One often neglected part of the practice of business writing, whether for a document or a presentation, is its creative element. Perhaps overlooked because professional communicators tend to privilege critical thinking (testing assumptions, isolating causes and effects, reasoning deductively and inductively, comparing and contrasting), creative thinking nevertheless contributes palpable value to effective writing of all kinds. Its conscious use can help you make connections and refine messages.


Creativity forms the pinnacle of Bloom's Taxonomy, suggesting that it is the most complex and advanced of the cognitive activities included in the Bloom framework. It builds upon the skills inherent in the lower levels—evaluating, analyzing, applying, understanding, and remembering—and uses them to construct something new, to create something that did not before exist.

Thus writing an evaluation of a result or an analysis of a trend for a document or presentation can employ creative thinking. Fashioning messages, constructing examples, and determining organizational structures can make use of the divergence that is the hallmark of creative thought.

In other words, as you plan and draft a piece of prose, you can depart from how you usually proceed, deviate from your typical practice, by asking yourself what you could do differently and then incorporating your answers as appropriate.


Where are the opportunities for creativity in a piece of professional writing? Before you can answer that question, you have to take yourself back to basic rhetorical principles. What's the purpose of the piece you're working on? Who is your audience? What do its members expect, given your purpose? Once you've answered those questions, you can seek places in which creativity can help you accomplish your goal. Look at language, at sentence structure. Vary paragraph shape, provide examples that alter perspectives, develop powerful beginnings and endings.

Ask yourself how you could do it differently. Then try doing it. Create.


Unleashing creative thought does not mean that you disregard restrictions imposed by audience expectations, by conventions, or by standards for a certain type of writing. A report, a press release, a summary, or a cover letter—almost any piece of writing you undertake—demands adherence to some criteria or rules. Length. Use of headings. Definitions. Diction. Phrasing or tone consistent with brand image. Designated sections.

Even within such constraints you can be creative.

For example, one team of writers working on a document for a prestigious medical audience found itself dissatisfied with the medical terms it had used to describe the effects of a particular health condition. The terms seemed not to capture the reality of the daily horror its victims faced. Asking themselves what they could do differently, team members brainstormed—itself a creative act—and ventured toward including language vivid enough to make the condition's effects real to the document's audience. The team still used some medical terms, still supported its claims with reliable evidence. But its addition of emotive and dramatic "real-world" words showed readers the struggles and impediments faced by those who lived with that condition. That change captured audience attention and, importantly, gave readers an unforgettable point of reference from which to evaluate a treatment the document proposed.

"Creativity," Steve Jobs once said, "is just connecting things."

Creativity does connect things. Its result is to transform them. That's palpable change.