Basics Writing

Top 5 Document Genres in the Workplace

Learn the basics of writing the top 5 genre forms in the workplace.

Professional communication and business writing can be a very intimidating world, especially if you’re being introduced to genre forms that you may not know well. If you’re new to your workplace or not, writing within these genres can be stressful if you’re not used to them. (Take it from me, they can be stressful even when you are used to them.) Don’t worry! Here are the top 5 genre forms in that you’ll encounter in the standard business or government workplace and a few stylistic guidelines to follow when writing them!

  • Memos- Memos are technical documents that are used as a form of communication in the workplace, most often to convey or solve a problem or situation. Most organizations will have their own style guidelines established, so ask for the style guide when you are working on composing anything. However, memos are a genre and do have some of the same characteristics across the board, no matter the style requirements. The following memo attributes tend to be universal:
    • Heading section containing addressee, sender, date, and subject
    • Opening and discussion sections
    • Request for action
    • Summary and closing
  • Proposals- Proposals can come in many forms. They may be project proposals, grant funding proposals, or otherwise. The main thing to remember about proposals is that they should be persuasive. You are stating your case for funding, extended research, etc and using the other research and facts within the proposal to support your argument. There will be posts in the future discussing the different kinds of proposals and the changes in style and form that you need to make depending on the type. Overall, most proposals will have some variation of the following:
    • Summary of problem and work needed
    • Work plan and budget
    • Qualifications of those involved
    • Conclusions and appendices as needed
  • Reports- This is the hardest document form to define because reports change greatly depending on the field and information being reported. Check to see if the style guide has any requirements for reports. It’s also a good idea to find examples of previous reports, especially when you’re brand new, so you can model your report off of it. Overall they tend to contain:
    • Summary of problem and work *done to address said problem
    • Analyses of work done and results
    • Statement of conclusion or of further work needed

*Note that reports are almost always about work done or a situation that has already happened, not about work to be done.

  • Brochures- Not every workplace will ask you to put together a brochure. Many have graphic designer on staff for assignments like this, but that is not always the case. It is most important to make sure you keep the brochures easily readable with a clean design. There will be another post coming soon about good document design but here are some basic tips to get you started:
    • Keep design clean and easily readable
    • Keep text to a minimum due to space constraints
    • Avoid using too many pictures or graphics
    • Avoid using colors that may make the brochure hard to read in hard copy
  • Letters- Letters can deal with any and all subjects. Most often they will be used in formal communication within your organization and beyond it. Again, this is a time to check the style guide as most organizations will already have certain requirements in place for any and all letters being issued. Again, here are a few of the genre basics to get you started:
    • Letters will always have a greeting, statement of reason for writing, body, summary, and closing
    • Identify yourself or your organization to the reader
    • Keep letters as brief as possible

Again, all of these are very general. You may find that your organization has specific requirements already put in place. Check the style guide if you can. If your organization doesn’t have a style guide yet, these will give you somewhere to start.

There will be more in-depth posts exploring the different genre formatting guidelines for each of these. As I get them written, I will link to them on this blog. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to drop me a line!

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