4 Business Writing Lessons from Steve Jobs

Mary Cullen
Post by Mary Cullen
Originally published October 6, 2011, updated November 4, 2021
4 Business Writing Lessons from Steve Jobs

Visionary Steve Jobs passed away yesterday from the same illness that took my father. I've long admired Steve Jobs' vision and passion and creativity, and already today I've used my iPhone and iPad, and I'm writing this with my MacBook. He allowed mere mortals, like me, to embrace the amazing daily integration and freedom of accessible technology, and in the process changed the way we all work and communicate.

Because of my father's battle with pancreatic cancer, I've known what Steve Jobs was battling these past few years, and my admiration for him grew. He clearly focused his creativity even more intensely during this precious time. And, when it was time to let go of Apple, he did. To me, Steve has demonstrated the four most important aspects for social and business growth, and for good business writing:

  1. Understanding of goals and purpose

    Apple created products that improved productivity and connection in work and life, by simplifying and integrating. And, that goal continued to burn, with passion, as possibilities and technologies evolved. The focus was on the end-user, always.

    Good writing mirrors this. A document needs to meet your reader's needs. The creative process of writing belongs to the writer, but ultimately, the goal is always to enable the reader to know or do something better.

  2. Usefulness

    Apple has such devotees (me included) because the products integrate so beautifully, making communication flow better.

    Too often in writing, we create murky communication flows and over-complicated structures. A report, an email, a proposal all need to serve a real and clear purpose.

  3. Clarity

    Apple's designs are simple and clean and functional. I learned only last night that this inspiration came from calligraphy classes early on in Steve Job's education.

    One of my favorite quotes about writing is from Blaise Pascal:
    "I'm sorry for the length of this letter. I did not have time to make it shorter." Clarity requires work and sharp honing.

  4. Integrity

    Steve Jobs was notoriously demanding. But, this was fueled by the desire to create something of excellence.

    Business writing is the most interesting form of rhetoric to me because it is constantly evolving. I am so heartened by the evolution towards clarity and authenticity in business writing. Business-speak, and inscrutability, are fading. We now should "write to express, not to impress." Human-to-human connection awareness is increasing in business writing.

Thank you, Steve Jobs, for making my work and communication flow better, and for the inspiration. I love your products and admire your creativity and passion. Rest in peace.



Mary Cullen
Post by Mary Cullen
Originally published October 6, 2011, updated November 4, 2021
Mary founded Instructional Solutions in 1998, and is an internationally recognized business writing trainer and executive writing coach with two decades of experience helping thousands of individuals and businesses master the strategic skill of business writing. She excels at designing customized business writing training programs to maximize productivity, advance business objectives, and convey complex information. She holds a B.A. in English from the University of Rhode Island, an M.A. in English Literature from Boston College, and a C.A.G.S. in Composition and Rhetoric from the University of New Hampshire.