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The Difference Between a Business Letter and an Essay: What Is Important to Know

If you are in college, essay writing is probably one of your least favorite academic activities. And I totally get it, because essays are time-consuming, they require a lot of research, as well as a high level of writing. In other words, they are very difficult to write, which is why most students dream of the day when they’ll receive their degree, just so that they no longer need to write essays and other academic papers. However, as a recent graduate, you will find that a lot more writing awaits you, especially once you get your first job. 

More specifically, you will be required to write different types of business letters. Now, all the essay writing will certainly come in handy, because you have developed your writing skills, as well as your vocabulary. However, essays and business letters are two very different animals, which is why I am going to take a look at how they differ from one another. Keep on reading for more. 

1. They Have Different Purposes

When I was in college, the main reason why I would write my essay is that my teacher requested it. And they requested so because it was a way for them to gauge how well their students were able to digest the subject matter, as well as to use their power of critical thinking in order to come up with conclusions of their own.

Business letters, on the other hand, are a lot more focused and written for the purpose of getting stuff done. This means informing your colleagues, business partners, or clients about a new development in your relationship, starting a discussion about a particular issue, or asking them to do something that might benefit both of you. 

2. Language and Tone Are Different

Academic writing requires you to dig deep into your vocabulary and search for just the right words to express your ideas and arguments. Also, when you are writing an essay, you will tend to use passive voice a lot. The sentences might also be longer and more complex.

When you’re writing a business letter, you’ll probably want to use a similar tone and language as you would when putting together a business presentation. This means the message should be communicated in a very concise and clear manner, with not much room left for ambiguity. And you’ll want to use active voice at all times. 

3. Long Form vs. Short Form

Although essays can be short or long, they tend to be viewed as long-form writing. Also, when it comes to the form itself, essays have somewhat strict rules in terms of where different things and ideas fit. Every essay has an introductory paragraph, at least three body paragraphs, and one paragraph which serves as its conclusion. 

Business letters are much shorter, as nobody has time to read through a multi-page letter. Now, the fact that business letters are short doesn’t mean they are necessarily easier to write, because it can be challenging to explain something within just a few sentences. Also, with business letters, you don’t need to stick to a particularly rigid structure in terms of paragraphs. 

4. Uniqueness and Originality Requirements

Plagiarism is a serious academic offense, which is why you should always make sure that your essay is 100% unique and original. Of course, you’re allowed to rely on other people’s research and ideas in order to underpin your own arguments, as long as you cite them properly. 

In the business world, you will often find that it’s OK to use a previously created sample or template because it’s more important to establish clear communication than to reinvent the wheel. Also, relying on previous letters saves you a lot of time. 

5. Personal vs. Formal

In academic writing, your personal writing touch is not something that is required. In fact, the more formal your tone and vocabulary, the better. It’s about presenting facts and arguments, rather than your own personal opinion. It’s also about contributing to the breadth of academic knowledge on a particular topic.

A more personal touch is more than welcome when you’re writing a business letter. You will want to adjust the way you write depending on the topic of the letter, as well as the intended audience of your business letter. You should try and come off as professional, but also personable and friendly. 


Writing business letters requires an entirely different approach to the one you would adopt when writing an essay. However, having previous experience with writing academic papers will certainly prove useful in the workplace, where you will be required to put together business letters and emails. I hope that this little guide has helped make things a little bit clearer. Good luck!

Alexia Hope

Alexia is the author at Research Snipers covering all technology news including Google, Apple, Android, Xiaomi, Huawei, Samsung News, and More.