A Case Study in Business Writing: An Examination of Documents Written by Executives and Managers

By Gallion, Leona M.; Kavan, C. Bruce | Bulletin of the Association for Business Communication, December 1994 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

A Case Study in Business Writing: An Examination of Documents Written by Executives and Managers


Gallion, Leona M., Kavan, C. Bruce, Bulletin of the Association for Business Communication


Although a number of studies have sought to identify the types of business writing activities individuals perform at work, these studies have focused either on surveying graduates in the workforce (Bednar & Olney, 1987; Storms, 1983; Wiggs, 1993) or on surveying business executives (Bennett, 1971; Bennett & Olney, 1986; Flatley, 1982; Stine & Skarzenski, 1979). The information gathered from these studies is important; however, a difference may exist between the perception of what is written as found in survey data and what is actually written. The types of written documents actually found in business should influence the decision as to what writing should be included in business writing courses. This study involved analyzing the writing of all executive/managers in two different firms for a three-month period.

PREVIOUS RESEARCH FINDINGS

Business executives have been surveyed to determine what types of writing executives do. Bennett (1971), surveying top executives in California-based corporations, reported that 94% of the respondents wrote memorandums, 86% wrote information reports, 86% wrote letters, and 80% wrote analytical reports. Another study (Stine & Skarzenski, 1979) found that the most frequently used forms of writing, in rank order, were memorandums, letters, short reports, instructions and procedures, proposals, progress reports, and evaluations.

A replication of the 1971 Bennett study (Bennett & Olney, 1986) showed the most frequently used business writing forms in rank order were memorandums, letters, analytical reports, and informational reports. Flatley (1982) surveyed managers from the private business sector in the San Diego area and found memorandums were used most often, followed by letters, reports, and forms.

A study of 837 graduates of Miami University's School of Business Administration (Storms, 1983) showed that memorandums, letters, and short reports were written more often than any other type of communication. A survey of graduates employed in Fortune 500 companies (Bednar & Olney, 1987) indicated that memorandums, followed by information reports, letters, and analytical reports, were the most frequently used form of business writing. A more recent survey of MBA graduates (Wiggs, 1993), revealed that respondents created memos more frequently than any other document, followed by letters, reports, and forms.

SUBJECTS

The writing of all executives/managers at two different companies was analyzed for the three-month period of May through July 1993. Documents at both companies were generated using Microsoft Word for Windows. The two companies--a collection agency division of a large service company (Company A) and a mid-sized professional liability insurance company (Company B)--furnished the researchers diskettes containing files of all writing generated for the duration of this study.

Eleven executives/managers from Company A and twelve executives/managers from Company B participated in the study. All writing from Company A was furnished on executive/manager diskettes, whereas Company B furnished diskettes from three administrative secretaries in addition to furnishing diskettes for each executive/manager. Where possible, files that could be identified with an executive/manager were assigned to the executive/manager. Since administrative secretaries worked for more than one executive/manager, some files on the secretaries' diskettes could not be associated with a specific executive/manager. These files were assigned to a miscellaneous category. All writing, whether assigned to an individual or to the miscellaneous category, was included in this analysis.

METHODOLOGY

A total of 1,443 files was furnished to the researchers by the two companies. The first page of all files was printed so that duplications could be eliminated and files could be coded by type of document. Sixty-six documents were eliminated from the study because of duplication or because the file was empty.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

A Case Study in Business Writing: An Examination of Documents Written by Executives and Managers
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?