Article Analysis: “What Do You Mean I Can’t Write?”

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When communicating in the business world, you have the option of written or verbal communication. When it comes to written communication, it's best to deliver an error-free and straight to the point draft. The article by John Fielden (n.d), “What Do You Mean I Can’t Write,” from the Harvard Business Journal provides a thorough outline that answers the myriad possibilities that the title implies. Throughout the article, Fielden identifies four major aspects of business writing that answer the question posed. The four important qualities are readability, correctness, appropriateness, and thought. While the article is a very detailed analysis of business writing, it is not an example of the directions it provides; instead, Fielden’s article “What Do You Mean I Can’t Write,” is a great example of how not to write in business correspondence.

One of Fielden’s strongest points is that business writing should be concise. He, on the other hand, takes nearly nine pages to describe this. Additionally, it is not until the end of the article that he reviews how important it is to be prepared before you write, which reads ironically because of its placement, but is nonetheless true. Writing is more of a cognitive development process--“thought,” as he aptly calls is--than it is an issue of putting pen to paper.

The chart that outline’s Fielden’s four categories for good business writing could stand alone without his lengthy commentary. Often his allusions, metaphors, and lengthy description provide better examples of what not to do than act as a model of his so-called appropriateness. Nonetheless, Fielden makes very strong points about the essence of business writing and the importance of clear communication.

Fielden’s article in the Harvard Business Journal is about business writing, but it is not itself a model of business writing. His attempt to unpack the allusive question of what constitutes good business writing is somewhat undermined by his own style, but he does successfully make his point. Fielden’s “Written Performance Inventory” provides a helpful checklist to consider when writing specifically for business purposes.


Fielden, John. (n.d). What do you mean I can’t write? Harvard Business Journal.