe and affordable travel option. Mark is planning a media campaign that includes press releases, advertisements, social media, and some event promotion. Though he will oversee and approve any work that Aimee creates, he expects her to come up with ideas, collect copy from the rest of the marketing team, and help with the rollout throughout the next two months.


In most jobs, you will need to do a variety of tasks that involve writing. Writing helps make things happen! It creates action, which, in the world of jobs, creates work. In an employment context, writing is a form of transaction. You write to solve problems, make requests, promote sales, describe procedures, and to fix errors. Writing is grounded in purpose and action: you write to get things done, meet your goals, and serve the needs of others.

Good writing is clear, concise, and professional, but the content can change significantly from task to task.  Some will be quick and simple, like confirmation emails or even text message updates. Others may take a long time and involve complex documentation, reporting, and carefully crafted language. For example, you might be asked to send an email to a client, take a message for an unavailable staff member, or write a piece for your company’s website. While each of these is writing, the audience, purpose, and tone will be different for each. To become a strong writer at work, you need to think about each of these aspects every time you start a new message.


Sometimes the best way to learn good writing skills is to see what not to do. Before you learn more about writing for work, see if you can spot some of the common errors in this message. In this message, Alex is writing to her boss to request vacation.

How could we improve the following email?

Subject: Annual VACAY!!!

U probably don’t remember, but I always take my vacation in July. This year I’m taking the last too weeks of August instead. BTW if you do not approve this you’ll create considerible inconvenience for me and you better believe I’ll take this up with HR.☹️


Choose all answers that apply.

  • Leave out Emojis
  • BTW – by the way is inappropriate
  • Tone is inappropriate, unprofessional, threatening even.
  • A more appropriate subject line, such as Vacation Request
  • Add a greeting – Hello Louisa
  • Email from your company email account
  • Spelling error in inconveneince – e and i are flipped around
  • Inappropriate salutation – Thanks, Alex
  • The wrong form of too – should be two
  • Ask, don’t demand
  • Missing a comma after this
  • U should be You
  • Shouldn’t threaten – it may come to that but don’t start there
  • Spelling error in considerable – a not i


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Getting Ready for Work-Integrated Learning Copyright © 2022 by Deb Nielsen; Emily Ballantyne; Faatimah Murad; and Melissa Fournier is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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